Local SEO - The most important points in brief:
A typical scenario: When visiting a foreign city, your stomach suddenly growls after sightseeing. Just go to the next best restaurant? What if it doesn’t taste good there or there’s an even better restaurant just one or two streets away? The solution is quite simple and is probably used by almost everyone these days: Simply type in “restaurant nearby” on Google and you’ll not only find numerous eateries in the area, but also menus, food photos and reviews from other restaurant visitors right away. But how did the restaurants manage to be found on Google in this way? They operate Local SEO.
Local SEO is the optimization of your company’s local visibility on Google. With Local SEO you can improve your ranking for local search queries. The geographical areas that local search queries refer to can go from “nearby”, to cities, countries and even continents.
Local SEO is one aspect of general search engine optimization.
Fewer and fewer people are turning to a phone book or yellow pages to locate regional and local businesses. Instead, mobile search queries are increasing more and more, and most of them have a local connection. 79 percent of all smartphone owners in Germany use their smartphone for search queries.
According to a study by Google in 2015, nine out of ten consumers already used search engines to look for services and products in their vicinity.
The users who use their smartphones to search for services and products in their vicinity are usually already close to making an actual purchase decision. However, they do not search for the product using a single-word search, but usually enter a city or district name in the search. If you want to be found in this search in order to win over the customer, you have to do Local SEO.
Local SEO is suitable for any business that has a fixed location, such as a retail store, office, branch, etc., regardless of the size or industry of the business. From restaurants to gyms, clothing stores, doctors, garages, car dealerships, insurance companies, museums and amusement parks – all the business needs is a fixed location that customers can visit.
Local SEO is very similar to the classic search engine optimization. Here, too, certain factors (OnPage and OffPage) determine the ranking, and here, too, Google does not want to reveal what these are. However, from practice, some specific factors have emerged that definitely improve the local ranking.
To be found in local search results, a Google My Business account is indispensable. It is the link to well-known services, such as Google Maps, Google Street View and the Google 3-Pack / Local Snack Pack. The latter is the box below the paid ads and the Google map, but still found above the organic search results.
In your Google My Business account, you provide business information such as name, address, phone number, website, business information, photos, hours of operation and more. Free posts can also be created, for example to promote certain promotions.
A prerequisite for creating a Google My Business account is a Google account.
NAP stands for Name, Address, Phone Number. As mentioned earlier, be sure to enter this data into your Google My Business account. In addition, it is important that this company data matches that on your website and your other online presences. For example, if you have a different address on your Facebook page than on your website, it will be confusing not only for the customer, but also for the search engine. Also, the address should not be changed often in order not to be classified as unserious by Google.
OnPage optimization differs from “normal” search engine optimization only in that the relevant keywords and topics for regional searches must be explicitly analyzed and selected. Research exactly which search phrases are used to find regional products or services that your company offers.
Local directories (local citations) also play an important role in your Local SEO. Just because you have a Google My Business account, you should not do without entries in business directories. Entries in well-known, trustworthy directories that fit your topic are especially relevant for Google. Here, too, make sure that the data you provide matches that of your other Internet presences.
As mentioned earlier, it is important that if your company is also present on social media, your company information is kept up to date and consistent there as well. Additionally, it seems to be an important ranking factor for Google that your channels on Facebook, Instagram, and others are also active and engage with fans and followers. Active channels send positive signals to the search engine, such as brand awareness, and thus give your ranking a boost. If you do not have the necessary staff to keep your social media channels active, it may be better to completely forgo them in order to avoid sending negative signals to Google.
Structured data is stored in the HTML code of the website and is not visible to the user. They help the search engine to assess the relevance of your website and assign it to specific search queries. Mostly schema.org terminology is used for this purpose. This allows data on the website, such as contact details or opening hours, to be distinguished in such a way that they are better recognized by search engines.
If your company has multiple branches, retail stores or locations, you should create a local landing page for each to achieve the best possible position in local search results. Each landing page should include the following information:
Besides the backlinks relevant for normal SEO, the backlinks for Local SEO should be locally relevant. For example, they can be links from local companies, business directories, local suppliers and dealers or local news channels. The more mentions and external links from thematically relevant pages, the better for the ranking.
Authentic and personal ratings and reviews are enormously important, not only to encourage customers to buy the product or service they want from you, but also to signal to Google that you are a trustworthy company. But be careful: if your company has only 5-star reviews, you might suspect that they are bought or manipulated. So don’t delete negative reviews, but use them to present yourself as an authentic company. There are also offers on the Internet, such as Proven Expert or Trust Pilot, which help you to increase the trust in the reviews of your customers.
Google will not show an average star rating until you have at least six reviews. To get this, you can either wait, or you can directly approach your customers about the possibility of rating you on Google.
As described above, local search queries are primarily made via mobile devices. It is therefore of enormous importance to optimize your website for this. If the loading time is too long or the website is not displayed properly on a smartphone, the potential customer will not stay on it for long and will switch to that of a competitor. This way, you not only lose the customer, but in turn send negative signals to Google.
In summary, Local SEO is a must for all businesses that want to bring customers to their office, retail store, branch or the like. With a prominent location in a busy pedestrian mall, Local SEO may not be quite as important as it is for stores and businesses on side streets or even completely off the beaten path. But it’s helpful for them, too, because it attracts customers who aren’t on a shopping spree or who would otherwise prefer to drive to the big mall on the outskirts of town or order online. Of course, you could also be found through your “normal” SEO via the organic search results. However, especially for local search queries, it is unlikely that the user will even scroll all the way there. Even if it costs time and effort, Local SEO is therefore highly recommended.