Over the last few years, we’ve had to adapt the way we do our shopping. In 2020 and 2021, we shopped online more than ever and in 2022, shopping behaviours started to return like before.
What should businesses look to do to become more visible online locally? This is where Local Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) comes in.
A crucial aspect of search engine optimisation, focussing on optimising a website to rank well for locally-based searches. With some small tweaks, you can help your shop become front and centre when it comes to people’s shopping.
In a rush? Here’s what you should be doing to make your business rank higher on local searches:
- Verify and optimise your Google My Business page
- Ensure all online platforms have consistent and accurate business information
- Create and optimse your local website pages
- Add LocalBusiness Structured Data to your shop pages
- Respond to reviews (According to BrightLocal, 89% of consumers are ‘highly’ or ‘fairly’ likely to use a business that responds to all of its online reviews.)
- Use your social channels to promote your shop.
- Verify & Update Google My Business Listing
- One of the key elements of local SEO is having a strong presence on Google My Business (GMB).
- GMB is a free tool provided by Google that allows businesses to manage their online presence across Google, including search and maps. By verifying and updating your GMB listing, you can improve your local search visibility and attract more customers to your business.
Once you have a verified listing, it is relatively easy and quick to make changes and it’s something that can have a great impact without sinking lots of time into it.
At an absolute minimum, it is imperative your GMB listing is accurate and up to date with the following:
- Business name
- Phone number
- Business address
- Opening times (make sure your public holiday opening hours are up to date)
- Website (use your local landing page if you have multiple shops e.g www.website.com/norwich)
Don’t stop there though.
A fully-fledged GMB page can not only help you rank well but it takes up a huge space on the search engine results page too, giving your shop the visibility it deserves.
Other things we’d recommend you keep on top of are:
- Photos of the shop, staff and products.
- Product and or service listings.
- Posts (these are great to amplify key messages, offers or events).
- Responding to customer reviews, the good and the bad ones.
Update directories, social media and your website
Google My Business isn’t the only place you should be looking to influence. People and search engines alike look for consistency and that’s no different when it comes to business information.
Make sure the phone number, address, opening hours and web address are accurate and consistent on all platforms. That includes Facebook, Bing, Apple Maps, Yell etc. – there are hundreds of them! You increase the chances of ranking higher on search engines by making sure these are all the same.
It so important that the NAP (Name, Address and Phone) information is also consistent on your website! It’s a real basic thing but its incredibly common for these aspects to be missed. It could be small things such as having ’12 Old Street’ on the website and ’12 Old St.’ on other platforms.
When everything is consistent, it makes it much easier for people and search engines to know what is correct.
Create well-optimised local landing pages
As mentioned above, another important aspect of local SEO is having well-optimised local landing pages on your website. Make sure you have a page on your website dedicated to your shop or shops. This page is essentially your shop window, it should contain key information about the shop, much like the GMB listing.
Things like the address, phone number, and opening times are essential but also consider:
- A map showing the location of the shop
- Directions on how to get there. How far is it from a car park or train station?
- Include details about how accessible the building is
- Staff members that potential customers can look out for.
Add LocalBusiness Structured Data
Hopefully you now have some lovely landing page(s) for your shop(s) which contain all the super helpful information people need. You can then give search engines a little helping hand by implementing Structured Data. Structured Data is code that which sits in the background (usually written in JSON) that gives extra context to search engines when they are parsing content on web pages.
In this case, we want to make sure that search engines understand that your phone number is a phone number, and your address is indeed, your address. Search engines are very intelligent and in most cases can understand the content on a web page but sometimes they need a nudge. LocalBusiness Structured Data can help do this and in return it can mean your business gains extra visibility in the search results.
Don’t worry, you don’t need to be a coding whizz to create the JSON needed for this either. There are plenty of tools out there which can help you do this; my favourite is the Schema Markup Generator by Merkle. You can input your business’ details into that and it spits out the JSON code needed. You can then check to make sure it all works by using Google’s Rich Results testing tool.
Once you are happy with it, you’ll need to add it to the backend of your landing page. If you’re using WordPress, you can use the likes of Yoast to implement it, or Google Tag Manager. An alternative way to install it is by using the CMS’s page editor In most CMS’s, within the page editor, there’s usually a <script> option; you can copy and paste it to there.
An example of how to add code to WordPress web pages.
It’s really important you only have Structured Data where the physical and front facing content matches the Structured Data. For instance, it would be going against Google guidelines if you had LocalBusiness Structured Data containing opening hours and the opening hours were not physically visible on the web page. Google has started punishing websites which do this!
Other ideas can make all the difference to your Local organic presence.
Make the most of customer reviews, and respond to them.
As mentioned before, reviews play a massive role in our shopping behaviours. According to a survey by BrightLocal, in 2021, 77% of people ‘always’ or ‘regularly’ read reviews when browsing for local businesses.
Businesses responding to reviews can make a huge difference. You can also ask people to leave reviews too. Even if you only get a few, it can make all the difference between you ranking well or your competitor ranking better. Follow this link from Google to see how you can get more reviews.
Entice customers to your shop
Give shoppers a reason to make the trip to your shop, rather than buying online. Can you offer an in-store discount? Doing something a little bit different can make shoppers choose you, rather than a competitor.
Social media is your friend
Social media can be a powerful tool for local businesses. Use it to respond to customer questions and concerns. Promote your special offers and deals. Ensure your social posts are consistent with your website voice and shop voice, linking to the most relevant web pages.
Consider implementing paid social campaigns to boost your brand at this critical time. This can help build brand loyalty too.
Local SEO is an essential element of any online marketing strategy for businesses that operate in a specific location or serve a specific geographical area.
By optimizing your website and online presence for local search, you can increase your visibility to customers in your immediate area, which can lead to increased traffic, footfall, sales, and revenue. Additionally, by regularly updating your local listings and engaging with customers online, you can build a strong reputation in your community, which can help to attract new customers and drive word-of-mouth recommendations.
Overall, the importance of local SEO cannot be overstated, and businesses that neglect this aspect of their online presence risk losing out to competitors who are more proactive in their local SEO efforts.