The user behavior on the network has changed fundamentally. Thanks to mobile devices and fast Internet connections, the visit to the Web for the new online generation is quite different than it was ten years ago. The search behavior in search engines such as Google or Bing adapts to that. You no longer just look for the PC in your living room, but always with the smartphone or tablet, where you are right now, after the things you just need. Whether restaurants in Berlin, lawyers in Hamburg, or the nearest toy store in Munich: Local searches are piling up. Marketers need to rethink because the requirements for search engine optimization have changed accordingly. The so-called Local SEO- the local search engine optimization – is always in the foreground.
Local SEO – Search Engine Optimization for Regional Companies
Local online marketing is an important tool for regional companies. More and more users are searching for services and products in combination with region or city. And regionally active companies naturally want to be found by users in their region. Finally, there is a lot of potential in local search queries such as “Restaurants in Berlin”, especially when it comes to acquiring new customers.
For this, you have to make yourself the best possible find for the target group. Local SEO focuses on optimizing the web presence for local search – and thus on finding local search results. Local SEO is part of classic search engine optimization and takes an increasingly important role.
Objectives of Local SEO
For local searches, Google prominently places the most popular business listings on the results page. This is the goal of Local SEO: a place in the so-called 3-pack, so the three search results, which are displayed together with the Google Maps section.
The user finds the first local search results along with a link on the Google Maps map for the region. In addition to the location are also opening times, contact details, and often reviews immediately visible to the user. With the button “Website” users can reach the homepage of the company with one click, with the option “Navigation” Google Maps finds the fastest route to the chosen location.
There are clear local search queries (eg “Webdesign Berlin”) in which the user specifically enters services/products and city/region in the search. But even when entering generic search terms (“web design”), Google outputs local search results based on the localized IP address or a logged-in Google account.
Merging of Online and Offline
Google has been expanding its local search results bit by bit for several years. More and more details and functions have been added. The background is provided by a study by Google itself.
According to the survey, 80 percent of users are now searching online for local shopping opportunities. More than half of them visited the shop within 24 hours. And above all, stationary dealers who have not yet actively pursued local search engine optimization should be alert: A large number of users are directly active after the local search. Either contact them first or visit the store right away. The Google study clearly shows that a strict separation between online and offline does not work. Thus, online marketing is attractive to every brick-and-mortar retailer. This new pattern, where the user comes from the online search to the offline purchase, experts call the ROPO effect (“Research online, purchase offline”).
What the study also shows: Even with local search queries outweighs the use of mobile devices – to match the general trend. For the first time, Google was able to post more searches for mobile devices for the first time than for stationary PCs. Closely related to the topic Local SEO is, therefore, mobile optimization. Read more in our follow-up guide.
Three Steps to Local Search Engine Optimization
An effective Local SEO strategy is based on three steps. Ideally, the top placement in the SERPs is the result of a successful interplay of three key building blocks: the Google My Business account, the Onpage optimization, and the so-called Local Citation.
Step 1: Google My Business
The Google Business Account runs through Google My Business. A complete profile on My Business is a prerequisite. If you want to create it with his entry in the “3-Pack” and also be optimally searchable via Google Maps and Google+. According to a study by Moz, the signals sent by Google My Business are the most important local ranking factor (14.7 percent). The SEO toolbar “MozBar” is one of the most widely used SEO plug-ins.
All stored information Google uses for the ranking for local searches. The more information you provide, the better. Companies should not only provide the correct contact information, but also a succinct description of the company and an appropriate category. It’s also great for uploading photos, such as the storefront – photos, opening times, or ratings are displayed next to local matches.
Step 2: Onpage Optimization
The same rules as in classic SEO apply in local SEO – so you should optimize each site in terms of technical and content quality factors. The most important factors include a good structure of the pages including sitemap, conclusive navigation, and internal linking as well as a clear URL structure. The content must also convince: Optimized metadata is just as relevant as unique content with a clear structure.
In the content, you should definitely pay attention to consistency in the spelling. The unique company name and correct contact details are a must. Again, the more (multi-valued) information, the better. On-page optimization is just one of two main disciplines in SEO. The off-page optimization is less relevant in the Local SEO context. Some follow the strategy of adding a site’s backlink profile to links from locally relevant sites such as blogs, newspapers, or city portals to help make Local SEO success.
Step 3: Local Citation
Local Citation builds on the latter point and can be considered part of the off-page optimization. Just like in the classic search engine optimization. Enhanced as a recommendation in the Google backlinks, one in Local SEO mentioning the NAP data (Engl. Name, address, phone number) as a recommendation. The more frequently the data occurs, the more trust the search engine sees in the company – accordingly the placement improves.
Local Citation appears in a variety of contexts and platforms: blogs, forums, news articles, press releases, review portals, and industry directories. In the latter one can become a company register yourself. Also important here is the absolute consistency of the entries. The uniform company name, correct address, same spelling, also with the telephone number ((030) XX, +1830 XXX or 1819XXX), are success-critical. Further criteria for Local Citation are the correct allocation of categories. Photos and opening hours, completeness and scope of the profile as well as customer reviews via portals or Google Places.
For users, finding businesses or service providers in geographic proximity is becoming increasingly important. At the same time. Local search results are a valuable tool for regional companies to attract new customers and retain existing customers. But for the potential customer to actually find the company. You have to adjust your marketing strategy and respond to the changing search behavior. Only those who focus on local SEO will exploit the great potential of local search queries. In doing so, brick-and-mortar retailers and online marketing go hand in hand. And jointly create important added value for the customer by providing relevant information on the Internet.