Local SEO Guide For SME's in South Africa
Local SEO is a branch if search engine optimisation. Local SEO helps your business rank higher on Google for area related searches, increasing brand presence, organic traffic and leads.
What is Local SEO?
If you have a local business, like a shop, or have people visiting your office frequently, optimizing your website is also about making sure people are able to find you in real life. But even if you’re not actively getting visitors in your building, but are targeting an audience that is located in the same geographical area as you are, you need to optimize for that area. This is what we call “local SEO.”
The thing is that if you want to optimize for, for instance, a service area that you are not located in physically, your main tool for optimization is content. You should simply write a lot about that area. We found that often, this leads to forced pages that have little to do with the business at hand. It’s clear that these pages are only added for SEO reasons.
We’ll break this Local SEO thing down for you.
Lets break it down: What is a ‘Local Search’?
Local search engine optimization is a branch of SEO that focuses on optimizing a website to be found in local search results.
Local search encompasses all those nifty search terms that scream local, such as:
- lawyers near me
- doctors near me
- lawyers in [city name]
- doctors in [city name]
Basically, local SEO is a strategic process that focuses on emphasizing the optimization efforts of local brick-and-mortar businesses.
DID YOU KNOW? According to Google, 46% of searches have a ‘local intent’.
What are Local SERPs?
Search Engine Results Pages (also known as “SERPs” or “SERP”) are Google’s response to a user’s search query. SERPs tend to include organic search results, paid Google Ads results, Featured Snippets, Knowledge Graphs, video results and so much more. Basically, you type (or say) something to Google. And the SERP is what you get back.
Search Engine Results Page
Even though Google now has many SERP features that appear on the first page, the two most important categories are paid results and organic results.
Search Engine Results Page – Paid and Organic
The paid results are from advertisers bidding on keywords via Google Ads. Although Google Ads take ad relevancy into account, their placement essentially goes to the highest bidder.
The organic results are “earned” placements that are determined by Google’s algorithm to be the overall best, most relevant results for a given search.
What is Google My Business?
Google My Business (GMB) is, your business profile on Google and puts your business on Google in a variety of ways.
It feeds information to a variety of places, including the local pack and Google Maps search results, but the most familiar appearance will likely be when it’s in the top right (or top on mobile) of a branded search for your business, as below.
This is what’s known as the Knowledge Panel. Your GMB profile can include a host of information submitted by yourself, such as services you offer, contact details, business description, category, and opening times but it’s important to note that features such as GMB attributes, GMB Q&As, and Google Reviews are almost entirely generated by consumers, ideally with experience of your business.
A big part of local SEO is making your GMB profile as up-to-date and accurate as possible, so that it has a higher chance of appearing in the local pack, and trustworthy, attractive and appealing enough to warrant a click through. Although it’s incredibly powerful, Google My Business is just one example of what’s known as a ‘citation’.
What are citations?
Citation are any place your business’ NAPW (Name, Address, Phone number, Website URL) information appears together online, typically in an online directory or business listings website. Citations are extremely important to get in place for local SEO.
Basically, if you don’t appear in the places people are actively looking for businesses like yours, you’re likely to get overtaken by the competitors that do (you also risk losing potential customers by the boatload).
Getting citations for your local business isn’t just important, it’s widely known as “getting a seat at the table” in local search optimization, as in “if you don’t get citations, your business won’t be served”’. While it’s key to make this a foundational aspect of your local SEO strategy, by building citations in the most relevant websites, research shows that if they’re not regularly updated and cleaned up, there can be serious consequences.
DID YOU KNOW? 68% of consumers say they would stop using a local business if they found incorrect information in local directories.
How do I rank well in local search?
So now that we have enlightened you as to what Local SEO is all about, you probably want to know how to successfully get it?
First, we’d recommend familiarizing yourself with the three core elements of local search ranking:
- Proximity: How close is your business to the searcher?
- Relevance: How relevant to the search query are your products and services?
- Prominence: What do other consumers say about your products and services?
What are the main local SEO services?
Thanks to Google’s continues evolving nature, Local SEO can be a lot of work. It’s always changing, and can take a lot of time and effort to get right. This is why many SEO agencies and service consultants invest in learning how to do local SEO rather than broader SEO. The rules are very different as you’re aiming to achieve different goals, and in many cases clients don’t mind if the high visibility of their businesses in local search and business listings directories leads to more direct contact and foot traffic than website visits. (Score! Right?)
Lets look into an overview of all the local SEO services that can make a difference below:
1. "Localise" Your Website
To ‘localise’ your website means including your city, county or region name naturally throughout your site. For businesses with several locations, this could involve creating separate pages or Content Hubs for individual locations. Other tactics include getting involved with local community events and featuring articles and information about them on the site.
2. Citation Building
Make sure your website features on citation sites and online business directories. Not only will this help customers find your business, but featuring your company’s name, address, phone number and website URL (NAPW) on citation sites and adding extra information to business directories will help improve your search rankings.
3. Claiming Your Google My Business Listing
Claiming your Google My Business page is a a key step towards helping your business display on important Google services, such as local search results and Google Maps. GMB (and its Microsoft equivalent, Bing Places for Business) should always be the first online directory you take ownership of.
4. Managing Reviews & Ratings
Receiving real and honest reviews are critical both for showcasing the quality of your service and for sending signals to search engines that your site and service are trusted and useful. The amount of reviews you receive, the overall quality of the reviews and the authority of the review sites themselves are all important factors for local search rankings.
5. Quality Backlinks
Naturally obtained backlinks from well-regarded websites help search engines recognize your site as a trusted source of information and boosts the ‘prominence’ aspect of the local search algorithm. Links from local newspapers, bloggers and business associations, as well as citations, can all help improve your search visibility.
You can find out more on optimizing your SEO in our 19 Digital “What is SEO & Why Do I Need It” blog.
Here are some key stats on Local SEO
Grow your business using Local SEO
These local search marketing trends are more advanced and strong now and they’re only going to get stronger and more significant in the future, especially considering how keen Google is to keep the local search experience off your website.
The time is now for you to take advantage of local SEO services and boost your business before your competitors catch on. All local businesses, from plumbers and builders to florists and accountants can improve their business and make more money through local SEO marketing, so get started today!