Our life takes place on the Internet significantly less than we think – at least when it comes to our consumption: Online trading only accounts for 4 percent of sales and 80 percent of all consumers are so-called “ROPO” buyers – they search for products online and then buy them offline ( Research Online, Purchase Offline ).
The local search, therefore, plays a special role when it comes to target-oriented consumption: 75 percent of consumers visit a shop within 24 hours after they have found it in a “search in their area” (so-called “near-me searches”) have found.
And that’s the crux of the matter: A company with real locations can use this search behavior to generate more sales offline. However, this requires that they understand the rules of the game of the new buying processes and align their marketing accordingly. It’s about local SEO and the goal of being easy to find in local searches.
What is “Local SEO”?
With local search engine optimization, local SEO, companies optimize the online visibility of individual business locations specifically for customers who search online for products and services in the respective area.
Near-me searches have become increasingly important in recent years: every second to third search query has a local reference (for example “supermarket near me”).
Buying processes and local search
So how do retailers, franchise restaurants, cafes, gas stations, hairdressers and, and, and … reach the top of the local search?
Before we get to the specific strategies for local SEO, we must at least briefly address the connection between buying processes and local search queries:
We use a wide range of online platforms and apps when we are looking for products and services in our area. At the forefront of course is Google, but we are also increasingly searching in our area with Facebook, Yelp, Apple Maps, and other providers.
Such platforms usually want to give us the best possible user experience (UX) and give us what we are looking for.
A very typical example: When I spontaneously have an appetite for a good burger, I look on Google for “ best burger near me”. With the so-called Local Pack (also Local 3-Pack or Map Pack) I get three results that answer my search query as best as possible: All suggestions are within reach, have opened and other customers can recommend them. (I’ll tell you which one I choose in a moment.)
In a local search with Google, the locations that appear in the Local Pack make the race – and 93 percent of users click on one of these results. In order for locations to appear in the Local Pack, you sometimes have to meet the following conditions:
- You have a full profile on Google My Business and other platforms.
- They contain the keyword you are looking for .
- You are in the vicinity .
- The opening times match the search.
- Other users recommend these locations.
Based on these conditions, three essential strategies for local SEO can be derived from which businesses can increase their offline traffic.
Strategy 1: Get your listings flawless
Listings in this case mean entries/profiles on online platforms – these include search engines, directories, navigation, and map services as well as social media or review portals. If you want to use listing management effectively for your local SEO, you should be present on as many platforms as possible that are relevant to your target group.
Google My Business comes first in listing management. Google is the most used search engine and the GMB entry is automatically visible on Google Maps. Provide your information as completely as possible. These include at least the NAP -Information Name Address, Phone and opening times, and the web address. Keywords, descriptive texts, and rich media content (images, videos) are also recommended in order to be visible and attractive to your target group.
Additional entries on online platforms give your location additional authority: By increasing the number of people citing your business online (keyword: Citations), Google assigns you more relevance and potentially ranks you higher in a search query.
However, the improved ranking requires one thing: All of your information must be complete, up-to-date, and uniform across the platforms. The reason: a store closes at 7 p.m. on Facebook and 8 p.m. on Yelp – which information would you believe? Not only you but Google is faced with this question. Inconsistent information affects the credibility of a location and thus also it’s ranking in a local search.
Checklist for your listing management:
- First, test how easily your location can be found on the Internet .
- Create an overview of all platforms that are important for your company. Google My Business should be there. Facebook, Yellow Pages, Apple Maps, Bing, and Yelp too.
- Enter each business location uniformly with the following information on all listings: name, address, type of business (category), contact details (telephone, mobile phone, fax, website, e-mail), opening times, special opening times, keywords, brief description of the location, long description to the location, imprint.
- Take into account image and video material such as logos or product images .
- Check that the entries are up-to-date regularly. Think of spontaneous changes in marketing initiatives or company parties.
Strategy 2: Create websites for your locations
Search engines such as Google index websites so that they can later be taken into account as a result of search queries. If you present your location on a separate page within your website, you increase the effect for local SEO.
Think of a location page like a listing – but a much stronger one. Since the page is on your company’s domain, it automatically benefits from the authority of the address. It is therefore particularly credible for Google and ideally suited for local SEO.
Because this location page belongs to your website, unlike the platforms mentioned above, you have complete freedom of design – above all, you can (and should) implement your branding. This intensifies the user experience of your visitors and also gives you more freedom to guide them into your business.
As with the listings, the principle of data consistency also applies here: information such as the NAP information must be uniform on the location page.
Consider the following for the location pages:
- Create an overview page for all your locations (keyword: Store Locator) as well as complete sub-pages for each individual location.
- Structure the data with the standard Schema.org .
- Think of call-to-action buttons , for example for directions.
- Optimize the URL structure for search engines, for example: mein-unternehmen.de/standorte/stadt/strasse-hausnummer/
- Make sure your pages are indexable , load fast, and use responsive design.
- Check the information on your location pages regularly.
Strategy 3: Get Excellent Reviews
Let’s take the search for the best burgers in the area again. If you saw these three results, where would you go?
Granted, the race is close. But do you take the first result like me because it has the best rating and the shortest distance?
The evaluation of a location is a ranking factor: Entries with a recommendation character have a better chance of appearing in the search results. And this is especially true for an inquiry with a qualitative characteristic such as ” best”. After all, it’s about the user experience. Who wants to visit a 2.3-star restaurant when there is also one with 4.5-star nearby?
So that your location appears high in the search, you want to be able to present as many and above all as positive reviews as possible.
The problem, however, is that not every rating is positive.
The best practice for the management of reviews is therefore to motivate satisfied customers to give a rating on the one hand and to answer incoming reviews on the other. Because: Your appropriate reaction to a negative rating can in about every third case lead to the person behind the rating correcting or even removing it afterward.
What you should consider when managing reviews:
- Come up with a strategy for how you can unobtrusively get your customers to give a review .
- Check your review portals daily and react quickly to new reviews.
- Thank you in a friendly way for a positive review and, if possible, mention the name of your company as an additional mention that can be recorded by search engines.
- Be careful with a negative review. Show that you take the feedback seriously , for example by initiating an improvement or offering compensation.
- Collect the evaluations in order to identify grievances in good time and to initiate continuous improvements.
Tip: Make local SEO easy for yourself
Local SEO is anything but easy manually. It might be feasible in a single location, but it would be time-consuming, tedious, and error-prone (which in turn means that if the data is incorrect, you would have put all the effort in vain). And with each additional location, local SEO becomes increasingly a matter of impossibility. But that shouldn’t be a reason to forego it.
You can automate listings, location pages, and reviews as far as possible by using specially designed software for “location marketing”. With automation, you reduce the effort to a minimum and at the same time avoid sensitive errors. This increases the chances that your location will appear at the top of the local search and that your offline traffic will increase.