The way people are using search engines today highlights the importance of local search rankings. Simply put, local SEO (also known as local search) is the list of search results that appear in the “3-pack,” or map results. These results show Google Business Profile (GBP) accounts in the searcher’s area that are relevant to their query. The search engine prioritizes certain results for convenience, and this often means showing results based on proximity.
Ranking well locally means that your business name, website link, and phone number will display before the organic search results even begin. For many industries, properly creating and maintaining a GBP account is essential. When done correctly, a GBP listing creates a strong first impression to prospective clients and is critical to local SEO.
The Changing Local Landscape
One of the most important aspects of SEO from a local perspective is staying on top of the ever-changing optimization needed for the search engine results page (SERP). Google and other search engines constantly change how businesses appear to the user, how many appear, and ultimately influence how users may interact with businesses and organizations in their area.
At BluShark Digital, our marketing team understands the importance of staying up-to-date with any local search changes. We constantly survey the SEO landscape for both minor and major Google updates which may impact digital marketing. Our cutting-edge techniques have successfully helped businesses become visible in their local searches, which in turn helps to generate new leads and other business opportunities.
Effective marketing can leverage local search as a means to convert queries into new business. Google strives to provide the best results for its users. Over time, this has come to mean 3-packs and more focus on the top results in an area. With client search intent and continual Google updates, being in the top tier of the search results is crucial.
The Importance of Google Business Profile
When a user searches for a specific industry, Google may provide a “3-pack” of local businesses with GBP information. Users often see a business’ name, review rating, category, address, phone number and website. Individuals looking from their mobile device may also have the option to call a business or organization directly from the search page.
Part of local SEO relies on filling out, verifying, and maintaining the GBP profile. Google wants to optimize a user’s experience and provide the best results for the query. For many businesses, a prospective client may need assistance immediately and spend less time searching for the perfect fit. This means that certain GBP profiles must be comprehensive and accurate to attract potential clients who are in a time crunch.
To help businesses reach and connect prospective clients, BluShark Digital builds out GBP profiles and cultivates local search content for your business or organization. This includes monitoring local listings for spam and monitoring any ranking fluctuations after Google rolls out an update. No matter the digital terrain, our team can work to ensure your GBP is up-to-date and detailed.
Optimizing Local Search
There are many different factors search engines use when displaying local search results. One of the most important things is the consistency of a business’s NAP, or Name, Address, Phone number. While checking the NAP is a good base, it is also crucial to ensure your website’s NAP is consistent across the internet.
To keep NAPs up to date, it is important to routinely check your online business accounts and verify existing information. If there are discrepancies, Google may highlight incorrect information and prevent potential clients from reaching your page.
Constant GBP monitoring is also critical, because Google lets users suggest edits. This means people not associated with your business may affect your GBP information.
There are a number of other search ranking factors and actions any business can take to help them show well in their local search results. At BluShark Digital, we strive to provide the highest level of local SEO service and implement best practices for each kind of digital marketing strategy. This may include creating posts on a GBP profile, building links from reputable pages, and curating content to serve client inquiries in the area. Our team can work to improve your businesses’ relevance and prominence to key user queries. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to online marketing, which means we can work with your company to create the best strategy that fits your needs.
How Does Google Sort Results for Local Queries?
To a certain extent, local SEO follows the same algorithmic directives and preferences as SEO for larger-scale searches. Google is all about efficiency, and designing entirely new algorithms for local search compared to more broad queries would go against that principle. However, there are also several factors that Google works into rankings for local search results that it does not necessarily take into consideration for broader searches.
Google wants to provide relevant results for searchers. It wants to find the sites that most closely match the desire and intent communicated by the specific terms a user types into the search bar. For example, a lawyer who practices personal injury law could certainly handle a car accident case. However, if a second lawyer in the same geographic area has a page specifically dedicated to car accident litigation while the first only has a basic “personal injury” landing page, Google is more likely to rank the second site higher for a search like “car accident lawyer” in that area.
Google also takes distance—how far a business is geographically from where a user performed their search—into account when ranking local search results. This is one reason why having up-to-date and consistent NAPs is so important. If Google cannot find an address for a business, it cannot tell how close that business is to a particular searcher.
Finally, Google considers prominence when ranking local search results, meaning it considers how popular each business is compared to others in the area. Search engines determine prominence based on the business’s number and quality of backlinks, directory citations, social media presence, and reviews through platforms like Yelp.
What to Include in a Google Business Profile
With all this in mind, a Google Business Profile should include a lot more than just a name, address, and phone number to be optimized for local search. There are many other pieces of information Google will want to know about a business to determine whether it is relevant, geographically close, and prominent enough to show up in a search result or be included in a 3-pack. BluShark Digital could optimize a Google Business Profile as part of a comprehensive local SEO strategy.
A high-quality GBP should have a clear, specific, and honest description of the business. It is also helpful to include basic information about business operations, such as the hours that the business will be open. A GBP should not mislead search users or advertise promotions, nor should it be stuffed with spammy keywords. There are other places to optimize for specific searches and highlight sales inside a GBP. Doing this in the description can lead to poor search rankings.
Importantly, individual practitioners do not necessarily need to have their own distinct GBPs separate from a branded organization if they are the only public-facing practitioner at that location. In this scenario, it is better for both the practitioner and the organization to share a profile. However, if multiple public-facing practitioners work out of a single location, the organization and the individual practitioners should have separate GBPs, each with distinct NAPs.
Putting the “Local” in Local SEO
While optimizing for local searches can be a very technical process, it is crucial to keep in mind that creating useful “local” content means appealing to and meaningfully engaging with your target audience. In other words, you should think of local SEO as a way of connecting to the people who would benefit from your business.
Effective use of social media is a cornerstone of any comprehensive local SEO strategy. Maintaining profiles on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even TikTok can be a great way to connect with potential customers. It can also be useful for linking back to blog posts published on a business’s website, sharing industry news, and providing dependable information that local community members know is trustworthy.
Consistent blogging can create many opportunities for engagement with current and future customers, as well as links to and from other publications. Just one viral blog post can draw an immense amount of positive traffic to a business’s site. This is especially true of posts about current events or topics that are particularly relevant to a local community.
Optimizing for local SEO can occur offline in various ways as well, through initiatives like sponsoring a local event, volunteering for a local non-profit, participating in media interviews and industry-specific conferences, and providing scholarships or giveaways to community members. BluShark Digital has years of experience successfully handling these kinds of marketing campaigns and can help build the best possible strategy for each business.
Leveraging Reviews Within a Local SEO Strategy
No discussion of local SEO and community engagement is complete without touching on online reviews. This is the most straightforward means of learning what people really think about a particular business. Statistics show that a vast majority of consumers rate customer reviews as a central factor in how they decide what businesses to frequent. Failing to properly manage and leverage reviews can be immensely detrimental to a local SEO strategy.
Naturally, lots of positive reviews will improve the reputation and prominence of a business in the eyes of Google’s search engine crawlers. Search users are far more likely to interact with a business that other people have had good interactions with in the past. Responding to these reviews also shows the Google algorithm that a business is authentic, which can vastly improve its search rankings and its chances of being included in a 3-pack.
While it might seem counterintuitive, replying consistently and diplomatically to negative online reviews as well as positive ones is one of the best practices for a business interested in improving its local SEO. Aside from assuaging unsatisfied customers, replying to all types of reviews reinforces the authenticity of the business and can help mitigate the long-term effects of negative reviews on potential future customers.
Getting Feedback from Customers
Customers should be encouraged to leave reviews about their experience online, and responses to reviews should include specific locations. For example, if the review is for a service provided by a particular partner at a particular office, both that partner’s name and the office’s location should be mentioned in the response. Positive reviews can also be included as testimonials on the business’s website, which our team could help implement.
Learn More About the Importance of Local SEO
It is crucial not to underestimate the importance of local SEO. When done correctly, local search can help you reach clients in their time of need, all while helping you emerge as an online leader in your market.
At BluShark Digital, we know how to integrate what works now with new and emerging search engine developments to build a solid and cutting-edge SEO framework. To learn more, call us today to begin making an impression online.