What is Local SEO?
Local SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the process of ranking in the search results of major search engines, based on geo-modified keywords. It is becoming a common practice today for digital marketers, as it has been found that a majority of people are making searches that are specific to their location. This practice can be very effective for local businesses looking to target customers in their area. For example, here at 270net Technologies, some local keywords we want to rank for include “Internet Marketing in Frederick, MD” or “Website Design in Maryland”. The local modification of these keywords makes it easier to rank, as there is less competition than on a national scale.
In the past, local SEO was under-utilized. In 2012, less than half of all US businesses claimed their free local listings on the major search engines. This number is shocking considering the fact that local searches are expected to increase by 33% each year for the remainder of the decade. As location-centric searches are becoming more commonplace, it is important for businesses to develop a strong local SEO strategy. This strategy should include planning, execution and continued optimization.
As Google and Bing are placing more weight on their local listings, it is becoming increasingly important to get your business listed on Google Places and Bing Places. These local listings often rank higher in the search results than company websites for local keywords. The following steps should be taken to get your business listed:
- Create a Google account and a Bing account
- Search for your business
- If found, follow the steps to claim the listing. If not, create a new listing
- Verify your listing by postcard or phone call
- Continue to update and optimize your listing as needed
The whole process should only take 1 – 2 hours of your time per listing.
Once the accounts are claimed, there are a few best practices to follow. Make sure all of your listings are up-to-date and consistent across all accounts. A difference as small as using “Street” vs. “St.” in your business address can have a significant impact on your rankings. You should also try to select the proper categories for your business. Nothing is going to frustrate customers more than searching for one type of business and being given a result that doesn’t match up. You should be sure to populate your listing with as much information as possible, including your name, address, phone number, business description, hours, etc. Pictures and videos are a big plus. It is also very important to claim any duplicate listings of your business and have them removed. You don’t want the duplicate listing to rank higher for the local keywords than your verified listing. Finally, you will want to connect your business listing with all of your social media, as this will help your ranking, but also gain more exposure for your business. The combination of all of these best practices will position your business listings for search engine prominence.
As local SEO listings are becoming more significant in search engine results, our team here at 270net is encouraging our small business customers to choose locally-modified keywords and claim their local listings on Google and Bing. As far as successes go, we have found that two of the most important factors to consider are accuracy and consistency. Your NAP (Name, Address, and Phone Number) should be consistent across the board, from your Google/Bing listings and third party sites, to your company website and social media profiles. One of the top negative ranking factors is providing false or out-dated business information. You should regularly check your listings for correct information, and optimize them with your local keywords when updates need to be made.
There are several reasons to embrace local SEO. It will provide your business with a great presence as more and more online real estate is being given to the local listings on search engine result pages. Local SEO also increases your authenticity factor. People trust local listings more than organic listings or paid listings. Finally, local SEO is low-hanging fruit. It is relatively simple to perform and its importance is steadily increasing. As long as you follow the best practices of local SEO, you can expect to benefit from the results of higher rankings.