When we think of search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM), we usually focus on online traffic. However, at the Google Performance Summit this past May, the search engine giant shared several important statistics in terms of local search:
- Nearly a third of mobile searches are related to location.
- Location-related searches have been growing 50 percent faster than mobile searches overall in the past year.
- 84 percent of consumers conduct local searches.
Local SEO begins with basic information on your website. Make sure you include your city/state/region in your web content and page tags. Many sites include this, along with the actual street address, in a static footer so that the information appears on every page of the site.
Location, location, location
Let’s take a look at a recent Google search I conducted for “restaurants near Penn Station NYC.” Below are a few of the results. If I’m walking to or from the train station, I probably want something relatively close by. The first listing below confirms the restaurant’s location.
When I visited the restaurant’s website, the home page content reiterates the bistro’s location: “Located in the heart of bustling Manhattan on 7th Avenue, Manhattan, just steps away from New York’s Penn Station, Macy’s, Herald Square & the Fashion District….”
In terms of images, however, the three images above are distinctly different. The first is an interior shot, the second is of food and the third is an exterior shot. There’s no right or wrong approach here, just different approaches.
For a well-known chain such as Moe’s, you probably don’t need to see the restaurant’s exterior. So the choice of a food item is a good one. For truly local establishments, however, it might help for recognition to show the building’s exterior. That way, when prospective customers are walking by with search results on their mobile phones, they have visual recognition. Of course, if you’re extremely hungry, a food visual might be all you need to make a beeline for that particular restaurant.
In the last example above, I’m not sure why the copy would refer to “red-leather banquettes” unless it’s to emphasize the bold color scheme. In an article on the business of color, red is noted as a universal sign of heightened, passionate emotions, making people stop and take notice. The main image on the homepage of the restaurant’s website reinforces the colorful interior, and the headline/copy make no mistaking that the location is Midtown Manhattan.
Keep in mind, though, that in order to be picked up by search engines your content must be HTML text. If the headline above is part of the image it will be missed altogether. Complicating matters here is that the image is part of a slider; adding alt text for SEO may involve placing it as the slider’s title instead of associating it with a particular image.
Instead of diverting traffic from your site to Google Maps, why not include a Google Map on your site, with your business pinpointed?
As you can see from the examples above, SEO and SEM are inextricably connected. So I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a few Google AdWords features designed specifically for local searches:
- Location targeting — people in or searching for your location
- Location extensions — see an example from the AdWords Help site:
- Promoted pins — Google’s most recent addition to its arsenal of local search features. These will appear in Google Maps but, unlike the traditional red pins that mark sites of interest, these are purple to stand out more.
Google isn’t the only game in town. When it comes to local businesses, sites such as Yelp, Foursquare, TripAdvisor and Angie’s List can drive traffic to (or away from) your products/services.
While third-party sites such as these have their place, consider including customer testimonials on your own site. This “social proof” can go a long way in building credibility for your business. Plus, people in your geographic area might even know some of those providing the testimonials. So if you can include full names, adding to legitimacy, and use headshots to accompany testimonials, you’re golden. You can’t argue with word of mouth.
What’s more, you can pick up on how customers describe your products/services, and then incorporate that verbiage into your own site content. When prospective customers search online, they are more likely to use their own terminology than yours.
Don’t forget to use social media to your advantage. Social media sites such as Twitter come up high in search engine results, as a recent search for “Trump” revealed. This Facebook site also includes TripAdvisor reviews:
In order to be successful with local SEO, or any SEO for that matter, you must create a coordinated campaign across all your web properties. Images and content cannot be developed in silos; they must work in tandem to generate the most (foot) traffic.
About the Author
Darcy Grabenstein began her career as an editor at The Orlando Sentinel and still gets an adrenaline rush from deadline pressure. She “defected” to advertising, ending up in suburban Philly where she wrote for Nabisco, M&M/Mars, Johnson & Johnson, Warner Lambert, and more. It’s also where she learned what an ice scraper was. Her passion is PR, and she holds professional accreditation from the Public Relations Society of America and the International Association of Business Communicators. While she will never acquire a taste for scrapple, and still calls a hoagie a sub, she does enjoy a good cheesesteak.
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