Location, location, location. As an enterprise brand, you are well-versed in the importance of physical location for each retail store, restaurant, hotel, office, branch, or clinic. Successful businesses bring their products and services to potential customers, placing business locations strategically to maximize visibility and accessibility from both a prospective customer and supply/distribution perspective.
How will you choose the perfect place for your brand’s next brick-and-mortar location? (Or regional market, for service area businesses.)
Much important research goes into choosing a new physical address for a business, yet local SEO considerations are often neglected in this decision despite its power to influence foot traffic. A business may consider cost, size, infrastructure, and style when selecting a space, but neglect asking themselves will this location rank in Google Search?
In this article, you’ll learn how to use SEO data as business intelligence in your plans for expansion into new local markets, to choose your next business location, and drive hyper-local customers into your location. First, let’s look at the factors you’ll want to consider to ensure a robust Google Business Profile presence for your new location.
Account for Google’s Local Ranking Factors in Your Decision-Making
Google isn’t as secretive about what it takes to rank locally as in organic Search. The three main categories of signals Google uses to rank local (Google Maps) search results are Relevance, Prominence, and Distance.
While Distance once referred to a location’s proximity to the city center, local search updates in 2016 and 2019 made proximity to the searcher far more impactful. In the early days of online marketing, SEO professionals would search for a business category or product/service name alongside the zip code they were inquiring about to see what ranked.
Google’s concept of proximity is also why Rio SEO updated rank reporting in our Local Reporting dashboard to measure Google’s Local rank within two radii determined by the brand.
Verifying each location and ensuring the map pin is accurate is essential in enabling Google to display locations to nearby searchers. But how can you use local ranking factors as intelligence to compare prospective locations for your next office, branch, or store?
Investigate the Google Maps results in the location you’re considering.
Consider the following questions. How difficult might it be for your brand to rank in the top three results with a well-optimized Google Business listing? Is there an area in the city or neighborhood you’re considering that has far fewer relevant local results than others? How often does my target demographic visit this part of town? These gaps could indicate a market in need of service.
Remember that Relevance and Prominence are major signals, as well.
On Relevance, Google advises businesses to: “Add complete and detailed business information to help Google better understand your business and match your profile to relevant searches.”
How are local competitors performing on that front? Are the top results for terms relevant to your brand and its business well optimized, with complete and descriptive business information? Or are they fairly thin, with little content, few photos, and unanswered local reviews?
And on Prominence – are you going to be competing against other major brands with a mature SEO strategy? For example, if a nearby competitor has 5,000 Google Reviews, it may be difficult to outrank this business and appear higher in the Search Engine Results Pages. Prominence reflects how well a business is known in the offline world, as well as what information Google has about a business from across the web, such as links, articles, and directories.
Explore Local SEO Data for Location-Based Insights
Hopefully, as an enterprise brand, you already have access to a robust reporting platform in addition to Google Search Console and Google Analytics. Each of these can contain rich insights that offer clues as to where existing customers would like to see you go next.
Look for location-specific queries.
Dive into queries that list a specific state, city, or region, and then look into search demographics to find underserved markets – that is, areas where you have a large online base but no physical location to serve them.
Look for contextual clues.
Go further and look for contextual clues in product and service queries. For example, say you are a finance brand with a product line for students and young adults. In your SEO data, you discover a trend: a sizeable user base in a university town visiting your website to learn about loans. Could this be a prospect for a new branch or office near the campus?
Explore your brand’s local performance outliers.
As a multi-location brand, your own insights are one of the most powerful tools you have. Our local reporting makes it easy to filter and segment local search data across the brand so you can quickly identify top and bottom performers using various criteria. There’s much to be learned from your Google Map Pack Insights, Yelp Knowledge, and conversion tracking.
Which locations rank best for your brand’s most valuable keyword terms? Which locations convert the most searchers to in-store visits? Are there identifiable characteristics you can pinpoint about those locations and the markets they’re in that will help inform where to put your next location?
Identify your brand’s most engaged markets.
This is another insight you can find in Rio SEO’s Local Reporting dashboard. Once you’ve determined which 10-20 markets are most engaged, you can begin digging into demographic insights via website analytics to learn who these engaged customers are, and which content resonates with them. Where can you find these people in other, untapped markets?
Consider what your Dynamic Locator tell you about underserved locations.
Which city names and zip codes are prospects using to find one of your brand locations near them? This is a great insight, as these people are already familiar enough with the brand and have such commercial intent that they’re using a store locator to try to convert.
Look at Macro-Level Trends, Too
What brand-wide trends are emerging in your own local search data? As a retailer, for example, you might notice that a particular line of cold-climate activewear has been emerging as a leading sales generator and topic of search interest over the past year. Your locations to date have largely been in southern U.S. urban centers and at beaches, but this data could indicate there’s an emerging market for you further north.
Or, perhaps you’re an enterprise HVAC company and Google Trends reveal that climate change resulted in seasonal spikes in searches for heating and cooling contractors in new regions the last three years. Is there an opportunity there for pop-up stores strategically located throughout the state for three months each year? It’s worth investigating.
Local consumer search behavior trends are another vital source of macro-level insight for brands. That’s why, each month, we analyze Google Business Profiles performance insights from the over 170,000 U.S. enterprise brand locations that use our platform. You can explore those insights here and dive into trends in eight different business categories, too.
Rio SEO and Forsta also recently commissioned OnePoll to conduct a local consumer search survey, the results of which shed light on several important facets of precisely what it is that drives consumer decision-making at the local level. What types of information are consumers looking for when they’re searching for things nearby, for example? How do negative and positive reviews factor into conversions, and what is it about them that matters most? How often are consumers conducting local searches, and what do they expect of brands inside that discovery and initial engagement experience?
You’ll find answers to those questions and more in our 2022 Local Consumer Search Behavior Study report.
Ongoing Data Analysis is Crucial for Enhancing the BI Value of Local Search Insights
Local search data can power so much more than a successful marketing strategy. What local consumers are using search engines for – when, how, and from which devices – can all provide rich insights to help evolve your business strategy.
Access to brand-wide insights and powerful reporting at the individual location and service-area level is essential. Not sure you’re getting the most significant value from your SEO data? Get in touch with a local marketing expert at Rio SEO, and let’s see if we can help.