Google is striving to offer to its users highly personalized results based on the given user’s past queries, web history, search behavior, interests, IP and location. While it would be hard to tailor your online visibility strategy to profile-personalized search results, you can easily tie your optimization efforts to the specific location you are serving.
The main concept behind local SEO is to present the local business owners with an opportunity to compete against big, national — or even worldwide — brands on the web. As overwhelming as it might appear to be, Local SEO actually consists of some basic steps that, if addressed diligently, could bring quite rewarding results in terms of website traffic and customer engagement.
Every business owner dreads the threats of making a deliberate attempt to “manipulate the search results.” Manual and algorithmic penalties, site de-indexation from the search results and utter traffic loss is a mess no one wants on their hands. So the best way to acquire an online competitive advantage is to actually understand the basics of Local SEO, to study the best practices and refrain from indulging in risky techniques that could do you more harm than good.
The following guide will offer you a simple walk-through in the Local SEO world. It will help you understand what the positives of optimizing your local online presence are. It would also show you how you could actually achieve higher rankings in the local search results by focusing your attention on five key elements: your website, your Google+ Local Page, your business citations, reviews and inbound links.
Ready? Enough with the interlude — it is time to delve into the real essence of Local SEO.
Local SEO – Why Is It Important?
Optimizing for Local could help you achieve higher visibility in the local SERPs in terms of:
- Getting included in the Local Carousel
- Enjoying greater exposure in the Local Organic Results
- Getting listed in the Local Pack
- Having your own Google Map Pin in the SERPs
- Having your own Local Knowledge Panel
How you could actually estimate the importance of ranking well in those specific SERP elements? Well we could base our conclusion on the recent heat map study conducted by the Canadian digital marketing agency called "The Evolution of Google's Search Results Pages and Effects on User Behaviour." There are some interesting finds that are worth keeping in mind:
- While “the #1 Organic Listing still captures the most click activity (32.8 percent), … it may see a decrease in clicks when a Knowledge Graph is relevant to the query”;
- Even if “the Carousel has the potential to capture a significant amount of clicks, given its prime location ... on top of all search results it still does not hold searchers’ attention significantly.”
- „The ability of Local Listings to attract attention and win clicks is dependent on the placement of the Local Listings box on the SERPs ...”
- „People will focus more attention on a review listing regardless of position on the page.”
- „Star ratings, combined with thumbnail images, have the potential to garner clicks.”
You’d better go over the whole study and learn how the Knowledge Graph and business reviews are perceived by the online searchers. You’d also be able to understand how the organic localized results have been affected by the introduction of the Local Pack.
Local SEO – How Does it Work?
Having taken a nice look at the local search results and how they influence users’ search activity, let’s see what actually moves the needle in the Local SEO. In order to do that you’d better study the latest Local Search Ranking Factors survey conducted by David Mihm at Moz. This round-up is published annually and it is based on the industry experts’ opinions on the most influential ranking factors in Local SEO. Here are the key takeaways from the survey:
The top 4 ranking factors affecting localized organic results are:
- On-page signals - 26.6 percent (refers to company website elements including presence of NAP, keywords in titles, domain authority, etc.)
- Link Signals - 25 percent (refers to inbound links to the company website including their anchor text, linking domain authority, linking domain quantity, etc.)
- External location signals - 11.2 percent (refers to company citations including IYP/aggregator NAP consistency, citation volume, etc.)
- My Business Page Signals - 9.6 percent (refers to G+ Local Page including business categories, keyword in business title, proximity, etc.)
The top 4 ranking factors affecting local pack and carousel results are:
- My Business Page Signals - 19. 8 percent
- External location signals - 19.7 percent
- On-page signals - 15.3 percent
- Review Signals - 12.3 percent (refers to business reviews including (review quantity, review velocity, review diversity, etc.)
As you can see the five most powerful signals in the Local Ranking Game are:
- The Business G+ Local Page
- Business Citations
- The Official Business Website
- Inbound Links
- Business Reviews
The following infographic aims at reviewing each of the above-mentioned ranking signals in detail. It will help you understand how multifaceted they are and what principles apply when you try to optimize them for better online visibility.
Each of the five signals could boost your presence in a specific SERP element(s). For instance a set of consistent business citations would help your G+ Local Page rank better. On the other hand the quality citations would also help your Barnacle Local SEO efforts — your brand will be ranking higher in the SERPs even if your own website is not holding leading positions in the SE.
Learning to discriminate between good and bad practices is a must in SEO, so do not neglect the list of Don’ts when reading the infographic. The Tips! section on the other hand will present you with more elaborate advice about the optimization techniques for the specific element.
You have a great compilation of resources before you, the only question is: Are you ready to Rule the Local Results?