Claire Carlile is a freelance local SEO expert helping small businesses to better themselves at digital marketing. Her Brighton SEO talk provides a series of top tips for local SEO success.
What is local SEO?
Local SEO is the process of optimising your online presence to attract more business from relevant local searches
The search landscape has changed over time, with greater use of mobile comes a greater use of local searches. Google is consistently pushing businesses towards using Google My Business (GMB) as a hub for business listings, therefore our engagement with it is crucial.
Before we begin – a note on why are local searches important
The power of location-based searches is easy to understand. When we make a geo-modified search, we include a location and have explicit local intent in the search. When we make a geo-located search, we have implicit local intent and are physically located in a specific area. Businesses should aim to maximise visibility for these searches, regardless of the device users are searching on, and regardless of the type of results generated.
What you should be doing
Use Google Posts
Launched June 2017, a Google Post is like a ‘micro-blog’. These can be used to highlight offers, promote events, or showcase reviews. But only a small proportion of SMEs have ever created one! Google Posts are temporary by nature, but we can measure post performance using GMB insights. These took a bit of a dive in late 2018, but since February 2019 posts are being pulled through into more prominent positions in the SERPs.
Get Google reviews
Reviews are important to have, so businesses should be asking for them, replying to them, and including them on their websites as a crucial trust signal. Having Google reviews can help your business stand out online. Think about which business you would be more likely to click – one with reviews, or one without? As many as 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, which is a huge engagement factor. This is especially the case for local businesses, as 73% of customers have a greater trust in those with positive reviews.
Have great images
We live in a very visual internet culture where we curate photos to showcase our businesses and brand, therefore it’s important to include these in your GMB profile. Studies have shown that businesses with photos receive 42% more requests for driving directions to their location, and 35% more clicks through to their websites than those that don’t!
You could choose to hire a photographer for a 360-degree virtual tour, or take them yourself in Google Street view. It’s important to keep your images updated regularly, as if you don’t it can make people question whether your business is still operating. Make sure to clear out any images for old service offerings that are no longer available.
Claire’s top tip is to create a photo opportunity at your business location and to encourage customers to upload to Google Maps and tag the business. For obvious reasons, these photos must have been taken at your business location.
Use the right categories
Pick categories that make the most sense for your business offering and stop there. That might be one or a few categories, but don’t spam with irrelevant ones. Your first category should be the most important one to your business, as this affects the functionality that you are offered in GMB.
Impression’s tip: this can be a great tool for competitor research too – if you want to begin ranking, check out which categories your competitors are using!
Use tracking URLs
Add UTM parameters to the URLs used to track which parts of your GMB profile are driving traffic and conversions to your site. These are also opportunities to link back to your site from Google! If we’re saying to small businesses that they need to invest time in keeping their GMB profile up to date, we need to be able to show the effect that this is having on traffic and conversions.
Fight name spam in order to rank higher
Popular spam tactics include keyword stuffing in business names, listing businesses not eligible for maps, creating multiple listings for the same business, and listing for a business at a place it doesn’t physically exist. If you see competitor businesses that you believe are spamming then why not check out their business and, if relevant, suggest edits to their profile.
Make sure to keep a record of edits to your own profile too, as a good edit history will likely influence approval and approval speed in the future. Concentrate on quality of edits, not quantity.
Impression’s tip: At this point, it’s unrealistic to expect Google to deal with the scale of spam out there, so it’s up to local SEOs and businesses to report and escalate incidences via support channels.
Try product collections
These are aimed at SMEs and are a great way to manually populate your inventory to show in the knowledge panel. There are two ways to do this – using either product posts or products beta. The latter has only just rolled out to desktop on 4th April 2019.
Product posts appear on their own, whereas product collections are more like categories. These are also auto-populated with a call now CTA button. Product collections have to be curated manually right now, so beware of duplicates, changes in prices, and changes in your product offering.
Nowadays, people will usually message rather than calling up a business (if they know they will get a response). To enable messaging you will need to install the GMB app and turn on messaging – this cannot currently be run via desktop.
Do make sure to manage expectations with regard to response time. Also, don’t forget to enable notifications on your device so you see when messages come through!
Read all of the good things
Claire concludes her talk with a reminder of how important it is to keep up to date with GMB developments so you can continue to maximise the potential of your business profile.
What not to do
Don’t write reviews for yourself, your employer, or former employer
Businesses with overly positive reviews look fake and spammy, so it’s really not worth your time.
Don’t write spammy reviews for your competitors
This is against Google’s terms of service and you risk your own business being penalised.
Don’t review gate
All potential reviewers must have the same funnel, regardless of whether they want to leave a positive, negative, or neutral review.
Don’t enable messaging
If you know you are not going to be able to interact with your customers, it’s best to leave this feature turned off.
Don’t keyword stuff your business name
Although annoyingly this does work for some businesses, if everyone does this the map pack will look increasingly spammy and eventually users will disregard it.
If it’s not obvious by now, taking the time to build out your GMB profile can have a huge impact on your local organic presence. It can be used to increase engagement, is likely a conversion factor, and you likely have the copy written up somewhere on your site already! Even if Google does choose to retire any of these features in the future, the speed and ease with which businesses can optimise their profiles make it a highly effective technique for capturing low-hanging fruit.
This post is one of 12 in our Brighton SEO 2019 collection
- Brighton SEO: How to Get More From Digital PR – Laura Hampton
- Brighton SEO – Steff Preyer – Voice Visibility: Tracking voice results on Alexa & Google
- Brighton SEO: Greg Gifford – Harry and Lloyd’s Idiot Proof Guide To GMB Optimisation
- Brighton SEO – Oliver Ewbank – Become a Local Hero: PPC Tips To Boss Your Neighbourhood
- Paid Social Show: Rebecca Meekings – Top Tips for Promoted Pin Success
- Brighton SEO – Tanesha Stafford – Land Grab: How to win business from your competitors with Google PPC
- Brighton SEO – Oliver Brett – How To Make ‘Fake News’ for Links
- Brighton SEO – Julia Logan – Why we should stop ignoring Bing – 12th April 2019
- Data science @ Brighton SEO – Chris Pitt – Using data science to work smarter, not harder in PPC
- Brighton SEO – Gareth Simpson – LMFAO: Leveraging Machines for Awesome Outreach
- Brighton SEO: Claire Carlile – Do’s and Don’ts for Local SEO Success
- Brighton SEO – Kat Kynes – The Art of Content Necromancy: How to Resurrect a Dead Campaign