Folasade, the Creative Director of Orekelewa Couture, doesn’t care if someone in Lagos finds her brand while searching for “custom-fitted designs.” That searcher has nearly zilch chances of becoming a customer, anyway. So she deploys the local SEO technique to prioritize people near the business — the people most likely to become customers — find them via search.
Earlier, the ”budding CEO” of the Abuja-based maker of ”hot dresses” cringed on coming to terms with the daunting nature of trying outsmart myriads of competitor on the world wide web— awash with well over 1 billion websites. She figures competing in such a massive world can be daunting for small business owners trying to promote their local shops.
Her Eureka moment came when she discovers, upon adequate research, 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. That was when she invested time in understanding how Local SEO works. Folasade eventually goes ahead to leverage the her newly acquired digital skill, achieving tremendous marketing success in the process
Like Folasade, tons and tons of young businesses are constantly seeking to flip the right switches that can propel their businesses to the next level. And, yes, understanding how local SEO works can be a ‘right switch”. This piece will walk you, step by step, through the ”how.” Let’s dive in!
What is Local SEO?
Before you can understand local SEO, you first need to understand what SEO is.
It refers to the tactics and strategies that marketers use to help their brand show up organically when a user searches for a keyword related to the brand’s business, products, or services.
For example, Demol Cut and Colour would want its business to show up when a user searches for “hair salon.” While Providence Plumbing Company Ltd would want its business to show up on the first page of search engine results pages (SERPs) when someone searches for “plumber.”
Businesses want to show up when someone searches for a topic related to their brand, products or services. SEO helps them do that.
What’s the difference between SEO and local SEO?
Brands that offer services to anyone anywhere — like a car insurance company or an online software provider — want people across the country (or even the world) to find their business through search.
But local brick-and-mortar and service-based business owners don’t need people around the world to find their business. They only need nearby searchers to find their business. Local SEO helps them do that.
Local SEO refers to the tactics and strategies that marketers use to help their brand organically show up when a nearby user searches for a keyword related to the brand’s business, products or services.
How does local SEO work?
Local SEO follows many of the same rules as SEO. Of the three primary categories that drive local SEO, two are also related to general SEO.
- Relevance: Search engines want to show results that best match what the user is looking for. Relevance helps them match results with search phrases and intent.
- Prominence: Search engines want to show results from leading brands and publications. Prominence helps them determine which sites are the most well-known and trustworthy. Sites with higher online authority receive higher search rankings.Both relevance and prominence are related to general SEO.Search engines want to present results from top websites that are closely related to search phrases. But in local SEO, search engines consider another factor.
- Proximity: Search engines want to show results that the searcher can use so they prioritize results that are near the searcher when the search is related to a local need. Proximity refers to the distance between the searcher and the location of the business displayed in search results.
What do local search results look like?
Now that you know how local SEO works, let’s look at what local SEO looks like when you see it in search.
For example, when you search for “hair salon,” you will see results for local businesses and general results mixed together in organic and paid search results.
General organic search results
Organic search results display websites that search engines have deemed to be the most useful for searchers. The top placements are earned by websites that have strong SEO. In organic search, you might find results that are tailored to your location as well as general results.
(images source: Google)
For your consideration…
- Your business’ proximity to searcher
You have little control over this, but proximity is by and large the greatest factor for the getting into the local pack. Lately, proximity has outweighed every other factor, at least when it comes to the local 3-pack.Let’s say you are into bags sales. If someone in Ajah, Lagos looks up ”bag shops near me” on their phone, but your shop is located all the way across town, say Ikeja, from the searcher, you are unlikely to show up in the local pack (the 3-listing box atop search results, as seen in image A above).
It’s important to note that local organic results—the results that lie below the local pack(image D)—are significantly less affected by proximity. Still, for both organic and local pack results, you need to have a physical location in the city of search, especially where there’s a geo-modifier—a city or location attached to a keyword phrase—in the search.
Essentially, you won’t show up for local intent searches if you aren’t close to the searcher.But proximity hardly guarantees ranking, and only gets you into the running.
- Google My Business Category Associations
Your Google My Business category associations help Google determine what kind of business you are.If you are a plumber, but your GMB category is ’electrician,’ then you are less likely rank for your business—plumbing.
Now, that isn’t a likely scenario, but it drives the point home.You won’t rank for your business in the local pack if your GMB listing doesn’t accurately portray what you do.Make sure your GMB listing aligns with your business. But your GMB listing will not help you compete with other businesses in your vertical—it simply gets you in the game.
- Citation consistency
Google wants to display accurate results to its searchers, especially in local where there is a high likelihood the searcher is looking to call or go to a business.Because Google doesn’t want to frustrate its users with incorrect addresses or phone numbers, it has a ”trust but verify” policy when it comes to the business name, address and phone number (NAP) in your GMB listing.That’s why Google cross-verifies your NAP across hundreds of other directories across the internet. Still, don’t worry too much about hunting down every single listing.
NAP listings from primary data sources are given more weight. Start with cleaning up your listings in prominent directories, and then work down from there.After all, citations are important, but will not set you apart from the crowd.
In the next series of this post, we’ll look at the steps you can take to optimize your web presence to appeal to the three factors of local SEO: relevance, prominence and proximity.