How many times have you looked up a local business on Google? Chances are, pretty often. But how does Google know which businesses to show you? The answer is local search, and if you’re a business owner, it’s the key to getting found on Google.
Creating a local search marketing strategy is one of the best ways to make sure your business is being found by the right people in the right locations. We’re here to guide you through the world of local search marketing and what you need to execute a flawless strategy.
What is Local Search Marketing?
Local search marketing is a way to promote your business in a specific area. Both small businesses and multi-location brands can use local search engine optimization (local SEO) to rank on search engine results pages in certain areas. Of course, you want people to find your business on Google no matter where they're located, but showing up for local search can give you an even more competitive advantage in your area.
Local Search Results and the Map Pack
There are two ways a business can win at local search marketing: in local search results and in Google’s Map Pack (also referred to as “Google Maps Pack”, “Local Pack” or “3-Pack”). Local search results are based on your website, whereas the local Map Pack relies on your Google My Business profile.
Typically, after inputting your local search term, the local pack will appear at the top of the results page. The organic results (and any relevant ads) will display within the pack. Below is an example of the search results for “Orlando law firms.” As you can see, the map shows an ad for one law firm, with three below it as the top organic results:
In order to dominate results for Google Maps and its Map Pack rankings, you need to pay attention to a few key areas of your business’s online presence. This is definitely not a one-time optimization, either. Search results can fluctuate, and neglecting to keep up with new developments could tank your rankings.
In short, you could be at the top of Google’s local search results one day and gone the next. We’re happy to say, however, that a local SEO strategy can help mitigate that problem to get you climbing up local rankings and maximizing your visibility.
You can subscribe to newsletters for sites like Search Engine Journal to stay updated on Google updates.
The Basics of Local Search Marketing
Now that you know what local search marketing is, how do you make sure your business is being found? You have to understand the foundations of local search marketing before you start optimizing and tweaking your website. You need to walk before you can run. So, before you start running toward local search, here’s what you need to know to walk, so to speak.
Google My Business
A Google My Business profile is like a digital billboard for the online world. Your profile has your business’s name, address, phone number and website URL on it, along with your offerings or services.
Your Google My Business is one of the most important parts of local search marketing, so staying within the bounds of Google’s profile guidelines is a must. Your information needs to be accurate and up to date, especially if you’ve changed anything about your business, like location, phone number or name.
Site Authority and Quality
“Website authority” refers to the strength of a website’s domain. You can increase your site’s authority with backlinks—links to your own website from other reputable websites. There are a few different strategies you can use to gain backlinks, like guest blogging.
Your website’s quality has to do with its loading speed, security and user experience (UX). A site that’s slow to load, with no mobile site or security, won’t be rewarded with a top-ranking spot in Google’s search results. If you want to be successful with your local search marketing, you’ll need to invest in your website’s architecture and UX.
In the same vein of authority and quality, your website’s SEO plays a big part in your rankings for local search. Ticking off all the boxes of SEO’s checklist and focusing on optimization for the long haul will pay off for search rankings. When Google crawls your website, having it optimized will help you in local rankings.
Creating quality content and not keyword stuffing—stuffing a selected keyword or group of keywords unnaturally into your content in an effort to rank more highly on Google—will help with your overall SEO strategies. Making sure your metadata is accurate and complete will also help Google crawl and determine what your site is about so you can rank. Pay attention to your SEO and maintain it for the best results.
NAP is an acronym for “name, address and phone number.” Combined, these three items are how your business is found in the world of search. As noted earlier, your Google My Business profile needs to be accurate, including your NAP.
Beyond your Google My Business profile, your NAP needs to be consistent across any platform your business on, such as Yelp or Facebook. For example, if your business is called "Tony's Pizza Palace", it shouldn't be listed as just "Tony's Pizza" on another platform. Keeping all of your information updated and accurate will make sure visitors can trust your business’s information if they want to contact you.
Google reviews are a way to show users they can trust your business and why. They’re also a requirement if you want to win at local search. They can have a measurable effect on your conversion rate when you have a good amount to work with, helping your business gain authority in your industry and showing users they can trust your brand.
It’s in your best interest to gather reviews from your customers, even if you’re not necessarily a restaurant or customer service-based business. Any business can benefit from having reviews attached to your Google My Business profile. Local Map Pack search results display the number of reviews your business has along with an average star rating, so it’s a big factor in local search marketing.
How to Optimize for Local Search Marketing
Cracking the Local Pack for Google maps and climbing to the top of local search rankings will take time, effort and analysis. When starting out with local search marketing, it’s important to have baseline data as a starting point for optimization.
Perform Research and an Audit
To start out with local search marketing, you’ll need to research your chosen keywords and perform a thorough audit. This includes:
- Researching how competitive your chosen keywords are for rankings
- Conducting a NAP audit for all of your business’s listings
- Checking your Google My Business’s profile for accuracy
- Perform a site audit for speed, SEO and security with a tool like Checkbot or RankMath
Once you’ve gotten a feel for the landscape of your chosen keywords, the state of your website and your business’s listings, you can really start to optimize for local search.
Strategize and Iterate
Local search marketing requires strategy and iteration. It’s not enough to just set up your Google My Business profile and leave it. You need to revisit your strategy, keywords and rankings on a quarterly basis at least to see if you’re really moving the needle.
Once you’ve performed all of your audits and done all your research, you can implement the changes you need to make for SEO success. Since SEO and keyword rankings fluctuate so often, optimizing the content on your site and Google My Business profile will be required if you want to crack the Google Map Pack.
Update Your Listings
If you haven’t created a Google My Business profile, it’s crucial that you make one. The only way to really get on the Map Pack is to have one, as that's Google's way of capturing and identifying your business’s name, address and phone number, as well as your services and website URL. Take a look at this example:
As you can see, the name, address and phone number of the business are all visible. Your NAP is a core factor for your local search rankings. If your listings are out of date or have incorrect information, they need to be updated to the best of your ability so you can be considered for the Local Pack for a relevant keyword.
Stay In the Know With Google’s Core Updates
Google rolls out core updates every few months in order to help its own algorithm provide better answers for search queries. Some updates are minor, but when a major core update is introduced and implemented, you could see rankings for your website go up or down. That’s why it’s important to stay up to date on Google’s algorithm news.
If a major update rolls out, watch your rankings for your various keywords. Changes won’t be instantaneous, but if you do notice a decline in your rankings,you need to identify where the dropoff is happening to best update and optimize your site or listings accordingly.
Optimize Content for Clarity and Relevancy
As mentioned earlier, Google rewards relevant content. As we mentioned earlier with "keyword stuffing", if you've simply gone in and added your keywords as many times as possible to your content, you could end up being penalized by Google.
To really make some changes for SEO, you need to be making content people will want to read. Creating informative, timely and relevant content that offers users what they need will make for better UX, which has a hand in where you rank on Google. Optimize for quality, not keyword quantity.
Local Search Marketing Can Take You Places
The “rules of engagement” for local search dictate that you should be monitoring your rankings and making changes as needed. Ultimately, if you want to see success in local search, you need to commit to it. Your initial optimizations and edits might be time-consuming, but they’re absolutely necessary if you want to see success for local search marketing.
Tired of being on page two of Google? Let us help!