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02
Sep

The Rise of Local SEO

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If you are unsure whether or not the latest piece of digital marketing advice is really going to give you an edge over your competitors, and not just another piece of SEO sales talk, take a look at what is being said in the mainstream media. This rule certainly holds true for local SEO, as this week, The Drum ran a piece on this very topic – a sure sign that local SEO deserves your attention.

Local SEO is an often overlooked marketing task by many small businesses. It is sometimes considered less important than organic SEO, PPC or even, in some industries at least, Social Media. However, local SEO really has come a long was in the last few years, with a wide range of new services and platforms to market on.

What is really good news for businesses is that it is relatively easy to optimise and rank a website for some local SEO terms, especially if you do your keyword research and understand how links, citations and paid advertising all come together to provide a perfect way to build your brand. The news is certainly spreading, as are seeing more and more enquiries coming through our Chelmsford SEO services page.

The Rise of Mobile

It is almost a year since Google reported that mobile searches had overtaken desktop searches. This trend has continued, and we predict that over the next decade, desktop searches will decline considerably and make up a small percentage of all search traffic. As mobile phones and tablets become more powerful, desktop PCs are becoming obsolete for the average computer user. Last year, Pew Research Center reported that 73% of all teenagers had access to a smartphone. Desktop computers are still owned by around 72% of households, but their use is certainly dwindling, and it is predicted that today’s teenagers are unlikely to invest in a desktop PC when they leave the family home, unless they have specific needs, such as study or work requirements. How does all this affect local search?

Analysis of search data over the years has indicated that when people use a mobile phone they are often interested in local services. In fact, most Internet searchers are looking for something local. Whether it be a local trades person, a restaurant, hairdresser or financial adviser, people often want to deal with a local business. Interestingly, around half of all local searches result in a visit to, and purchase from, a physical store.

Voice Search Optimisation

Around half of all teenagers and 41 percent of adults use voice search every day to find some local information. Conversational search is growing faster than any other search segment.

What Are Near Me Searches?

The big question for business is, what are people searching for locally? One of the most common search phrases appended to the usual keyword phrase is “near me”. It is arguable if this phrase is still needed, as Google seems to have a pretty good idea of where we are searching from, but all the same, people type it into Google when searching for a “hairdressers near me”, or an “accountant near me”.

Other common phrases added to broader keywords include “closest” and “nearby”, along with phrases such as “shops open now”. Fortunately, since the Pigeon update, Google is very good at returning good local results without the need of these phrases – Google can often determine intent from a search, so if you search for a cafe, it will assume that you want to go to that cafe now.

Google has recently made some big changes to its own local search products. For example, in Google My Business, it is no longer possible to edit any business description. Google now provides more detailed information on how a customer can find the business, and also details such as opening hours and contact telephone numbers.

Expect More Calls

Something many businesses do not prepare themselves for is receiving more phone calls via their website, as opposed to email enquiries. Everybody wants more local customers, but few companies have the resources to handle all the calls that come in when a local SEO campaign is doing really well.

For so many years businesses assumed that email would always be the first method of communication when somebody landed on their business site, that some businesses became used to receiving email enquiries via their digital platform rather than telephone calls. Nowadays, people are more likely to call direct from their mobiles – this is especially when click-to-call code is used on all telephone numbers displayed on a website.

Google is Taking Local More Seriously

Google has been asking webmasters to make their sites mobile friendly for several years already, but these recent changes, along with the removal of the “mobile friendly” label in search, is a sure sign that Google now considers mobile search to be the most important form of Internet search.

There are many news ways to help a website rank well in the local search results. One is to use Schema markup, which allows Google, and other search engines, to extract vital details from a website to display in the search results.

We have already shared some ways to rank well on mobile search, but expect more changes and updates over the forthcoming months. Local SEO is one of the most rapidly evolving aspects of digital marketing today, and companies that can stay ahead of the innovation curve will certainly reap the benefits.

Google Is Getting More Personal

Google knows that personalised search results are more effective than generic ones, and geolocation data is one of the easiest and most reliable personal metrics that a search engine can obtain.

Many smartphones provide Google with location data, either from GPS, Wi-Fi, IP addresses or Near Field Communication (NFC), as well as people simply “checking in” or using Google Maps for navigation. This all helps Google to provide more relevant local search results. For example, if somebody is searching for a curry house, or a supermarket, Google can immediately display the nearest ones, along with review data sourced from Schema markup. This helps people to make a quick decision without even visiting a website.

While the thought of people not using your website may at first sound like a failure, if you can get more customers through the door, or picking up the phone, without even having to deal with them on online, that is actually a success. Do your local SEO well enough, and you can win new customers without needing a state-of-the-art website – a mobile optimised WordPress website, for instance, is all you need to improve your local listings.

Google is starting to develop new advertising formats for mobile search, yet another sign that mobile and local search is where we should all now be focused. If you have not yet started your local SEO campaign, you should need to speak to a search consultant today.

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