Every small or medium sized business with one or multiple brick and mortar locations, or every service provider active within a specific geographical area, which in the case of small countries such as Cyprus covers pretty much the vast majority of businesses on the market and across the board, stands to benefit greatly from the use of local SEO. Localised SEO strategies are the key that may lead not only in the attraction of higher customer numbers, but also to the overall growth of a business, consolidating its position in its market and offering it healthy and wealthy prospects for the future.
Localized SEO comes under the broader umbrella of localization as a business approach, which refers to the process of adapting a product or a service, or even any promotional content to a specific location and its market. When done carefully and successfully such localization can lead to tremendous results and the true globalization and internationalisation of a product or service, but if done the wrong way it could have devastating results for a brand’s image and prospects. Overcoming linguistic barriers through proper translation, is only one aspect of good localization, but it is not enough. Those wishing to benefit from localization should be ready to spend the time, effort and funds needed to do it properly, taking into account the specificities of each market they are localizing for, such as cultural, religious, political, historical and legal differences, as well as the tastes and consumption habits of local consumers. If done effectively and with respect to each locale’s diversity localization marketing, as well as local SEO can lead to hugely successful and rewarding results.
On the other hand, if done badly and it goes wrong, then unfortunately it usually goes horribly wrong:
- American Airlines introduced its new leather first-class seats in Mexico with a literal translation of their tagline “Fly in Leather”, which in Spanish means “fly naked.”
- The Coors slogan “Turn It Loose” became “Suffer from Diarrhea” in Spanish.
- The Perdue Chicken tagline "It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken" was translated with a much more intimate meaning on billboards all over Mexico."
And...The list of Marketing Missteps is just ... endless
What is Local SEO Marketing?
Local Search Engine Optimization, also known as local search engine marketing, is essentially a set of practices that lead to the effective marketing and promotion of any local business online, since through it businesses can promote their products and services to local customers at the exact time when they perform an online search for such products or services in their vicinity.
Local SEO is achieved in practice through various methods that combine certain standard, organic SEO principles, as well as specific local SEO tools, which help to truly localise your online presence and help it rank high in local searches, i.e. searches with local intent.
What is a 'Local Search'?
Did you know that 88% of consumers who do a local search on their smartphone visit or call a store within a day? In fact, nearly 46% of all Google searches are seeking local information.
HubSpot Marketing Statistics
To make things clearer, the first step would be to differentiate between standard informational searches performed online and local searches. Local searches, which according to Google make up almost 50% of all searches, are usually searches spurred by a strong purchasing intent, and are usually performed using words that show such local intent, such as "hairdressers near me" or "best hairdressers in X name of city or location". This is different than the informational search of, for example, "how to French braid your hair", which does not necessarily mean you are actually looking to buy coiffure services in your area.
When searches are conducted using such phrases that reveal local intent, or when the search is conducted using Google Maps or with Google already knowing your location and can detect a local intent in your search, what search engines understand is that their user is actually after suggestions of businesses in their area, and this is exactly what they return in the local search engine results pages (SERPs).
What do local SERPs display?
When Google detects that a search performed has local intent, it returns a map followed by a block containing three business listings offering the service or product searched for, in the searchers area. This block is known as 'local pack' or '3-pack' and this is exactly where businesses wanting to benefit from local SEO should aim to appear and become more visible, as this will sure mean more traffic to their website and/or more customers through their doors.
The content of results appearing on a local pack is much different than the results returned in organic searches and they contain a business' opening times, review ratings, as well as photos from its brick and mortar premises. All that is displayed in Google's "3-pack" is derived from each business' Google My Business profile. This was developed by Google in order to better serve and satisfy more search queries with local intent and display the best and most useful results on its SERPs. As such, it has increasingly become a crucial part of every business' local SEO marketing efforts and Google keeps improving it through algorithm updates to ensure the results returned are as good as they can be.
What is Google My Business?
First launched under the name Google Local, Google My Business (GMB), as shown by its name, is a business' profile on Google. A crucial tool that every business wishing to engage in successful local SEO should make the best use of. This can be achieved by verifying and optimizing your business' GMB page, as otherwise there is no chance of you appearing on the 3-pack.
The first step in is process is claiming and verifying a Google My Business page for your business. Google offers several options for such a verification, such as verification via phone or verification via postcard, in which case Google actually mails you a postcard to your declared business address containing a verification PIN.
Following the verification of your GMB, your next aim should be to best optimize it in order to ensure that your business will show up in the 3-pack when local searches for your target keywords are performed by users in your area. Consult the following tips in order to effectively optimize your GMB profile and maximize your chances to rank high on local search SERPs:
- Be sure to complete your page to the maximum, leaving no field behind and providing information that is both accurate and detailed when it comes to your working hours, location, contact information etc.
- Provide searchers and readers with a compelling and appealing to read introduction to your business, an attractive description and a catchy tagline.
- Upload images and photos of high-quality. At least one of them should be your business logo, as well as photos from your premises, storefront, service or office area etc, whichever applies according to the type of business you are in.
- Carefully select your primary business category by making sure you go for the single most relevant option. In terms of SEO it is better to have less sub-categories rather than more, as each additional subcategory added negatively affects your authority and relevance aimed at as to your primary category. It is better to focus on less and scoring higher, than diluting your presence and spreading your effort too thin.
- Accurately and clearly geotag your business by defining the areas you service. This could be in the form of a defined radius from your business' location or the form of a list of the names of the nearby cities or towns.
- Link your GMB profile to your business website, its social media accounts and other online content you have published and is relevant to your business. Also ensure your website links to your GMB page, either on its header or footer.
- Do your best to generate positive reviews on your GMB profile as having many such reviews will not only be beneficial in terms of local SEO but also in terms of actual conversion rate optimization, since a great number of positive reviews will make you look more trustworthy in the eyes of customers.
The content of your GMB profile is fed not only in the local pack but also in Google Maps search results as well as on the so-called knowledge panel, which is the result of a branded search for your business where the facts from your GMB appear in the top right.
Besides the elements on your GMB that you can submit for yourself, such as the services you offer, your contact details and opening hours, as well as your business description and business category, there are features contained in the GMB such as GMB attributes, GMB Q&As, and Google Reviews, whose generation requires the participation of consumers who come to have an experience with your business that they wish to share with others.
Having an up-to-date and accurate GMB profile increases the chance of showing up in the local pack, and making sure the profile is attractive, appealing and inspires trust and confidence increases the chance of winning a clickthrough. In short, GMB is a core part of every local SEO effort, however, even if it truly is massively important, Google My Business is just one example of a 'citation'.
What are citations?
A citation is usually an online directory or business listings website, which presents your business' NAPW information, that is its Name, Address, Phone number and Website URL, but a citation in general is any online venue or instance where your NAPW appears online.
Such citations are extremely vital for your local SEO efforts. Online directories and business listings are a common place where users look for businesses, and if yours is not on the list, then your competitors who show up are sure to have a feast.
Citations come in two formats, structured and unstructured. Structured citations are those which typically feature on business listings and directories and they have a structured format because they derive from the form that you fill in at the time of creating or claiming your own listing. Unstructured citations on the other hand, are mentions of your business' NAPW information as part of either a press clipping or social media post. In this case your NAPW details are visible and perhaps there is even a link connecting to your website, but not in a structured manner.
Making sure you get enough citations is not merely important, it is plain out imperative if your local SEO strategy is to yield results. However, simply being mentioned in listings, directories or unstructured citation opportunities is not enough. Since research shows that almost 70% of consumers say that stop using a local business if the information about that business in such citations is found not to be accurate and up-to-date, you absolutely need to ensure that wherever your NAPW appears, either in a structured or unstructured format, the actual information displayed is valid and true and it is regularly updated to reflect the current situation, for example a change in your address, phone number or working hours.
How can good rankings in local searches be achieved?
Having showcased what local SEO is all about and why it is so important and having discussed its two main components, i.e. your GMB profile and the overall factor of citations, let us explore the necessary success factors of your local SEO efforts a bit further. Prior to delving deeper, it is imperative that you are aware of the three main elements on which local search rankings are based. The first determining factor is proximity, which means how close, in terms of physical distance your business is to the location of the searcher performing the search with local intent. Obviously, you cannot do much to influence this other than clearly indicating your own location and the nearby areas you can serve.
The second factor is relevance, i.e. how relevant your offering is, be it products or services, to the user's search query. Clearly describing your offering then is crucial so that your business ranks high in all searches relevant to what you are actually offering.
The third and final factor is prominence. Prominence has a comparative nature since it pertains to what other consumers are saying about your business and how they rate and evaluate your products and/or services. This is why is it important to attract and display reviews about your business, since these opinions, provided they are positive, can go a long way in boosting your local search rankings and convincing searchers to prefer your over other competitors.
Which are the main local SEO services?
SEO consultants and agencies, realizing the distinct nature and huge potential of local SEO are investing in time and effort in order to discern how Google and other search engines treat and rank local searches, in order to keep pace with algorithm changes and be able to offer services tailored made to local SEO needs, as opposed to broader, organic SEO strategies. Since, as already explained, the end goal of local SEO efforts differs from those of organic SEO, SEO consultants, such as our resident all-star team, are devising several local SEO-specific services, which, when employed, lead to high local search rankings and translate into more direct contact and foot-traffic to your brick and mortar business location, than just mere website traffic.
Such focused, local-SEO-specific efforts can make a huge difference for the success and long-term well being of your local business, and they are sure worth the effort pursuing, either on your own or through enlisting the expert help of a professional SEO agency. They include methods such as:
- Localizing Your Website
The localization of your business' website pertains to the organic, natural inclusion throughout your site of your physical location, the name of your city or the region you operate in and whose consumers you aim to serve. In the case of businesses with multiple locations, effective localization may entail the creation of separate pages for each different location. Moreover, localization efforts may also include the involvement of the business with events organized in the local community and ensuring this involvement is showcased on the business' website.
- Building Citations
As already explained, being included on citation sites and business directories is imperative and crucial. Moreover, it has double benefits since when your business name, address, phone number and URL are listed on such directories, customers can find you more easily directly from such sources, while being listed also improves your local search rankings, as search engines view you as a genuine, trustworthy business to include on their local search SERPs.
- Claiming your Google My Business listing
Though featuring on as many online directories as possible is important, making sure you claim and verify your Google My Business page is a dire necessity, as if you don't your business will not be displayed and be visible on a number of important and extremely popular Google services, such as Google Maps, or on the SERPs for local intent searches. Therefore, even if you don't engage in any other form of local SEO, at least make sure you claim, verify and keep updated your GMB profile, as well as Bing Places for Business, which is Microsoft's equivalent to Google's GMB.
- Managing reviews
The reviews your business receives are extremely important towards the success of your efforts to rank high in local searches. It is not enough just to receive reviews though, you should also be able to receive a good quantity of such reviews, the reviews themselves need to be of quality and the sites you are reviewed on should be reputable and be authoritative in their field. When the reviews you attract are genuine and honest, so don't try to cheat on this one, this not only proves the quality of your offering to prospective customers and encourages them to convert, but also sends the right signals to search engines, which then ranking you high since they discern that your site and your offering have won the trust of other users and are thus reliable and useful. The importance of reviews becomes even more evident if you consider that positive reviews make 91% of consumers more likely to use a business.
- Attaining relevant backlinks
Backlinks that are obtained naturally, especially from popular and respected websites, boosts your business' prominence in the eyes of the local search algorithm, since your site is seen to be a trusted and reliable source. This can do wonders for your local SEO efforts, whilst your search visibility can also be boosted through all types of citations as well as links from business associations, online bloggers or even mentions in the local press.
Why are Local SEO Services the Sure Way to Attract New Customers?
If you are still in doubt whether you should engage in local SEO efforts for your business growth, well, you shouldn't be! But to illustrate the necessity of the undertaking even further, here's another few pointers and facts to help you take an educated decision.
In an era where the printed phone book and business catalogue is officially dead, if your aim is to attract local customers you should know that they are increasingly turning to the internet in order to locate information about local businesses and to take purchasing decisions. In fact, research reveals that more than 95% of all desktop owners conduct local searches, while almost half of all Google searches are searches with local intent. Moreover, more that 60% of local customers resort to search engines and online directories in order to find any local business they need. At the same time, half of local searches conducted on a mobile are actually seeking to obtain business contact information, such as an address or a phone number.
However, if you are to remember just one statistic, let be this one: almost 80% of local mobile searches result in an offline purchase! Those searching on the go are ready to buy and if they see you first then conversion is smooth as a breeze.
One of the primary characteristics of local search SEO and marketing is that they are both highly targeted as well as timely, since they make you visible to a local customer, at exactly when they are performing a search with a local intent. They see you when they need you and thus they are much more likely to come to you! Another important fact to keep in mind is that usually when searching locally most people don't have a specific business in mind and it therefore pays to be the result Google returns to them.
When compared to other forms and channels of local advertising local SEO has the highest conversion levels. Since local directories tend to dominate the first page of SERPs, it is crucial and imperative to be listed in them, as they boast conversion rates of up to 50%! In essence this means that if your business is accurately featured on respected online local business directories one every two leads will be converted into an actual paying customer.
The growth of mobile internet availability and usage across the globe leads people to be spending more time online via mobile devices rather than desktops. By using local SEO, you can cover both searchers using a PC as well as those using their mobile to search on the go, thus you never miss a potential customer and since proximity is a crucial factor, those on the go may actually be heading your way.
Another way in which local SEO differs from and is better than traditional advertising methods, such as leaflets or newspaper ads, is that all exposure is purposeful and none is wasted. Being able to reach potential customers at exactly the time they are looking for you means your local SEO efforts are great in terms of ROI, efficiency and cost effectiveness.
The fact that currently only just around 40% of businesses have claimed their Google My Business listing indicates that most of your competitors may not have yet realised the importance of online marketing efforts and the power of local SEO in particular. This gives you the chance to make a head-start and gain a much-coveted competitive edge. The even better news is that claiming your listing on GMB as well as on Bing Places for Business is still free, as is enlisting your venture on hundreds of other online business directories, resulting to great local SEO opportunities, as well as chances for promotion and visibility at absolutely no cost!
Local search is a strong and hot trend and it is set to become even more dominant in the future as more and more searches are conducted with a local intent, on the go and even through voice search, which is the way forward in terms of online searches. If you want your local business to have healthy growth prospects in the future, now is the time to implement a solid local SEO strategy with the help of an expert consultant or specialized agency, to beat your competitors to it, improve and increase your visibility and authority and enhance your chances to gain hordes of new local customers.
Don't miss out the great potential localization has to offer you as regards the effective mapping of your business' online presence and book your seat right on top of the 3 pack ready to convert every potential customer round the corner.