Local search engine optimization (SEO, for short) isn’t a technique that only small businesses can use. If you’re the owner of a multi-national or multi-location company, using this tool is going to have an impact on your business as well.
Local SEO basics affect the outcome of all business locations, and with a more mobile-friendly Internet, it’s going to have a greater impact on other aspects of search. Why is it so crucial for multi-national or multi-location businesses to invest in local SEO?
- 97 percent of people learn more about a business through the Internet.
- Four in 10 people who use Google do it to find out a company’s local information.
- Half of smartphone users who use their phone to search for something will visit a local shop within a day.
- Eight in 10 mobile users do “near me” searches, with nine in 10 of them clicking on the first three results.
Local SEO isn’t just about organic traffic or website optimization. Therefore, a business that is multi-national or multi-location must develop an entirely new skill set if they are to stand out among the local competitors flooding the market.
What Makes Local SEO So Important and Different?
In the past, website optimization played a huge role in a local business website ranking in the search engines. However, Google (and other search engines) have changed dramatically, and its importance isn’t as it used to be. And, it boils down to how Google handles local business data.
Google once had products known as Google Places and Google+, but Google My Business is much better than those could ever have been. It’s the one tool that all digital marketers looking to bring in foot traffic need to use.
What makes Google My Business (GMB) different from other search products? You don’t need a website to have a GMB profile. The company information (address, phone number, opening hours, pictures, etc.) on this profile is rarely based on any website information. Simply put, GMB is a local business’ new homepage.
Eventually, it’ll be that any local search success is based on the quality of local business location, not website quality.
How Does Google Show Google My Business Results?
The profiles of a GMB has not shown in traditional organic search results. Rather, profiles are shown in a “Local Pack” – a dedicated box that shows up at the top of the results for information about local intent. Local intent is when a person is looking for a company in a particular area such as women’s clothing stores around Jonesboro, Ga. or restaurants near me.
Google’s GMB algorithm will choose which of these profiles will be shown in the pack and is different from the primary organic search engine algorithm. This is a huge thing for multi-location companies, as it clearly provides an even playing field.
A good example of this scenario would be Shadrach’s. You may appear at the top for numerous organic searches of coffee shops and coffee when there is a local intent. However, a local Shadrach’s store is likely to show up in the Local Pack with other close-by coffee shops – size doesn’t matter.
Now, some people feel that consumers will go out of their way to review a locally-owned coffee shop, making it more likely to show up in the Local Park over a franchise one.
3 Local SEO Foundations To Remember
When it comes to local SEO, there are three critical points to remember:
- Proximity – How close is the searcher to your business?
- Prominence – What are others saying about your products/services?
- Relevance – How pertinent has the search query come to your products/services?
There is no way to change the first point (unless you plan to move anyway), but you do have the power to affect the other two points. You must do things in your local search strategy that ensures that every local location is known for the things your searchers need or want. The business profile of each location must show up in these searchers. If you’re not doing things that make these happen, then you’re doing something right!
Are There Any Factors That Can Affect Local Search Rankings?
The reality is that local search algorithm, along with Google algorithms, is a multi-faceted issue with unknown variables. Thankfully, there are numerous digital marketers who every day test and scrutinize ranking factors and local search results. This has led to the development of the Local Search Ranking Factors Study, which Moz carries out every year.
Special Note: The study isn’t founded on genuine search information but industry expert opinions.
A review of the study shows that GMB signs – proximity, keywords in business title, categories and more – are the best of the best. From there, you have review signals, link signals, citation signals and others.
Classic SEO understands on-page signals and link signals, but local SEO is more about citation signals and reviews. Every business needs to be concerned with customer reviews – from the top of the company on down.
How Can A Multi-Location Business Compete In Local Searches
When it comes to local search, a multi-location can still compete for consumers’ attention, even though smaller businesses do have a competitive edge. If you own a multi-location business, what can you do to stay relevant and found in local searches?
Make Use Of GMB Q&A
Good or bad, users are provided with the opportunity to ask public questions about business locations that other people can answer. If you want a business location to stay relevant, you should be watching the Q&A area closely and answering their questions. The importance of keeping an ever-watchful eye is to ensure your reputation stays intact.
If you’re not watching the GMB Q&A, you could miss out on opportunities to protect your brand and reputation. Smaller businesses must be especially mindful of this because the Q&A feature can be misused and abused.
While websites don’t have the power they used to in local search, link signals is still an important aspect of local search ranking. More prominent companies with large websites may not find it conducive to build separate websites for all their locations. However, implementing a store locator that offers an individual page for every location can be useful.
From there, you can focus on getting local links to the page. Local links are those that come from a local community’s websites – local newspaper website, local community page, etc.
While traditional SEO recoils at the effort that goes into attaining links from an unknown low Domain Authority website, Google regards it as an important connection. The more links of these types, the more prominent your local brand is going to appear in the search.
Make sure, for this to happen, that you use the location’s store page as its website for the GMB profile.
If money and time are not an issue, you can spend it on creating more than one page for a single location. Shadrach’s, for instance, can develop a “hub” on their website for its different locations and then make use of traditional content marketing method to ensure links go back to area-focused content.
A business with lots of locations may find this difficult to do and find it’s not as effective.
Create Citations For Every Location
Citations do have an integral role in local search since they show up in directories people use to look for a local business. On top of that, citations can demonstrate the reliability of your business. Since smaller local businesses don’t have the time or money to utilize all business listings sites, you can “one-up” them by establishing correct citations for all your business locations.
Ensure You Have Unique and Original GMB Profiles
Besides keeping a watchful eye and giving responses to Google Q&As, you need to ensure all GMB location profiles are real. Never use stock photos, as the idea is to ensure your prospective customers know what the location looks and feels like. Encourage them to share pictures of their experiences to the profile as well.
Improve the GMB profile by using Google Posts to showcase promotions, offers and other activities tied to just that location. Since it’s a rather new feature, most business owners don’t know about it. Check it out, learn more about it and use it to your advantage.
Get Reviews For Every Location
Reviews are the most difficult for multi-location businesses to get, but it’s so critical to these individual locations in order to stay in local searches.
Review signals are just as important as link signals when it comes to local search, and without them, individual locations will not be nearly as visible as you would want them to be in local searches. While you may think it’s all about the stars, it’s not. Based on various research, consumers are focused on how recent and hastily the reviews are.
For you, it means getting regular reviews for each of your sites for them to stay competitive.
It’s imperative to respond to all reviews – good and bad. Why? According to more research, review responses are just as important to building consumer trust. How you respond to feedback dictates whether or not a person is inclined to do business with you. Be sure you have a fully-developed review strategy.
What Does This All Mean?
In the grand scheme of things, it means Google is seriously listening to what customers are saying about your business more than they are listening to you. Therefore, you must do everything you can do influence and direct conversations to local locations – not just the whole brand itself – if you are to stay competitive and relevant.
If you really want to make a dent in the local community, it would be best to consult with a full-service ad agency that will help your brand stick to the minds of your local audience.