Get your business found in local area searches
The vast majority of small businesses are local area businesses. By this we mean businesses that sell products and services to their local area, as opposed to nationally or even internationally. Think Plumbers, Restaurants, Pool Supplies, Pet Grooming, Electricians, Builders, Car Sales........; you get the picture. For this reason, an important part of Search Engine Optimisation is Local SEO. Local SEO is the process of getting your business found when someone searches for your products or services in your local area.
How do people search for Local Businesses?
Before we get into how Local SEO works, we first need to understand how people will search for local businesses. These are the main search methods people use:
- Include the local area in their search
This is arguably the most common. If I'm looking for a Plumber in the Coolum Beach area, I will search for "Plumber Coolum Beach".
- Just search for the product or service on Google
Not the most refined search, but still used regularly.
- Include "Near Me" in their search
This is becoming more common, especially with the use of voice search (eg. Google Assistant, Siri, Android Auto etc).
- Search within Google Maps
This is common when searching on a mobile device.
Now we know how people search for local businesses, we need to look at how Google (or your preferred search engine) will deliver what it believes are the best results.
How does Google know what websites to show in a local area search?
When Google ranks a website, it decides what product or services the business website is offering and what areas it sells them. As we are discussing Local SEO here, we are only interested in how Google decides your service areas (this is the first part of Local SEO). So how does Google work out what your service areas are?
- The physical address of your business as shown on your website
- The physical address of your business as shown in your "Google My Business" listing
- The physical address of your business as shown on online directory listings
- Service areas mentioned on your website
Now Google knows where your business is located, it may show it whenever someone searches for your products or services in your local area. Now when we say "may show it", this doesn't mean Google will show it on the first page; or even page 2, 3 or 4. Getting your website showing on the first page is the second part of Local SEO.
How does Google decide what websites to show first in a local area search?
There are many things that Google considers when deciding what websites to show first in local area searches and many of them only Google knows about. But there are several that we know will help you get found.
Consistent Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP)
This means ensuring that wherever your business is listed on the internet, you are using the same business name, address and phone number (NAP). Google will look at all these listings and if it sees inconsistencies with your NAP, it will be confused as to which one is correct and it should use.
It is extremely common when we get a new client, that they have listings throughout the internet with a range of different NAPs. Many of these listings may never have been created by the business and are simply scraped from other sites etc. You will need to get access to all these listings and ensure the NAP is consistent on all.
Accurate and compliant Google My Business profile
There are a lot of businesses out there completely unaware that Google has a FREE business directory that is an integral part of how it ranks for local search. Conversely, there are a lot of businesses that do know about it, but get carried away and spam it; creating non-compliant listings (and we mean multiple listings).
So if you haven't already added your business to this service (or you want to get access to the listing already showing), you can get started here. Just make sure you follow the Google My Business policies and guidelines.
If you have a spammy website with poor quality content, you can't expect Google to rank you highly. Google only wants to rank websites that it believes are good quality and will provide the searcher with a good experience as well as a solution to their search.
You should also consider a way to include your service areas in a non-spammy way to help Google work out your service areas.
So what does Google consider a good quality website and what does it consider a spammy website? This is a million dollar question, but you can read more on how to create website content for SEO.
Google will consider the reviews your business has online when deciding where to rank you. So if you have no reviews or mainly bad reviews, you need to fix this up. Obviously the first step is ensuring you fix the issues that are creating the bad reviews and then set up a strategy to encourage online reviews.
One final word on Local SEO
This is obviously an overview of Local SEO and there are other strategies that will also help. But if you were to only do one thing as part of your Local SEO strategy, we strongly recommend you take charge of your Google My Business listing and keep it up to date. This includes replying to reviews and adding photos and posts regularly.