Users searching for a local business on Google want to find the information quickly on the search engine site. If you do a good job of local SEO, you will appear well-positioned in this search. Learn what ranking factors are for local searches and learn how to improve your position.
A restaurant for dinner, a tourist spot to visit, or a park to walk around: who has never made these queries on Google? Searchers are often used to search for locations in the city, so local SEO is so important in Digital Marketing strategies.
Businesses like restaurants, bars, markets, high street shops, beauty salons, hotels, museums and cultural centers can benefit greatly from optimizing for local searches. Thus, when the user searches for a location in a region, he can meet new establishments and become a new customer.
See how much potential there is to attract new customers? But to stand out from the competition, you need to know what are the local SEO ranking factors that Google considers to display local businesses in search results.
That’s why we created this article. We will present the current trends of optimization for local searches and what are the main strategies to achieve good positioning.
How does local SEO work?
Local SEO is the set of optimization strategies for a business so that it appears well positioned in Google search results.
With this optimization, the user who searches for places in a given region finds more relevant results, with richer information about establishments.
To improve this search experience, Google’s algorithm also takes some steps to best display results for it.
Therefore, local businesses may not only appear in the search results ranking but also on the Google Information Map (called the Knowledge Graph).
Let’s say, for example, that the user searches for “downtown museums”. The search engine ranks top sites at the top of the results, but should also display a Google Maps preview with the featured museums.
It is also important to realize that Google strongly considers the user’s location to present the results. In this case, for example, the research “museums in the center” was conducted in Porto Alegre, so the results are focused in the center of this city.
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If the search is for a specific museum, the search engine presents a summary from different sources, such as Wikipedia and Google My Business (or Google My Business), which brings the address, phone, reviews and user notes data.
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These different ways of presenting and highlighting search results increase the chances of the user to know the companies and click to know more. Therefore, local SEO has great potential to attract new customers, but also increase brand awareness.
What are the top local ranking factors for Google?
A survey presented by Moz showed what matters most in local SEO: Google My Business.
According to this survey, Google My Business has the largest share (25%) among local search ranking factors. This represents a 32% growth over the previous year, which shows that the search engine is increasing the importance of this feature.
Next up are the link factors (16%) and the review factors (15%). Already the signs of brand citation on the web, although still appearing with 11%, had a decrease of 19% compared to last year.
Now, then, let’s better explain the key factors and how you can optimize your business’s local SEO to stand out in these searches.
Google My Business
Increasingly, Google wants to make Google My Business as a complete assistant for local searches. The intention is to help users when they most need that information.
It is important to realize that SEO, in this case, is not necessarily focused on traffic to the site.
With Google My Business, you don’t even have to have a website to provide the information you need. And this is a Google trend: Keeping people on the search engine and delivering the answers they seek on the results page.
This makes the search experience more agile and straightforward.
This generates a change of mindset for those working with SEO. One of the main goals has always been to generate traffic to the site and, inside, convert the visitor into a customer.
In local SEO, however, the logic is to deliver the answer that the user seeks and bring it to your establishment. After all, receiving this visit is what you really want, isn’t it?
So to give users and businesses a good experience, Google has been adding a number of features to Google My Business that make information more complete.
And some of these features are key to optimizing your placement in local searches. Here are some tips for taking advantage of them.
Fill in all fields
The more complete your Google My Business listing is, the more likely you are to appear in searches. Keep in mind that Google prioritizes the user experience, which needs to find the answer you want as quickly as possible.
In addition, every field can be decisive in decision making. If a restaurant does not inform opening hours, for example, it may fall out of the choice of a couple who are deciding where to dine.
On your business listing, however, there is a wealth of information that is not under your control. This is the case, for example, with reviews that users leave and notes that Google pulls from other sources. On the other hand, there is a lot of data that the company itself can fill out. These are some of them:
- Company Name;
- Area of coverage (if it meets a specific region);
- Opening hours;
- Opening date;
- Attributes (such as internet, accessibility, outdoor area, etc.).
There are also business-specific fields, such as “check-in and check-out times” for hotels or “menu” for bars and restaurants. There is also the possibility to set special opening times, such as on holidays or events in the city.
Take advantage of all these field possibilities. But remember to keep the information correct and up to date so as not to frustrate the customer. Worse than not informing is to offer incorrect data.
Explore Google Posts
Google Posts is one of the recent features of Google My Business. Although Google Plus has been discontinued, Google has not given up on keeping updates from search-allied companies.
In the company profile, you can post posts with news and offers. They enable greater engagement between the establishment and its audience, with publications that bring valuable information to users.
You can share announcements, offers, products, events, among other updates, with the ability to include text, photos and videos, plus a call-to-action button.
An example of an institution that uses Google Posts updates is Maps, in São Paulo. By accessing the museum profile, you can see posts about new exhibitions and events.
Interact with Google Q&A
Google My Business is concerned with creating forms of interaction between businesses and users. One way to do this is to use Google’s Q&A tool.
Not all companies know that Google Q&A exists, but certain users already know it. Increasingly, this tool is being adopted by users to solve quick questions, such as “will it open on holiday?” Or “have parking?”.
These questions can be answered by the community itself, especially by Local Guides, who are the users who interact most on the platform.
But property owners can also respond and provide more accurate answers. That way, you’re delivering more content to users – and Google likes it!
Post photos and videos
Not long ago, you could only add photos to your Google My Business profile. Now the platform offers the ability to include videos up to 30 seconds, which makes your business content even more interesting.
In addition, the photos and videos section of the Google My Business profile can be supplied by the establishment itself, but also by users. In the company profile, the Photos section has subdivisions, such as most recent posts, owner, 360º view, and videos.
It is important to maintain a kind of curation on media that is included by third parties, as many users upload photos and videos from places not owned by them. But the owner has no autonomy to delete the media – there is a tool to ask Google to review the publication.
Links to the site
Links are one of the pillars of SEO. Link building – that is, links between pages – is one of the main factors that Google analyzes to rank search results. He understands that a page that receives many links from other authority pages tends to be relevant to users.
This same logic holds true for local SEO as well. An establishment that receives several quality links from other pages also deserves a prominent placement.
Google further recognizes this relevance when the business is linked to important local sites, such as a regional news portal, local tourism sites, or blogs of other businesses in the city. Google can identify this proximity, and realize that more people in your area are visiting your site, which means it should be relevant locally.
Also, your company may already be listed on many websites and blogs on the internet. Quotations, as we have seen, also have relevance to Google’s local algorithm.
But they are even more influential when they include links to the brand’s website. Therefore, it is also worth going after these quotes and seeking a partnership for these sites to include links to their pages.
Customer reviews have a high influence on decision making, far more than brand advertising.
Other people’s opinions show the actual experience with the company, which is essential for choosing a restaurant, a hotel or a barbershop, for example. It’s how you show that your business really does what it says it does.
For Google, reviews are becoming increasingly important for ranking local businesses.
The search engine considers not only the notes and comments that users leave on Google My Business, but also reviews from external platforms such as Foursquare, TripAdvisor, and Facebook. Therefore, your review strategy should target all of these review platforms.
Be proactive about asking for reviews
Appraisals come naturally. However, you can leverage reviews if you are proactive about soliciting them from customers. Don’t hesitate to do this, as Google’s algorithm probably considers the number of ratings for ranking.
Then ask customers to write their comments on these platforms. To do this, you can use post-marketing, email marketing, put a reminder on the restaurant menu, and place a link on your site, for example.
Answer the comments
It is frustrating to compliment or complain about a business and to be summarily ignored. Customers want to be heard!
Therefore, respond politely to customer comments, regardless of the content of the message. This way you value user participation so that more people are encouraged to write, and publicly show that you care about your customers.
You can also leverage the answers to include keywords related to your business (without exaggerating, ok?). This is another strategy for linking your business to these terms and showing Google that you’re a reference in your area.
You can adopt strategies to optimize all the factors we have shown so far. But there are signs that Google considers in local ranking that you don’t have much influence on: it’s the behavioral factors of people when they view your business in search results.
How many users search for your brand name in the search engine? How many clicks on your website link? How many take directions to get to the place? How many clicks to call your business?
This data shows Google the level of user engagement with business information. When meaningful, they make it clear that the business is delivering what people want to know.
However, there is not much to do to optimize behavioural signals other than doing the homework by filling in all the information correctly.
So, would you like to know more about the top ranking factors of local SEO? Remember, all the factors we mention are organic, meaning you don’t have to invest in media to position yourself better in local searches. Google My Business, for example, is completely free!
Therefore, if you have a local business, you cannot miss this opportunity to optimize for these searches. They can mean more customers and more sales for your business!