Local search engine optimization (local SEO) is simultaneously one of the most important and one of the most confusing things a business can do to market itself. If you’re a local business, catering to local customers, you need to show up when someone wants to know more about offerings in their area. If you don’t, you’ll miss out on valuable traffic.
But a lot goes into local SEO. It’s an underrated part of digital marketing that not many people understand well. Here, I’m going to break down a few key parts of local SEO in a way that business owners can understand and immediately start taking steps to implement.
Owning the Google My Business Listing
The first thing I recommend is for business owners to claim and own their Google My Business listing. Google will create one of these listings for your business whether you want them to or not. You definitely don’t want to leave this information open to Google or anyone else to change or own.
Claiming your listing gives you way more access to make the data say what it’s supposed to say. If you don’t own your listing, it’s really up to Google and users to determine what that information is going to look like.
Anything from hours of operation to street address, products/services offered, photography, and even whether or not it’s wheelchair-accessible can be determined by users.
Google is adopting crowd-sourcing methods to collect data about local businesses. You may have seen this when doing a local search. If you’ve been asked questions about the business on your phone or computer, then you’ve just been included in Google’s crowd-sourcing machine.
Because of this, you need to check your listing frequently. Things can change quickly, and a business owner needs to be proactive with their local profile.
Google’s Update Posts and Q&A Sections
There are also two new features that Google is rolling out for local search.
The first is what I call Google’s update posts. You can now post status updates and other information on your Google My Business page. It’s like a social media post, but it’s not shareable. If you have an event, or maybe a sale, or if there’s an update you want people to know about, it’s a useful feature.
And like everything else on your listing, this can and does show up on Google’s page whenever someone does a local search and your business pops up.
The second feature is a Q&A section where customers can ask questions about the business and find answers. They can ask questions like, “Is there a dress code for this venue?” and then access answers people have supplied. It’s tricky, though, because anyone can ask questions and anyone can answer them. There’s absolutely no filter.
It’s a good opportunity for the business owner to go in there and respond first, but it doesn’t notify you yet. You have to actively check it every day.
View it as yet another opportunity to interact with your audience base and ensure that accurate, relevant information is being distributed throughout the Internet about your business.
Taking Advantage of Local SEO in 2018
The bottom line is simple: It’s important to take control of your listing and do everything you can to make it complete and accurate.
It’s a customer’s first impression of your business, so it needs to be a good one. People are finding more information about your business just by searching and seeing what Google presents on the first page without ever going to your website. That’s one of Google’s goals and something they’re going to continue to advance.
So, your local listing could be the only time someone comes in contact with your brand online. You need to make it count.
If you have questions about local SEO, or want to make your business’s local presence as strong as it can possibly be, contact us – we’d love to help.