It's a fascinating time for local marketing and web design in general. Trends in digital marketing for 2017 will continue to shift the way users are engaged with and discover location-based businesses. It's now become quite important to maintain a healthy relationship between both your online and offline practices.
With the continued updates in Google’s algorithms, increased usage of the mobile platform and geo-targeting opportunities, both offline marketing and online SEO strategies have become more than two individual practices or tools. Picture them as a couple that is consistently working with one another to form the ideal relationship called local SEO.
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO is a combined effort of search marketing practices that allow a local business to rank higher in search results — When a potential customer searches for a business near their physical location. These local search queries can result in a group which is known as the “Local 3-pack”. When someone searches for a location-related keyword, such as Auckland dentist, these are the three first listings that show in local search results:
Or, your business can appear among other organic search results below paid ads and the Local 3-pack.
So you’re now wondering: what could local SEO do for your business, or if it is really worth the trouble of understanding the modern local SEO landscape.
Perhaps the real question is, whether or not you want local exposure at a specific time in which local customers are further down the path to purchase?
I hope the answer is yes, yes, and yes — because it is really not rocket science. Complementary to the continued growth of mobile internet usage, localised online searches are increasing. I hope you are now somewhat enticed, but before you head off into the local SEO world, you need to establish some ground rules — like any relationship.
Google My Business
First things first, you will need to claim your Google My Business page. Not only is Google My Business the most authoritative source regarding local search, but proper optimisation can significantly increase the visibility of your business for search results. Think of this as making your relationship official.
A relationship can flourish or whittle away based on consistency and the small details. Much like a partner’s name or birthday won’t (probably) change, consistency is important for NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) Citations. Although it may seem like a simple concept, many clients and business fail to recognise the importance of maintaining consistency. If your business listing regarding NAP is not identical, not only will it cause confusion for those searching for your business services, but will also hinder your website quality and the local directories you are a part of. Using Schema can help to provide search engines with the ability to display all of your company information correctly.
The importance of word of mouth marketing has further increased, with the growth of local SEO. Good reviews can significantly boost your business, but on the other side of the fence, poor reviews can damage your brand forever. Online reviews have a direct impact on local search rankings and have a lot of clout. Try to invest time in acquiring reviews, and being responsive to both positive and negative reviews. Think of local reviews as the foundation upon which a healthy relationship are built — communication, authenticity and trust.
Although these may be the first steps in improving your local SEO, it is important to continue to monitor, update and optimise any relevant information.
So What About That Online Presence?
It has been pretty clear in terms of local search ranking factors for 2017 that your online organic presence has a lot of influence over local search rankings. Most notably, many of the ranking factors relate to links, and the quality of inbound links was chosen as the #1 local-organic ranking factor. Your online practices will determine the organic visibility of your business and enable you to have the competitive edge over your competitors. However, many businesses have been slow to claim their Google My Business page and have failed to optimise things like NAP which is an opportunity for those who are proactive to build upon their online strategies.
Is Offline Even Really a Thing?
It is quick to discount and disregard the offline marketing journey as having any bearing on the success of your local or any other organic search ranking. However, the forces of organic SEO and offline practices couple together and meet on the same side of the field more often than you may think. The first instance of the interaction between a customer and a business comes from reading the online reputation that has been built. Now, this can either be a great thing, or something to start worrying about. The thing is, the offline world of consumer-centricity needs to be a mirror image of what you would want to be reflected online. In the end, we need to remember that we are marketing to humans, and they value the personal human connections that may be the end goal of marketing efforts.
It’s not just about needing to be found — but needing to be found with a respectable, positive reputation that piques the interest of those who are conducting local searches.
Start optimising for local search ranking via Google My Business, NAP and Local Reviews while continuing to implement traditional organic strategies such as linking domain authority and meta tags.
Identify your audience, their behaviour and what the USP of your business is. Build upon traditional marketing principles, customer-centricity and authenticity both offline and online.