The rise of local search and why it’s paramount your business is listed in all the right places.
Most of us no longer want to be restricted to our desktop computers when we need to undertake menial daily tasks, instead wanting to access the internet from anywhere and at any time.
Whether it’s making a dentist appointment, finding a local restaurant or tradesperson, or booking the children into a holiday clinic for the summer, we want to do it wherever we are and when the need arises. The penetration of mobile phones, voice-activated search, smart watches and smart speakers (Amazon Alexa, Google Home, etc), offer us greater convenience. And that’s why it’s more important than ever that your business is listed in all the right places – particularly if you’re a local business trying to attract local customers.
What is local search (or local SEO)?
Local search, also referred to as local SEO, means promoting your business to local customers based on their geographic search location.
Local search is a cost-effective (sometimes free) way to promote your products and services to customers who live, work or are situated within a certain proximity of your business premises.
Scroll down to view three examples of how your potential customers may be using local search to find a product or service just like yours.
Google Maps (Google My Business)
Google has been aggressively pushing local search, particularly Google Maps (Google My Business).
You may have noticed Google Maps listings appearing at the top of local search results where previously it was further down the page or in the right sidebar.
IMPORTANT: If your business isn’t listed on Google Maps, or isn’t coming up in the search results, then I recommend you remedy this ASAP. This is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways for local businesses to attract customers. It’s free and, with a little know-how, puts your business at the top of the search page when potential customers enter keywords relevant to your products and services.
Local citations are mentions of your local business online. These may include your business name, address, phone number, website and other recurring information.
These citations can appear on websites such as business directories (Yelp, Yellow Pages, True Local, etc), social profiles (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, etc), newspaper and press websites, Google Maps, industry websites (Trip Advisor), to name a few.
Think of them as the data about your business online.
To ensure search engines such as Google can understand that all these listings are “attached” to your business, all citation information needs to be identical. This is very important.
The three most important citations are called NAP :
- Company Name
- Phone number
Other citations can include :
- Business hours
- Business description
- Directions to your business
- Photos and videos
- Payment options
- Email address, fax number and alternate phone numbers
Can citations affect your search engine ranking?
Yes, they can. If all citations are from a quality source and Google trusts the validity of this information, it can strengthen the credibility of your business in Google’s eyes leading to a higher search engine ranking. Conversely, if your citations are inaccurate and inconsistent then trust is eroded and can lessen your search engine ranking.
A better experience for your customers
Additionally, having accurate citations provides for better customer experiences. For obvious reasons, all contact information about your business needs to be accurate so customers can contact you, find your premises and find out what they need to know about your products and services. Inaccurate citations lead to reduce of trust, tarnish your reputation and loss of income.
Local Business Markup
Local schema markup is code that’s to your website that helps search engines like Google to understand important information about business more clearly.
Markup is a language written by the major search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc) just for them and is not visible to the public.
While local schema is important for your local search ranking, it can be used to feature rich snippets showcasing events, book reviews, movie reviews, products and much more.
Local Search Result Examples
Local Search Example 1 : Sally needs a hairdresser
Sally is at home and wants a list of hairdressers close by. She enters “hairdressers near me” into the Google search. Due to the location settings (GPS) activated on her mobile phone, Google recognises Sally is located in Manly so displays all the hairdressing businesses close by.
The page one Google search results are :
- local hairdressing salons in Manly, close to Mary’s home, displayed in the Google Maps listing display,
- hairdressing salon websites listed in the organic search results, and
- hairdressing salon directory listing results from Yelp and Yellow pages.
The Google Maps listing of any hairdressing salons with premises in Manly should (unless they have done something drastically wrong) show up in the Google Maps results. To provide further credibility and more information about the salon, their website listing should also appear in the search engine results. If their website hasn’t been optimised correctly for SEO and hasn’t been correctly affiliated with their Google Maps listing, may not appear in the search results.
To show up in these results, a hairdressing salon located outside Manly seeking Sally’s business would need to ensure their business was listed on Google My Business targeting the suburb Manly. Their website would need to be optimised correctly for the keywords “hairdresser Manly”. They should also add their details to any relevant business directory websites. Importantly, the local citations on each listing need to be identical to ensure Google recognises and matches up the location, reviews, and other important information, about the business. Matching contact information gives the business further credibility and ensures they come up in a greater number of search results.
Local Search Example 2 – John needs an emergency plumber
Just before John rushed off to work, the tap in his kitchen sink starts running non-stop. Late for a meeting, he turns off the water main and leaves for the day. John lives at Hornsby but works in the city. He wants to organise a plumber to meet him after hours to fix the problem. John searches “emergency plumber Hornsby” on Google.
In this instance, Google returned the following results :
- the ads of businesses who have paid Google to appear in searches for the keywords “Emergency plumber Hornsby”,
- the Google Maps listings of local Hornsby plumbers who have the words “emergency plumber”, “emergency plumbing, etc, indicated in their company description or local citations,
- two websites of local Hornsby plumbers that are optimised correctly for the keywords “emergency plumber” and “Hornsby”.
- in position three is the website of a large Sydney plumbing company (not located in Hornsby) that has been optimised for the keywords “emergency plumber” and “Hornsby”, and
- a Yellow Pages directly listing of plumbers on their website.
Most interesting in this scenario is the number 3 ranking of the Sydney plumbing company who, through clever and strategic SEO, is outranking dozens of local plumbers. They are most certainly stealing business from them. I do this a lot for my clients. It’s the easiest way for a small business to expand into new regions and suburbs.
Local Search Example 3 – Sam uses voice search to get a beer
Sam and his mates have been at the beach all day and are dying for a beer. Sam use voice search on his phone (eg, Siri or S Voice) and asks “Where can I get a beer“.
This is where local SEO and citations become even more important as results like this are now very targeted. View a screenshot of the voice search results.
Again, Google uses the location settings on Sam’s phone to determine where he is (i.e. Narrabeen). Then, based on information entered by pubs, bars and restaurants in his vicinity, Google display the results of those offering selling beer. Interestingly, I know there are other places locally that sell beer, however, because they haven’t optimised their online information correctly, they didn’t appear in the search results. It’s a missed opportunity for those businesses but provides benefits for the businesses that do optimise their business information correctly as required by Google.
Results such as these will only get more intuitive as Google refines their algorithm and businesses start entering the correct information into their websites and anywhere information about their business is featured online.
About RAM Marketing Website Design & SEO Services
Hi, I’m Rebecca Mitchell and I have been providing specialist website design, SEO, online marketing and graphic design services to micro, small and medium-sized businesses and charities since 1996.
One of my most distinguishing points of difference over other website development and digital marketing companies is the advice, knowledge and expertise I provide my clients at no additional cost.
I have been developing websites, providing graphic design and marketing services to Sydney businesses for 20+ years. I have worked with in excess of 600 businesses and charities spanning conceivable industry.
Within a few years of starting RAM Marketing the world wide web became an integral part of our home and business lives. Over this time I have been fortunate enough to grow and evolve my business, along with the services I offer my clients, in parallel with the way the internet has grown and evolved. It’s this knowledge, experience and longevity that I am able to share with my clients.
I am constantly learning the new techniques required to remain competitive in an ever-changing online environment.
I am not just a website developer, graphic designer or digital marketer. I work in conjunction with you to determine who your clients are, where they can be found and how we can ensure your marketing message speaks directly to potential customers. I want your business to get noticed and your goals reached.
Benefits of working with me…
- Cost effective pricing – working from a home office environment on Sydney’s Northern Beaches I don’t have the overheads of larger businesses so my fees are therefore more cost-effective. Importantly I don’t believe in tie-in contracts or set packages – my services and fees are tailored to your unique requirements and budget.
- Personalised service – keeping my business structure small and personable ensures close attention is always paid to the specific requirements of you, my client. I keep you involved every step of the way and am always available should you have any questions or concerns. Rest assured, your project will not be passed on to an inexperienced junior but will always be managed by me personally.
- No job is too big or too small – small one-off jobs are just as appealing as extensive multi-faceted campaigns. There are no tie-in contracts. My services are flexible and tailored to your specific requirements.
- Giving you more time to do what you do best – depending on your personal requirements and time constraints, you can be highly involved in the project or leave it all up to me – the choice is yours.
- Budget flexibility – I appreciate that many small businesses have a limited budget when it comes to promoting their business. With so many years experience specialising in business marketing solutions, I can recommend cost-effective solutions that will fit within your budget constraints. As above, I don’t believe in tie-in contracts or set packages – my services and fees are tailored to your unique requirements and budget.
- Training and support – I pride myself on being the first person my clients call when they have a question regarding online marketing and how they should be positioning their business to ensure they are being found by potential customers. Training sessions and workshops help my clients stay abreast of changes in the marketplace and what they should do to remain progressive and ahead of their competitors.
Thank you and I hope we will be working together in the not too distant future but, in the meantime, should you have any questions about the services I offer please don’t hesitate to contact me anytime.