Listen to a reading of this blog post:
While some consumers will still flip through a physical copy of the yellow pages, today the majority of people prefer to look online. After all, modern customers are often on the go.
As a result, whether they are driving around town or waiting in the doctor’s office, a quick Google search on their smartphone is both fast and convenient.
Especially for businesses with a local target audience, this shift to mobile search is a big deal. In fact, according to The Mobile Movement Study done in 2011, not only have 95% of smartphone users looked for information about local businesses, but nearly 60% of all mobile searchers end up visiting that business on the same day.
In addition, there are now more searches conducted on mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, than there are desktop searches, or those conducted on a desktop PC or laptop computer.
And to top it all off, Google has announced that mobile-friendliness will become a ranking factor as of April 21, 2015.
To help ensure that your business isn’t missing out on these potential customers, here are several useful ways to better optimize your website for local search.
#1 Have a Mobile Friendly Website
Considering how common smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices are, it should come as no big surprise that having a mobile friendly website is quite important for local search.
After all, when away from their PCs and laptops, most consumers turn to their smartphones in order to find local businesses. Consequently, how fast they can access the information they want greatly influences whether they stop by your local store, make a purchase online, or go and visit other websites instead.
According to a study done by Google in 2012, 61% of people said that they quickly move onto other websites if they don’t find what they are looking for right away.
A site that is not mobile friendly only benefits your competitors! As a result, make sure that everything from your website’s font size to load time makes the grade.
Google has even made it really easy to check your site for mobile-friendliness. They’ve created a mobile-friendly test page where you can enter the url of any page of your site and it will tell you how mobile-ready your site is.
#2 Be Visually Appealing
In addition to being mobile friendly, a website that is well-optimized for local search should also be visually appealing. This includes both your overall website design (modern appearance, easy to navigate) and the visual elements involved (images, color scheme, effects).
Particularly for location-centric businesses like coffee shops and restaurants, simple things can make a big difference. For example, just including a few high quality pictures can give your shop a competitive edge since many consumers like being able to scope out a location before making a visit.
Similarly, don’t be afraid to incorporate different types of media. While overloading your site should be avoided, in general, a website that has attractive photos, infographics, and videos holds the attention of visitors for longer and encourages further engagement.
After all, consider how much more compelling it could be for a potential customer to watch an upbeat video that demonstrates exactly how your product works instead of having to read through a large chunk of descriptive text.
In essence, don’t be afraid to branch out into different mediums and offer some variety.
#3 Use Structured Data and Rich Snippets
A bit more on the technical side of things, another way to optimize your website for local search is to make use of structured data and rich snippets.
Often implemented in the SEO world, structured data involves marking up the code of your website in a certain way so that search engines can understand it better and display additional information with their search results.
These short blurbs are called rich snippets, and typically provide searchers with more detailed information about your business, such as location, price range, phone number, and customer reviews.
This is a big plus for two reasons. First, your website looks richer and more relevant as a search result, which makes it stand out more to potential customers. Second, if implemented correctly, structured data can also provide a boost to your website’s click through rates.
There are many ways to mark up your website; however, two of the most popular are the templates on Schema.org and the Data Highlighter tool (which is part of Google Webmaster Tools).
#4 Find Your Local Keywords
In addition to taking control of your online listings, as a local business owner you should also understand your potential customers. Specifically, you need to know what words and phrases your target audience uses when searching online for your products and services.
Known also as local search terms, these keywords are typically a combination of words that describe your industry as well as your geographic location.
For example, if you own a coffee shop on S. Austin Avenue in Georgetown, Texas, to attract more web traffic, keywords that your business would use as part of your local SEO strategy might include phrases like “georgetown tx coffee shop” or “austin avenue coffee shop”.
One place to start is to analyze the local keywords that visitors have used in the past to find your business website. However, that doesn’t take into consideration those terms your site is not ranking for.
There are also many other strategies out there. Consider looking at the top ranked keywords for your competitor’s website or making use of popular tools like Google AdWords, Google Trends, and Google Analytics. You can also look at Google Webmaster Tools and see what terms you are showing up for but may not be ranked on the front page for.
#5 Localize On-Page Factors
Once you’ve identified what local keywords are best for your business, then the next step is to put those search terms to use. To be precise, important areas to implement these keywords on your website include on-page factors like the title tag and meta descriptions.
Furthermore, for local search, you’ll want to ensure that all of your pages display core contact info such as your business name, physical address, and phone number. Including a map and location description can be beneficial as well.
However, while it is great to use search terms strategically, make sure to avoid black hat behaviors like keyword stuffing, which is just using the same keyword phrase over and over and over again on the same page. That’s a really good way to get your site banned from Google’s index altogether.
#6 Claim Your Business Listings
Whether large or small, as long as your business operates from a physical location, then it would be wise for you, the business owner, to look up and fine tune it’s online presence.
Namely, if your business has been running for at least a few months, chances are high that Google, Foursquare, and other sites have already made a location listing for it. However, since these listings are created automatically, the information provided may not be accurate.
It goes without saying that giving customers the wrong information about your business is a bad idea. So make sure to claim, verify, and correct all pre-existing business listings as well as add new ones where it’s appropriate.
If you need help making your website mobile-friendly, give us a call at 877-334-8022. We’d love to help you!
To your success!