3 Expert Tips To Improve Your Local Ranking In Google
Is there a silver bullet when it comes to improving your local ranking in Google? I spoke with local search expert Claire Carlile ahead of her appearance on this month’s Business as Unusual webinar to find out.
Hi Claire! First off, why is local SEO important?
If you’ve got a bricks and mortar location or you’re a service area business (so, you serve people at their location) optimising your local SEO is what is really going to affect whether or not you get seen by your potential customers.
In recent years there’s been a huge rise in mobile search - so, people making searches on their mobile phones - and there’s been a massive increase in local intent alongside this. Especially on mobile, you know, we’re looking to solve a problem which is often to do with either doing, finding or buying something there and then - it’s that micro-moment.
And, depending on what you read, about a half of all searches have local intent where people are either using explicit or implicit search terms to help them find the information they need. Explicit being, for example, ‘Solicitors near me’ or ‘Solicitors London’ and then implicit search terms being if you simply search for ‘Solicitors’ it’s very likely that you’re not looking for a course in how to become a Solicitor but that you’re actually looking for a Solicitor service near you.
I think that a lot of our searches are driven by locational intent. So, if you have got the type of business that needs to be seen and be visible for those types of searches then that’s why it’s important for you to focus on local SEO.
What does local SEO entail? Is optimising your Google My Business profile “doing local SEO” or is it much more than that?
Yes, local SEO is so much more than that; it’s all of the things that you would think about when implementing traditional SEO plus more.
For example, if you’re doing local SEO, you’ll still need to think about technical SEO and be asking yourself questions like: can Google spider my website? Can it index my website? You’ll also need to be thinking about on-page SEO: are you optimising for user intent? Are you optimising for the right search terms? Are you writing content for every stage of the user journey? Then you’ll need to think about off-page SEO, you’ll want to consider your link development strategy and how to approach it with a local slant. And then on top of that you’ll need to consider a different algorithm: the local algorithm. Obviously, Google My Business (GMB) is great. Use GMB fully and optimise it fully BUT local SEO is so much more.
Example of Noisy Little Monkey's Google My Business profile.
For busy marketers, what are the three things they should do to improve their local ranking that they’re probably not already doing?
In my experience of working with businesses of all sizes, there can be quite a lot of failure to do the basics. So, before I think about ranking I’d be thinking about measurement and conversion.
Make sure you’re measuring activity properly
With regard to measurement, there’s no point in saying “we want to rank higher for X” if you haven’t already thought about how you’ll measure it and have put a foundation in place to benchmark where you are now and to see the benefit of an increase in ranking.
Imagine you’re getting lots of traffic from GMB, if you haven’t UTM tagged up all the links within GMB, all that traffic is going to be going into the Organic or Direct bucket in Google Analytics. Therefore you can’t really see what those visitors are actually doing on your website. And if you haven’t thought about what your conversions and micro-conversions are (eg you haven’t mapped out your goals or ‘events’ in Google Analytics) you need to make sure you’ve set that up beforehand before you even begin to think about how you’ll improve your ranking. If calls are important to your business - then think about setting up call tracking.
You’ll want to make sure you’ve answered the question: what are the business critical things that I need someone to do on my website? Whether that’s booking an appointment, making an ecommerce purchase, click-to-call, signing up to a newsletter, visiting a social media profile, and so on. Once you’ve figured out what you’re going to measure, you’ll then have a better idea of how you’ll measure it.
Optimise your conversions
Once you’ve thought about measurement, you need to consider whether the traffic you’re already getting is converting and if it’s not, ask yourself how you can get it to convert better. So, making sure that your Google My Business profile is filled in really well; thinking about the content on your profile and making sure it’s compelling and that it encourages users to take action. This would include things like making sure your reviews are up-to-date and having lots of compelling, relevant photos, using Google posts, using Google products - making sure your attributes are completed.
And on site - if you’ve got location landing pages set up, check that the call-to-action on the page is clear. What are the next steps that you want your site visitors to take? Make sure there’s a clear pathway for them.
Read Darren Shaw’s 2020 Local Ranking Factors Survey
Third, there is no magic bullet for local SEO. There will be different tactics for each business depending on industry niche, location, and so on. I’d suggest reading Darren Shaw’s 2020 Local Ranking Factors Survey. Obviously, no-one knows what the local ranking factors are - Google doesn’t publish that information - but his study uses qualitative and quantitative data to find out what’s working and what’s not for local businesses. It’s got loads of great tips and tidbits from experts in the industry; read through the report and think in the context of your own business and ask yourself what you’re missing in your local strategy.
This will help you approach your local SEO in a structured way: you’ll discover what the new opportunities are within local and what boxes you haven’t ticked yet. You’ll probably find that it’s most of the boxes.
Darren Shaw's 2020 Local Ranking Factors Guide.
Want more local SEO tips?
For more brilliant local search tips which you can apply to your own business, join Claire Carlile at the Business as Unusual webinar on Thursday 15th October. You can also download Claire’s complete guide to UTM Tagging right here if you’re keen to get started improving your local strategy straight away!