local search

Gavin Hirst - Monday 25th May 2020


Why local SEO is more important than ever [and how you can be better]

In our last post, we looked at some of the ways brands should be leveraging local SEO in a post-COVID-19 world.

In this post, we want to build on that post and look at why local SEO is more important than ever and talk about some of the ways you can look to build on your existing platform and help to appear in more local searches.

Here in New Zealand, our borders have been closed since 19 March to international travellers. That means for many businesses, there needs to be a change in strategy moving forward, certainly in the short to mid-term.

For businesses that rely on tourism, both international and domestic, the focus of the business has to shift entirely to domestic tourism at a time when there is much uncertainty. Many people have had to use annual leave during the lockdown period and there is a lot of uncertainty over wages and job security.

What that means for most businesses here in New Zealand is that the target pool of customers is dramatically reduced. Take out the international visitors and those struggling with the impact of COVID-19, and that leaves a much smaller pool of customers to market to.

That’s why local SEO is more important than ever.

What is local SEO?

For those wondering about the difference between SEO and Local SEO, the main difference with Local SEO is that we are specifically targeting keywords that return a search result in Google that contains a local ‘pack’.

A local ‘pack’ is a listing that shows a map of the local area with a list of three businesses below. The local pack usually sits at the top of the search results page (SERP), above the traditional organic listings (although this can vary and sometimes appear further down the page).

Obviously results that appear at the top of the SERPs, whether paid, organic or a specific SERP feature such as an answer box, carousel, map pack etc, have a much better chance of grabbing the searcher’s attention and attracting a click.

Why is Local SEO so important?

Wheelhouse Digital Marketing reported in 2019 that map pack listings had increased by a whopping 281% from September 2018 to March 2019.

This is obviously a huge increase and with the rise in the number of people browsing online via a mobile device, this increase in local map pack results is understandable.

Google understands that when people are searching on a mobile device, they are often looking for results that are tailored to them. Providing results with a local focus means that searchers are seeing results that are highly relevant to them.

Local results changed forever back in 2016 with the introduction of Google’s Possum update. This update meant that Google now considered the most important local ranking signal to be user location. This meant that businesses that had previously struggled to appear in the local map pack results were now starting to appear when searcher proximity was taken into consideration.

In 2019, further updates were made which reinforced the importance of searcher proximity when returning results that featured a map pack, making local SEO more important than ever before.

So, how can you improve your opportunities to rank in the map packs? Let’s take a closer look.

Improving your local SEO

In our last post, we covered off some of the key factors that impact on local SEO rankings including:

  • Google My Business
  • Reviews
  • Keyword research
  • Directories

You can read more about each of these pages over on our last post.

We wanted to take this opportunity to expand on these and talk about some other areas you need to focus on in order to rank better in the local map pack space and take out one of the top three positions for the keywords you are targeting.

Location-specific pages

One of the first things you need to do (if you haven’t already), is looking to create location-specific pages that help your prospective customers to understand more about the products and services you provide in each of the areas you service.

These should be unique and tailored to each specific location. It’s very tempting to create a bunch of pages that are very similar in content, however, it’s important to provide information that is specific to those locations.

This is also the place to make sure your NAP (Name, Address, Phone) information is correct and matches the information displayed on your Google My Business listings and in directories.

Obviously, your location-specific pages should use location-specific target keywords and where possible, look to create supporting content in your blog or within the same location URL thread that talks about the location you are targeting. The more topically relevant you can be around the location you are targeting, the better your chance of ranking in that all-important map pack space.

Information you can include on location-specific pages includes:

  • Location-specific reviews pulled from GMB or other review platforms
  • Testimonials specific to the location
  • Opening hours
  • Directions
  • Staff profiles
  • Local news
  • Location-specific deals and promotions

You might also want to consider embedding a Google Map to this page in order to highlight the location of your business and give people an easy option (especially on mobile) to find your business on maps and navigate to your business.

Engage with your local community

Now perhaps more than ever is a great time to engage with your local community.

Here in New Zealand, there is a big campaign to ‘back your own backyard’ and ‘go local’. You should be jumping on board these campaigns and supporting local with everything you do.

Can you help to support other local businesses by changing your suppliers? Can you support a local team or club who are struggling as they are making no revenue at this time? Are there local events you can sponsor?

Whilst these types of initiative means potential costs for your business (either financial or time), this is a great time to engage with your local community and help to build brand awareness and reputation.

Kiwis are definitely looking to support local as much as possible at this time so make sure you are giving them plenty of reasons to support your business.

These sorts of initiatives can help to drive more links to your website as well as social mentions and engagement.

Build local links

Following on nicely from our last point, local links are extremely important when it comes to local ranking signals (second to GMB signals in the Moz local search ranking factors report).

Building relationships with other local businesses is perhaps the easiest way to build local links. You probably already have some great relationships with businesses in your area so make sure you are leveraging these relationships and getting links back to your website.

You could offer to write or record a testimonial in exchange for a link, or perhaps you could co-create a piece of content that benefits both of your audiences.

You can also identify any local directories that might be relevant to your target audience and ensure you have an up-to-date listing within those directories that include a link back to your website.

Summary

Local SEO is an essential part of building your business online. Following the tactics outlined in our latest two posts will help to ensure you are giving yourself the best possible opportunities to rank in the top three in the local map packs, helping to drive more highly relevant traffic to your website.

Make sure you check out the tips in our previous post – SEO Agencies Near Me – How to improve your local SEO

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