November 2, 2022

How to Rank Higher in Local Search

By: Mary Hiers

Ranking higher in local search means applying all “classic” SEO practices plus practices that are location-specific. It also means monitoring and maintaining more moving parts than businesses that don’t care about dominating local search.

The efforts pay off. Almost half of all Google searches seek out local information, and “near me” searches have increased significantly year over year. Here’s what to do to dominate local search in your area.

All Classic SEO Practices Still Apply

Fresh, relevant, original website content with proper use of keywords matters just as much in local search as it does in non-local search. You may face less competition locally than you would nationally or internationally, but a poor-quality website and bad SEO practices can still harm your business. 

Sketchy tactics like buying backlinks, keyword-stuffing, or hiding keywords by making them match the background will still incur the wrath of search engines. And if it’s bad enough, search engines could delist your site altogether. 

Underhanded SEO will always come back to bite you. Legitimate SEO will always raise your business profile online, even if it takes time. 

Your GBP and Local Search

It would be difficult to overstate the importance of your Google Business Profile (GBP) in local searches. Claim your GBP, then verify it, manage it, and optimize it. “Optimizing” your GBP means regularly examining it for errors, adding new content, and updating it when something (like your phone number or address) changes. 

Maintaining and enriching your GBP should be part of your social media management strategy. While Google Business Profiles are not social media sites, they often have many ties to social media sites and therefore must be accurate and up-to-date. 

Adding great photos and posts helps tremendously. But you must also be responsive. Make sure someone answers the phone, answers online chats, and responds to Google reviews. 

One terrific tool for being more responsive to customer questions is adding Linked FAQs in Google Messaging. You can add up to 10 questions, and your pre-written answers can include links. A great set of Linked FAQs can make many phone calls unnecessary, freeing your team up for other key business activities.

Reviews and Local Search

You probably know this on some level, but now it is official: Google says that you cannot incentivize people to take down negative reviews. You have to learn how to respond effectively to negative reviews and you have to try to get as many reviews as you can.

The best way to get reviews is to ask for them. Instructing your customer-facing employees and point-of-sale workers to ask customers for reviews is one of the most effective ways to increase your review numbers. 

The more reviews your business receives, the less of an effect a single bad review has. As you gain more reviews, you will almost certainly gain a higher star rating. 

With some SEO parameters, quality matters more than quantity. However, when it comes to reviews, the more reviews you have, the better.

When You Have Multiple Locations

You do not need to have separate websites for each of your locations if you have a multi-location chain. But you do need to have separate web pages for each of your locations, with all of them gathered under the same dot-com website. 

Here is where it can be tricky. You should have a separate Google Business Profile for each location. Each GBP should have its own photos, posts, and accurate information. Each location-specific GBP should link to its own location page on your business website.

Name-Address-Phone (NAP) information for each location must be absolutely consistent between the location-specific GBP and the location page on the website. Google is picky about this, so check and recheck to be sure. 

Mobile-Friendliness and Local Search

In 2021, over 60% of organic visits were on mobile devices. If you are not optimizing your website for the mobile experience, your local SEO will suffer. 

What’s more, voice searches continue to grow in popularity, and it only makes sense that local searches and “near me” searches are most likely going to be made on mobile devices. Hence, they’re more likely to voice searches.

If you’re not sure about your website’s mobile friendliness, you can use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. It could not be easier. Just enter the URL and click the “TEST URL” button. 

If your website is not mobile-friendly, you, your web designer, or whoever created your website should find out why and take steps to make it mobile-friendly ASAP. Search engines prioritize the mobile experience and so should you.

Factors That Harm Local Search SEO

The following practices or situations will harm your performance in local search (and non-local search, for that matter).

  • You violate GBP guidelines, even if it is something small like a mismatch between NAP information on your website and your GBP. Consistency and accuracy are key.
  • You engage in sketchy review practices like incentivizing reviews or incentivizing the removal of bad reviews. 
  • Not taking immediate action if your website or social media properties are hacked. 
  • Irrelevant or purchased/traded links to or from your website
  • Low-quality website content (spammy, poorly written, irrelevant, or unprofessional)

Finally, while it is relatively rare, it is possible to underperform in local search if your business is located in an exceptionally out-of-the-way place. Often, local searches produce maps with “pins” showing local businesses. If your competitors are right next to the interstate but you’re way across town and hard to find, your physical location could hold back your local search success. 

Local Search Success Requires Commitment

Succeeding in local search means playing the long game. It means claiming your GBP and social media properties on sites your customers use. And it means maintaining and updating these entities regularly so that every searcher that finds your website or GBP receives accurate, up-to-date information.

Local SEO requires steps beyond ordinary, non-location-specific SEO. However, the results can be more pronounced, since local search only compares you to your local competitors. 

Outstanding local SEO practices should be considered a valuable business asset. These practices help your paid digital marketing go further and attract new customers every single day. 

Exchange Media Group understands the symbiotic relationship between paid digital marketing and organic local SEO. Every day we help local businesses optimize their websites and develop digital marketing plans designed to maximize the return on every marketing dollar. 

Intrigued? Why not set up a call with our team? We would be delighted to discuss your website SEO (local and general) needs as well as effective digital marketing strategies. 

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