Does my company need “local SEO” in 2020?
Local search engine optimization
The local search query is usually associated with a very specific intention to buy or contact, with manageable competition and effort. Quite the opposite of classical search engine optimization, which goes beyond local and often also national borders, and is often highly competitive. There is a potential customer behind almost every local search query. Furthermore, the proportion of locally motivated search queries and the proportion of search results with local results has virtually exploded in recent years.
Developments in recent years have also shown that local SEO can be a very good strategy for companies with a larger catchment area. For these companies, all generally valid pages are optimized on a supra-regional level, while “local sub-pages” are created for the respective locations or catchment areas. These subpages are then tailor-made and locally search engine optimized. How local search engine optimization works, you will learn in this article.
Some companies still underestimate the opportunities that local SEO offers. The search behaviour has changed significantly in the last years: We are constantly online, through our smartphones we prefer to search than to just go somewhere for a short time or to call. “Approximately every second search query is a local search query,” says Google’s spatial-geographic representation specialist Ed Parson. For mobile devices, as many as 50% of all search queries are already local. Thus, more and more smartphone owners are using the search function to find a location. Users expect helpful, up-to-date and good search results, especially when they are in a foreign city.
It is now safe to assume that every search query received by Google will produce personalised results. Even for search queries without regional restrictions (e.g.: “Mechaniker” instead of “Mechaniker Passau”) Google uses location data such as the IP address or GPS to display location-specific results. This presents us as an SEO agency with the challenge of generating and checking neutral rankings for the analysis of our clients. This has far-reaching consequences for website optimization.
What is „local SEO“?
The focus of local search engine optimization is on local search results. The entire web presence is optimized for a regional area or a catchment area. This includes all measures (on and off the website) that lead to a high visibility in the search results and address visitors in the region of your company. Accordingly, the ranking factors that should be considered in local search engine optimization are also different. Since search results are practically always personalized to a certain degree, local SEO is now essential for most websites. You can find out how to do this here.
In 5 steps to a locally optimized website
Since the “Venice Update” 2012, the search engine Google knows exactly where the user is at any given time and spits out results with a local reference based on the IP address, WLAN hotspot or GPS data. In addition to the ten organic search results and the paid advertisements, the local pack is also included. The local Pack is a universal search result, i.e. results that have been imported from other Google services. In this case, the result consists of the Google Maps map and a list of the top 3 company entries for the respective keyword in the vicinity of the searcher. In contrast to other Universal Search Results, the local Packs are almost always found at the top of the first page of the search results. News, pictures and videos are often only found from the second result down to tenth place.
1. Ziele und Strategie
At the beginning of every optimization you should take a close look at your company and ask yourself what local target group you want to address and what other competitors are active on the market and what they have done to get ahead in the search results. From this, goals are derived which are then to be implemented with a tailor-made SEO strategy and the appropriate measures. In this way, it can ultimately be determined how much effort the optimization, i.e. how high the budget, will be.
Reflection on your own company is very helpful in keyword research. Then follows a look through the glasses of your customers and finally you validate the competitor market:
- which products or services do I offer?
- how do potential customers search for them in search engines?
- under which conditions do I have a chance to be visible high up here?
2. Your company website
The be-all and end-all is a user and search engine friendly corporate website. Contact information and opening hours should be complete and visible at first sight and should be integrated with schema.org award. Ideally, you should include directions or a Google Maps extract so that the searcher knows immediately where to find you. The website should contain informative and meaningful texts that deal with your topic and your local environment and are pleasant to read for your potential customers. Illustrations must always be easily recognizable. The loading time should not be too long. Mobile suitability has become an enormously important point for Google due to the incredible success of smartphones and tablets. Since a lot of searches are done via mobile devices and these searches are highly personalized, the functionality of websites in the smaller and more responsive formats is in the focus of all leading search engines. This is true for all websites, but even more so for the sites of locally oriented companies (“For mobile devices, as many as 50% of all search queries are already local”).
For a relaunch or launch of your web design this means: Have the page developed for smartphones and only then adapt it to the desktop.
3. Optimization of the Google My Business entry
This point has experienced an immense upswing in recent years. In a sense, the successor to Google+, the Google My Business entry is a strong local signal. In some case studies by industry peers, the My Business listing accounts for as much as 25% of the signals responsible for appearing in local packs. Put more simply, if your website is as good as your local competitors and you don’t have a Google My Business listing (or you haven’t maintained one), this could be your way into the top 3!
Even more: the share of No Click search queries is currently increasing considerably. In terms of local SEO, No Click search queries are, for example, searches for addresses, business hours and telephone numbers. The searcher only needs to see the information and there is no click on a URL of the page and therefore no traffic for your company website.
The relevance for local companies is already very clear from the example of contact data. This means that you should not only appear at the top of the list, but also give as good a picture as possible.
- Red box: Google My Business entry for SEO Bavaria in Google search
- Yellow boxes: Reviews of Google, directories and social networks
- Blue box: Google My Business Post
- Green box: Competitive suggestions for the search query
The Google My Business entry in Google Maps
What opportunities does a Google My Business listing offer you?
- All important information at a glance:
- telephone number
- Opening hours
- partial utilization
- You can highlight your profile with the company description
- Create interesting content with the posts to get closer to the customer
- Create events and announce special actions
- Exchange information with the customers, answer e.g. questions
- The entry is useful for receiving and reacting to evaluations
- You can list your services and products
What are the advantages of an optimized entry and what should be considered?
As already illustrated, you can present your company and present the most important information in an attractive and clear way. The relevance for local rankings, especially in the local packs, speaks for itself. Add to this the fact that with good local SEO your company can appear twice in the top 4 (#1-3 maps + #4 organic)! As shown by the green box in the figure above, a well optimized entry will push your competitors to the cheap places in the lower right corner.
Was muss beachtet werden?
Probably the most important point is that all information about your company is correct and that this information is the same everywhere. No matter where information about your company can be found, be it business directories, social networks, articles or other, it has to match on all of them. Most importantly, the name, address and telephone number are the most important. These should not only match in terms of content, but also the format of presentation and spelling should be the same.
Active Google My Business entries that make use of the numerous functions are rewarded by the search engines with better rankings. Therefore, you should post regularly, answer questions and reviews, upload pictures, update information and check the entry for external suggestions for changes.
Both Google and many business directories give your customers the opportunity to rate your company. As you can see in the yellow boxes above, reviews from other portals are also displayed in the Google My Business entry. From our experience in online marketing, we know that positive reviews don’t fall from the sky, so every review is valuable. Encourage your satisfied customer to give you a rating directly if he gives you positive feedback, for example in a personal conversation.
Through ratings, Google recognizes, among other things, that the company actually exists. Positive ratings increase user confidence, but not all ratings have to be consistently positive. Very well rated companies receive the addition “outstandingly rated” from Google in the business entry.
What to do in case of negative reviews?
In a balanced relationship, a bad rating can hardly harm you, but of course they are not desirable. In the event that a customer leaves a negative rating, it is an absolute no-go to engage in an open exchange of blows on the Internet. Accept negative opinions as constructive criticism and deal with the customer personally and individually. The feeling to be taken seriously and to be offered compensation calms in most cases. Publicly solved customer problems also have a very positive effect on the company’s image. What you may very well do is to ask the customer for a positive evaluation (even after a problem has been solved). You can do this if he was very satisfied with your product or service and expresses this to you. Even though it may seem strange to ask “Well, how was I?” Remember: positive reviews make it 45 times more likely that interested searchers will become your customers!
Business entries in other systems
Google is not the only provider of such business entries. Both Bing with the “Places for Business” and Apple with “Apple Maps” offer similar possibilities. In the ideal case, all three providers are used for maximum customer reach. This also has the advantage that the respective entries take each other as reference.
Ihr Unternehmensstandort wird in Form eines roten Pins auf der Karte angezeigt.
The same applies to the Google My Business entry: All important company information such as contacts and opening hours should be available in full and should match the data on your website. Make sure that all information is consistent. This is especially true for telephone numbers, which may sometimes have a country code in front of them and then again not.
This is to ensure that you also follow Google’s quality guidelines and that Google can assign all information without doubt.
By regularly posting photos and articles, as well as creating events, the Google My Business entry can be optimized and your customers will always be up to date. In addition, active companies have a higher chance of better rankings.
4. business directories
Another measure that brings your website to the forefront are entries in reputable, local business directories.
The two criteria of uniformity and completeness should be fulfilled, because Google compares these entries with the information on your website and the Google entry. For business directories, class is more important than mass, and you should not touch third-class portals with a less trustworthy presentation. Your local SEO has the most from regional business directories, because they are interpreted as additional signals for your location and your importance in the region.
5. Local Link Building
Local links should be part of your optimization strategy. You should mainly create links with a local reference, for example to pages of regional newspapers and magazines, pages of local institutions and organizations, if possible of the city or municipality, and interesting blogs with a local reference.
With a successful local SEO strategy, your local business will make it to the top of the local search results. Winning new customers, retaining existing customers, increasing sales and improving your image are the positive side effects of local optimization.
No-Gos in local search engine optimization
Successful local search engine optimization, however, is mainly characterized by the things you do not do.
- Do not overuse relevant keywords on behalf of the company. The same applies to the name of the city in which you are located.
- You should only specify the business category(ies) in which you are really active.
- One number and one address for many business locations does not seem very credible on Google. If you have several branches, it is important that each branch can be reached separately and of course has its own address.
- Outdated entries confuse users and search engines alike and appear unprofessional.
A very good local ranking can draw attention to your company and win new customers, no matter if country, small or big city. Additionally – depending on search query, location, Google My Business entry, etc. – a company can be listed as a local business ahead of well-known large companies with only a few backlinks. Thus, local search engine optimization is often the best and most cost-effective and constant source of new customer contacts for companies operating in the local market.
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