Local search is an essential marketing channel for businesses of all sizes. Enterprise brands, in particular, face unique challenges in managing an online presence and business listing across many physical locations or service areas. This often raises the concern of how to get in front of a target potential customer in search and Google Maps to drive foot traffic, bookings, or sales in many different local markets.
Local SEO solutions can help by making quicker work of managing online reviews, social media platforms, search engine optimization, and other facets of the online user experience at scale. In this article, you’ll learn how to maximize your return on investment on your choice of local SEO tool and enhance your brand’s online visibility even in the most competitive markets.
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO is a marketing practice that helps restaurants, professional services, retail stores, and other types of local businesses get found in local search results. In the United States, this primarily means optimizing for Google, the search engine with 87.4% of market share (as of May, 2022). However, local SEO solutions can also involve optimizing content and webpages for better ranking and visibility in search results on Bing (6.6%), Yahoo (3.2%), DuckDuckGo (2.4%), and other small or alternative search engines.
Internationally, local SEO can involve various other search engines that are popular in specific countries. For example, Baidu is the dominant search engine in China, while Naver is used by 18.9% of users in the Republic of Korea.
Understanding how and where consumers in your markets search for nearby products and services is a foundational element of local SEO. While organic search optimization works to improve overall search visibility, local SEO focuses on search rankings within a specific geographic region and the brand’s appearance in search within it. These locally focused results appear on desktop search and mobile as a “Local Pack” feature in organic search and Google Maps.
For that reason, local SEO can involve organic SEO as well as local listings management, Google Business Profile optimization, local reviews management, and local social media (as consumers use Facebook and other platforms to search for nearby businesses, as well).
What Are Local SEO Ranking Factors?
Each search engine has its own algorithms and takes different factors into account in its indexing and ranking of webpages. For the purposes of this article, we’ll use Google’s local ranking factors as the primary example.
Google’s local factors are less a mystery than with its organic search algorithms. In fact, the search engine even publishes a resource called “How to improve your local ranking on Google” to help businesses better optimize their presence at the local level. In this resource, Google states, “Local results are based primarily on relevance, distance, and prominence.”
It’s important to note that in this resource, Google is specifically referring to how well a business location’s Google Business Profile meets the criteria below.
Relevance is an indicator of how well the information on the company’s Google Business Profile meets the needs of the searcher.
Distance refers to how far the searcher is from the business location in question. Even where the searcher does not specify a location in their query, Google will use what clues it can to find an answer nearest to the searcher.
Prominence is the measurement of how well-known a business is in the local area. “Some places are more prominent in the offline world, and search results try to reflect this in local ranking,” Google states.
Inside of the above three broad categories of local ranking factors are many more specific signals that help Google understand precisely which business result might best meet the searcher’s needs. Each year, Whitespark conducts an industry survey to evaluate the local ranking factors that SEO experts believe are most impactful in determining rankings in organic and local search results. The most recent results, released in November 2021, consider over 130 different potential local ranking factors organized into 7 broad categories. These include:
- Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business)
In 2021, Whitespark’s report found that the most heavily weighted Local Pack ranking factors were Google Business Profile signals (36%), Reviews (17%), and On Page SEO (16%). See a full breakdown of the report here.
How To Do Local SEO
All of these different ranking factors makes local SEO a complex undertaking for enterprise brands, who may be dealing with hundreds to thousands of locations.
A comprehensive local marketing program may include:
- Website optimization
- Local listings management
- Reviews and reputation management
- Google Business Profile management and optimization
- A local page for each location and local finder to surface them
- Social media management
- Local influencer marketing
- Email marketing
- Content marketing
- Local link building
Where do you even begin? Enlisting the support of a local SEO solution that incorporates both technology and service to augment the brand’s internal team is a great start. It’s essential that brands have the tools and talent in place to do technical SEO, monitor performance, and optimize content and pages at scale.
Optimizing Your Google Business Profile
From there, it makes sense to focus on the most impactful local ranking factors first. Google Business Profiles are by far the number one local SEO consideration and are a must for every business location.
While Google has attempted to make these profiles easy for small businesses to manage, there are a lot of potential pitfalls for inexperienced users. For example, choosing the wrong primary category could mean the listing does not have access to certain listing features and attributes designed to showcase that type of business.
On the flip side, there are many opportunities for locations to stand out and increase rankings in local search by taking advantage of all that Google Business Profiles have to offer. Working with an experienced local SEO solution ensures you stay at the forefront and are optimizing as fully and completely as possible across all of your locations.
How Local SEO Solutions Work
Local SEO incorporates various digital marketing tactics and channels to help improve the search rankings of each of your location. Enterprise and multi-location brands use local SEO solutions designed specifically for the management and optimization of many locations, as accomplishing this manually is inordinately expensive and time consuming at scale.
Local SEO solutions also use automation, aggregation, and technologies such as APIs to manage Google Business Profiles, local pages, local reviews, and local listings management at scale in as near to real-time as possible. This is essential, as local consumer behavior is constantly shifting and each consumer expects the most relevant, rewarding experience possible when searching for nearby businesses.
Google and other search engines are constantly testing and updating their algorithms, and search rankings fluctuate as local competitors optimize their content, as well. The result is a dynamic, ever-shifting space in which ongoing management and optimization is essential.
Rio SEO’s local SEO solution creates efficiencies and improves local rankings by giving brands a single, user-friendly dashboard from which to manage listings, local pages, reviews, ratings, social, and reporting. This is essential at the enterprise level, where corporate and local stakeholders including managers, marketers, and franchisees may collaborate to improve each location’s online presence.
We have a number of helpful resources for enterprise brands looking to improve specific parts of their local SEO strategy.
Local Keyword Strategy
Effective local SEO requires that you are optimizing for relevant keyword terms and phrases real customers in your area are using to find products, services, and businesses like yours. Long-tail keywords are particularly effective as they tend to be:
- Less competitive
- More descriptive
- Specific to a type of intent
They’re a lot more common than you might think, too – longtail keywords make up approximately 85% of search queries, according to Ahrefs. Thinking in terms of long-tail plus geo-targeted keywords is a winning combination for your local marketing strategy.
Local Link Building
Links are the currency of the web. They help search engines understand important signals such as trust and popularity. Which other websites link to yours? This helps Google understand that page’s place in a broader context, which in turn enables its algorithms to better match your content to relevant queries.
Read Local Link Building 101: Best Practices and Strategies for Success for tips to create successful link building campaigns and innovative tactics for attracting higher quality local links.
Google Business Profile Optimization
Formerly known as Google My Business, these local listing profiles appear give searchers essential information that enables them to convert to an in-store visit, phone call, booked appointment, restaurant reservation or other paying customer directly from the listing in search.
These profiles are dynamic and constantly changing as customers leave reviews, suggest different business hours, upload photos, ask questions for the brand to answer, and more. It takes a robust local SEO solution to monitor these at scale and surface opportunities to improve rankings.
Learn more about optimizing your Google Business Profiles here.
Local Pages are an extension of the search experience. From each location’s Google Business Profile, you can send searchers on to a richer, deeper experience on a well-optimized Local Page. It’s essential that these are mobile-responsive and incorporate interactive elements such as dynamic local reviews, an interactive map to the location, click to call functionality, and more.
These are an important next step in the customer journey for local searchers who are comparing their options and not quite ready to convert based on the information available in local search results. When local pages are properly optimized with hyperlocal content and schema markup, they offer a great opportunity for the location to rank in organic search results, too. This helps boost the brand’s overall online presence in local search results – both organic and Map or Local Pack.
Check out this expert panel on-demand webinar on leveraging local pages at scale to learn more.
How to Make Best Use of Local SEO Solutions
Choosing a local marketing partner is a big decision. Enterprise brands need a robust technological solution with user access controls, built-in measurement, and a good degree of automation to stay on top of local SEO at scale. It’s also essential that your local SEO solution of choices includes a level of support that enables you to take advantage of all of the technology’s capabilities. This may require that you have access to local SEO experts to help strategize and implement the best plan for your brand’s unique needs.
Look for a local SEO solution that will provide the functionality and supports you need today, and grow with your business into the future.
In specific, you should be looking for:
- One centralized “source of truth” for business information across all of your locations.
- The ability to optimize at scale, deploying business information updates, offers and content brand-wide or to specific locations (or subsets of locations).
- Measurement with both aggregate and location-specific insights.
- Simplified social and local listing management that enables the brand and local managers to view searcher interactions in a single dashboard, then take action by assigning for followup or responding directly from the dashboard without having to leave and go to the platform.
- Both technology and the service/expertise needed to augment your in-house team’s skills.
- A platform built for the unique needs of enterprise and multi-location brands, to ensure you have access to all features and functions you need to grow.
Rio SEO helps brands take control of their local presence and drive more business at the local level. Take advantage of a free local audit today and see what opportunities you may have to improve local search rankings and revenue even in your most competitive markets. Get your free report here.