In August 2015, search engine Google came up with one of the biggest revisions in the way local searches work – one that was starkly different from what the internet visitors and SEO analysts had been using all along. No sooner than this update came out, SEO experts were all over it – offering tips that could circumvent this new Google update and help in gaining a better local search ranking.
The biggest change SEO experts noticed was that instead of the usual seven, any search query for local businesses only returned with three results – with the map location that showed up alongside search results remaining intact.
So, what SEO experts referred to as the 7-pack result page was now actually a “three-pack” that was focused on giving the internet users a friendlier, relevant search experience. Google has always aimed at providing its users a reliable, user-friendly way to making search queries online – and that’s exactly why this update didn’t come as a shocker for the majority of us. That’s so because it was along logical lines and something that was expected from this mega search engine for a while now.
However, this update did come as a shock for small businesses – especially the ones that ranked between fourth and seventh on the search results page. It was a disappointment because they no longer had the visibility they enjoyed for years – leaving their businesses in a fragile state.
But, the modifications are permanent and small business owners cannot afford to lick their wounds because that would further push down their search rankings. Instead, they need to quickly come up with a way to work around this update and get it actually to work in their favor.
However, that’s not the only alteration Google made. Other modifications that came alongside the “3-pack” update:
- The new update has done away with the exact street numbers, and only the street names will be visible now. Also, if you click on any of the “3-pack” search results, you will see a 10-pack that includes detailed information like the street addresses and the phone numbers of all ten.
- Store hours will now be shown as priority detail – again, a step towards providing relevant information to the internet users.
- Ratings and reviews continue to play a significant role. In fact, after the new update has been rolled out, their effectiveness has increased by a notch as they’re not featured as important searches data.
- The role of Google+ has shrunk manifold as far as local businesses are concerned. As of now, the Google+ profiles of local businesses are missing from the searches, although you can still look up for the links specifically as they are still visible in other organic searches.
- Local home-service ads are included in this new Google update for users who are looking to hire services locally.
- Google Maps and search results and more interconnected than ever before, and so its importance in local searches increases immensely.
- Distance and location based ranking parameters have been improved to a great extent.
These include some significant changes that have been rolled out with the new “3-pack” Google update. You should factor these before making any local SEO strategy for your small business. As a business owner, your focus should be offering a great user experience, and if your SEO strategy factors that in, you are on your way to success.
So, how does one design local SEO strategy for it to be the most effective?
Local SEO Tips You Cannot Afford To Miss Out On
- Get a physical address in the area you’re targeting
Despite the new Google update skipping the address details from search results, the information still matters as it’s displayed when the user clicks on one of the “3-pack” results. So, it is essential for you to have a permanent physical address in the area where your SEO strategy is targeted for. In addition to that, the specific details such as the street address details, phone number, and the business hours should be relevant to the specific location that you’re targeting.
- Make the most out of Google My Business (GMB)
New Google update has enlarged the relevance of GMB immensely – that means whatever information you include in there, it is automatically visible on Google Search, Google Maps and Google+. This is done to ensure potential buyers can find your business irrespective of which device they’re using to perform the searches.
When you’re adding relevant information for your Google My Business, keep in mind the following things –
- Your GMB includes ONLY relevant, accurate and consistent details.
- The location you’ve inserted in your GMB is owner-verified.
- The city and area you’re targeting should be enumerated on the landing page of GMB.
- The primary categories for GMB are relevant to the products you offer, and that they are a part of a bigger search category.
- The NAP on your website and the NAP on GMB should be same
Not only should the physical address of your business, but also the NAP (Name, Address, and Phone Number) has to match with the listed NAP of your business, and it should remain the same at all places online.
In fact, you should stick to a specific template for NAP, irrespective of where you use the details – your website, GMB, Google+ or directory listings – in order to maintain consistency.
- Make sure that your website includes a map to your business location
Apart from filling in your specific business address and other details, do ensure that your website includes a map that points to your exact location. In fact, the code to include a map for your business premises should be included in the contacts web page to make it more relevant for the visitors.
Apart from the map, some other useful information that should be included on your site is –
- The business hours – store opening time and closing time.
- Driving directions on Google maps from prominent places located in and around your area.
- Phone call (as links) for easier calling options.
- Social media and other sharing options.
- Have a distinct web page for each specific business location
If your business is operating at multiple locations, you should always consider creating a unique web page for each of these places, for optimal results. Each web page will be optimized for the specific area it falls in – which means that your business has a better chance of ranking on top of search results.
- Again, each service or product should have its separate web page
If you offer multiple goods or services, it is always good to have a separate web page for each product or services that you offer – each having distinct, specific details about that particular product. Also, all the products should be linked back to one main page that has a summary of all the goods or services you offer in your portfolio for best results.
- Use Citations Properly
Local SEO pays a lot of emphasis on citations – be it international, regional or even local. Getting your business listed in one of the citations will help boost your business’s credibility and build authority. This, in turn, drives more and more traffic to your business website – which is beneficial for your small business.
Further, if your business doesn’t have a website yet, local listings can be a great option to offer some visibility for your business. When you plan on getting citations, please make sure that –
- You have consistent citations.
- The citations come from high authority websites.
- Make an effort to get a mention for your business in articles published by local newspapers.
- Find a way to get as many positive mentions from locally-relevant domains as possible.
- Put up some great, relevant content on your website
To prevent your website from being blacklisted by Google’s algorithms, it’s essential for you to have original content on your website. However, the importance of good, original content doesn’t just end there. In fact, the importance of “bounce rate”, “time on site” and “click through rate” (CTR) is more than ever – and this is where having excellent, engaging content helps.
Also, having a versatile, easy to use and responsive website is paramount – one that is good and comfortable enough to allow users to view it on any device.
In addition to that, organic search results continue to play a dominant role in deciding the search rankings. And if you aim to get a high spot in the search rankings, it is vital to building your SEO strategy around good organic SEO for maximum yield.
In fact, if you plan on entering the “3-pack” club soon and staying there for a while, the road to that club goes through organic SEO strategy and not spammy ones. Follow the Google-recommended SEO do’s and don’ts very carefully to avoid your site getting blacklisted.
- Make the best use of your business and reviews on other websites
Google takes reviews very seriously because it allows people to read personalized, honest information about a business before making a purchase. In fact, at least 70% consumers research a company online before they buy a product, according to a recent study.
While there are numerous debates going on around what is the easiest way to get reviews, a simple and effective way of getting it done is actually asking your customers to leave a review for you. Obviously, you need to set your standards high and offer even more than what the customers are expecting from you, to get excellent reviews. But it will eventually pay off.
On the other hand, hiring someone to write fake reviews can hit your credibility in the worst manner – and your business may never end up recovering from that blow. So, avoid going down that road.
Another thing worth mentioning here is that try to get as many diverse reviews as possible – it helps build credibility for your business.
- Optimize your inbound links properly
To build authority and credibility around your business, you need to make sure other businesses in the area know about your business. Inbound links from other locally-relevant domains can be a good way to boost your online visibility.
There are numerous ways to get inbound links from locally-relevant websites. You can host a webinar, make donations, organize a community meet or build relationships with prominent influencers in the good old fashion.
Apart from this, you should also take care of the following points while working on your link-building strategy for local SEO –
- Try to get inbound links from authority, locally-relevant websites and not spammy ones.
- Find ways to get good, quality inbound links pointed towards your GMB landing page.
- Make sure the inbound links have locally relevant keywords in your website’s anchor text.
- Try to aim for a good quantity of inbound links from local domains.
- Last but not the least; make sure there are diverse inbound links that are pointing to your website.
- Make effective use of keywords
Making effective use of keywords is vital for the success of your business. Therefore, when you’re developing your SEO strategy, make sure that you use locally relevant keywords related to the product or service you offer in your website content, GMB title, in the domain and in the reviews.
So far, most SEO analysts have failed to get the desired results because of poor optimization techniques. Therefore, it is crucial for webmasters to understand Google’s guidelines and updates to develop a local SEO strategy that brings success for businesses.