Before we consider the ways to optimise your website for local search, let's see what local search really is, and why it is important for your business: If you ever used the Google now feature on an Android phone, have you noticed how Google is able to return the results for places to eat around you, or popular shopping destinations in the vicinity? Similarly, have you ever wondered how Siri on the iPhone is able to tell you how many good Italian restaurants are in your neighbourhood? Another example is a set of listings you see on Google desktop search as shown below:
That is local search. To put it simply, local search allows people to search for information and services within their locality – from their phones, tablets, PCs, and even in their in-car navigation systems.
Why is it important for your business to appear in local search?
Last year comScore published findings of a study that said 78% of mobile local searches resulted in an offline purchase, usually within a few hours. If you’re not appearing in those local searches relevant to your business, you’re losing red hot leads looking for the product or service you provide.
Now that you have an idea about local search and its importance, here are some simple ways you can ensure that your business doesn’t get left behind.
1. Apply the right tags using schema.org markup
Schema.org is an excellent resource to learn about how you can tag the information on your page such that it is extremely clear and understandable for search engines. For example, using the correct markup you can tell search engines that a certain set of numbers on your page represents your phone number. Or that a certain piece of text represents your address.
That’s how when a user sees your website on their mobile phone and clicks on your address, it immediately opens their navigation app and gives them driving directions to your store. Similarly, if they click on your phone number, it opens up the phone dialler app so they can call you.
This is important to enhancing user experience while they are on your website. When you have this markup in place for the right elements, it tells Google and other search engines that your website will provide a good user experience and should be ranked highly for a given category. This tool by Google can help you implement Schema markup using a simple interactive tool.
2. Create a separate page for each of your business locations
According to Google’s developer guidelines, having each location page on a unique URL makes it easy for its crawler to index all of your locations correctly and show the right results based on a user’s location. That, coupled with correct schema.org markup will make your page highly readable and accessible for search engines.
3. Submit your business to Google My Business
While local search isn’t all about Google, we can’t ignore the reality that it is the largest search engine on the internet. Therefore, if you want your business to be more visible and easily found on Google, your odds of achieving it increase if you’re listed on Google’s products, such as Google My Business. You can find instructions on how to setup your Google My Business page here.
4. Submit your business to relevant local directories and review sites
Merely having your business listing on Google isn’t enough to get more visibility in local search. You also need to be present on all the relevant local directories and review sites that people use to find businesses in their neighborhood. Create a list of such directories and review sites relevant to your business – e.g. Yelp.com.au would be very important for restaurants, and possibly for dentists and beauty salons too – and make sure your business listings there are accurate and up-to-date.
5. Encourage your customers to review your business
Search engines may want the right markup to learn about your business, but users mainly look for reviews. In fact, an infographic published on Social Barrel said that buyers trust consumer reviews 12 times more than product descriptions. Therefore, the best way to make an impact for your consumers – and by extension, court the favour of search engines – is to encourage your customers to leave reviews on any/all of the major review sites where you’re listed. Given that you make your customers happy and they say nice things about you online, it will only serve to enhance your profile and reach among potential buyers as well as search engines.
Online marketing may be difficult to master, but you’d be surprised at how far even the simplest of things can take you – especially when it comes to local search. Responsive websites with the right markup, accurate listings, and good user reviews: that’s a potent combination that can only lead to good things.