Posted: Thu 8th Jun 2017
When looking for local services like restaurants or a plumber, most of us turn to Google. In fact, 50% of people searching locally on their mobile will visit the business they find the same day. Optimising your online presence for people searching locally is called 'local SEO'.
Nick Leech from 123 Reg looks at the essential steps you need to take to make sure your business shows up when local people search for what you do.
You're in a strange city, you're hungry but you don't know where to eat. What do you do? Not so long ago, you'd have probably asked a stranger for directions. These days, you'd probably grab your smartphone type "restaurants in [name of city]" into Google, find one you liked the look of and let the search engine giant guide you right to its front door.
But have you ever wondered what businesses do to ensure they're listed in the results for these kinds of searches?
If you haven't, and if you run (or plan on launching) a business that will serve a specific local area, then you need to get to grip with local search engine optimisation (SEO) to ensure you're showing up in Google's local search results.
So whether you're a business with fixed location that is open to customers (such as a bar, a law firm, or a dental surgery) or a business that operates in a defined local area (like a plumber or dog walking service) this is the guide for you.
In it we'll cover the steps you need to take to ensure your business has the best possible chance of showing up in local searches. Let's get started.
1. Register on Google My Business
Google My Business is where the search engine gets information for local search results, so if you're not on there, you stand no chance of showing up when someone searches for a business like yours.
Creating your profile is free and easy (you can do it here), but there are a few things that you need to do to give your business the best possible chance of showing up for local searches.
First up, you'll need to verify your business - you'll be promoted to do this, but it's important you don't skip it as you won't be eligible to appear on Google until you have.
Secondly, you should make sure you fill in all your business information. That means name, address and phone number (NAP), selecting the right category for your business and adding plenty of photos.
Using the correct NAP information is particularly important, as an error here could people to the wrong location. We'll look more at NAP later in the article.
Finally, you should also include your opening hours, and make sure you update them if they change, or vary on special occasions such as bank holidays.
Once you've got your Google My Business Page set up and verified, you can start work on things that will give you a better chance of showing up for local searches.
2. Ensure NAP consistency
We've already touched on the importance of NAP, but it's so vital to local search it deserves a section of its own.
Put simply, you need to ensure that your business's NAP is the same everywhere it's mentioned online.
That means on your website, on your Google My Business page and on any website that mentions you (including local directories, which we'll look at later.)
Now you may be thinking that you wouldn't get your business's name, address or phone number wrong, any discrepancy in NAP data at all can damage your chances of ranking in local search.
For example, if you've used your business's full name on your website, but have used an abbreviation on your Google My Business Page, then you're likely to damage your chances of ranking in local searches.
So make sure your NAP is identical everywhere it's mentioned - right down to the punctuation and formatting.
3. Build local citations
If you've looked into SEO at all, you'll probably know the importance of links. When it comes to local SEO, citations have much the same power - they're one of the things Google uses to decide which businesses to show in its local search results.
To build citations, you need to get your business's NAP and description mentioned on the right websites.
One of the best ways to do this is by identifying local business directories and then submitting your business's details. Unfortunately, adding your information to multiple sites can be exceedingly time consuming. That's why 123 Reg offers Local Listing, a tool designed to simplify this vital part of local SEO.
Local listing allows you to manage your details across the most important local directories, and lets you manage the reviews you get on these sites. Local Listing also offers a free local SEO report, which you can find here. It tells you what you need to work on to improve your rankings.
4. Generate (and monitor) reviews
Although Local Listing can help you monitor your reviews, it can't generate them for you. To do that, you need to let people know how and where they can review you.
As reviews left via your Google My Business page will show up in local search results, you should make getting reviews on that platform a priority. You can find some tips on how to get more reviews for your business in this guide.
5. Boost your business's profile
Attracting links and mentions from business organisations and newspapers both locally (and if possible) nationally will help you show up in local search results.
Make sure you build connections with your local chamber of commerce - you never know who might be able to help you out with a mention in a blog post, or a recommendation.
You should also try and generate positive PR for your business - links and mentions from newspaper websites will drive people to your business directly, as well as helping out with your local search rankings.
We've covered the basics of getting started with local SEO here, but as with most marketing techniques it's an ongoing process.
So make sure you're always asking for more reviews (and responding to the ones you get.) And that you're always looking to get mentioned on the websites that matter.
Whether you're just starting out or you've been online for years, 123 Reg's free online courses will help you create your website, engage with customers, and increase visitors. Find out more here.
This article is part of Enterprise Nation's Grow and Grow Online campaign, helping you build a better business on the web. Access content, offers and events here.