Local SEO helps your site to rank for local keywords, like “dentist Cardiff” or “vet Bristol”. Good local SEO can get you featured in both the organic (unpaid) search results and the “map pack” that appears above them. That’s obviously good for sales. So how can you master local SEO?
Well, it differs from non-local (aka “national”) SEO, because for local searches, search engines need to be confident of your firm’s location. Your online reputation matters a lot more, too. So whilst good on-site SEO and backlinks are still as vital as for normal SEO, citations and reviews are the keys to good local search positioning.
Unfortunately, both citations and reviews have common pitfalls that can easily undermine your rankings.
Citation Consistency for Local SEO
Citations are places that mention your company, even if they don’t provide a link. If you want to do well in local search results, listing your business on major online directories can help a lot. There’s a catch, though…
Google verifies your firm’s location through its Name, Address and Phone Number (“NAP”) citations. Trouble is, those aren’t always listed consistently across different sites. For instance, one may spell out “Road” in your address, whilst another uses “Rd”.
Such inconsistencies develop more often than you may think. As do duplicate listings — which can undermine your search positioning. Entries are often updated individually, and sometimes changes to the directories themselves cause problems.
Google sees consistency as a sign of quality and confidence, rewarding it with better rankings. So it’s wise to check the consistency of your directory listings occasionally — but doing so can be a lot of work!
Review Management for Local Sales
Reviews are even more powerful than citations, yet far less predictable. Still, they aren’t just good for search positioning. Most people now actively seek reviews for any non-routine purchase they make. So those little gold stars on your search listings are… well, like gold!
Want some stats on how important reviews are to local business?
- 90% of consumers read reviews for local businesses before making a purchase
- 89% read the business owner’s response to online reviews
- 70% are more likely to consider a business with positive online reviews
- 60% look to Google My Business for reviews on a local business
- 57% will only consider a business if it has 4 or more stars — and expect more than 11 online reviews
- Over half expect businesses to respond to negative online reviews within 7 days, but 63 percent say that a business has never responded to their review
- Half will visit a business’s website after reading positive online reviews
- 49% value the quantity of online reviews a business has
- 40% will not consider a business with negative online reviews
- Only 5% of local businesses on Google My Business have a star rating lower than 3 stars
Review Management — Vital for Millennial Markets
18 to 35 year olds rely even more heavily on reviews. So in those markets, review management can make or break a business:
- 91% trust online reviews as much as a recommendation from a friend or family member
- 80% have written online reviews for a local business
- Half always read online reviews before considering a local business
- Only 5% never read online reviews
Of course, reviews can be faked, but most major review sites can detect or prevent this. Still, Google naturally takes more notice of reviews left on your firm’s Google My Business (“GMB”) page, if you have one. It can detect fake reviews more easily on there, after all.
What about malicious fakes and genuine bad reviews, though? Well, the more reviews you have, the less impact a bad one will have. Still, most people are quicker to complain than to compliment. So GMB and other review sites let you respond to reviews, or even request their deletion. However:
- Poor responses in a public forum — especially retaliation — can do more harm than good
- Reviews aren’t likely to get removed just because you don’t like them
- Genuine reviews are potentially valuable feedback, anyway
That’s fine for reviews that are genuine and fair. Less so for those that are not.
How Can You Master Local SEO?
So, mastering local SEO requires managing your online reputation. Most firms trade on reputation, but Just earning your clients’ trust isn’t enough. You need to make sure that’s reflected online. So you need to:
- Promote your business on major websites and business discovery apps
- Easily monitor and manage your citations, to avoid inconsistencies and duplicates
- Track how customers discover your business on search engines
- Get more people to positively recommend your business on the internet
- Preempt unfair reviews to better serve your clients and manage your online reputation
- Get data-backed evidence about how your online presence is helping your business
- Boost your organic (unpaid) search positioning for local and national terms
If that sounds like a lot of work — well, it can be. That’s why search engines reward it with better local search positioning.
So if you’d like some help with that, check out my flexible small business SEO packages.