Adding a location to a search string makes it a local search, and there are more than four billion of them every month in the U.S. In fact, four out of every 10 searches on Google are local in nature. Why is this important for your business? Simply put: local searches drive sales.
A recent comScore study found that 83 percent of users conducting local searches are trying to locate a local merchant with the intent of buying offline, and 82 percent follow up with a phone call, visit a retail establishment, or complete a purchase. In B2B land, 90 percent of local searches result in offline purchases.
Mobile local searchers are just as likely to convert, and the trend towards using multiple devices more frequently to search, research, and review local business is increasing. comScore’s report indicates that 79 percent of smartphone owners and 81 percent of tablet owners use their devices to search locally, with 78 percent of local-mobile searches leading to offline sales. Here’s the best part: 76 percent of those purchases happened the same day the search was performed, and more than half within just a few hours.
Optimizing for Local Search
In the last few years, Google has made major changes regarding which types of search queries generate local results and what those results look when they’re displayed in the search engine results pages. But the goal hasn’t changed: provide searchers with the most useful, authoritative content relative to their search string. Ranking well for local search is dependant upon how authoritative searchers (and Google) determine a site to be. Does the information the site provides the answer questions searchers are asking? Is the site sticky enough to attract users to visit multiple pages and/or visit more than once?
Business who want to make sure they’re optimized for local search can do several things to improve their local search presence. Here are some of the key areas to focus on:
Optimizing the Company’s Local Presence on Google
Google Places for Business was recently replaced by Google My Business, a new dashboard that allows companies to manage local business information and ensure they’re visible to local searchers across Google Places, Google Maps and Google Search. Following best practices for creating and optimizing your business presence on Google My Business is one of the most important steps to ranking well for local search. Some key optimization tips include:
- Enter business information fully and accurately.
- Pay special attention to the accuracy of the business’ physical address, not only on Google, but third-party sites like Citysearch and Yelp. These listings should all be exactly the same.
- Input and verify your official company website.
- Use company-specific keywords in the business title.
- Choose the correct categories to describe the business and its products.
- Encourage customers to leave positive reviews (more on this later).
Social Media Signals
Social signals are playing an increasingly larger role in organic search engine optimization, although just how much and to what degree isn’t known. Search engines place more value on natural links than paid links, so companies making an effort to engage with customers via social media will have the ability to generate more organic backlinks that boost SEO and add credibility to the company.
Businesses with an optimized social presence that actively and consistently participate on quality social media sites are poised to take advantage of the boost in rankings social media signals can offer. Some of the factors that impact rankings include:
- Facebook page “Likes” and shares
- Twitter followers
- Tweets that include your company or brand name and/or a link to your site
- Inclusion in Google+ “circles”
Domain & Link Authority
Domain and link authority are more important than ever in terms of local search optimization. The best way to improve your domain authority is to consistently create original, relevant, shareable content that your target audience will find valuable. This content can be in the form of case studies, e-books, white papers, videos, blog posts, and podcasts. Whatever type of content you create, make sure it’s easily accessible to your target audience and worthwhile for them to consume.
In addition to creating great content, it’s imperative that businesses follow best practices for link building, including removing any “bad” links (links coming in from sites that have nothing to do with the products and services you sell) and increasing the number of high-quality links to your website.
Online Reviews & Local Search Optimization
Word of mouth marketing is still important for establishing your brand’s credibility and positioning your company as an expert in your industry. In the digital world, online reviews and ratings are the equivalent of word of mouth marketing, and an increasing number of consumers read reviews as they’re researching local merchants who offer products and services they’re interested in.
comScore’s local search survey indicates 85 percent of consumers read reviews on local businesses and nearly 80 percent trust these reviews as much as they would a personal recommendation from a friend or family member. The survey results also show that searchers are reading fewer reviews before determining whether a local business is trustworthy or not, making it critical for businesses to manage online reviews and address any negative comments quickly and professionally.
Reviews come into play during a critical time in the buying process. At the time they begin reading reviews, potential customers:
- Have determined specific problem and/or need
- Have identified a potential product or service that will solve this problem
- Are trying to choose the best local business to provide them with the necessary product/service
Not only do reviews appease potential customers and help them make a decision on whether or not to do business with your company, search engines view them favorably as well.
The truth is if your business isn’t showing up in local searches, you’re missing out on potential customers every single day, while your competitors who are optimized for local search have a much higher competitive advantage. Optimizing for local search isn’t rocket science, but it takes time and effort to make sure you’re following best practices in each of the key areas we discussed.
Don’t have time? Get in touch with us and we’ll be happy to help your company get optimized for local search and ensure you’re not missing out on valuable local traffic and in-store sales.