If your business has physical locations, then you more than likely already know the importance of attaining and maintaining prominent visibility in the local search engines. Nearly half of all web searches have a local intent, using queries such as “ [city] [state]” to find products and services specifically in locations where you do business.
These searchers are generally deep in the purchase funnel and are ready to spend money. If they don’t find your location listed on page one of the SERPs, they will find your competitors.
There are several tell-tale signs when a company should consider professional local SEO services. Let’s dig deeper and discover whether your business is covered or if you need additional support.
Sign #1 – All of your locations are listed on the same page on your website
A common oversight that can cripple local visibility is placing all location details on a single webpage. To optimize effectively for each specific location, you need a unique webpage that provides the ability to target the main keywords and location in the HTML title and meta description. This is not possible with one landing page serving all locations.
Use a Logical Site Structure
Locations pages should all be structured within a logical hierarchy, so search engines understand how each page fits together within the entire section of content. Depending on how many locations you have, a typical structure for this content might be: domain-URL/locations/state/city/store.
Individual pages also provide the indexable content area needed to adequately describe unique characteristics, services or features that each location offers. Presenting them all on a single page is very limiting to the optimization, and not very user-friendly.
Deep Links to Locations
When updating your Google myBusiness listings, or other maps feed, always provide deep links that take the searcher directly to the details for the location they’re interested in, rather than dropping them on a high-level page or homepage where they would have to search again for details.
Most often, local searchers are looking for an address, phone number, or services that a specific location provides. Don’t make it harder for them to find! They will find the information they need (and convert) somewhere else.
Optimize Your Pages Effectively
Another common challenge is chasing high search volume keywords based on metro areas effectively. All location pages should be optimized for their exact city. Google knows exactly where you are – right down to longitude and latitude coordinates.
If you only have one location in a suburb of a major city (i.e. Mesa, Arizona), then also optimizing for the metro area of Phoenix would make sense. However, if you have multiple locations within a metro area, targeting the major city on all of them will cause confusion.
It would be more effective to go after Phoenix searchers by adding another level to your hierarchy, such as: domain-URL/locations/arizona/phoenix/store
Add as much content as possible for search engines to index that describes the unique characteristics, features, services or products that each location offers.
Sign #2 – You have no idea know how much traffic is being driven from local search
If you’re struggling to track the performance of your local landing pages, it might be time to consult an expert who can dive into your local analytics and provide a report with clear action items. There are at least two sources of data that can provide valuable insight with your local search campaign – maps and organic local traffic. Both should be tracked and reported on to provide granular insight on the current performance of each location.
Tag your locations
Tracking maps traffic is easy to do and allows you to see traffic that’s coming directly from map engines. Google even provides a campaign URL builder, which makes this process painless to implement and see in Google Analytics.
You could go one step further and set up a tracking URL for each search engine to provide more granular data. When you’ve created one for each location, add them to your feed or platform so it is updated.
Set Canonical Tags
Be sure that canonical tags are implemented on your location pages. This will inform the search engines of the preferred version of the URL to keep in their index, and all other variations of the URL will be dropped.
If you’re not sure if canonical tags have been implemented on your website, it’s easy to check. Load the page in your browser, right-click on a content area, and select “view page source”. Then, search the HTML for “canonical”.
The canonical tag for the example campaign URL above should be:
<link rel=”canonical” href=”https://www.domain.com/locations/arizona/mesa/store101” />
This guarantees that URLs with the UTM tracking codes used above are dropped from the index and only the correct version remains.
Use Unique Phone Numbers
Another great measurement tool is the use of unique phone numbers to track calls. Research shows that 61% of mobile users prefer to call a business when they are in the process of buying. This is even truer if they’re shopping for a high-value item. If you’re not tracking these, these conversions will be counted as an exit from the website.
If this type of attribution is critical to your business, consider setting up a bank of numbers that provide the ability to track per location. Google recommends local phone numbers, instead of a call center. If that’s not possible, at the very least use a unique number for your local search efforts. This will differentiate it from regular website traffic and allow you to analyze the channel more effectively.
Call to Action Buttons
Enable “call to action” on your Google myBusiness listings to help convert searchers directly from your local listing. You now can add five pre-defined buttons to your local profiles:
- Learn More
- Sign Up
- Get Offer
You can also track views and interactions. This provides an additional way for searchers to interact or convert directly from your listing.
Sign #3 – You aren’t aware of where your business citations need work
An important aspect of local SEO that’s often overlooked or even avoided is managing citations. They are listed by Moz as the #4 ranking factor for the local pack, and #5 ranking factor for organic local.
A citation is any mention of your business’ name, address, and phone number (NAP) – with or without a link – that appears on any local-oriented website or directory across the entire web. Examples of influential websites to keep your listing data updated on: Yelp, YellowPages, Merchant Circle and even Facebook and Foursquare.
Completeness of Listings
It’s very important that your citation data is complete (a listing is present for each location), accurate (no variances exist with the data), and that no duplicates exist. Duplicates are common for a variety of reasons. For example, different teams within a company can open a different listing for the same location. Or worse, if your listing isn’t claimed and verified, unscrupulous marketers have also been known to create fake listings to try and steal your local traffic away.
Citation Management Platform
Management of citations is challenging due to the number of resources necessary to manage this to scale. In fact, it’s nearly impossible for a one or two-person in-house team to manage citations effectively for anything over a handful of locations.
Companies with many locations will need to invest in a citation management solution. There are several on the market, and they come at a wide variety of price points and levels of effectiveness. However, very few provide updates with the major websites and directories at a frequency to deliver a significant increase in performance. Our proprietary platform provides real-time updates to many of the top 45 local websites.
Sign #4 – You don’t know if your online reviews are good or bad
Don’t believe the saying that “ignorance is bliss”. If you don’t know whether your reviews are good or bad, your company’s reputation is at stake – and you may already be behind the curve.
Reviews are powerful. BrightLocal research shows that 90% of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business. And, 74% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more.
Online Reviews are Trusted
Research also shows that 84% of searchers trust online reviews as much as a personal reference. This is mind-blowing to fully grasp. But, this indicates that website visitors will trust a random stranger’s opinion of your company as much as a trusted friend!
Knowledge is Power
You need to be aware of what’s being said about your business before you can develop an effective local SEO strategy. An easy first step in knowing where you stand is to conduct a search for your business name and locations to see what is popping up in the search results. Or add superlatives like “[company name] [city] worst” or “[company name] best” to your search, it can be very enlightening – and sometimes frightening.
Reward good reviews. When someone takes the time to leave a good review, respond to it and let them know that you saw it and appreciate it. Not only will this reward the reviewer, but it lets other readers know that you’re active online and care about your customers (and reputation).
Respond to bad reviews. Customers are generally more willing to share bad experiences online rather than good ones. When someone does post about a bad experience, it’s critical to get in front of it and respond quickly.
If one person had a bad experience, it’s very likely that others have too. So, you may be reaching others with that one post. Consider offering them a way to communicate directly with your team to take it offline and make it right. ReviewTrackers reports that 94% of customers were convinced to avoid a business because of negative online review. Don’t make the mistake of thinking it will be ok.
Sign #5 – You have no idea how to build links to your website
Links that point to your website from other sites are one of the top two factors for ranking, as Google themselves has said. Backlinks to your location pages are even more important, as they will validate and strengthen your business’ authority and relevance for your vertical and specific locations.
There are a variety of tactics that all businesses can use for earning local backlinks. Advanced search commands are effective for identifying unlinked mentions of your brand, and often result in fast and easy opportunities where it’s valuable to link to a relevant location page. Additionally, combing through a competitor’s backlink profile has a high potential of uncovering competitive local opportunities.
Sign #6 – You understand how much work there is to do, but don’t have the resources
It’s very possible that everything mentioned so far is already on your radar, but there just isn’t enough time and resources to tackle it. Executing an effective local search strategy is time-consuming and requires long-term commitment to see a return. Most companies do not have that luxury of hiring specialized in-house teams and settle for trying to solve this complex challenge with one or two people, who generally have other tasks on their plate.
If you would like to investigate local search services, reach out to us. If not, you can’t afford to do nothing. At least start by assessing where your business currently stands and build a prioritized list of where you feel the most impact can be made the quickest.