Online local search has grown considerably in recent years thanks to the explosion in the number of smartphone users. In Canada, nearly 20% of all search engine queries are classified as local. With an increasingly wide range of e-commerce solutions for neighbourhood stores, local search has become a crucial strategy for any small business seeking to reach its target customers.
What is local search optimization?
The goal of local search optimization is to interest nearby potential customers by raising the visibility of businesses in search engines, business directories and geo-referenced content of all kinds.
Local search in numbers
First, let’s look at a few of Google’s statistics on local search:
- 97% of all Internet users search for local shops and services;
- 94% of smartphone users have searched for local information.
- 51% visited the store;
- 29% made a purchase;
- 55% of conversions (phone call, store visit or purchase) took place in the hours immediately following the searches).
These impressive numbers speak for themselves. Businesses of all sizes have everything to gain by focusing on local search and customer experience.
Keys to local search optimization in 2014
Search engines are constantly improving their algorithms to provide their users with relevant search results. Thus, for efficient local search optimization, it is critical to understand the mechanisms they use to rank and display results.
Here are some of the key factors that search engines analyze to improve local search results, according to The 2013 Local Search Ranking Factors survey produced by the search engine experts at MOZ:
- Proper category associations
When registering on the local pages offered by the search engines, such as Google Places and Bing Places for Business, it is important to carefully choose categories that match with the company’s business.
- Proximity of the business’ physical address to where the search is made
To show the most relevant local results, the business address and search user location must match.
- Consistency of structured citations (repetitions of data) on the different search engines
This refers to key information about the business, such as name, address, telephone number and description, which must be present and consistent across all platforms.
The survey also details practices to avoid that could result in being banned from local search results. They include: multiple profiles for the same business, false addresses and incorrect business categories.
Most important local search tools
- Search engine tools
Google, the dominant search engine, offers Google Places, where business can create a profile and appear in search results, on Google Maps and on its Google+ social network.
Bing offers Bing Places for Business: which is more complete but only available in English.
- Other noteworthy products:
You may need to also make changes to your business website. It is advisable to add your physical address and telephone number to every page on the site. Best practices also include inserting tags to help search engines identify geolocation information.
Once you have created your local profile, ensure that your website is mobile-browser capable.
As we have seen, there are clear benefits to local search optimization and the costs are reasonable. It is important to understand how search engines rank local results and use the tools that will best help you achieve your business goals, while carefully following the rules for creating your business profile. In addition, remember to fine-tune your own website.
Anyone can set up a local business profile, but for it to be effective, knowing exactly how to optimize it is essential. That is why entrusting your local search presence to a professional is a good business decision.
The mobile Playbook
Google Insights 2013