Local SEO – BiQ

9 Golden Practices To Dominate Local Search in 2020

If your business has a physical location, you know by now that mobile search is the new front door to your store.

Google, 2016

Well, I believe it’s not just mobile only but desktop as well.

Local search is a search made on the search engine by users, usually for the purpose of looking for products and services, in a specific region. In every local search, there will be a location included.

Local searches are made very often on the search engine. For instance, “cafe in Paris”, “stationery shop near me” and “furniture shop at 32nd street”.

Why Dominate Local Search?

Based on Google’s Small Business Search Trends 2019 report, there is 350x more search interest in “local” + “near me” than 10 years ago.

More information on Local Search.
Source: Google

Also, according to various sources including Google (2016), more than 70% of the consumers who did local searches visit or calls the store within 24 hours.

That’s why it’s important to learn how you can dominate the local search. In this article, I have compiled 9 golden practices to get you way ahead.

We do Local SEO also because we want visibility and people to look for us. If you’re a regular user of the search engine, you will know how useful the local search is.

When we are looking for nearby restaurants, we type in something like “seafood restaurants near me”. And then, we will usually only look at the top 3-5 results. Relatable?

That’s the benefit of doing Local SEO. You gain visibility.

Here are some more statistics to show how important it is to do Local SEO:

  • Close to 50% of all searches on Google are seeking local information
  • 82% of people read customer ratings or reviews before buying something.
  • Over the years, mobile queries containing “store open near me” has been steadily increasing by over 250% in the last two years.
The trend of people using the term “Near Me”

How to Dominate Local Search?

Are you ready to get to the top 3 spot on the SERP?

You can dominate local searches through both on-page and off-page efforts as well as offline! Let me explain further in detail below. So, the process of ‘dominating’ local search is called Local SEO. It is very much the same as the regular SEO just that we’re optimizing for local search.

Before we go on, you need to know the 3 main factors that Google considers for ranking local businesses. They are relevance, distance, and prominence. The methods discussed below will be related to these 3 factors.

On-Page SEO

1. Business Information

Have you seen businesses on the knowledge panel that does not have any information besides its name?

Chances are the knowledge panel was not created by the owner itself. Now, if you own a website, Google may extract information and display it on the search engine for you, be it the knowledge panel or featured snippet.

So, to let Google and users know your business better, add your business information such as an address, opening hours and contact on your page.

It is a way search engines can tell that the information is authentic and validates your business listings on other directories.

2. Keyword Research

There are many ways of saying the same thing, but it may vary across regions. For instance, if you created a soft drink brand, you will need to see which keyword is more popular. Is it “soda”, “pop”, or “coke”?

Americans have different names for soft drinks depending on which region of the United States they’re from. Below is the current data of an ongoing survey.

So, how would you know whether which keyword you should target? By using keyword research tools! If you don’t know any, let me suggest two keyword tools from my previous article which are Google Trends (1) and LSIGraph (9).

Google Trends allows you to

Google Trends
LSIGraph

Learn more about the keyword research tools here: 13 Best Free Keyword Research Tools.

Tips: Long-tail keywords and geo-targeting keywords are perfect for local businesses as they have low search volume, low competitive rate, specific search intent, and high conversion rate.

3. Schema Markup

Schema markup is a type of microdata that are added into the HTML to help search engines understand your page better and return more relevant results to the users.

It may also create a rich snippet which is likely to increase the number of users clicking on your page. As a result, it increases your page’s ranking.

You can learn how to markup your content using microdata through schema.org’s guide. Alternatively, you may use tools and plugins.

For local businesses, properties include opening hours, price range, address, and many more.

Here is a markup example for a local business:

Source: Schema.org

With this microdata, the search engine now knows what the business is about, as well as its address and contact number.

If there is any information about the business that is not updated on the SERP, the search engine may extract from the information found on the business’ website.

It considers the relatedness of the elements between the website and SERP entity (local 3 pack, knowledge graph). Hence, the more information you provide, the better it is, for you, the users and the search engine.

Off-Page Local SEO

4. Google My Business (GMB)

Google My Business

Google My Business is mandatory in order to optimize for local search. You can actually take control of how your business information is presented in the SERP. Google My Business was created to allow business owners to do just that.

So, remember to provide accurate information as well as an enticing description.

The information is then displayed on Google Maps, Knowledge Panel, as well as Local Packs for qualifying search queries.

Components of GMB:

i. Description

Business’ Description on Knowledge Panel

The first thing that you can work on is your business’ description. Create an enticing description because it is one of the first things that people see on the knowledge panel.

When it has gotten the users’ attention, they will scroll further to know your business information such as opening hours and your address.

ii. Business information

Business Information on Knowledge Panel

Next on GMB, you have business information which includes address, opening hours, phone number, and events.

In this section, you need to ensure that you provide accurate details. Based on past research, when users called the business and it appears to be the wrong information, the users will have a negative experience.

It makes users feel that they do not care about their business or they’re inactive. Also, note that your competitors can edit your business information, so be sure to check it regularly.

iii. Question and Answer

Now, the knowledge panel also contains a Question and Answer section. It’s good as people getting to know the business can learn more by reading the questions and answers.

Be sure to answer all the questions asked. The users who asked could be your future customers. Also, it wouldn’t look good if you do not answer them because it shows that you do not pay attention to your customers.

These questions and answers can act as an FAQ page. Businesses do not need to spend time answering the same questions over and over again when users can see them through this section.

iv. Reviews

Reviews affect Local SEO. The more review you have, the better you will rank. It will also give users the confidence to visit you if they see positive reviews or see how positively you respond to reviews.

In our previous blog posts, Allysa has shared how you can create a Google My Business account and how to optimize it. Read more here: How to rank for ‘Near Me’ searches in Local SEO.

5. Gain Backlinks

Backlinks will also help you with your Local SEO, just like how it does for SEO. It is a vote of confidence by others and Google takes that into consideration. Of course, Google will also take into action the links that link to you.

When you gain backlinks, people from that website will check you out. These add up to your popularity and it is a factor that Google uses to determine local ranking.

There are many ways to gain backlinks, for instance, asking a blogger to talk about your business and link them to you or get relevant websites to feature you and your content.

Sending a press release will also help you to increase traffic to your site and your popularity. There are a lot of press release services out there that distributes to hundreds of media outlet.

In the press release, you will have your business information, which is NAP (Name, address, phone number). Besides that, a link to your site will also be included in it. Imagine the number of traffic you’ll gain from all these media outlets. Now, this is one way to boost your popularity!

6. Local Directories

Local directories contribute to your local ranking. Here’s how:

Local directories such as Yelp and TripAdvisor allow you to find businesses in a specific region. Simply type in the business/service you’re looking for.

Yelp allows you to find businesses in a specific region.

You will then be presented with a list of businesses that matches your search and filters. Your business could be on this list, as well as lists in other directories.

As you can see from the image below, information such as business names, images, description, phone number, and address is provided.

The rating and reviews can also be seen. They play a huge role as they affect the decision of users whether to click into the business listing or not for more information.

Upon clicking on them, more information will be provided like opening hours, reservations, and websites.

Local business listings on Yelp.

Imagine how much extra traffic you’re getting just by listing your website on these local directories. The links on the page are dofollow links which may help you rank your own page.

Bonus- Offline!

Besides just taking care of the online part, you will also need to take care of the offline part. I was just as surprised as you are now when I first read about it.

7. Improve Time Travel Investment

If people are willing to travel a distance to get to your business, it’s called travel time investment. Google detects the travel distance through its services such as Google Maps and Waze.

The information is then used in ranking local SEO. Hence, to get a good ranking, you should convince and entice people to travel to your store.

Some actionable tips are putting advertisements such as billboards or banners at a considerable distance away from your store. Next, send them marketing messages at the right time.

For instance, if you’re operating a restaurant, send them notices on promotions going on a few hours before dinner time.

8. Provide Free WiFi

One of the very popular signs you see on the street.

Today, WiFi has become a necessity in life. Everyone appreciates free WiFi. Perhaps everywhere you go, you’ll ask one question:

Hi, is there free WiFi here?

WiFi may be additional costs to your business operation, but they’re a pretty good investment and I believe the benefits outweigh the cost.

To this day, we continue to see the trend of people working from coffee shops going upwards. It just helps to boost your productivity in a way.

WiFi has become one of the deciding factors for whether people will visit your business or not. In order for people to work from coffee shops, the shops need to provide WiFi.

You’ll gain a competitive advantage over your competitors and also with free WiFi, your customers will stay in your store longer. Google can also track visits through cellphones that use the business’ WiFi.

9. Encourage Check-ins and referrals

As a business, our aim is to always provide the best experience to our customers. If that’s what you’re doing, great.

Feel free to ask your customers to check-in and refer your business to a friend. I’m sure they’ll be happy to do so if you provide a great experience for your customers. To increase the chances of people saying yes, you may offer incentives such as discounts or a freebie.

Check-ins and referrals will increase your visibility both online and offline. As mentioned above, one of the factors Google considers for ranking local businesses is popularity.

Using tools

Tools were created to make things simpler for us. There are a number of tools that can help you with your Local SEO. I’ve found an article that introduces the Top 19 Local SEO tools which I think is pretty good and complete. Here’s one of them from that article and I have also added one of my own, which is Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.

1. SEOPressor

SEOPressor’s Sitewide SEO

SEOPressor is a WordPress SEO Plugin which calculates your content’s SEO Score in real-time. It provides guidance and suggestions on how you can improve your content in terms of SEO.

Besides your content, it also takes care of your site’s overall SEO. It allows you to set Local SEO so that visitors can find you online much easier.

Here’s how the Local SEO widget will be displayed:

Image credit: SEOPressor

2. Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool

Early on, I mentioned that in order to dominate the local search, you will need to markup your content. Why?

To let search engines understand your page better and allow it to show users more relevant content to their search.

You may add a markup using the tool I shared above which is SEOPressor Connect.

It doesn’t matter what tool you’re using or if you markup your content manually, you will need to check if Google is seeing what you’ve set.

It’s pretty simple. All you need to do is enter your website in the ‘Enter a URL’ field and it will tell you if there are any errors or warnings such as ‘missing information’.

Check your schema markup here:

For more tools, read: Top 19 Local SEO Tools To Improve Your Ranking in 2019

Conclusion

That’s all the 9 best practices I have for you. Does the process of dominating the local search seem simpler now?

To simplify, Local SEO is not just focusing on standard SEO and adding business information.

So, remember this, do SEO, get a Google My Business account, list your business in local directories and focus on providing good experiences to your customers in the real world.

I hope that you’ve found this article helpful and if you have some tips and tricks under your sleeves to dominate the local search, feel free to share them down in the comment section below!

About Howard
Howard is a student of life, constantly learning and progressing. He has always been interested in business studies and fascinated by the capabilities of Marketing in transforming the whole business game.

How to rank for ‘Near Me’ Searches In Local SEO

If you are looking for ways to rank your website for “near me” searches, you have come to the right place!

During my first visit to Kyoto, Japan, Google “near me” has helped me a lot. 

There’s this one morning where I had already planned to visit one of their famous temples, but since it’s raining, the plan had to be canceled. 

Not knowing where to go for breakfast, I took out my phone and started typing “breakfast near me”.

Immediately, Google responded by returning a list of nice places for me to have breakfast. 

Near me searches

This is just an example of situations where a “near me” searches are done. It helps searchers to easily locate products or services that are close to where they are at that point in time. 

In fact, looking for something nearby is one of the most common searches we do.

“Near me” searches trend

Head over to Google Trend and try a couple of searches with “near me” right now. You will notice the rapid evolution over the past few years. From almost zero interest to hundreds!

Increasing trend of "near me" searches
Graph showing the growth of near me searches.

Of course, it is not limited to just eateries but almost everything else such as looking for attractions, banks, grocery stores, and the list goes on. Imagine this: “things to do near me”, “places near me”, “stores near me” and “gas near me”.

Increasing trend of "near me" searches
“store near me” is one of the trending queries.

All of which can be summarized that the trend of people searching online for local services is now more prevalent than ever before. And that brings us to the next question: What is local SEO?

What is Local SEO

Local search optimization is all about optimizing your online properties to increase search visibility locally

For example, if you have a bakery shop in Chicago, you want the nearby people to easily locate your shop when they search for “bakery shop”.

Optimizing for local search is powerful for businesses. According to statistics, 4 out of 5 consumers use search engines to find local information. If you have not started optimizing your website for local SEO, maybe you should start after done reading this article. 

What does “near me” searches mean for your business?

One in two people who conduct a local search typically visits a store on the same, and 76% of people who search for something nearby on their smartphone visit a related business within a day.

What does this mean for your business?

Opportunity! 

Usually, when people conduct “near me” searches, it signifies a high intent to perform a certain action. For example, when someone searches “gas station near me” they are most probably looking for the nearest gas station to fill up their gas tank. 

According to a research done by Google, “near me” mobile searches that contain a variant of “can I buy” or “to buy” have grown over 500% over the last two years. These include things like “where can I buy stamps near me,” “places to buy scrubs near me,” or “where to buy vinyl records near me.” 

Increasing trend of "near me" searches
Source: Google

This is indeed a great opportunity for your business to reach your potential customers at the exact moment when they need you. 

The best part is that it isn’t that hard to optimize for “near me” searches. Here are some of the best techniques you can use to rank for “near me” searches.

How to rank for ‘near me’ searches in local SEO

1. List your business on Google My Business

Google My Business (GMB) is a free tool that lets you create a business profile on Google. You can use GMB to manage how your business would appear on Google Knowledge Graph and Google Maps. If you’re just getting started with local SEO, GMB listing is a great place for you to explore. 

First things first, you must have a Google account before you can create Google My Business profile for your business. 

Once you are done and have signed in, you can start creating your profile by doing the following. 

How To Create a Google My Business Listing

Step 1: Go to Google My Business and select “Start Now”.

Step 2: Enter your business name. Note that your business may pre-populate from public records data, so you can select it from the drop-down menu if it appears. 

Create Google My Business profile for your local SEO

Step 3: Choose whether you want to add a location that customers can visit. 

Step 4: Enter your business address.

Create Google My Business profile for your local SEO

Step 5: Choose your business category. Try to choose the most accurate category that represents your business because it will influence the kind of search terms you appear in Google.   

Step 6:  Add your business phone number or website. Adding a business phone number is not compulsory but I would recommend you to include them if you want to take advantage of GMB functionalities. 

Create Google My Business profile for your local SEO

Step 7: Complete your business verification through a postcard, phone or email.

Create Google My Business profile for your local SEO

You must verify your business in order to use Google My Business to its fullest. You may not be able to update your business information, post status updates, or view analytics if you have yet to verify your business. 

2.  Optimize Your Google My Business Page

Once you have verified your business listing, it’s time for you to start optimizing them. 

Your business profile is the first thing people see when they search for your business on Google. So, you may want to start optimizing your business profile before anything else. 

Here are some tips you can follow:

Tip 1: Add accurate and appealing photos in your profile

A picture is worth a thousand words, and I can’t agree more. 

According to Google My Business, businesses with photos get 40% more direction requests.

The first thing a user notices when they make a search are photos. Upload photos that can help you tell the story of your business. Be it a profile photo, cover photo, or your business’s photo to give them an idea of what you are offering, and most importantly is what they can expect from you. 

I would strongly recommend you to add as many photos you can to your Google My Business listing. This will give your potential customers a better look at what your business has to offer, in turn, they will be more likely to visit your business. 

Tip 2: Write a complete business description 

Businesses with complete and accurate information are easier to match with relevant searches. Write a description that tells what your business does, and what the users can benefit. 

Make sure to include your opening hours. This is to let your potential customers know when you’re available.

You can also consider to include your target keywords in the description to optimize your ranking. 

Tip 3: Check your coordinates on Google Maps

Checking your coordinates may sound trivial, but it does make a difference when users turn on their GPS and search for the nearest businesses. 

So, pin your business location accurately on Google My Business.

Tip 4: Create Google My Business Posts 

Posts are tiny blog posts which you can use to give a short news update, share an offer or publish details of any upcoming event. 

Create Google My Business profile to rank for near me searches

Use the Google My Business Post to write news, offer or upcoming event.

Keep the post short and simple but enticing to the user. 

Tip 5: Use Questions and Answers feature

According to GetFiveStar, roughly 25% of listings have been asked at least one question. This means you are forced to use this feature. 

Q&A helps to establish trust and remove obstacles to conversions. It shows customers you are invested in helping them find the right solutions. Providing comprehensive answers to their common questions show your sincerity and authority. This makes customers more confident about doing business with you. 

Like reviews, Google Q&A if left unmonitored can become a huge brand liability. The example below shows how a customer can leave feedback using the Google Q&A feature. 

Use Google Q&A in doing local SEO

Negative reviews are not necessarily a bad sign for your business. Replying to those reviews can help identify points on how to improve the experience for customers. Respond in a timely manner to show that you pay attention to their experience. 

Download and install Google My Business App to receive instant notifications on questions in your listing.

3. Collect customer reviews

When is the last time you checked on customer reviews before booking a hotel?

96% of TripAdvisor users consider reading reviews important when planning trips and booking hotels. 

And it’s not just a hotel. 97% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses in 2017, with 12% looking for a local business online every day. 

Customers want to know if they can trust your business to provide a positive experience before deciding to make any transaction with you. That’s why 90% of customers say their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews. 

Collect customers review to enhance your local SEO

Brian Solis puts it very well when he says:

“Welcome to a new era of marketing and service in which your brand is defined by those who experience it.”

Brian Solis

As the business owner, the best thing you can do is to get more reviews from your customers. 

But how do you get reviews from your customers? 

You ask them. 

Don’t be afraid to ask customers to give your business a review. At the same time, do a favor for your customers by making it easy to leave reviews. 

Go to your listing, and click the ‘Write a review’ button.

how do you get reviews from your customers

You’ll see a Google review box popup, then copy the URL of the address bar. 

how do you get reviews from your customers

Copy the URL and send to your customers. This will send them directly to leave a review for your Google My Business listing. 

Google My Business encourages business owners to get reviews from their customers. Google has also shared some best practices in getting customers review:

  • Remind your customers to leave reviews. Let them know that it’s quick and easy to leave business reviews on mobile devices or desktop computers. 
  • Reply to your customer’s reviews and build trust. Your customers will notice that your business values their input, and possibly leave more reviews in the future. You can also create and share a link that customers can click to leave a review.  

Responding to reviews is more important than ever, with 30% naming this as the key when judging local businesses. 

Make time to interact with your customers by responding to their reviews. Whether it is a positive or negative review, it is always a good idea to respond to your customer reviews.

4. Make your site mobile friendly

How often do you make “near me” searches using a desktop? Probably once in a blue moon? 

Make your site mobile friendly to rank for near me searches
Image: Think With Google Twitter

88% of all “near me” searches were performed on a mobile device, and these searches grew at 146% year over year!

If you want to optimize for “near me” searches, you’ll definitely want to make your site mobile friendly. 

How will mobile optimization get your website to rank for “near me” keywords?

Mobile-first indexing is enabled by default for all new, previously unknown to Google Search, websites starting July 1, 2019. It means that the mobile version of your website becomes the starting point for what Google includes in its index. 

If your site is not optimised for mobile, your content can still be indexed but you may not rank as well in comparison to mobile-friendly websites. 

A good starting point to optimizing your mobile would be applying responsive design and AMP to your website. 

  • Responsive design – make your site responsive so that the same content and experience is delivered to all the visitors. Learn how you can turn your basic structure into a beautiful page that is responsive across a large number of screen sizes using Google’s fundamentals.
  • Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) – a very accessible framework for creating fast-loading mobile pages. The initiative can potentially increase your mobile ranking. Check if your page is AMP valid using AMP test.

5. Create localized content and use relevant keywords 

When it comes to keywords, the solution is not stuffing your site with “near me” keywords.

First, you can begin by writing a list of keywords you want to target. For example, let’s say you run a cafe in Kansas. You can use the keyword “Cafe near me” as one of your page titles. 

Other places you can add are on the title tags of your location pages, anchor texts, and alt tags to help your business show up more for local searches. 

Does adding “near me” keywords really help?

A study made by CDK Global found that the businesses that added “near me” content increased their click-throughs by 81%, compared with those that didn’t.

So the answer is yes!

The formula is quite straightforward:

“Keyword + near me”

But you don’t want to spam your content with “near me” keywords. What you can do is use LSI keywords in your content. LSI keywords are keywords that are semantically related to your main keyword. It helps Google to better understand your content. In return, users can get relevant results when they make a search.

If you want to write content that is targeting the query “cafe near me”, these are the LSI keywords surrounding the main keywords:

Use related keywords to rank for near me searches
Use related keywords surrounding your main keyword.

When search engines see the LSI keywords in your content, it gives a confidence boost that your page is about cafe shop. That confidence will give you an extra advantage to your site ranking when someone searches for a cafe in Kansas. 

With that, here’s how you can find LSI keywords:

Use LSIGraph

LSIGraph is one of the fastest and easiest ways to discover LSI keywords. 

Just type in the keyword that you want to rank for and you will see a list of LSI keywords. 

Use LSI keywords to rank for near me searches
LSIGraph generates LSI keywords for your content.

Use LSI keywords in your content provided that it is relevant to your topic. 

Remember to write content that matches what people are searching for in your local area. Try to talk more about local stuff on your website. If your business is located at Puerto Vallarta, you can list down local landmarks like Malecon Boardwalk or Zona Romantica. Better still, include driving directions to your place on your site. 

Sometimes, it is not just the people at your local area looking for your business. Create a localized content that can establish your site as the local authority in your niche. This will increase your site’s credibility. Thus, helps in your ranking.

Conclusion

I hope this was a helpful guide on how you can rank for “near me” searches.

If you haven’t started optimizing your business for “near me” searches, now is the best time. 

Just commit to getting started today and you are already one step ahead of the rest.

Instead of trying to think like Google, start thinking like you. After all, search engine algorithms are built to think like us humans. 

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Understand the real buyer journey and strive to give the right thing at the right time to the customer. Check out this article on mapping keywords to the buyer’s journey to enhance your keyword strategies.

Remember, local SEO certainly isn’t easy, but it is worth it!

Do you happen to know any other ways to rank for “near me” searches? If you do, feel free to share with me and other readers below! 

About Allysa
Allysa is always eager to learn something new whenever she got some free time and that includes SEO and inbound marketing. She also has a passion for traveling and discovering the unknown.