Google’s Local 3-Pack: How to Highlight Your Local Business Online

Google’s Local 3-Pack: How to Highlight Your Local Business Online

What is Google’s local 3-pack? Simply put, local 3-pack is what Google’s search engine algorithm displays as the top 3 results for searches performed by local users when looking for places, brands, companies, establishments, businesses, and stores among other related stuff near them. And as these are mainly for local searches, Google provides storefront addresses and business hours for each result, instead of phone numbers, especially for mobile search.

As of this writing, more than 46% of all searches globally have local intent. This is according to Google’s most recent report.

But a lot of local businesses all around the world fail to optimize their Web properties and mobile apps for this. They miss the opportunity to have their addresses and business hours listed for relevant local searches. And that translates to significant opportunity costs, especially since they’re already spending time and money for promoting their latest offers to their ideal local audiences.

What is Google My Business? This is a free-to-use platform that can allow local business owners like you to tweak your Web properties and mobile apps for Google’s local 3-pack. And you have the straightforward opportunity to do this right now, as many local stores and businesses fail to take advantage of this platform.

Now here, we’ll talk about strategic ways to optimize your Web properties for Google’s local 3-pack. Plus, we’ll let you in on tactical methods for using Google My Business to your advantage. So dig right in!

Why Is It Crucial for Your Business to be Listed in Organic Local Google Search Results?

1. More Targeted, Much Narrower Search Intent

The University of Hong Kong published this 2006 research study, indicating that searches can be primarily categorized into 2 distinct goals. The first category is where searchers are looking for specific information. And according to the same study, many of them tend to avoid deviating from this singular subject area. Meanwhile, the second category is where searchers are trying to find more general information about certain topics related to the terms they used.

The researchers then classified these as specific and exhaustive Google searches. With the former, users are mostly near the end of a relevant pipeline. They’re likely to take immediate action once they find what they’re looking for. On the other hand, the latter is where users are just at the beginning of a related funnel. A significant majority of them is expected to perform succeeding searches as they learn from more particular content with each step.

So as you can posit from this, a considerable number of specific searches in particular niches tend to be more localized. This means they’re targeted at stuff that’s easily accessible to the user. On the contrary, most exhaustive searches are much broader and can be targeted at wider geographic locations.

And what this means for digital marketers like us is, specific searches are likely more straightforward to convert than exhaustive searches. So optimizing our Web properties and mobile apps for local searches is generally a more cost-effective approach to generate much better returns for our Web marketing investments.

You can just imagine the time, effort, and fiscal costs involved in covering bases most relevant to what an exhaustive searcher goes through. Remember, these broader topic areas that span much wider geos can become insanely competitive quite fast. But now compare that to what you need to invest when you’re targeting specific searchers, considering that you’ll be covering much fewer bases when you do this. Wouldn’t that be a more cost-effective strategy for the long term?

All About the 2013 Hummingbird Update

Plus, keep in mind that Google has been testing and improving new ways to determine a user’s search intent since 2013. This was when they implemented their Hummingbird update. In a nutshell, Google didn’t just tweak a few components of their search engine ranking algorithm when they announced Hummingbird.

Instead, Google revolutionized the way their algorithm treats and processes searches entered by users when they implemented this update. The primary purpose, Google publicly said, was to convert its search engine into a personal digital assistant that can profoundly understand the context of natural human queries. They also announced that this was their response to rising voice search queries globally, largely due to the massive shift of users worldwide from desktops to mobile devices and smartphones.

But it wasn’t just Google that recognized this urgent need to try and understand a user’s search intent. Yandex, the most widely used search engine in Russia and neighboring regions, implemented their version of Hummingbird around the same time. They called it Korolyov, which is derived from a Russian word that means “king”.

So it’s crucial for local business owners like us today to satisfy search intent through our on-page SEO efforts. And we can do that in more straightforward ways when we target specific local searches that are most relevant to our brand, content, products, and services.

All About Google & Search Intent This 2020

A lot of academic groups and independent developers all around the world are focusing on determining how Google is trying to understand a user’s search intent. These include many technical SEOers and linguists, along with machine learning (ML) and deep learning (DL) developers. Most of them specialize in fields like NLU (natural language understanding) and NLP (natural language processing).

They continue to perform their own research studies and tests for this purpose. What they normally do is, to test out large random sets of search terms and IP addresses, store organic results in object-relational databases, and analyze this data as well as the directionalities and relationships of relevant contextual items. They often do this through fully automatic and semi-manual methods.

One such technical SEOer is Google’s own Paul Haahr. In 2016, he did a compelling presentation about the process chain that Google uses to generate organic results based on natural human queries. This was targeted at technical SEOers, software and network engineers, researchers, and data scientists in relevant linguistics, NLU, and NLP fields.

In that presentation, he also talked about the “highly meets” scale. This is mentioned in the Google Search Quality Rating Guidelines.

Paul Haahr also gave some basic examples regarding this. He said it’s highly likely for users performing specific searches in Google that are related to a certain store like Walmart to be looking for establishments nearest their current locations. So for example, if a user is in San Diego, then Google’s top organic results should be about Walmart stores in San Diego, and not about Walmart’s headquarters in Arkansas.

Section 3 in the Google Search Quality Rating Guidelines talks about this, among other relevant points in more detail. There’s the “Need Met Rating Guidelines” here, too, along with strategies on how to integrate and apply this to our on-page content and Web properties. Other nested guideline sets here include “Fully Meets” or FullyM and “Fails to Meet” or FailsM.

This is also where discussions about automatic red flags for various types of content are found. Some of the categories that trigger these red flags include a mismatch to the user’s geographic location and language, slow loading pages or non-existent URLs, and content that’s porn, discriminatory, offensive, disgusting, illegal, and prohibited in the user’s country.

2. Straightforward Conversions of Web Traffic to Targeted Foot Traffic

This report indicates that around 96% of all Web shoppers search for local businesses when they want to buy something. So whether you intend to sell your products through an e-commerce platform or not, today’s local business needs a website or at least a social media page. Otherwise, you’d be missing out on a lot of prospects and paying customers.

But imagine the time and effort you’d need to invest when you target exhaustive searches. Remember, those Web shoppers are in the early phases of a relevant sales funnel. They’re looking for much broader information, such as the top things to keep in mind when trying to find the best product out there today, like say a microwave oven or a bread maker machine. And, this translates to you providing them with what they’re looking for at these early stages of your sales funnel, down to their more specific content needs, such as inquiries and follow-up questions once they contact you.

Now you can skip much of this stuff and go straight to converting targeted Web traffic into paying customers. And to do this right, you’re advised to focus on specific searches most relevant to your brand, content, products, and services. This way, you’ll be able to formulate, optimize, and scale a more cost-effective approach for generating highly convertible foot traffic.

This case study from Harvard Business Review points out a phenomenon now known as “showrooming“. Their report says, more local businesses today are finding it increasingly challenging to convert foot traffic into paying customers.

This is largely due to more shoppers today preferring to go to local storefronts and browsing around until they find what they really want. But keep in mind, the same study points out that many of them don’t buy stuff during these in-store situations. Instead, they prefer to use the Internet for purchasing what they found from those local businesses.

And remember, this recent research study indicates that shoppers who do this tend to offer a 30% higher lifetime value for local businesses. So keep on reading to learn about some of the quickest and simplest ways to optimize your Web properties for specific local Google searches today.

3. Piggyback on the Popularity of Wildly Famous Landmarks Around Your Storefront

Remember, there are lots of good reasons why your target customers are still searching on the Web for nearby local businesses. Plus, many are still looking for establishments that sell products and services similar to your offers. And they’re doing this instead of going straight to your store, or to your competitors.

Now a likely reason is, they aren’t quite familiar with similar businesses around them just yet. And another’s they don’t know how to go to your store. So to ensure you get highly convertible foot traffic, don’t forget to optimize your Web properties and mobile apps for their specific searches.

But if you’re a local business owner with multiple storefront locations, then avoid the urge to consolidate all the details of your branches and main headquarters in a single landing page. You surely wouldn’t want to miss out on beneficial SEO opportunities that can drive more foot traffic and sales to your business, right?

So you’re advised to create separate Web pages under your main domain. Do this for each of your storefront locations.

And of course, optimize the content, metadata, and more technical attributes of each landing page for specific local searches. So here’s how to do this right, according to the results of our iterative tests:

  • Include the NAT details of each branch. That stands for name, address, and telephone numbers;
  • Also add branch-specific information that’s helpful for your ideal customers, such as buyer testimonials, relevant news, social media pages, staff data, and particular contact details, among others;
  • Integrate an embedded Google Map into your landing pages. Keep in mind, almost all shoppers today use some sort of GPS. And lots of them are using apps and devices that use Google Maps;
  • Make it quicker and easier for them to analyze the embedded Google Maps in your pages through a simple to understand directions on how to go to each of your stores. And here’s where you can mention wildly popular landmarks near your storefront. This way, Google will treat these as relevant entities for related searches, providing you with SEO benefits as a result;
  • In each of your pages, strategically place testimonials and comments from customers nearest each store;
  • Always make sure to include relevant metadata details in each page, such as significant location-specific descriptions and title tags;
  • Tweak the overall visual presentation of your pages. Do this by including appealing photos of the external and internal areas of your stores; and
  • You’re also advised to place photos of your customer-facing staff in action. Do this for each of your stores.

We suggest treating the pages for each of your branches as micro niche sites. This way, you can optimize them for Google by expanding each page with useful, up-to-date content. And when it comes to URL structure, here are some of our recommendations for optimum SEO benefits, based on the content types mentioned earlier:

  • www.yourdomain.com/locations/location-1/directions
  • www.yourdomain.com/locations/location-1/testimonials
  • www.yourdomain.com/locations/location-2/directions
  • www.yourdomain.com/locations/location-2/testimonials

And again, don’t forget to tweak your content for on-page SEO. This means to keep in mind to include suitable location-specific keywords in the title tags, meta descriptions, and image alt text of your Web pages.

Plus, a local business schema markup for your Web properties is beneficial for your SEO efforts. This allows Google to display relevant details about your business as part of their organic results. This includes the address, business hours, featured images, and phone numbers of your storefronts. And of course, the objective is to make it quicker, easier, and more straightforward for Google bots to find, crawl and index your Web pages.

4. Put Your Local Business Well Within the Radar of Your Ideal Web Traffic & Targeted Mobile Customers

If you do this right, then you have the opportunity to rank higher than your competitors, even if their local storefronts are nearer to your target Web traffic and ideal customers. That’s because based on our most recent iterative internal tests, Google’s local pack results tend to vary, even with specific searches done by users standing a few miles away from each other.

For example, we tested the specific keyphrase “plumbers in Seattle”. And for each test run, we used 10 different Seattle-based residential IPs.

One result we got was a relevant business ranking 3rd in Google’s local pack when the search was performed in 13th Avenue Seattle. Then, it ranked 8th when the same search was done using an IP that’s 5 miles away from the previous location.

But we also noticed a significant ranking difference when we tried Google’s map view. In the example above, the same business only ranked 8th for the same specific search when we switched to map view, instead of 3rd.

And remember, lots of previous navigation options are already deactivated. This includes flyout business cards and links in Google My Business.

So what this means is, the majority of your target Web traffic and local customers are likely to use Google’s recently implemented 20-business map view. And they’ll need to do this, in order to get the relevant details that they want, such as addresses, directions, and contact details.

Now, this translates to you having the opportunity to rank in Google’s map view when you put your storefronts in Google Maps. And that’s even if you aren’t currently ranking in Google’s local pack, or in their standard organic results indices.

How Does Google 3-Pack Affect Your Business Today?

Many businesses whose Web pages rank in Google’s top 10  organic results for relevant specific searches are reporting that they’ve been getting less Web traffic, messaging inquiries, calls, and visits. Upon deeper investigation, we found out that they aren’t listed in Google’s local 3-pack, nor in Google’s map view via their 20-business list.

So to counter these negative effects, you’re recommended to first optimize your Web pages for relevant specific local searches. Then, tweak them further for Google’s local 3-pack, and Google Maps through their 20-business lists.

1. Advertising Options for Google’s Local  3-Pack

This 2018 research study indicates that 35% of Google’s local 3-pack results have paid ads. So is it worthwhile to look closer at your local 3-pack advertising options in Google for your business?

Well if you’re experiencing large-scale downturns in your Web, call and offline local traffic, then running small advertising tests can provide you with useful data. You’ll be able to determine if this is something that can generate positive returns for your investments. Plus, you can verify if this is an option that you can scale along with your SEO campaigns.

Just don’t forget to steer clear from investing something in advertising, or in anything for that matter, that you aren’t prepared to lose. Remember, nothing is guaranteed in any business opportunity. Nor in any investment deal. Otherwise, it isn’t a legitimate business or investment venture.

And the results of the same research study points out that these ads are mostly displayed in Google’s local 3-pack results for specific mobile searches. But the researchers also mentioned said they performed limited specific desktop searches for their tests. This is likely because, in general, more mobile users are looking for local businesses and establishments.

A Quick Summary of Their 11,000 SERPs Study

The same researchers performed 110 specific keyword searches in 11 broad categories. And they focused on 100 cities in the USA.

They also focused on highly competitive specific local keywords across major cities. This was because they’re running their tests based on the assumption that paid ads in Google’s local 3-pack results are still quite low. Plus, they used a smartphone that’s between a high-end model and Google’s recent unit at that time. And here’s the list of 11 broad categories that they fixated on for their tests:

  • Consumer Goods
  • Apparel
  • Automotive
  • Finance
  • Insurance
  • Services (Residential)
  • Services (Other)
  • Legal
  • Medical
  • Fitness
  • Hospitality

Quick Guide to Set Up a Google Local 3-Pack Advertising Campaign

Register & Set Up Google Ads & Google My Business Accounts

The first step is to register and set up accounts in Google Ads and Google My Business. Aside from the sign-up part, this involves adding location extensions to your Google Ads account, depending on the number of your business locations or storefront branches.

Plus, this involves updating the details of your Google My Business account, in order to reflect the location-specific data that you added to your Google Ads account. And remember, while you’re creating a campaign under your Google Ads account, you’ll need to target and bid on local keywords based on your target locations and other relevant data points.

Update & Verify Your Google My Business Listings

At this point, the second step is a more detailed approach to set up a campaign in your Google Ads account. This is where you ensure that your ads show up in Google Maps, particularly in Google’s recently implemented 20-business list in map view.

So here, a major prerequisite is, to complete the update and verification process for each of your Google My Business listings. Do this by going to the dashboard of your Google My Business account. Then, click on “Start Now”. Just follow the succeeding prompts. And afterward, be patient. It often takes Google a week or more to send a mail to your business addresses. They do this to verify that your business locations are all real.

Connect Google Ads to Google My Business & Enable Local Extensions

Once the things above are all done, you can move on over to the third step. This involves hooking up your Google Ads account to your Google My Business listings. Then, you’ll need to enable Local Extensions.

In case you don’t yet have a Google Ads account, don’t forget to use the same email for both Google Ads and Google My Business. And remember, Google Ads was formerly known as Google Adwords.

So once you’ve logged into your Google Ads account and see your dashboard, move on over to Ad Extensions. This dropdown menu has a Location Extensions option. Select it.

And if you’re Google My Business listings have been successfully verified, then you’ll see them here as selectable options. Choose one, and click “Finish”. Keep in mind, you’ll need to do this for each of your Google My Business listings.

Keyword Targeting & Bid Optimization

Now at this point, the fourth step is to target specific local keywords and bid for particular locations. Just click “Keywords & Targeting”. Then, hit “Locations”.

Afterward, you can choose single or multiple locations. Then, make the adjustments that you want to your bid. This can be found near “Bid adjustment”.

Of course, it goes without saying that it’s crucial for you to optimize your keyword targeting strategies for relevant specific local searches. This involves extensive local niche market research. And to do this right, use the up-to-date details of your ideal local customer profile.

But in our own iterative tests, striking a balance between general and specific local keywords continues to produce the best results for us. Plus, Google suggests 5 to 10 keywords for each ad group. So keep these things in mind.

Monitoring the Performance of Your Ad Campaigns

There’s a quick and straightforward way to track the performance of your ad campaigns. This is vital for tweaking the results of your advertising efforts. And that’s why this is the fifth step in this guide to set up your Google local 3-pack advertising campaigns.

Just log into your Google Ads account. Once in the dashboard, head on over to “Campaigns”. Afterward, hit “Segment”. Then, click “Type”. And at this point, you should be seeing lots of data points that can allow you to analyze the overall performance of each ad campaign.

2. Google Maps Advertising: The New Rockstar Platform for Local Businesses

Lots of mobile searchers all around the world are still constantly looking for local businesses and establishments near them. This is even when online shopping’s rapidly growing, globally.

So what this ultimately translates to local business owners like us with physical storefronts is, taking a closer look at potential returns from Google Maps advertising should be one of our priority projects right now. Otherwise, we might be leaving good money on the table.

Imagine the opportunities we’re likely to miss when we don’t explore this option. Plus, imagine the stuff that our competitors can do to our businesses when they end up doing this right. Now imagine these things combined. It’ll be more costly to try and recover from this, if at all possible.

So yes, we urge you to take a closer look at the potential positive results that your business can gain from local Google Maps advertising. Anyway, it’s quite simple to do this. And it doesn’t take a lot of time.

But of course, as we advised earlier — Don’t invest anything that you aren’t prepared to lose. So now for some quick reminders and tips on how to start on the right foot:

The first things to keep in mind include registering and setting up Google Ads and Google My Business accounts. Then, it’s a matter of verifying your Google My Business listings; hooking up your Google Ads account; and enabling Location Extensions. Since we covered this earlier, you’re advised to review the guide that we shared.

Plus, don’t forget to target specific local searches most relevant to your business, content, products, and services. Using the up-to-date data in your ideal customer profile can help you strategically optimize your keyword and location targeting tactics. Of course, you’ll also be able to tweak your keyword and location bidding approach when you do this.

3. Effects of Google’s 3-Pack to SEO Today

There are 2 types of SEO for Google’s 3-pack. The first is global SEO. The second is local SEO. But take note — Local SEO here doesn’t refer to targeting specific searches done by users across a larger region within each of your storefronts. Meanwhile, global SEO, in the context of Google’s 3-pack, doesn’t refer to targeting keyword searches done by users in other countries.

Instead, global SEO refers to campaigns that aim to target local searchers outside the immediate area of your business. For example, if it’s significant for your business to target your ideal customers in the next town or city even when you don’t have a storefront there, then you’re advised to take a closer look at the potential benefits you can gain from global SEO.

Now, on the other hand, local SEO again in this context is the process of setting up SEO campaigns targeted at your ideal searchers within the immediate area of your storefront location. This refers to your target customers who perform specific local Google searches in the town or city where each of your storefronts is found.

Local SEO vs. Global SEO

Just think of local SEO as relevant specific keyword searches done by your target audience in domestic locations. Not state-wide. Not regional. Not national.

This is where location-specific search terms are prefixed or suffixed with the name of the town or city where your storefront is found. And for big cities with several areas or districts, the usual tactic is to niche down to a smaller area or district within the same city.

Because local SEO provides you with the opportunity to only compete against establishments and providers that offer similar content, products, and services, you can benefit from lower competitiveness. And this is in contrast to the competitiveness that you’re likely to encounter when targeting much bigger areas. More so, keep in mind that Google prefers to display localized organic results for relevant keywords.

All About Local & Global Search Profiles

This is based primarily on the local and global search profiles of users. For some background, a user’s local search profile includes his or her recent locations, search terms, IP addresses, visited sites from Google’s organic results, and linked pages from Google’s other platforms like Gmail and Google Meet, along with the time he or she spent on a page, and the user’s bounce rates in particular domains, among others. Meanwhile, global search profiles are essentially curated and combined details relevant to the local search profiles of multiple users within the same area or region.

For example, if you Google “jaguar” right now somewhere in Seattle using your iOS smartphone, then your local search profile details kick in. These include recently visited pages from the top organic Google results with content related to the Jaguar car brand. And you’re likely to get 3-pack results related to Jaguar car dealers and showrooms within your immediate area.

But this is significantly affected by the global search profile that Google decides to associate with your searches. This profile is comprised of the recent search histories of other users, especially when they’re in the same location, in the next town, city, and state.

Local SEO Benefits

Now it’s more straightforward for your business listings to be organically displayed in Google’s 3-pack, of course for relevant location-specific search terms. This is mainly because Google wants to provide the timeliest and most relevant results to local searchers.

And obviously, a smaller group of brands and establishments to compete against translates to higher chances of beating them. And this in turn often results to lower advertising and marketing costs. More so, this also translates to much better chances of getting the attention of your target local audience.

These are the primary benefits of local SEO when done right for Google’s 3-pack. Plus, think of the value that you can get from many review platforms for local establishments and providers. Remember, they want to generate fresh business listings for their users to review. And they can get this from Google’s 3-pack results.

Also, this exposes your brand and storefronts to a group of local users. Many of them are likely interested in giving your business a visit. Or they might also want to share your website and talk about your business with their peers and social networks. This provides you with word-of-mouth advertising and viral marketing benefits.

So to summarize, if your business storefronts won’t benefit from serving customers outside your immediate location, then you’re advised to first take a closer look at your local SEO options. But if many of the existing repeat customers of your local business are from the next town, city, or state, then it’s highly likely you should study the value that you can get from a correctly implemented global SEO campaign.

Multiple Landing Pages to Build Up Targeted Location Relevance for Google’s Local 3-Pack

In case your business caters to targeted groups and communities of your ideal customers in multiple locations, then you’re recommended to set up multiple landing pages. For example, if your headquarters, storefronts, support offices, and delivery or pick-up offices are scattered across California, then you can optimize your website by setting up a landing page for each relevant location.

Plus, some of your target location-specific keywords when entered by users in nearby cities and towns are likely to be most relevant to your business, content, products, and services. That’s because there might not be local establishments that compete in the same niches and industries. Or, they might not have websites, significant Web presence, nor optimized pages for Google’s local 3-pack.

So if you don’t do this, then you’re likely to miss out on a lot of opportunities to place your ads and organic content in front of eyeballs that count. And to benefit from this, you’re recommended to use the following link structure for your landing pages:

  • yourlocalbusiness.com/area1/
  • yourlocalbusiness.com/area2/
  • yourlocalbusiness.com/area3/

Also, you might want to take a closer look at what Europcar is currently doing with their website. They’re ranking well in Google’s 3-pack for highly competitive specific searches across locations that are very relevant to their business.

These include “car rental [location]” and “car hire [location]”. In fact, Europcar has 1,349 rankings in Google’s top 10 spots. And according to Ahrefs Site Explorer, here are some competitive search terms that they’re ranking for in Google’s top 10 organic results indices:

  • www.europcar.co.uk/locations/united-kingdom/london — This ranks for the search term “car hire London”;
  • www.europcar.co.uk/locations/united-kingdom/belfast — Ranks for “car hire Belfast”;
  • www.europcar.co.uk/locations/united-kingdom/inverness — This ranks for “car hire Inverness”; and
  • www.europcar.co.uk/locations/united-kingdom/edinburgh — On the other hand, this ranks for “car hire Edinburgh”.

As you’ve surely noticed, these are location-specific landing pages under the same domain. But they’re ranking for each location with a different page. So keep this in mind when you optimize your local SEO campaigns today.

But remember, Google verifies that you have a storefront or an office in each location that you add to your Google My Business listings. So don’t go gung-ho and begin to set up landing pages for every location imaginable in your state or region.

Instead, focus on setting up and optimizing as well as promoting landing pages that are relevant to the locations of your storefronts and offices. But there are exceptions of course, such as a local business in San Diego specializing in Mexicali food deliveries, for example. Plus, don’t try setting up multiple landing pages for the same location to cover a wide range of keywords. This is a red flag for Google and won’t provide you with any SEO benefits.

What’s the Difference Between Citations & Links?

The main difference between a citation and a backlink is, a citation is beneficial for local businesses, while a backlink can provide value for both global and local businesses, or even for businesses without a storefront. Remember, a citation can be any information about your business address, phone numbers, and contact details. So a citation can even be a map with directions that point to any of your offices and storefronts.

Meanwhile, a link can be an inbound link, an outbound link, or a backlink. And keep in mind, inbound links are also known as internal links, while outbound links are also called external links.

Now an inbound link is a clickable hyperlink on a Web page that points to another page under the same domain. On the other hand, an outbound link points to a Web page outside the domain of the page with the outbound link.

So technically, a backlink can be an inbound or outbound link, from the perspective of the Web page where those outbound and inbound links point to. But of course, we’re talking about SEO here. This means a backlink is what you get when a page under a certain domain points to any of your Web pages under your own domain.

And another major difference between a citation and a link is, a citation can contain a hyperlink. But it doesn’t need to have a hyperlink before it’s considered a citation. On the other hand, a link is always a clickable hyperlink that’s anchored by a character, a word, a phrase, an entire block of text, an image, a button, or any Web page element.

Do Citations Offer SEO Benefits?

The quick answer is yes. Google announced this multiple times already, along with their explanations about social signals. Plus, because citations often include hyperlinks that point to a top-level page of a business website, you can usually get a backlink with a citation.

Also, keep in mind that Google is optimizing their search engine algorithms for entity SEO, especially since they’re continuing to use and building up the Google Knowledge Graph. And what this means is, Google can associate the non-clickable text in a local business citation with relevant contextual topics and subject areas. For example, Google can consider “Eurocar” as a brand that’s directly associated with the keywords “car hire” and “car rental”, especially in the locations mentioned earlier.

Plus, of course, don’t forget that citations can drive visitors to both your Web properties and storefronts. Imagine seeing a business citation with the address and phone numbers among other contact details of the nearest storefront where you can buy products that are relevant to the topic that you’re currently viewing on the page. Chances are, since you’re already on that page and enjoying yourself as you go through its content, then seeing a relevant business with products related to your current interests and needs is likely to entice you to take a closer look at the business and what they can offer you, right?

More so, keep in mind that a citation is a standard element of academic content. This can be a white paper, a scientific report, an entry in a financial or economic journal, and so on. This is also why Google’s algorithm most likely considers citations as high-quality mentions of a local business.

Do Backlinks Still Offer SEO Benefits This 2020?

The quick answer is again, yes. Google continues to announce this. Their search engine algorithm still considers backlinks as votes for the relevance, timeliness, and quality of a page’s content. And this vote is of course from the source page and domain of the backlink.

But Google also says their search engine algorithm considers 200 heuristic factors to rank Web pages for particular keywords in their indices. And a significant chunk of these factors is dedicated to evaluating the value of backlinks.

So as of this writing, the standard recommendation is to ensure the authority and relevance of your backlink sources to your brand, content, products, and services. More so to the related needs and interests of your ideal audiences.

However, lots of SEOers excessively focus on domain authority (DA) and page authority (PA) when building backlinks for their Web properties. But focusing on providing high-quality content that’s valuable for a niche audience can’t just get you natural backlinks from authority domains. Rather, this can also optimize the methods you use for running your backlink building campaigns.

Local SEO is for Targeted Location-Specific Searches. And Global SEO is Mostly for Organic Contextual Topic-Related Keywords.

What this simply means is, Google displays organic results for location-specific terms that are usually different from their results for global non-location searches. And this is the primary reason why we highly recommend local SEO as the more strategic approach for businesses with brick and mortar storefronts.

On the other hand, we advise businesses without physical offices and stores to stick with global SEO. Well except of course on rare occasions where a lucrative niche has significantly low competitiveness for viable location-specific keywords.

But again for those that have brick and mortar storefronts, we advise still going with local SEO. That’s because even if you’re targeting viable niche topic-specific search terms, you’d still more likely rank much better for searches that are performed by users within the vicinity of your storefronts, over websites without a physical presence in the same areas.

Ideal Business Types to Implement Tactical Local SEO

To answer your question about which particular business types are more likely to greatly benefit from local SEO, we’ll provide a few examples. And here they are:

Note: Keep in mind, the specific business types, cities, and states here are just used as examples. So this also applies to any other similar business type, state, city, town, and so on.

  • Plumbing Businesses in Portland, OR — Almost all searches are done by users looking for plumbing-related services are most likely location-specific keywords. After all, you wouldn’t look for a plumbing business that’s based in a city several hundred miles away when you need something done at your home or office, right? Though remember, some users might want to do searches for businesses in the next nearest city or town, especially if all of the businesses in their immediate vicinity are fully booked. And again, this applies to similar business types, such as roofers, painters, electricians, mechanics, and so on;
  • Food Delivery Businesses in Seattle, WA — You can just imagine why almost all users are likely to search for food and beverage delivery providers near them. You wouldn’t want to wait too long. Or worse, you won’t like your food or coffee delivered to you cold, right? And that’s what tends to happen when your food and drinks need to travel several miles away just to hit your doorstep. So keep this in mind, as this applies to other business types whose target customers would want to get their products almost instantaneously;
  • Law Firms in Boston, MA — Legal, medical, and financial providers need to have up-to-date licenses and certifications to practice in a state, city, town, or any region. So you’re unlikely to find users searching for these service providers in areas outside their residences and workplaces. Plus, almost all of us know that we’ll need to deal with licensed professionals whose expertise is specific to the laws and regulations of the concerned state, city, town, or region; and
  • Real Estate Companies in Las Vegas, NV — Just like licensed professionals, similar business entities like real estate companies are required to have currently valid permits and certifications issued by relevant national and federal government agencies before they can operate in a specific location. And again, almost all of us know that dealing with these types of businesses whose products are targeted at local customers means we should be able to expect a much better grasp of industry trends and possible drawbacks, over those that operate outside the areas in question.

And these are just a few examples of specific business types that can considerably benefit from local SEO, as opposed to global SEO. Plus, businesses with storefronts and offices can even optimize the content of their Web properties through a hybrid local and global SEO approach. This is where relevant niche topic-specific search terms are strategically integrated with location-specific keywords. This can enable you to place your content in front of your ideal local users whose interests are in niche topics most relevant to your latest products, service deals, and promos.

A Quick & Simple Guide to Having Your Local Business Featured in Google’s Local 3-Pack for Relevant Specific Searches

At this point, you most likely want to learn how your business information and Web content can be featured in Google’s local 3-pack. And of course, you’d want this for relevant location-specific searches from your ideal customers. So no problem — Here’s a step-by-step guide that can help you do this right:

STEP 1. Create a Google My Business Listing for Each of Your Branches & Storefront Locations

As discussed earlier, we urge you to have a Google My Business page for each of your office locations and branches. This includes your main headquarters, administrative and support offices, storefronts, and pick-up or delivery warehouses. You can do this through the following ways:

First, use the Google accounts that you want to be associated with each of your Google My Business listings. If you don’t have one that’s solely dedicated to each branch and storefront of your business, then you can create them by simply registering new Gmail accounts. Also, don’t forget to complete the details of your profile pages for these Gmail accounts. After all, you’d likely want to use it for creating other accounts within the Google network, such as Google Voice, Google Meet, and for setting up Youtube channels. But remember, do this for one office location at a time.

Second, head on over to Google.Com/Business and hit “Start now”. It’s somewhere on the right-hand side of the page. Then, enter the following details:

  • Your Business Name — Don’t enter the name of your business in lower case like what many do today when writing text messages on their smartphones. Remember, this will appear in your featured listings. And if you have multiple branches and offices, then it’s a good idea to include the primary location as part of your business name, i.e. Instead of ACME Corporation, enter ACME Corporation HQ (San Diego), or ACME Corporation (Austin), and so on;
  • Your Business Address — Aside from filling out all required text fields, write this in a way that’s in a format familiar to your target local audience;
  • Checkbox Data — There’s an “I deliver goods and services to my customers” checkbox. Of course, select it if you prefer to do that, than for your customers to go to any of your storefront locations. There’s also a “Hide my address (it’s not a store) Only show region” checkbox. Check that too if it matches your setup. Otherwise, leave them unchecked;
  • Delivery Area — Choose a location that best describes your local delivery coverage. Again, don’t forget that you’re setting this up for a particular branch or storefront, in case you have more than one of them;
  • Business Category — This is a vital piece of information that Google uses to decide when and for which group of users to show your Google My Business listings. So choose an accurate category that best matches your niche. Remember, selecting a broad category is only likely to make it harder for your local business listing to successfully compete for viable location-specific search terms in Google’s local 3-pack; and
  • Business Phone & Website — Enter the phone number that you want your customers to call when they want to contact you. In case you’re running a business from home and wouldn’t want to use your private phone number, keep in mind that you can use Google Voice or any other virtual phone number provider. And of course, enter the URL of your website’s main landing page.

Third, go ahead and choose a verification option from the provided selections. As we mentioned earlier, Google confirms that each Google My Business listing has a real physical address before activating the listing. But you can choose the “Later” option under “Try a different method” in case you want to skip this for now.

More About Verifying Google My Business Listings

Some options for verifying Google My Business listings are only available for certain business types. This depends on the data that you entered and chose in step 1. For example, most service businesses are usually provided verification options via email, phone, mail, or Search Console.

STEP 2. Tweak Your Google My Business Listing

Avoid going with bare minimum details when entering data for each of your Google My Business listings. That’s because this is a good chance to optimize how they look not just for your ideal customers, but also for Google’s algorithm that decides if you’re worthy of local SEO benefits for location-specific search terms.

So to help you out, we’ll discuss each required data field and how you can optimize the content that you’ll enter for each one. And here you go:

· Business Name

For those just planning to register a business name, keep in mind to optimize it not just for how you want your ideal customers to positively respond to your brand and to clearly communicate your unique value proposition, but also for local SEO purposes. And for those already with registered business names, analyze from a local SEO perspective if it’d be best for you to check if you’re better off registering a DBA (doing business as) name with the appropriate government agency.

Also remember, many businesses that optimized for the yellow pages and other phone directories back then are now encountering drawbacks when it comes to communicating their unique selling propositions to their target audiences, and more so for both local and global SEO. That’s because they chose business names so as to come first in the alphabetical listings of these phone directories and yellow pages. With this, lots of them ended up having names like AAA, AA, or AA1, which are quite challenging to optimize for these purposes today.

· Business Address

Because this follows a standard format that Google requires for Google My Business listings, an optimization approach that we mentioned earlier is to make sure that you write your business address in a way that’s familiar to your target local customers. For example, some customers might be used to writing and reading business addresses with suite X instead of unit X, with county and district number, or without it, and so on.

· Phone Number

As described earlier, you’re recommended to use a phone number that’s solely dedicated to placing and taking calls to and from your customers. And in case you entertain calls outside your city, state, or country, then you’re recommended to use local and global toll-free numbers. This way, you’re customers will feel comfortable calling your business as they won’t be charged any inter-city, inter-state or international fees.

Meanwhile, you can use virtual local and toll-free phone numbers if you’re running a home business and don’t feel secure using your private number. Plus, keep in mind that many providers offer additional services that can help you with your sales and marketing activities. Lots of these are Cloud PBX companies that provide features like quick and easy integration with popular third-party CRM (customer relationship management) software products, voice response systems, date and time logs of calls including useful caller details, voicemail, call attendant, and prerecorded message playback (useful for providing directions to your local branches and storefronts), among others.

· Category

As mentioned earlier, this is a crucial data field that can help you optimize your Google My Business listings for Google’s local 3-pack. It can even help tweak your listings when it comes to featured snippets, images, news stories, and organic results for both location-specific and global niche topic-related search terms.

So choose a category that exactly niches down to your target topics and to the specific interests of your ideal customers. Here are some examples that can help you generate strategic ideas for your own business:

  • Rather than using “Delivery Restaurant” and “Takeout Restaurant” categories, Papa John’s is advised to niche down further and use “Pizza Delivery” and “Pizza Takeout” as an additional category, more so because they don’t provide on-location dining services, just deliveries, and takeouts for their pizza selections and other food products;
  • “Fast Food Restaurant” and “Hamburger Restaurant” are recommended for Wendy’s as main and additional categories, and they’re also ill-advised to use “Dessert Restaurant” as this isn’t part of their primary products;
  • Instead of using the broad “Bank” category, Navy Federal Credit Union is recommended to use the more specific “Federal Credit Union” category as this is a better niche match for their products and services;
  • A1 Check Cashing isn’t advised to use the “Banking and Finance” category as its too broad and doesn’t exactly match the target niche market where their business operates, so they’re instead recommended to use “Check Cashing Services” as their category;
  • “Gym” or “Swimming Pool” aren’t optimum categories for 24-Hour Fitness to use as these are just their amenities, so they’re advised to use the “Health Club” category instead; and
  • Since their swimming pools aren’t their primary product, Super 8 is recommended to just use the “Motel” category.

Carefully study these examples. You’ll find it quicker and easier to optimize your category selection for your local business.

· Website

Of course, we urge you to first set up and publish your main website live before creating Google My Business listings. Plus, you’re recommended to publish a few helpful content pages that are optimized for your primary location-specific keyword targets. Also, don’t forget what we discussed earlier — Avoid collating all your branch and storefront details in one curated page, in case you have multiple storefronts and target locations.

More so, directions, staff data, relevant news, customer help info, related images, and up-to-date product listings for each of your office branches and stores are also recommended to have their own dedicated pages under your business domain. Aside from covering more location-specific search terms that are likely used by your ideal local markets, more of your customers are likely to have a quicker and easier time finding the details that they want from your website when you do this. Plus remember, a singular content type displayed on each page with a compelling call to action approach has been proven time and again to generate higher conversions.

· Business Hours or Hours of Operation

It’s crucial for your Google My Business and organic or paid local 3-pack listings to inform your local customers about the specific business days, hours, and time zones of your storefronts and offices. That way, they’ll know for sure if your business locations will be open when they go there. Plus, they’ll know when to call you.

Also, in the event of non-working holidays, emergency situations, and the like, you’re recommended to publish this on your website and social media pages. It’s also much better if you can send out updates to your mailing and SMS lists. Plus, don’t forget to update your integrated voice response (IVR) system and automated call attendant to inform callers about these updates and remind them to just leave voicemails so your team can get back to them the following business day or so.

And in case of long-term changes to your hours of operation, you’re advised to update your Google My Business listings, website, and social media pages. Plus, update your mailing lists, IVR, call attendant, and SMS lists, among other relevant platforms that you use for communicating with your target local customers.

· Business Descriptions

Remember, not everyone is likely to already know your business, branches, and storefronts right off the bat. So provide them with a quick and simple to understand the description of the products, services and other things they can expect from each of your offices. Do this for each of your Google My Business listings, aside from your About Us content in your Web pages for each of your business locations.

You’re also advised to optimize your descriptions for your target location-specific keywords and global niche topic-related search terms. But remember, your priority is for your local customers to take action that’s mutually beneficial for them and your business whenever they see your descriptions in Google’s organic and paid local 3-pack and global results. So strategically integrate a compelling call to action somewhere in your descriptions.

· Photos

An effective way to entice your target, local customers, to take a closer look at what your business locations can offer them is through attention-grabbing, visually appealing photos. But of course, these images should primarily be relevant to your office locations, especially when we’re talking about your Google My Business listings.

So this means attractive photos of internal and external areas in and around your storefronts and offices are likely to work really well for this objective. Plus, don’t forget to think of ways that can allow you to strategically inform users about certain clues on where your storefronts and offices are located. For example, capturing popular nearby landmarks in the background and window views of your photos for external and internal branch and office areas can work quite well.

Meanwhile, also use similar high-quality photos for your Web pages. And don’t forget to put brief descriptions, captions, and alt text that are optimized for your target location-specific and global niche topic-related search terms.

· Questions & Answers

Have you noticed the featured snippets section that Google often displays on top of organic search results? These are usually formatted as question-type snippets with brief direct answers, followed by a link to the page that contains the full details, along with the publisher’s name and featured image (often the logo or banner of the website).

But did you know that for many location-specific searches, Google often draws data to populate featured snippets from Google My Business listings, simply because the most relevant and timeliest information’s available there? And that’s also why there’s a dedicated section for questions and answers when filling up your Google My Business listings data.

So strategically filling out this section for your Google My Business listings can provide you with optimum benefits from your location-specific and global niche topic-related search terms. That’s why we recommend you to keep this in mind when tweaking your keyword research and targeting tactics.

For example, what you can do is to try and find relevant location-specific and global niche topic-related search terms with significant demand from your ideal local customers that Google doesn’t display any featured snippet for. Or, at least try to find those with minimally featured snippets, especially if they’re from beatable competitors.

Then, you can optimize these keywords further by also targeting question-type versions with considerable search demand, especially from voice searches done by your target local markets. Next, include these in the question and answer data of your Google My Business listings, and also for the content of your Web properties. This way, you’ll be able to increase the likelihood of Google choosing the information on your Google My Business listings and Web content pages as featured snippets for the relevant question and answer-type queries with location-specific contexts and keywords.

·  Other Relevant Attributes

Sometimes, Google My Business provides additional fields where you can enter certain relevant attributes. This is dependent on the type of business, branch, or office. For example, there are additional data fields for businesses under categories related to food and beverage, deliveries, and takeouts, such as menus and the like.

And remember, the type of your business, branch, or office depends on what you enter into your Google My Business listings, especially in fields for categories and descriptions. So try to look for these extra data fields while filling out your Google My Business listings. That’s because of these likely cover viable search terms with significant demand from your target local markets.

· NAT (Name, Address & Telephone)

This is also sometimes called NAP, which stands for name, address, and phone number. And as you’ve already entered the name, address, and telephone number for each of your locations in your Google My Business listings, this optimization tactic refers to stuff that you can do on your own Web properties. These include your websites, blogs, location-specific Web pages, mobile apps, social media pages, and so on.

How Can Your NAP Details Help You Optimize the Content of Your Web Properties for Local SEO?

First of all, make sure that the NAT details that you publish on your Web properties and on off-page locations like social media networks and so on are up-to-date and accurate. Also, you’re recommended to embed Google Maps that show the visual directions and other pertinent details of your business location on focus. This way, Google crawlers can find and index the content of your Web pages faster and easier, as suggested by many expert SEOers today. Plus, because there’s a big chance that Web pages and sites that publish the NAT details of your business locations are supporters or groups and individuals interested in relevant niches and topics — It’s highly likely for those online locations to be contextually relevant to your own content, as well as to your brand, products, and services.

Second, sign up for each of the Google accounts that you use for your Google My Business listings with Google’s service that notifies you whenever your business is cited on a Web page under an external domain. This way, you’ll be able to try and strike a mutually beneficial arrangement with the sources of those citations, such as guest posting deals, cross-linking and backlinking opportunities, advertising arrangements, and so on.

Also, keep in mind, Google treats NAT information of entities and persons as citations. This is when those details are found in sites outside the domain of the entity or the person. And remember, we mentioned earlier here that citations with or without internal or external links are still considered by Google as citations. And this can provide your business with local and global SEO benefits.

Remember, lots of veteran local SEOers and reputable agencies say Google and other search engines like Bing and Yahoo! perform automated cross-referencing activities across a network of relevant third party sites. This is to validate the authenticity of your business and locations. That’s because sites set up for spam campaigns normally won’t publish their real NAP details.

So you can posit that, similar to backlinks, more citations of your NAP details in contextual and location-relevant websites can provide you with local SEO benefits. With this, you’re recommended to submit your NAP details to business directories, especially those that are dedicated not just to the locations you serve, but also to your industry and niches. For example, local chambers of commerce websites, InfoUSA, BBB, Citysearch.com, Yelp, merchantcircle.com, 411.com, and foursquare.com are just a few of the platforms that you can take a closer look at.

STEP 3. Promote & Optimize Your Google My Business Listing

Of course, don’t forget that you must first verify each of your Google My Business listings before you can proceed with this step. So once you’ve done that, here are cost-effective ways that have produced viable results for our own SEO campaigns for ranking in Google’s local 3-pack and organic results indices for our target location-specific and niche topic-related search terms:

· Reviews

Google knows the importance of organic reviews. After all, these are shared by customers to inform others about their overall experience in using particular products and services, and also in dealing with specific businesses. You’ve surely noticed the star ratings and the like in many of the organic listings that Google displays in their local 3-pack, featured snippets, and results indices, right?

That’s why many seasoned SEOers and expert agencies say Google provides extra SEO credits to particular businesses, products, and service promos that have high ratings and lots of fresh positive customer reviews. In fact, they also claim Google seems to provide similar SEO benefits for businesses with lots of fresh negative reviews, mainly for relevant keywords, such as “[business name] scam” and the like. Though some also say the algorithm behind Google’s disavow tool is what they also use to confirm the validity of these negative reviews since your competitors would easily be capable of sabotaging your organic rankings.

Plus, you’ll be able to rank for heavily searched location-specific keywords that are likely used by customers who don’t yet have any experience in dealing with your business. Remember, “reviews” among other variants are frequently used as prefixes or suffixes by lots of customers for their keyword searches, especially when they’re looking for businesses, products, service deals, and other promotional stuff. And this goes on across the board, throughout various industries, niches, and locations.

So prioritize this optimization method. Try to get as many top star ratings and positive reviews from the local customers that each of your business locations serves. Aside from the SEO benefits that your Google My Business listings and Web properties can get from this strategy, this can entice more prospects to take a closer look at your latest products, service deals, and promotional offers.

How to Get 5-Star Buyer Ratings & Positive Customer Reviews

First, of course, is to develop world-class products and service packages; provide stellar customer support; publish high-quality content that’s helpful for the relevant needs and interests of your target audiences; and make it quicker and more convenient for your ideal customers to find, go to, and contact your local offices and storefronts. This recipe continues to succeed for many local businesses time and again, of course when done right.

Second, entice your customers to leave ratings and reviews for your business, products, and service deals in relevant local business directories, shopping platforms, and others that allow them to do so. For example, you can offer discounts and freebies to customers who decide to leave unbiased reviews for products and offers that they’ve recently bought from your local branches and offices.

Another method is to look for social media influencers with a large active following that’s mainly comprised of your target local customers. Of course, choose those who talk about fresh, helpful stuff that’s related to your brand, products, and latest offers. You can give them your newest products and offers to review, for example.

Third, don’t forget to respond to reviews as quickly as possible. Aside from informing customers who left top ratings and positive reviews that you’re always listening to what they have to say about your business and offers, you’d also be able to mitigate disastrous results of low ratings and negative reviews. That’s because you’ll be able to get the opportunity to resolve problems and communication issues that your staff might have with certain customers.

And this communicates that you go above and beyond to improve the overall quality of your products and services to your existing and future customers. This can in turn generate more traffic and sales for you, primarily because some of your customers and prospects might share and mention these things to like-minded peers with similar interests and needs.

Fourth, make it quicker, easier, and more convenient for your customers to leave unbiased ratings and reviews for your business and the products or services that they’ve recently purchased. Plus, remind them without sounding too pushy. Otherwise, you’ll just end up irritating them with your incessant notifications.

You can do this by integrating a promo in your checkout process, both online and offline. As mentioned earlier, these can be for discounts and freebies for customers who decide to leave ratings and reviews. Plus, you can integrate friendly messages reminding them that they’ll be helping other customers to make a more informed decision when they leave ratings and reviews for others to see.

And another effective strategy to get more reviews and ratings is to support local charitable causes that many of your local customers are also likely to support. For example, you can donate part of your profits for each sale to these local charitable groups. You can then mention this in your thank you emails and messages, and a link for them to leave and share ratings and reviews about their experience in dealing with your business, in an effort to entice their peers to also support these charitable activities.

· Citations

As described earlier, local citations can help boost the rankings of your Google My Business listings and Web properties for location-specific search terms. Plus, this can generate more direct local traffic from those sources to your listings and Web pages, even if these citations don’t contain any clickable hyperlinks. More so, you get the opportunity to contact these citation sources, which means you can then try to forge mutually beneficial syndication, advertising, and collaboration arrangements with them.

So what is a local citation? Simply put, this is where a website mentions your business NAP details in their pages and social media channels. Similar to peer-reviewed academic publications, this communicates to readers that the authors of these materials consider cited businesses, other groups, and individuals as expert resources of beneficial, contextually relevant content.

And because Google’s organizational structure is mainly founded on a similar academic collaborative design and production system, many SEOers and agencies say Google’s up-to-date ranking algorithm uses verified citations as among their top heuristic factors. So by having citations for your Google My Business listings, you’re telling Google crawlers that citations it finds in pages under local domains with decent authority are already verified by Google themselves as real existing business locations.

Now, what are the different types of citations that you should know?

Different Types of Citations
  • Citations in Major Local Business Data Platforms

Major local business data platforms are reputable aggregators of up-to-date data about local businesses and similar groups. Some of the core platforms today include Google My Business, Localize or Neustar, Acxiom, and Infogroup, among others. Don’t forget to optimize your content pages to be able to use and get citations from these platforms.

As mentioned earlier, listings in online business directories are also considered by Google as citations. With this, you’re recommended to find high authority business directories. Then, focus on those with dedicated sections for your target locations. Next, trim down your shortlist further by prioritizing popular directories with local business listings of groups that operate in your particular industry and niches.

  • Citations in Reputable Local News Media Channels & Heavily Trafficked Local Social Media Groups

Remember, it’s all about contextual relevance and targeting. Be it on-site and off-site content, internal and external links, backlinks, reviews, ratings, and citations — The sources of your local business citations should be contextually relevant to your brand, content, products, and services, and also targeted at the specific niche-related interests and needs of your ideal local customers.

So with this, citations in active social media groups dedicated to discussions related to your target location, brand, and products, industry, and niches are highly likely to provide you with more significant local SEO benefits for your Google My Business listings and Web properties. These include communities and groups in platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook.

Citations from the websites of reputable local news media outlets are also good ways to communicate the authority and credibility of your business to your local customers. And don’t ignore circulated publications in academic institutions and trade organizations within your target locations, especially if these groups are comprised of your target local B2C (business to consumer) and B2B (business to business) customers. Remember, almost all of these networks already have websites, blog networks, Web forums, social media pages, mailing list newsletters, and so on. Aside from local SEO benefits, you’ll also get the chance to generate more direct traffic to your Web properties, physical storefronts, and Google My Business listings.

  • Citations in Credible Local Business Review Sites

As described earlier, review platforms are among the most effective networks to use for your local SEO, traffic generation, and viral marketing campaigns. If possible, consider offering your products on Amazon among other popular e-commerce portals, especially those that are dedicated to your target local audiences. This way, your customers will find it quicker, easier, and simpler to not just leave ratings and reviews for your products, but also to view and share the ratings and reviews of your business and products with their peers and social media groups.

With this, include in your campaign strategies to get good ratings and reviews in Yelp, online business directories with systems for buyer ratings and customer reviews, social media platforms, and so on. You can also partner up with local social media influencers on Twitter who review businesses and products in relevant industries and niches, including bloggers, Youtube authors,  and administrators of targeted groups in LinkedIn and Facebook, among others.

  • Citations in Geo or Industry-Specific Platforms

As mentioned earlier, these include online business directories that are dedicated to serving your target locations, industries, and niches. Also, consider niche Web forums that are popular across your target local audiences. Plus, active trade associations and chamber of commerce groups with local business members often have online member directories where you can have your business and NAP details listed once you join these organizations.

Local university-based organizations are also good sources of helpful citations, especially if the members of these groups are part of your target local customer markets. Many of these communities have social media pages, websites, blog networks, mailing list newsletters, and the like. Plus, a lot of the members of these groups are actively participating and sharing content across their social media networks. And remember, most of their peers are other locals who might be interested in checking out your business.

You can get any of these citation types by using automated tools like Moz Local. But the more straightforward way is to manually fill out the Web forms of these platforms for having your business, branches, and storefronts listed in their databases. And don’t forget, PR campaigns and participating in news-worthy, cause-oriented, business-related activities within your target locations are good ways to get citations from reputable sources.

Getting citations is a powerful way to improve the results of your local SEO, traffic generation, customer acquisition, and viral marketing campaigns. Aside from the direct positive effects of these citations, organic flow between sites with your business NAP data naturally happens. This can be quite beneficial for your local SEO targets. To illustrate this, imagine the Google PR (Page Rank) and citation flow that organically happens when your NAP details with and without hyperlinks pointing to your Google My Business listings and location-specific Web pages in a platform like Infogroup flows down to any of these citations sources, such as Superpages.

STEP 4. Optimize Your Web Properties for Local SEO

Once you’ve tweaked your Google My Business listings and followed the stuff we described in detail earlier, let’s now focus on optimizing your Web properties. And let’s put our focus on your content pages that target location-specific search terms. So here you go:

12 Quick & Cost-Effective Local SEO Optimization Tactics for Your Website

1. Social Media Marketing

Do you know why we put this as the number one tactic to cost-effectively optimize your Web properties for your target location-specific keywords? Well, remember, most of the friends and followers of users in various social media platforms are their IRL (in real life) friends, relatives, co-workers, colleagues, coursemates, classmates, and so on. So simply put, the majority of your ideal local customers likely have lots of friends and followers on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube, and so on within nearby local areas.

And what this means for you is, implementing cost-effective social media marketing campaigns in the platforms where your local customers frequently hang out opens your business to opportunities for reaching wider local audiences. That’s mainly because a significant majority of your local customers are most likely regularly engaging in relevant conversations across these social media platforms with their peers. And because users normally converse about certain topics interesting to them with their like-minded peers, there’s a good chance they’ll mention your business, products, and services.

More so, social media users frequently share content that interests them across their networks. And because many of their friends and contacts in those platforms share the same interests, lots of them would most likely pay attention to what they’re sharing. So this provides your business with the opportunity to place your NAP details in front of more targeted eyeballs.

This in turn can also generate more backlinks and citations for your Web pages from the blogs, Youtube channels, Web forums, and social media pages where your target local customers spend time. Remember, some of them are the authors themselves of these online content publication networks and repositories.

Plus, when you advertise in these social media networks, your brand and products are likely to be already familiar with more of your target local customers. And this increases the likelihood of you getting higher targeted click-throughs, conversions, and succeeding waves of viral marketing results. Also, keep these things in mind as you consider the importance of social media marketing for your local SEO campaigns:

  • It’s estimated that around 2.1 billion Internet users all around the world have social media accounts, and many of them  regularly hang out on these platforms; and
  • Many commercial groups that specialize in catering to the needs of B2C and B2B markets say their main priority is brand awareness and strategic brand positioning, and social media provides a low-cost platform for them to do this.

2. Improve the Visual Presentation of Your Web Properties for Your Target Local Viewers

As described earlier, you’re recommended to include visually appealing images in your location-specific Web pages. These can be photos of internal and external areas in and around your storefronts, offices, and business headquarters. Now don’t forget, the main objective is to entice them to pay your branches a visit. And a secondary objective is, to make it quicker and easier for them to share attention-grabbing posts about your business, products, and services with their peers across their social media groups.

However, don’t forget to tweak your images for local SEO when placing them on your Web pages. You can do this by providing brief helpful descriptions, captions, and alt text that contain your target location-specific keywords. Just don’t overdo this of course, as you wouldn’t want Google to flag your website for keyword stuffing. Besides, repetitive lines and blocks of content can be quite annoying for your target local customers.

Plus of course, aside from these types of photos, don’t forget to include images of your products and service staff. This way, they can easily visualize the benefits of your products for their specific use cases. Also, this can promote positive familiarity among your ideal customers when they visit your storefronts and offices.

3. Design Your Web Properties for Optimum User Experience

SEMrush published in a recent report about their case studies on Google SEO that the top ranking factors today include 4 primary things. These are, in no particular order:

  • Website Visits;
  • Time of Users on Website;
  • Pages Browsed by Users for Each Session; and
  • Bounce Rate

This means any of these factors, even when they’re combined in a myriad of ways, directly relates to the type of user experience that your website can offer your target, local customers. For example, if your website promotes optimum user experience, then lots of your viewers are likely to spend more time browsing through many pages of your website, especially since they find it quick and simple to do so. Plus, they’ll be able to conveniently share your content with their peers and social media groups, thereby increasing your unique website traffic. And these results are also likely to significantly reduce your bounce rate.

But don’t forget, high-quality content that’s targeted at providing your viewers with beneficial information and advice is part of their overall user experience when browsing your Web properties. So aside from optimizing your content for your target location-specific search terms, you should always prioritize the response of your ideal customers and the benefits they can gain from viewing your content. This way, more of them will be enticed to share your content with their peers. And more of them are also likely to mention their experience in dealing with your business and content to their contacts at the social media groups they regularly spend time in.

4. Get High-Quality Backlinks

Backlinks are still among the most vital components of a strategic local SEO campaign today. These are hyperlinks in Web pages under domains that you don’t own. And these of course should point to any of your Web pages. Plus, these can be anchored by clickable words or phrases. For example, if a specific page of forbes.com contains the clickable phrase “latest smartphones”, which points to one of your Web pages, then that’s a backlink.

So as you can guess, Google considers these backlinks as votes that are cast by authors of the Web pages where it’s placed. And these votes are for the Web page that it points to. Now such a vote is for the contextual relevance and quality of the linked page, in terms of providing content about a certain topic. For the same example above, forbes.com is casting a vote for your Web page as what it believes contains authority content about the latest smartphones.

And by evaluating a number of factors, Google determines the weight value of a backlink. These include the contextual relevance, timeliness, domain authority, and page authority of both the backlink’s source and destination, among many others. Using the same example above, Google most likely considers forbes.com as an authority when it comes to timely news about business, and a little bit less for topics related to technology. So Google would probably consider that “latest smartphones” backlink as a vote for the authority of the linked page when it comes to business news and less for technology news.

Now that we’ve defined what a backlink is and how Google factors these into their ranking algorithm, we urge you to go and get high-quality backlinks for your Web pages. And by “high quality”, what we mean here is, your backlinks should be anchored by any of your target search terms. And it should be found on contextually relevant pages under credible, non-spammy domains. Plus, Google should consider these domains as authority publishers of fresh, high-quality content about relevant industries, niches, and topics.

So how exactly can you get backlinks? Well, the most cost-effective, long-term strategy is to publish link-worthy content and to promote it across your target markets and ideal partner publishers.

But you can implement other campaigns to speed up and ensure your acquisition of high-quality backlinks. One is to contact authority domain owners and forge a content syndication arrangement with them. These can be guest posts, featured stories, interviews, and the like in their blog and social media pages. Private advertising is also an option.

5. Optimize Page Load Speed

Google recently announced that their algorithm has begun to consider page load speed as a vital ranking factor, especially for mobile searches. And remember, mobile search is likely performed by many of your local customers, especially when they’re on the move, looking for local establishments where they can go and hang out. Plus, Google claimed that this algorithmic change is bound to only affect a small percentage of websites.

But still, we urge you to make sure that you do this right. That’s because other than providing you with local SEO benefits, you’ll also be ensuring that your local customers can enjoy a streamlined user experience while browsing the Web pages of your site. And this can in turn allow you to gain much higher conversions, natural backlinks, and wider viral marketing promotions.

6. Check Your Website for Broken Links

Remember, Google’s algorithm checks the inbound and outbound link structure of websites. Aside from assessing the user experience design of your website, they do this to also index and evaluate PR and citation flow. So now if you have broken links, Google’s algorithm is bound to devalue your site in terms of user experience design and PR or citation flow.

Plus, your viewers won’t have a good experience when they encounter any of the broken links on your website. This ruins your entire sales funnel strategy. That’s because these issues normally stop them dead on their tracks, while in the middle of your conversion process chain. There are many tools to do this quickly. Check them out.

7. Use H1 & H2 Tags

Using header tags when formatting your content pages is known to significantly improve local and global SEO results. That’s because it makes it quicker, easier, and simpler for Google crawlers to index and evaluates the content of your Web pages. Plus, you put emphasis on the context of these text blocks when you format them as headers, which also allows Google’s algorithm to better understand what your content’s all about.

More so, this provides your Web pages with a clean, organized look in the eyes of Google search engine bots and your target local viewers. They’ll easily be able to skip and go back to relevant sections of your content with ease. And this promotes a much better user experience for your customers.

8. Consider Voice Search When Optimizing Your Website

Google’s update with significant effects up to this day is Hummingbird. This is where they decided to improve their search engine as a digital assistant instead of just a search engine. That’s because Google noticed considerable spikes in voice search, especially because of the massive shift from desktops to mobile devices that happened globally during this time.

And because many location-specific searches in Google are performed by mobile users, you can expect that a considerable number of your local mobile customers do their searches through Google’s Voice Search. So with this, we urge you to optimize the content of your Web pages and also the tactics that you use for your backlink building campaigns with Voice Search in mind.

But how can you tweak your website for Voice Search? It’s fairly straightforward to do. This is mainly a change to how you analyze your local keyword research data and targeting strategies. Keep in mind, not a lot of us speak just words or clipped phrases when using our voice to search for something in Google.

Instead, what a lot of us normally do is speak complete queries that sound humanly natural. And this is the key to optimizing your Web pages for Google Voice Search — Integrate the most likely location-specific questions and inquiries that your ideal local customers are searching for in Google Voice Search today when they’re looking for content that’s relevant to your business, storefront locations, and products. Plus of course, provide helpful answers and content that can quickly address their concerns.

9. Target “Position Zero” in Google’s Local Organic Listings

What we mean here when we say “position zero” is, your Google My Business listings and Web pages should be displayed in Google’s local 3-pack results, featured snippets, featured news stories, featured images, and questions. Keep in mind, these are displayed above Google’s organic results indices. So this means “position zero” is the new position one today.

But how can you tweak your Google My Business listings, local content, and Web properties for “position zero”? It’s actually more straightforward than you think. And most of the techniques that we shared in detail here earlier can help you do this.

So what this boils down to is, to provide complete and accurate, verified data for each of your Google My Business listings. Another thing to keep in mind is, to integrate relevant questions and answers into the content of both your Google My Business listings and Web pages. Putting featured images with the appropriate alt text, descriptions and captions is also beneficial for optimizing your website and My Google Business listings for “position zero”. Plus, don’t forget to share fascinating news about your business, along with interesting content about your latest products, services, and promos.

10. Track & Monitor the Results of Your Local SEO Campaigns & Strategies

You’re recommended to diligently monitor the results of your local SEO campaigns. This can allow you to immediately pinpoint problem areas that are negatively affecting your efforts. You’ll also be able to correctly spot bottlenecks that limit your potential for generating much better results. Plus, you’ll quickly identify areas that are just wasting your time, money, and energy.

In turn, you’ll be able to develop and test more cost-effective ways to scale up your positive results. And this allows you to significantly reduce or entirely eliminate negative outcomes.

There are certain areas in your local business and SEO campaigns that we advise you to focus on. And here are the top 3 ones that you should prioritize:

  • Rankings — Manual tests and monitoring activities can take up a lot of your time. That’s why we urge you to use automated tools. These include Rank Ranger, BrightLocal, and AgencyAnalytics, among others;
  • Traffic — Because you’re mainly using Google My Business for your local SEO campaigns, and also since your target is to rank in Google’s local 3-pack, we advise you to use Google Analytics. Plus, don’t forget to regularly analyze your short term and long term traffic results; and
  • Leads & Conversions — All your local SEO effort all shakes out to the subscribers that you gain and the sales that you generate. This translates to leads and paying customers. By monitoring your subscriber and sales conversions, you’ll be able to determine the overall feasibility and profitability of each tactic that you implement into your local SEO campaigns.

All About SERP Ranking

What is SERP ranking? SERP stands for search engine results pages. This refers to the top Web pages displayed by Google in their organic indices as the most relevant results for corresponding search terms. Take note that in this context, SERP ranking refers to organic listings. This means paid or sponsored placements like ads aren’t part of SERPs.

How does Google decide on SERP rankings for each search term? Google continues to publicly announce that they use more than 200 heuristic factors to evaluate and decide on displaying the most relevant organic results for particular keywords and queries. They say the top factors include the Web page’s contextual relevance, content quality, the value of backlinks, internal link structure, user experience design, regular traffic, user engagement, bounce rate, content freshness or timeliness, domain authority, and social signals.

Each SERP in Google’s organic indices includes a title, a brief description, and the URL of the content page. These titles and URLs are clickable. When clicked, the user is taken to the page.

Google frequently updates their SERP ranking algorithm. As mentioned earlier, Hummingbird was almost a complete overhaul of Google’s SERP algorithm. And today, Google’s latest algorithmic update is called ALBERT. This stands for A Lite BERT. This is an upgrade from their BERT algorithm. BERT stands for bidirectional encoder representations from Transformers. This is an unsupervised natural language processing (NLP) and a natural language understanding (NLU) model. It’s built and updated through a variety of machine learning and deep learning methods.

Keep these things in mind as you plan out your local SEO campaigns today. You’ll be able to tweak your campaign strategies, techniques, and tactics when you do this. Best of luck!


Andrew Scherer

I've been involved in digital marketing for over a decade, since 2006. Marketer's Center gives digital marketing consultants the ability to easily scale their local marketing agencies in a way that isn't labor-intensive and still very profitable. If you want to get my "6 Month SEO Plan" please request a free reseller dashboard account here. You'll also be able to download a price list for all of the services we offer. You can connect with me via Facebook in our Local Marketing Freethinkers group, or via Twitter and Linkedin.

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