What is Local Search?

Nicole Grodesky
By Nicole Grodesky

As consumers are increasingly making their buying decision with a quick search on their smartphone or laptops, the web presence of your business and the ease with which potential customers can find you is essential for your marketing strategy.  

As many companies use local SEO strategies to bring in web traffic from web searches, local search is vital to the growth and online presence of your business.  People are more likely to ask their smartphone for a business “near me” than they are to do a Google search ahead of time. As your potential customers’ buying habits change, so should your strategy for keeping up with them.

Below you will find a comprehensive overview of how you can expand the online presence of your brick and mortar business and make it more discoverable by web searchers.

Local Search Marketing and Why It’s Important

According to Go-Globe, 50% of consumers who conducted a local search on their smartphone visited the store within a day of the search, and 78% of local-mobile searches result in offline purchases.  Optimizing your business’s web presence for a local search is integral to getting customers in the door.  If your business shows up on a local search, it makes a customer in the area more likely to come into your store and spend their money.  A local SEO strategy is critical to attracting not just traffic and customers but customers who are nearby and ready to buy.

By utilizing a local search marketing strategy, you ensure that your business shows up in local search results when a searcher is looking for a local business like yours.  In layman’s terms: local SEO literally puts your business on the online map.

Thanks to smartphones, consumers are not simply typing their searches on their computer.  They are conducting searches on their smartphones at work, on the go, even in store. What is good news for your business is that consumers are making purchases just as fast as they are conducting online searches for products and services.  

The Rise of Voice Search – Local search marketing has become increasingly relevant with the rise of the voice search: consumers using voice recognition technology to conduct their local search queries.  Forbes reported in January of 2018 that we are on the cusp of a voice search revolution, as people consistently make buying decisions by asking Siri for anything from a cup of coffee to a living room furniture set.  ComScore has projected that 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020.

The rise of voice search means that businesses need to rethink their online content and to tailor their local search strategies to the mobile medium, which is now less focused on keywords (“plumbing company”) and more on the personal search of the individual: “who can I talk to fix my sink?”.  Businesses are forced to think in broader strokes, to ask themselves what kind of questions their potential customers would ask verbally. As search behaviors become less predictable and tend to include longer and longer phrases (64% of voice searches are four words or longer), the focus on your local search marketing strategy is imperative to making sure your business is the answer to the consumer’s “OK, Google….”

Near Me – Small and large businesses can take advantage of the rise of the local search or a local SEO: more people type in “near me” when searching for businesses than ever before, and over 60% of searches are made from mobile devices.  More consumers are making buying decisions by asking Google and Siri for a business nearby rather than a laptop search.

Google Local Search Engine Optimization

Google is unsurprisingly the world’s largest and most popular search engine and was the originator of the voice search in 2010.  Importantly in the rise of local search marketing, Google has democratized the Internet space for businesses to make themselves known with their My Business platform, which integrates maps, reviews, and works closely with AdWords.

It is of paramount importance that small businesses take advantage of Google My Business for greater visibility in the web space.

Claiming your (GMB) Google My Business is an easy, fast, free way to enhance your business’s local search presence.  Simply go to Google My Business while signed into the Google account associated with your business, click “Start Now” and fill out the appropriate information on the form.  Then hit submit and wait for verification.

A Google-verified business is more likely to show up in a local search.  However, there are various GMB features at your disposal as well, all of which help boost your business and increase the likelihood of it showing up in a local search:

Google Posts

Google Posts allows you to draft content directly on Google, whether it be a text, image or event title.  The content of Google Posts appears in Google Search and Maps results, allowing you to attract consumers nearby in search of events, sales, or new products your business is showing.

Small Thanks with Google

If a customer writes a good Google review online, Google-verified businesses can highlight their favorite reviews and create a poster.  You can then have the posters printed, featured on your website, or sent out in email campaigns.

Google Messages or Chat

GMB allows businesses to chat directly with their clients who found their listing through mobile searches. Once you enable the “Chat” feature, Google displays your chat response time in their search results, so be sure to respond to customers promptly!

Appointment URLs

Google-verified business owners can include links for people to make appointments, allowing users to contact a business directly from a Google or Maps search.  Appointment URLs are not just for medical practices, but can also be useful for restaurants, law practices, or service businesses. Some businesses can add a “Menu” or “Products and Services” URL as well, which show up in local and voice search results.

When strategizing your local SEO marketing, you should also aim to get your business’s address and contact information into various local listings.  If you want your business to rank higher in local search results, you need to ensure your business’s information is listed in as many online directories as possible.  Businesses do so by building citations: mentions of the Name, Address, and Phone (NAP) number on Internet directories like Yahoo or YellowPages.  Search engines make citations a key part of their algorithm: the more legitimate and popular a business is, the more citations it will have. There are various local SEO services other than GMB at your disposal. 

The Difference Between Local SEO and Regular SEO

Search engine optimization is the process of trying to make sure search engines know which searches your business or website is relevant for.  Regular search engine optimization is simply when someone uses a search engine without a geographical component.  In other words, the searcher is trying to find information rather than a location result: “vegan recipes” versus “vegan restaurants”.

Some businesses will want to rank high in organic searches rather than local searches, either because they do not have a specific geographic location (such as online retailers, vendors) or because they want to be found with certain search terms.  Brick and mortar businesses with a specific location want to rank high in local search so that nearby searchers for businesses in their industry will find them.

The basic goal in SEO strategy, both local and regular, is to earn the “trust” of search engines like Google.  Google trusts a location that can be centralized and verified by building citations. But it also trusts the verification of the content on your website, which is evaluated by links.  Outbound and inbound links from relevant sites and sources directed back at your site can increase the trust in your website and its content.

Though it is important for your business to show up in relevant local searches (as mentioned previously, 50% of searchers visit businesses within 24 hours of a local search), regular and local SEO work together.  For example, if you claim your business on local listing directories like GMB, the citations tell search engines where you are located, and the links back to your website that you put on the directory help regular SEO strategy, and your website is ranked higher.

Search engines use hundreds of factors to rank and index websites in searches, including keywords, outbound and inbound links, and others.  But of all the evolving local SEO ranking factors, on-page signals are statistically most important: the content and elements in the website itself.  Fresh content is attractive for search engines, as it sends out local signals for when a searcher is in the area, and the use of keywords in the fresh content boost regular SEO efforts.

Conclusions

In short, SEO is incredibly significant for the exposure of your business and is essential for bringing in new customers.  The rise of the voice search has made local SEO vital to your business’ success. Talk to a local SEO expert today to put your business at the top of the search list.  OK Google, time to optimize.

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Nicole is a Senior SEO Strategist with experience in technical SEO, SEO keyword strategy, content strategy, and Local SEO. She has experience with enterprise level Local SEO initiatives that manages multiple business locations up to over 300 stores nationwide. Her Local SEO expertise is in managing Google My Business accounts and building local citations to create an authoritative local presence for business owners.