Every marketing strategy needs clear objectives, structure, organization, and measurements. Whether you are a local business that is just starting and trying to get off the ground, or a more established organization looking to grow, a solid local SEO campaign pays huge dividends.
The Google local SEO pack in recent years has become a huge component of a successful digital strategy. The search process for a user has become much easier because the pack includes a useful Google map along with company information such as address, location hours, and reviews.
While several technicalities have changed over time (such as limiting the number of locations in the pack from seven to three), the essence of the local pack has remained the same. Google has made this feature increasingly more prevalent in search results, especially mobile. The question we have to ask as marketers, then, is how do we approach the local SEO pack to receive profitable returns?
1. Scout Out Your Local SEO Competition
Solid competitive research yields valuable results and insights when trying to go after the local SEO pack. First, begin by trying to understand the category in which you compete. Within what frame of reference do your offerings live? What does your business give to people? What local searches are you currently ranking for? Performing effective keyword research will give you foundational insights and knowledge into what your consumers are looking for and how you can appeal to them, as well as who your competitors are.
When you finally know the arena in which you play, you will be better positioned to analyze which local pack keyword searches are most valuable to go after. Continuously monitoring collecting data on these search results help you to know what approaches to take. The local pack is a very volatile place. Changes are always happening, even daily. Although there are only three places to rank, you compete against a lot more than just two or three other businesses.
When looking at the competition, ask yourself, “What trends do I see? What consistencies are there between those who are ranking higher than me? What am I not doing that they are?” When ranking for the local pack, keep things in perspective and remember that you are only good if you are better than your competition.
2. Quality Backlinks are Still a Big Deal
Links to your site have always been a major factor in boosting SEO rankings. Moz’s 2017 local ranking factors listed backlinks as the number one factor in normal organic local SEO and number two in ranking for the local pack. Links will remain an important indicator to Google for the foreseeable future.
One important to note is that Google has continued to stress is the importance of quality backlinks. Good SEO practices always try to focus on finding quality links, but although a high domain authority is important, more should be considered when trying to rank higher locally.
Because so much of local relies heavily on location, businesses should heavily consider from what location (where applicable) that their backlinks are coming from. If you’re a restaurant in San Francisco and get a backlink from SF.Eater.com, Google will notice and probably give you a lot more link juice than say a more general or national restaurant blog that has a similar DA. Do some research and see what opportunities are available to link locally.
3. Take a Look into LSA’s
LSA’s, or Local Search Ads (also referred to as Local Pack Ads), have become much more relevant within the last year. Currently, you can set up local pack ads for your business through the Google AdWords extension.
In a research study done by Moz earlier this year, in some places 35% of competitive keywords have local pack ads. Some categories (such as law, automotive, and medical related keywords) have up to 50-60% of keywords including LSA’s. Although they aren’t in every city or area nationally, this trend will continue to grow as Google incorporates these ads more and more into local pack search results so it will be imperative that you become familiar with how they work. With such increased exposure, the benefits of going after LSA’s are obvious and if you play your cards are played right, LSA’s could return a big ROI for small businesses.
An up-to-date GMB account is crucial to having success as well as following smart tactics to follow when creating an AdWords campaign, including solid citation practices. Again, focus on quality –– that of your customer experience but also the metrics performed by Google to measure ad quality. All of these points will be correlated to your campaign’s success.
4. What’s the Future of Local SEO and the Local Pack?
With all of these exciting changes already happening in local SEO, what could the future possibly hold? As always, there is a huge array of speculation, but there are a few things we could probably assume will become even more prominent in the future.
Voice assistant software as improved leaps and bounds in recent years, especially in mobile. Voice search is a new animal that will absolutely need to be optimized for now and even more in the future. The tricky part is that the way and the intent that a searcher asks for information from a typed search and a voice search are quite different. There are a lot of different factors specific to voice search that SEOs will need to become familiar with in order to succeed.
Other experts, such as David Mihm, feel that slightly more ambiguous factors such as “entity authority” and engagement will be huge factors that local search will shift toward in the next few years. Entity authority deals with the idea Google will be much more likely to rank you higher for things like how well local business is known and the more raport it has. A lot of this deals with what other people are saying about your business as well as reviews and other indicators. Engagement will deal specifically with measurements of interactions such as click-to-call buttons from the SERP, direct transactions either through search or from Google’s local knowledge panel, and click-through rates.
As the digital marketing landscape continues to shift to a more user-focused experience, it is even more vital that marketers and small business owners gain experience and skills in the realm of local SEO. No matter your business or industry, an intentional, well thought out local campaign must include plans for the local SEO pack as it will bring extremely profitable returns.