Understanding Local Search Optimization
What is local search optimization?
Local search optimization is the process of structuring local data on your business website and in online local business listings to promote your products or services to a local audience through search engine results. By optimizing this data for search engines, your business is more likely to reach customers and drive them to take action, such as visiting your website or business location.
How does local search optimization work?
To gather information for local search, search engines like Google rely on specific signals and algorithms to help them list the most relevant results for the searcher. Getting your business to rank at the top of Google’s local search results depends on several important ranking factors. The most important factor affecting your local search rank that you can control is your local citation.
What is a local citation?
A local citation is an instance where your business name, address, and phone number (commonly referred to as NAP) is mentioned on websites, online business directories, apps, and social platforms. For a citation to be considered high-quality and help your local search optimization efforts, the mentions need to follow a consistent format. For example, your address shouldn’t have “St” on one website and “Street” on another. Search engines like Google use local citations to gather data about businesses and verify they exist. The more instances of consistent, high-quality citations search engines can find across the web, the more they trust the data and will display it in search results.
What are other local search ranking factors?
Local citations are the foundation of good local search optimization, but there are other ranking signals that can play a significant role in how your business is shown in local search results.
- Reviews: Quality reviews of your business left on Google and in other local directories are considered both a local search ranking factor and a trust signal for searchers.
- Website: Though most local search optimization happens outside of your website, you still need to use the same business data you’re optimizing across online directories on your site.
- Personalization: Some local search ranking factors are out of your control. For instance, the closer you are (i.e., your proximity) to a searcher looking for your products or services, the more likely you’ll be included in the results they’re served.
How important is local search optimization?
The importance of local search can’t be understated for small businesses, particularly those that rely on local customers to drive new business. With more people using search terms like “near me,” local search optimization is one of the most effective ways to help your business reach a local audience online.
- 46% of people searching on Google are looking for localized information or service (HubSpot)
- 72% of people who conducted a local search visited a business or store within five miles (HubSpot)
- 88% of people who searched for a local business on a mobile device called or visited within 24 hours (HubSpot)
- 150% growth in mobile searches for terms including “near me now” (Google)
- 200% growth in mobile searches for terms including “open” + “now” + “near me” (Google)
What’s the difference between SEO & Local SEO?
Traditional SEO—or search engine optimization—is focused on improving visibility in search engine results on a regional, national, or global scale through on-website and off-website optimization strategies, such as content marketing, user experience, and link building. Local SEO is focused on improving visibility in search engine results on a local level with primarily off-site optimization strategies, such as local citation building and maintenance, business review generation, and more.
Understanding Google My Business
What is Google My Business?
Google My Business, or GMB, is a free local search optimization tool that allows businesses to manage the local listings that are used in Google’s local search results, including Google Maps.
How do I get my business on Google?
To get your business on Google, you will need to claim or add a listing. Unless you’re a new business, it’s likely that you’re already listed on Google, so you’ll just need to claim your listing. If you’re a new business, you’ll need to add your listing to Google. Setting up your Google My Business listing is incredibly important, as it allows you to change and manage local search data like your address, business hours, and other critical information customers would need to know when searching for you.
What information do I need for my Google My Business profile?
- Business Name
- Phone Number
- Business Hours
- Business Description
- Website URL
How do I optimize my Google My Business listing?
When optimizing your Google My Business listing for local search, you’ll need to do the following:
- Include As Much Information As Possible: Complete your listing with all of the business information you can. Not all fields are required, but the more information you provide, the better.
- Use a Consistent Local Citation Format: Make sure your listing’s name, address, and phone number (NAP) follow the same format that you’re using on your website and other local business directories across the web.
- Choose the Right Business Categories: Google allows you to select business categories for your listing and uses these categories to determine which types of searches your business is relevant for.
- Link Google My Business to Relevant Webpages: For each business listing you have, link your Google My Business to the most relevant page on your website. For example, if you have multiple locations or different service areas, linking to location pages is your best option.
- Encourage Customer Reviews. Online customers rely on reviews to make decisions about the local businesses they choose. Google uses reviews as a local search ranking factor as a result.
- Set Up Local Listings in Other Directories: Google uses local citations from across the web—including listings in other online business directories—to validate the data in your Google My Business listing. This data influences how well your Google My Business listing ranks.
How do I get my business on Google Maps?
Your Google My Business profile is what Google uses to create your Google Maps listing, so there are no additional steps needed to get your business listed in Google Maps. Be sure to optimize your Google My Business listing to improve your chances of showing up in relevant Google Maps searches.
Do I need a website for Google My Business?
It’s not required to have a website to claim and manage a Google My Business listing, but it’s highly recommended, as one of the most common actions searchers take from a Google My Business listing is “Visit Website.” If you need a website for your business, Hurrdat offers a Website & Local SEO solution that combines everything we offer in Local Search Fuel, plus a 5-7 page business website. Learn more here.
Local Search & COVID-19
COVID-19 has had a massive impact on the marketing world, and local search optimization is no different. Here are some of the things you need to know about your business listings during this time.
Why is my business marked as temporarily closed on Google?
Google has marked your business as temporarily closed based on updates from other sources. If this is incorrect, select “Mark as open” under the Info tab in Google My Business.
I updated my phone number in Google My Business. Why is it still incorrect on my business profile?
Any updates made in Google My Business may see publishing delays due to COVID-19. Google My Business currently has limited functionality at this time and is prioritizing reviews for updates to health-related businesses.
A customer left a review on Google. Why is it not showing on my business profile?
Google reviews are disabled at this time due to COVID-19. Customers can still leave a review, but it is not visible to the public. We are not sure when these reviews will be made visible on your business profile.
I responded to a review on Google. Why is my response not showing under the review?
Replies to reviews are disabled at this time due to COVID-19. Business owners can still respond to reviews, but it is not visible to the public. We are not sure when these review replies will be made visible on your business profile.
Why is the Q&A section on my Google My Business profile no longer visible?
Google has removed the Q&A section from business profiles due to COVID-19. Users are unable to ask new questions, and business owners are unable to post answers.
I verified my business profile on Google. Why can’t I find it in Google Maps or Google Search?
New Google listings, claims, and verifications for critical health-related business are currently being prioritized by Google. All other businesses should expect publication delays for newly verified listings in Google Search and Google Maps.
My business is open but has new business hours due to COVID-19. How do I update my hours?
Make these changes in the hours field in your Google My Business dashboard under the Info tab. Do not mark all days as closed, as this will remove hours from your business profile, and it will be unclear whether your business is open or closed. For more information on how to do this, check out this Google My Business COVID-19 Tutorial.
My business is temporarily closed due to COVID-19. How do I update this on Google?
You can access the temporarily closed feature in your Google My Business dashboard under the Info tab. If you don’t have the “Mark as temporarily closed” option, do NOT “Mark as permanently closed,” as this will this will remove your business permanently from Google Maps and Google Search.
My business is open by appointment only due to COVID-19. How do I update this in Google My Business?
Google My Business does not have an appointment only option. Update the business description to let customers know that you are available by appointment only. Share contact information and let customers know if you can serve them at your business, online, or through a virtual appointment.
How do I inform my customers of business operations changes due to COVID-19 on Google?
Inform your customers by updating the business description and creating Google Posts. The new COVID-19 update post type is a great feature for businesses to use to let customers know about business operations changes.
How can I use Google Posts for business updates related to COVID-19?
The new COVID-19 update post type is a way for businesses to share changes related to COVID-19. It is available under the Posts tab in your Google My Business dashboard.
Need help updating and managing Google My Business and other local listings? For just $150 a month, Local Search Fuel by Hurrdat is an affordable, turnkey solution designed to help SMBs improve online visibility and gain new local customers.