What factors have made local promotion on search engines important? If you scroll down in the next few minutes you will understand the importance of positioning yourself on local search.
Why local search on Google is important?
A mix of 3 factors has contributed over the years to increase the importance of Local Search and, in particular, the local promotion on search engines referring to all commercial activities with one or more physical locations. Here are these three factors in details …
1. Launch of Universal Search
When Google launched Universal Search in 2007, it laid the groundwork for the exponential growth of Local SEO in the broader sense of Local Search. Through Universal Search, Google returns, on a single page, search results from various sub-groups, or vertical engines (web, news, videos, maps, images, blogs, …).
From that moment on, the geolocalized results (which appear in most cases in a box in the form of a listing) have been perfectly integrated into the SERPs and returned for local search queries, for example. “Hotel + location”.
These results will be taken from a structured database of commercial activities in which, therefore, it is important to be present in order to appear following a given query. In this way the SEOs were seen to jump over the maps and started to study them and give us the right weight.
2. Mobile Development
The advent and the widespread use of modern devices (smartphones, tablets …) makes the presence of a company on maps unavoidable. At any time, a user who searches for a given activity will have the possibility to immediately find his/her “localization” and can easily reach it, taking advantage of the various existing navigation applications.
According to a Google search in USA, “over 90% of smartphone owners have done at least once a local search” and subsequently also performed a specific action, such as calling or going to the store. On smartphones among other things, local searches are not only done with browsers, but also with dedicated apps.
3. The Google Algorithm Update
“Local promotion strengthened in February 2012 when Google launched the local algorithm Update.”
With the new algorithm Google provides local results also for general search queries, which is without the indication of the location, based on the location, detected automatically via the IP address and, in the case of mobile results, through the GPS.
This is the case of “dentist” or “restaurant” research. In November 2013 there was another update with the result of a further strengthening of the effects of the previous local algorithm Update and practically the “local” results dominate some SERPs (Search Engine Result Page).
For example, if a user searches from New York for the “restaurant” query, without explicitly specifying the location, by virtue of the algorithm update, Google will return geolocalized results, i.e. all referred to the city of New York.
These updates have produced a lot of side effects, for example they make the ranking reports very useless for some keywords, as the results change depending on where you are!
To place generic keywords with strong local value, you must have a local physical presence wherever you want to appear or at least talk about local businesses.
The benefits of local search marketing for a business
I had already talked about what is meant by Local Search (local results) and how important it is for a business. Today I want to go deeper to try to understand what the real benefits of positioning in the local market can be.
A great visibility in local positioning
Recent official Google data are clear, 30% of smartphone searches are local. What does all this translate into? The answer is simple, when a person needs something, be it a product or a service, he/she searches for it nearby, relying on a local search and consequently a local result.
I could say that the first big advantage of being present in that particular type of results, then among the results of local type such as Local Pack, Google Maps, etc. is to ensure great visibility.
A greater number of contacts
Another very interesting aspect, highlighted by a Google study, is that this type of users often converts immediately, even within a day. This means that being visible among the local results guarantees you a greater number of contacts, whether it be phone calls or in-store visits, in a period that is relatively short.
The advantages become even more evident in the catering sector because, from another Google survey, it is highlighted that the people who decide to go to a place use their smartphone and, in particular, the applications of Online Maps both to decide the local where to go, both to get information on driving directions. In this case, users are particularly “hot” wanting to satisfy a need, that of looking for a restaurant, almost in real time.
In a period of deep economic crisis, digital marketing activities can represent a lifeline, a way to stay afloat and take advantage of the competition. And in the case of activities with physical locations, such as restaurants, hotels, shops, activities that provide a service in a specific area (e.g. plumbers, etc.), local search marketing is an essential activity.
Very often, what asset owners underestimate is that their business may already be present online among local results (therefore primarily on Google Maps) even without ever having to worry about creating and verifying the Google My Business card relating to their activity.
Why does this happen? Because Google automatically creates local listings based on the data it finds on the web and often comes from user-generated content.
What does this mean? It’s very simple … can happen to be online (without even knowing it) with a card that shows wrong opening hours, wrong address, wrong phone number, even with a phrase “permanently closed” even when it is not true.
The consequences can be disastrous because in all these cases your potential clients will look for you, they will not find you and they will go elsewhere. Verifying or claiming a Google My Business card gives you another big advantage.
Manage, as far as possible, your online presence with correct and updated data. The management of the local card also allows you to respond directly to user reviews, paying particular attention to your brand awareness and brand protection.
Who needs to invest in local promotion?
Geolocalization basically serves all activities (companies, public bodies, accommodation facilities, sales points …) with one or more physical sites “open to the public” and therefore potentially suitable for researching local purposes of various types …
- When the user searches for a specific activity (that is the one!): in this case the optimization of his/her presence at the local level improves the user experience that finds all the useful information to reach (even physically) what he/she sought.
- To find a business (not one in particular!) in a given area: in cases where local search is used by the user as a means of exploration. This is the case of research such as “hydraulic in New York” or “Restaurant in Toronto”. Being visible among the local results, following topical queries, means giving your business a great visibility that can turn into a concrete and direct “contact”.
Obviously, some product categories derive more benefits from local promotion than others. For example, for accommodation facilities, for restaurants, for pharmacies, for the various assistance and rescue services of all kinds (but there are also other categories), a good presence in the local search area is vital.
In these cases you can even get half of the traffic coming from local search! In the case of accommodation / recreation we can perhaps speak of “local” categories par excellence. This type of category has a strong feature that is to draw on a vast pool of users and above all a type of highly “profiled” users, accustomed to carrying out local searches and using geolocation using mainly mobile devices.
In some cases, local search is used with the Brand. For example, I’m a big fashion house, I have hundreds of stores and an ecommerce, and maybe some users use ecommerce as a catalog and then want to buy in the physical store. Here it is essential to be present correctly both on the maps and with an optimized store locator. Finally, keep in mind that the more we address non-permanent people, the more useful is the support of local search tools for our business.
I try to explain myself better: those who have been living in the same area for a long time, know a good part of the shops and so they can get there even without maps. Instead the tourist, who has just moved, who is passing through, needs these tools to get acquainted offline! Usually people use maps more in large cities and less in small ones.
How to appear between local searches?
What are the strategies, methods and resources to use to be able to position yourself on google locally? In order to appear among local searches, a business must invest in appropriate promotion strategies that require, a priori, targeted optimization interventions that require qualified skills.
How to position yourself between local searches on Google?
As a basis you need to claim your business card on map systems, first of all on Google Business, without neglecting other systems such as Yelp.
At this stage it is necessary to pay the maximum attention:
- To the presence of local cards already present, automatically created by Google on the basis of data collected from other local portals
- The correctness of the data (NAP: name, address and phone) indicated on the form
- The exact position of the PIN Locator
- To the choice of the most appropriate category
- The exact compilation of the Local card in its entirety.
Then you need to perform a series of On Page optimizations on the site that must include:
- The optimization of Meta Tag Title and Description
- The correct insertion of the address and of the telephone number, perhaps using microdata, in particular Schema.org Local Business through which Google, and the other search engines, include in an even more detailed way the information present on your site
- Optimization of local side content. If there are so many sites, the architecture of the website is crucial to fully exploit the Venice Update.
Do not forget also the geolocated sitemap or the KML file that helps a lot to understand the places where we are.
Finally, there are all the Off Page factors, which include, in addition to classic SEO factors, especially quotes and reviews.
Regarding the classic SEO factors, there are some that contribute to a greater extent to local promotion such as:
- Domain authority of the website
- Diversity of incoming links to the domain
- Quality / Authority of links entering the domain
- Amount of incoming links to the domain
The quotes are all the mentions related to your business (especially those bearing name, address, etc.) on the web, even if there is, within the quote, the presence of a direct link to your site or your local card.
When Google scans the results of the web, it stores all the info that in some way leads to the same activity regardless of the source (citations can be published on press release sites, social networks, local portals, etc.) considering them as an element for the purposes of the local ranking, provided that all data are homogeneous and consistent with each other.
If the citations scattered on the web and, all attributable to the same business, present incorrect, incongruous or inconsistent information, not only is the ranking at local level compromised (it does not appear among the local results) but it may even risk its own is somehow “penalized” (no longer appears on the maps or does not appear in the Local Knowledge), or that appears in the wrong way generating confusion in users (wrong location of the Pin Locator, incorrect address, etc.).
Not to be missed, as already mentioned, the reviews intended not only as those published by users directly on the local business card, but also all those published on other online portals (for example, TripAdvisor, Booking and similar).