There are more reasons than ever to focus on local search optimization, even if you’re one of the many brands without a physical store presence. Understanding how constantly connected consumers move between devices, searches and channels–and where they’re making decisions within that journey–is key in getting your brand in front of on-the-go prospects.
Search is often the first stop for consumers with a need. Over the last two years, we’ve seen “where to buy” search queries increase by 85%. Consumers will search and compare before even visiting your store or website. And the results and information presented to them is what drives those in-store visits and actions. Fully 76% of location searches end in a same-day visit to a store.
Even once a consumer is in your physical space, however, they’re likely still searching. They’re comparison shopping, reading reviews, browsing your website and more. Does your content support the next step in their journey–completing the transaction?
Rio SEO and Catalyst recently partnered on an information-packed webinar to share tips and actionable advice on winning more customers with local search. The webinar was hosted by Meghan Lavin, Partner and Director of Marketing at Catalyst, and featured speakers Jim Kensicki, Managing Director of Search & Social at Catalyst, and Joe Esposito, VP of Global Strategic Partnerships at Rio SEO. In this post, we’ll share their best tips to help you chart the course to winning more customers and driving better business results through a holistic, optimized local search presence.
You’ll be able to access the webinar recording at the end of this post. In the meantime, let’s jump right in with Joe and Jim’s top local search optimization tips.
1. Master Your GMB Listings
Initially, consumers used search to find specific types of businesses, eg.: “Are there restaurants near me?” Or “hardware stores near me.” Increasingly, consumers are expressing their needs in terms of the products and services they seek, eg.: “Steak dinners near me” or “cordless drill in San Diego.”
Getting out in front of these queries with rich, compelling local listings is critical. Consumers are often looking for a business name, address or phone number. But they increasingly expect to see photos and videos, customer reviews and other rich media to help them decide which location to visit, or which service provider to call. You want to provide as much information as you can, but still give people a reason to click through to your site.
Accurate, complete Google My Business listings free of duplications or ownership conflicts send strong ranking signals, aid in discovery and help drive more traffic in-store. Structure your data, measure impressions (not just clicks), and optimize your local listings to provide not only information, but an exceptional user experience.
2. Move Beyond Local Listings
There’s more to local search optimization than just listings; in fact, locators and local pages are just as important, if not more so. On that foundation of accurate local listings, you can build these pages that help you rank organically and serve as a destination for customers to help them take that next step.
How does this work? Take Petco, for example. In addition to Local Pages for each city and state in which the brand has a physical store, Petco uses specialty pages with integrated Bazaarvoice reviews to showcase the various services available at each location. Each page features Live Chat, dynamic headers and footers, in-store events listings and hyperlocal content. This strategy helped the brand achieve an average 42% lift in search volume across its more than 1,500 U.S. locations.
Local reviews are critical in converting lookers to buyers, through the power of social validation. They’re a major factor in local SEO success, as impartial reviews give the page credibility with search engines. In addition to their influence on purchasing behavior, integrated reviews can also be a customer service opportunity and a source of business intelligence and insight. Make sure you’re monitoring and measuring first-party reviews (surveys, on-page product reviews, etc.) as well as third-party reviews from sites like Google, Facebook, Yelp and TripAdvisor.
Learn more about the power of local and speciality pages here.
3. Put Your Local Data to Work
Leveraged properly, the massive amount of data brands have access to is critical in shaping a successful local SEO strategy. The data Google gives you within MapPack insights is a great place to start, especially since Google is essentially acting as an entry point for so many visitors.
Rio SEO’s Local Reporting brings you those insights and a lot more, all within a single universal dashboard. As a multi-location brand, it’s important that you have the granularity to break insights down and measure ROI to the individual location level, but also to roll up your reporting to the city, region or state level, as well.
Then, Catalyst’s Fusion takes data from Rio, your analytics and search accounts, Google Trends and more to give you integrated insights and reporting across the brand’s presence. In measuring what matters and making insights accessible to decision makers at the local and brand level, you can facilitate smarter and more informed business decisions across the company.
4. Integrate Campaigns Across Channels
There’s no success in silos, and local SEO is no exception. Local should be properly integrated with your campaigns across all channels. For example, Google AdWords uses data from your GMB listings to power all of its location-based extensions and features. Want to use paid search to boost your presence across Maps and Search? The information in those GMB has to be accurate and current. In short, you need to allow your location data to inform strategy around paid campaigns. However, you also ensure that the ads you’re running contain 100% accurate information for consumers.
Ask yourself, what kind of data is your brand sitting on? What reporting and insights can you bring into the mix across channels, as far as engagement, rank, quality or quantity of reviews, etc.?
A lot of teams allow these data buckets to sit separately, but integrated campaigns with shared data can help you:
- Identify visibility weaknesses in key markets/areas and launch/increase spend only in those geographies to boost strength.
- Achieve optimal local campaign management.
- Mitigate waste & achieve efficiency with smaller local budgets.
- Have confidence in location data for geo-targeting and ad extensions.
5. Cover All Service Areas
More than anything else, on-the-go consumers are all about the convenience of their options for solving their problem. Whether or not your brand actually has physical locations, local and that intangible benefit that is convenience are undoubtedly linked.
Put another way, the consumer behavior of searching “near me” doesn’t change when the business operates on service areas rather than store locations.
A national beverage brand, for example, was not appearing for local non-branded searches or in Map Pack results. This was because their physical presence in the U.S. consisted of only under 100 large national distribution centers. With little local presence, the company had no listings to entice the over 1 million consumers searching specifically for beverage and water delivery each month.
A Look at the Results of Local Search Optimization
Rio SEO put in place a solution consisting of local pages, specialty pages and local listings management to help the brand increase its organic and local search presence across each service area. This powerful combination elicited an increase of 966,000 organic searches (86% of those non-branded). Moreover, it resulted in 6,500 additional phone calls with an average 45% conversion rate to new orders. What’s more, the brand achieved 1,880 #1 rankings on Google for virtual location or service area pages for the brand’s key phrase “water delivery + city name.” They also increased the brand’s organic visibility for derivative long-tail keyword phrases.
At the end of the day, all brands need to be thinking about local search optimization in alignment with the way consumers now search for information.
You can check out the full webinar with audience Q&A here:
View the slides:
For additional resources on online customer engagement, don’t miss:
- Catalyst’s just-released POV on recent Google changes
- Your free local presence audit from Rio SEO
- Get answers to your frequently asked questions
Karisa Macias has extensive expertise in local search, digital marketing, and technology.