Historically, search engine optimization has been all about getting more attention to your website. But when you’re thinking SEO, think broader. Remember, it’s really about getting more attention for your business, and that’s where local search shines.
Local search is an often-neglected part of the SEO package. When you have a centralized location, it’s how local customers find you, and it’s how tourists discover you when they’re already in your area.
In 2017, BrightLocal found that 97 percent of consumers use local search, with the majority using it at least once monthly. 12 percent of consumers use the internet to find local businesses every day.
If your company has any sort of centralized location and isn’t paying attention to local search, you’re missing out on a potentially huge source of business.
1. Nail Your NAP
Local search relies on three basic pieces of information about a business: name, address, and phone number, or NAP. Now, before you dust off your hands and congratulate yourself on a job well done, just having those things isn’t enough. You need to get them out there, and you need to be consistent.
According to Google, “local results favor the most relevant results for each search, and businesses with complete and accurate information are easier to match with the right searches.”
Listings that include your NAP are known as citations. They’re a major factor in local search — the experts at MOZ rank them as the fourth most important factor. For your NAP to positively contribute to your rank on local searches, it needs to match the search engine’s data.
Small inconsistencies can sink you. While Google’s algorithm uses multiple data points to match businesses, if it finds inconsistencies in more than one of them, you’ll end up with duplicates — and Google really doesn’t like duplicates. If you use different business addresses in online listings (for instance, your office and a P.O. Box), you’re not just confusing your customers, you’re confusing Google.
Along with your NAP, citations can include other information:
- Website address
- Email address
- Social media accounts
- Business categories
- Hours of operation
- Business description
Those are just a few of the more common listing fields you might find. Save time by preparing a document with all that information so you can copy and paste it everywhere. This has the added benefit of ensuring consistency.
2. Get Those Citations
Armed with a complete, accurate NAP, it’s time to get your citations out there. You should be listed on as many local business data platforms as possible. Aside from Google, the main ones include Acxiom, Neustar Localeze and Infogroup. Depending on your needs, there may be costs associated with these listings, so weigh their value before signing up.
While you’re there, make sure there aren’t already existing or incomplete listings for your company. Again, duplication is not good where search engines are concerned.
Where else can you secure citations? First, the usual suspects: Yelp, Facebook, TripAdvisor, and other social business listings contribute to your ranking, so make sure your NAP is accurate on each of them. You can also look at smaller location and industry platforms, like chamber of commerce and professional association websites. With local search, more is more — especially since the search giants don’t share the ever-shifting secrets of their algorithms.
To make some sense of this, WhiteSpark has put together a dynamic resource for learning what listings feed into which search engines. Be warned, it’s complicated. There’s no need to try to do everything, though. Start with the major platforms — that alone will put you ahead of most of your competition.
3. Claim Your Listings
Local searches generally come from Google, Apple, and Bing, with Google taking up a massive share of the market. They’re the ones that gather the citations you’ve been generating and turn them into search rankings.
All three of the big local search providers have services that allow you to claim or create listings as needed.
Apple: Apple Maps Connect
Bing: Bing Places for Business
Google: Google My Business
Get the most from your Google My Business listing with our guide.
There are two important tips to remember when claiming your business:
- The business owner should claim the listing. Oftentimes, people leave this to their webmasters, SEO firms, marketing team or employees. Doing it yourself might be a headache, but remember, if you lose access to the person managing your listing, you lose control of your listing — and search companies don’t make them easy to recover. If you’re an employee tasked with managing local search, make sure to use a company email address to prevent problems in the future.
- Use an email address you won’t forget. Getting locked out of your listing is more than a hassle; it can be a disaster. Locking yourself out of your Rezgo account is one thing — we have friendly, helpful customer service agents who can verify your identity and help you get back to work. With corporate giants like Google, it’s more likely to be a bureaucratic nightmare. Don’t risk it — keep track of that email address.
4. Pull in Reviews
Reviews are a key component of local search. Google uses its own review system. Apple Maps and Bing Maps use TripAdvisor and Yelp, among others.
The quality, quantity, and frequency of those reviews will affect your ranking, so you should be soliciting reviews from your guests wherever possible. While TripAdvisor is obviously an important resource in the tours and activities market, Google reviews can be more beneficial for local search, so balance your review requests to keep both active.
- Make it as easy as possible by including a call to action on your website.
- Request reviews in person to motivate your customers.
- Send followup emails after the tour or activity reminding customers to review.
If all this seems like a lot of work just for search rankings, remember — your reviews aren’t just there for search algorithms. Customers rely on those reviews to make booking decisions, too.
5. Monitor Your Listings
You’ve gone to all the effort of building up your citations, soliciting reviews and setting up your listings, so now you can relax.
But don’t get too relaxed. There are a few things you can do to keep your listings from falling out of date:
- Update any changed business details. Did your website change? Have you set up a new business email address? Do your hours of operation need to be adjusted? Don’t forget to update them on your listings.
- Refresh your images. Like everything in marketing, photo trends change over time. Keep your listing fresh by making sure your photos are up-to-date and appealing.
- Watch for fraudulent reviews. Removing reviews is a difficult process on any service, but sometimes it’s worth pursuing.
Local search is easy to manage, but it can be time consuming. Is it worth it for your company? These stats from HubSpot may help you decide.
- 46 percent of Google searches are local.
- 78 percent of local-mobile searches result in offline purchases.
- 18 percent of local mobile searches lead to a sale within one day.
By working on your local search rankings, you put your company in front of motivated customers in your area. That’s a market no tour and activities company should ignore.