Over the past decade, local SEO has become one of the most critical ranking factors in determining the health of a search engine’s local search results. In the past, businesses had little influence over their search engine rankings. However, today’s local SEO strategies emphasize maintaining a quality business presence, which includes optimizing a business’s website for local search queries, developing a solid online reputation, and building a large, engaged online customer and community base. Business owners must be willing to build a robust local SEO strategy. Key ranking factors include customer reviews, positive Google My Business (Google Business Profile) ratings, and other online marketing efforts.
The Importance of Local SEO
Local search engine optimization (SEO) strategically develops and implements search marketing strategies that improve the visibility of a business’s online presence in local search results.
A positive online presence is critical for brick-and-mortar businesses and online retailers who want to rank well in organic search results. Studies demonstrate that approximately four out of five consumers use search engines to find local information such as restaurants, shops, and services.
The use of voice search for things like “Chinese restaurant near me” continually rises. As a result, a brick-and-mortar business’s ability to rank well in local search is an essential competitive advantage considering approximately 50% of mobile users visit a store after conducting a local search.
However, local SEO isn’t only crucial for brick-and-mortar businesses. A robust local SEO strategy for online retailers has become even more critical in the current digital marketing climate.
One reason is that approximately 46% of all Google searches have to do with business location, and Google does tend to show each searcher’s results most relevant to where they are. As a result, a comprehensive local SEO strategy is critical for online retailers who want to rank well in local searches.
Local SEO and current Google maps info are crucial for retailers who don’t operate brick-and-mortar storefronts. For example, suppose a consumer is looking for a local business that sells fitness apparel. In that case, a robust SEO strategy that includes a presence on review sites such as Yelp and Google Business Profile will likely yield better search engine results than an online-only presence.
Why Local SEO and Reviews Go Hand-in-Hand
Local SEO has become more relevant than ever over the last few years. As we all continue to move more and more online, Google is now prioritizing businesses with a strong presence in a specific local area in which they serve. While SEO keyword research and optimizing your website are crucial steps to online success, developing a comprehensive local SEO strategy that includes positive reviews, high Google My Business (GMB) ratings, and other online marketing efforts is essential.
Customer reviews play a critical role in ranking success because they’re an easy way for consumers to verify the legitimacy of a business online and help build a solid online presence in your local market. Reviews are particularly important for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that may not have the time or resources to invest heavily in a digital marketing strategy.
Reviews also allow you to interact with an audience you may not otherwise be able to meet, especially if you don’t have a brick-and-mortar shop. Customer reviews will enable you to thank happy shoppers for their business or directly address any issues or concerns that may have surfaced. You’ll have the opportunity to provide excellent customer service to online shoppers who may not have the chance to interact with you in person.
Finally, customer reviews provide an excellent opportunity to build your online reputation and authority, which will help you create a more substantial local SEO presence. After all, Google tends to rank each business based on its online reputation. A well-respected local company will rank better in its local market than an unknown small business.
Implement a Local SEO Strategy that Incorporates Reviews in 5 Steps
Local SEO can seem like an intimidating task, but it doesn’t have to be. Implementing a local SEO strategy that prioritizes customer reviews is relatively easy.
Not sure where to begin when linking your local SEO and reviews into one strategy? Start with these five steps:
1. Know Your Target Audience
Building a solid local SEO strategy is all about knowing your audience. If you don’t clearly understand whom you’re trying to reach with your online presence, it will be challenging to build a strategy that will help you connect with them. Knowing your ideal audience allows you to better tailor the user experience your customers have once they come across your brand or visit your business website.
When asking for and responding to online reviews, it’s essential to respond to customer needs and ensure you provide them with a positive experience. The responsiveness of a business owner offers both immediate and long-term benefits for a brand.
In the short term, building a strategy that prioritizes customer reviews allows you to connect with your audience emotionally. Human connection encourages both immediate and ongoing engagement, which provides you with the opportunity to build a healthy online presence.
From a long-term perspective, prioritizing customer reviews provides you with the opportunity to build your online authority and reputation. Creating a more substantial local SEO presence allows you to reach potential customers who may not have found your brand otherwise.
2. Conduct Local Keyword Research
Local keyword research is all about understanding your audience and finding the right keywords, which is especially important for local SEO. With an awareness of what your audience is searching for, you can better understand which keywords will likely yield the maximum return on investment (ROI).
When conducting keyword research with a local SEO focus, it’s essential to keep your ideal audiences’ search intent in mind. Anticipating search intent helps you determine which types of relevant keywords to target. For example, suppose you know that most of your ideal customers are looking for local plumbers in their area. In that case, you should focus your local SEO efforts on keywords relevant to this search intent, such as “plumbers near me.”
Focused keyword research will also help you optimize your local online listings better, which will come into play in the following steps.
If you’re not sure how to manage keyword research with search intent in mind, you’ll want to understand that there are three primary categories of search intent:
- Informational: This is any search primarily seeking information, including things like “How to x,” “Best x,” and “Plumber in y.” This category will generate the highest traffic volume as it’s one of the most common intents when searchers turn to the internet with their queries.
- Navigational: Searches looking for navigation, such as “Where is the nearest x,” and “X near me,” are the next most important category to focus on for local SEO. Navigational searches also generate significant traffic, with “near me” searches growing by approximately 200% in recent years.
- Transactional: When potential customers are looking to buy or find a specific product or service, transactional searches include things like “Buy x,” “Best plumber in y,” and “Get a quote for x.” As you can see, keywords that fall into the transactional category tend to be less common than navigational and informational keywords.
However, relevant keywords still have the potential to generate a high volume of organic traffic if they fall within your target demographic. Understanding these different forms of search intent will help you better prioritize your keyword research when developing a local SEO strategy. It will play an essential role in the following step.
3. Create and Optimize Local Online Listings
Creating and optimizing your local online listings is one of the most critical steps for developing a local SEO strategy. This is where your customers will first encounter your business and where most of your online visibility will come from.
Local online listings are a significant factor in your local SEO and reviews, as this is where your customers most likely leave feedback. It’s essential to invest the time and resources necessary to create high-quality online listings that accurately reflect your brand.
There are dozens of online listings, directories, and databases available to create your local online listings, but some of the most common include:
Google My Business (now Google Business Profile)
Google Business Profile is a tool businesses use to create and manage their business profiles on Google. Your customers can find basic information about your business, such as your business name, address, phone number, and website. Your Google Business Profile is also where they’ll be able to leave a review if they have either positive or negative experiences to communicate.
With your profile set up and optimized for your local keywords, you’re ready to begin collecting reviews from your existing and past customers. Invite customers to write a review on your Google Business Profile. The more reviews you have, the higher your ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs) and the more exposure you’ll receive.
Yelp is one of the most popular local review sites and a great place to start when developing your local online listings. Like Google Business Profile, business owners can create an account and manage their business page by uploading photos, writing a description, setting hours of operation, and more. You’ll be able to manage your reviews and respond to any that your customers have left.
Better Business Bureau
BBB (Better Business Bureau) is another popular option for creating your local online listings. The BBB is a non-profit organization that aims to provide a forum for consumers to share their experiences with businesses while at the same time providing a way for companies to verify their legitimacy. You’ll need to register with the BBB to begin managing your business profile. You’ll be able to create and manage your online listings, respond to any reviews that your customers have left, and more.
Many other popular search engines and directories, such as Bing, also allow business owners to create local online listings and manage their profiles from within the search engine. This means you have yet another option for developing your local SEO strategy.
4. Start Compiling Customer Reviews
With your online marketing efforts well underway, it’s time to ask your customers for reviews. Opening up your company for honest reviews is a great way to build your customer base and provide a steady stream of new leads and referrals.
To begin compiling your reviews, simply send out a request with a time limit and a reminder text or email a few days after the initial contact.
You can use email marketing tools such as Mailchimp, Hubspot, Klaviyo, or others to send out a request to your mailing list. Your review request can be simple as a form located on your website or as detailed as a full-blown email campaign. You should be able to gather at least a handful of reviews from your customers. Once you have a few great reviews, repurpose snippets of them for social media and other content marketing purposes.
5. Respond to Reviews
Finally, once you’ve gathered your reviews, you have the opportunity to respond. Communicating with your client base in this way allows you to build a relationship with your customers and show that their experiences with your company matter to you. Being present on your online business listings humanizes your business and helps develop a sense of community. When current and prospective customers see that you’re active on your review pages, they’ll be more likely to leave a review and engage with your company.
Social Media and Local SEO
There’s been an ongoing debate surrounding the effects of social media platforms on search engine optimization. The truth is that social media impacts website search rankings in several ways. While the true impact of social engagement on SEO may be difficult to quantify, it’s clear that maintaining an active social media presence can give you a boost. To learn more, please see our recent blog post, “How Does Social Media Affect SEO?“
Boost Your Local SEO with Help from an SEO Expert
As you can see, developing your local SEO strategy is a complex process that requires a combination of in-depth knowledge of online marketing and local SEO best practices. That’s why it’s essential to work with an SEO expert to help you identify your unique online marketing goals and develop a strategy to help you achieve them.
Contact us today for a free SEO audit and learn how we can help incorporate local SEO and reviews into a strategy that works!