Local SEO Strategy Guide in 2020: How to Rank Where It Counts

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If you want to drive your company’s website search rankings up and be found by your potential customers, SEO optimization should be a vital part of your digital strategy. 

But what if your business is tied to a single geographic location (e.g. a cafe or restaurant)? Then you probably wouldn’t have much use from people from the other side of the world visiting your website.

In this case it is important to optimize your website to rank locally, rather than globally, which is what local SEO is all about. 

46%, almost half of all search queries in Google now have local intent. People are actively using Google to find local businesses especially since now we can use our mobile devices for quick “near me” searches.

Moreover, according to Google, 74% of consumers that performed a local search on their mobile devices make a visit to a store within 24 hours. In short, if you are not putting your local business searchable, you are going to miss out on a large number of potential customers.

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In this guide, we will discuss all you need to know about implementing a local SEO strategy in 2020. By the end, you will have a working strategy to improve your business’s presence on local search and Google Maps. 

Let us begin by discussing the concept of local SEO itself.

What Is Local SEO?

Local SEO is, essentially, a series of optimizations not only of the local company’s website but the company’s overall online presence for local keywords.

Local keywords here generally refer to search queries that include location names, such as “restaurants in new york” and also near me and/or nearby queries like “restaurants nearby” or “restaurants near me”.

Why did we mention that local SEO is not only about the website? Because nowadays, Google features results from Google Maps for these local queries. In fact, these Google Maps results are positioned above the organic results and just below the Google Ads, as shown in the picture below:

Google maps example

Picture 1. Google Maps example

Google Maps results, in turn, are based on not your website, but your Google My Business listing. Consequently, optimizing your Google My Business listing and other factors that can help the performance of your Google Maps results will be important aspects of local SEO strategy.

Google Maps 3-Pack

Google only features three top results from Google Maps before users need to click on “more places. So, businesses on these top-3 spots will obviously get more attention and conversions. 

Due to its importance, these top-3 spots are often referred to as Google Maps 3-pack or the “local 3-pack”.

According to Google, here are the most important factors that can determine your chance in ranking on the 3-pack spots:

 1. Relevance: – simply put, how relevant your business listing is to the searcher’s intent. The more complete and detailed your information—as listed on your Google My Business listing—, the more often Google will match your business with potential prospects. 

2. Prominence: – how prominent (well-known) your brand or business in the eyes of Google. An established business will rank higher than a brand new business. And a business with a good social presence will rank higher than a business with zero online presence. 

 3. Distance: – the local factor of local SEO: how nearby the business’s location is to the searcher’s location (or to the location term used in the query). If for example, two businesses have similar relevance and prominence ratings, then the one closer to the searcher will rank higher.

Step-by-Step Guide To Google Maps SEO

Step 1: Claim and Verify Google My Business Listing

This one is fairly obvious, but also very important. If you haven’t already, claim your Google My Business listing. 

If you are an established business (well-known), someone else might have claimed this listing. But in most cases, it’s nothing to worry about. You can request ownership of this listing. If you have enough proof of ownership (which, you should), Google will give the ownership and authority to you. The process might take a few days.

After you’ve claimed your listing, it’s also important to verify the Google My Business (GMB) listing. Again, this is a fairly simple process and you can follow Google’s guidelines here. In general, however, the process will involve Google sending a postcard containing a verification PIN to your business’s physical address. 

So, it’s very important to use a valid physical address if you can (don’t use a virtual address). If, however, it’s absolutely impossible to use a physical address, you can contact Google for other ways to verify your GMB listing.

Step 2: Optimize Your Google My Business Listing

Now that we’ve “secured” our business on the map, the next step is to optimize it on Google My Business.

It’s important to note that the main principle here is to optimize our listing for Relevance. That is, how relevant the GMB listing is to the user’s search intent. So, focus on providing accurate and relevant information for your human audience by: 

  • Provide complete and up-to-date information always, especially your NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number).
  • Choose the right category. People more often search for business types/niches rather than a specific business name. 
  • Make sure to include accurate business hours, including whenever there are any changes during holidays and events (Google provides a feature to add custom hours for these cases).
  • Add your service area details accurately, especially if your business serves customers outside your physical location like a delivery service. 
  • Add professional-looking photos and relevant images. Remember that Google Maps is a visual platform, and listings with photos receive 42% more conversions on average.
  • Add attributes to define your business’s unique qualities. 

You can use your target keywords naturally. But in general, it’s much more important to focus on providing relevant information for your users. 

Read SEO Mistakes to Avoid

Step 3: Building Local Citations

Above, we have discussed how your business’s prominence will be an important ranking factor of local SEO. 

In practice, one factor Google uses to determine a listing and website’s prominence is the number of citations. 

A citation is an online mention of your business’s NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) information in a complete and correct format. For example, you’ll get a valid citation if a blogger reviewed your business and mentioned your complete NAP. 

There are two main ways to get more local citations:

  1. Build partnerships and relationships with influencers, press, business partners, and others that can mention your NAP.
  2. List your business in various local online directories according to your industry and location. A quick Google search with keywords like  “restaurant directory in Montreal” will help you in finding these local directories.

The most important thing to consider here is to maintain the consistency and accuracy of your NAP information. And this can be easier said than done. 

For example, if you move to a new address (and change phone number), then you’d need to update ALL of these citations to match the new information listed on your GMB listing

Step 4: Encourage More Positive Reviews

Another important factor in determining your local business’s prominence in the eyes of Google is the number of reviews on your Google Maps listing. As well as third-party platforms (TripAdvisor, Facebook Places, etc. ). 

Also, reviews are obviously important as social proof to encourage more conversion. The research suggested that 57% of consumers will only purchase from a business with at least a 4-star rating.

Paldesk review

Picture 2. Paldesk review

How can we get more positive reviews? First and foremost, it is to actually provide good products and services. However, there are some tactics we can try:

  • Offer incentives. A common and still effective tactic. For example, we can offer discounts or free stuff in exchange for reviews and/or social media mentions. 
  • Engage and respond to existing reviews, especially bad ones. People are more likely to leave reviews on listings that responded to previous reviews and tackled negative reviews well. Also, Google prioritizes businesses that frequently respond to existing reviews.
  • Ask at the right time. Timing is very important here. For example, ask for a review when a customer just made a return purchase, showing they are happy with your brand.

Read eCommerce SEO tips: Drive Better Organic Traffic

Step 5: Technical Optimizations for Location Accuracy

Our focus here is to make sure Google can properly and accurately recognize our physical location, and here are some key things we can try:

  • Add your full NAP information or at least your full address on all pages on your site. For example, on your site’s footer. It’s generally better to use texts rather than an image although Google is getting better at parsing images for information. 
  • If your business has more than one location, you can create different location pages for each. 
  • Embed Google Maps on each of these location pages. This is now not a direct ranking signal (it used to be), but it can help Google to accurately understand your location and to provide a better user experience for your visitors.

Include your address in your social media profiles if you can (ideally, the complete NAP information).

Wrap Up

All of the strategies mentioned above work together – you can’t exclude or emphasize one of these and say that it’s the most important one. You can implement one of these on a higher or more detailed scale, but the end result will depend on the combination of all of these steps.

And also – it’s all about prioritization. The type of your business and your marketing strategies so far will determine to which of these steps you need to devote more time and effort.

The most important thing to bear in mind is consistency. Consistency in building local citations and getting more reviews for months and even years, while at the same time also maintaining the content quality, accurate NAP information, and giving proper response to negative reviews.

Finally – if you haven’t thought about implementing a local SEO strategy and you own a business that could benefit from that, do so. This will enable your customers to find your business and access the information they need easily. And if they like what they see – expect new customers arriving at your door very soon.

Mike Khorev is a digital marketing and SEO expert who helps SaaS, Software, IT, Technology, B2B and enterprise companies generate more leads and sales and grow revenue online. He offers expert advice on marketing your company the right way through performance-based SEO, web design, social media, search engine marketing and many other online practices.

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Local SEO Strategy Guide in 2020: How to Rank Where It Counts was last modified: July 6th, 2020 by Martina Pranjic
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