To quote Ricky Bobby, “If you’re not first, you’re last!”
Believe it or not, his statement also has application in the world of search engine optimization (SEO). While Will Ferrell’s ego-centric character in Talladega Nights was obsessed with being the best race car driver, his view of success can be a sharp take on search results.
Your company showing up as the top result on a search page matters. Studies show that the first result gets around 1/4 of all clicks, and each down-page result sees a significant decrease in clicks as you scroll.
How Google’s Algorithm Shapes SEO Rankings Overall
Google’s data scientists and engineers have developed an algorithm that creates personalized results for every individual. Therefore, search results can be completely different depending on a user’s specific location, search history, and desktop or mobile device.
Someone searching from Chicago will get different results for “clean water initiatives” than someone in Charlotte. However, if one of those people is searching from a mobile, Google will show them mobile-friendly sites even if a desktop site might score better in another part of the rankings.
Metrics specific to your web pages – such as click-through rates from search result pages, the time spent on a page, and bounces – dictate further if Google serves a particular website.
With so many factors at play, there’s no room for cutting corners. Your on-page SEO, user experience (UX), technical SEO and target audiences must each be optimized for search success.
How Local SEO Rankings Differ
Since 2016, the searcher’s location or proximity to a business has had a much more significant impact on their search results and the likelihood of a regular organic result receiving clicks.
Thanks to GPS coordinates, Google provides a hyper-local experience, such as local packs, which can either enhance or limit exposure for businesses depending on location. Local packs are something you know, even if you’re not familiar with the name. It’s the top result with a map and a few businesses that show up when you search for something that exists locally.
In 2021, Google introduced a mobile-friendly version of the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) called Local 2-Packs. These features allow businesses to be shown based on their proximity and relevance to the searcher’s intent and the company’s prominence. Large companies that once dominated entire cities due to prominence saw a drop in traffic at the advent of local packs. In contrast, small businesses saw more leads in their immediate neighborhood.
Local SEO is a tricky game to play, as Google’s machine-learning continues to improve its methods and refine its ability to determine relevance and match user intent.
How to Create a Winning Local SEO Strategy
Businesses that proactively provide relevant content paired with a Google-approved UX should have less fear from a Google algorithm update because they’re already giving the customer or client what Google wants – a quick, effective, device-friendly web experience.
To uplevel your local search, get familiar with fundamental verbiage, and direct your SEO efforts toward these four basic steps for appearing in local search:
1. Optimize your Google My Business listing
Google My Business (GMB) is a digital marketing tool that allows you to manage all of your Google properties (Google Maps, Google Search, Google Reviews) in one location while displaying across multiple devices to your customers. First, be sure to create or claim your Google My Business profile. This step can require a verification process that may be cumbersome depending on your industry. However, afterward, you’ll be able to optimize your profile with information and images and respond to reviews online.
In a post-pandemic world, we realize the importance of keeping digital marketing tools such as GMB, OpenTable and UberEats up to date, as accurate information on these platforms can win or lose clientele in under a minute. In addition, digital marketing tools allow for real-time updates, enabling you to remove a menu item, adjust hours and update events on the fly, so your customers are never left uninformed.
2. Stop the duplicates
Duplicates on Google My Business or other major directory sites, such as Yelp and Citysearch, can wreak havoc on your website authority and confuse and lose potential customers. Multiple reviews split across listings can ultimately weaken your standing online if not combined into a single profile. Be sure to consolidate these listings to see improvements in site strength and weave this into your ongoing strategy. Additionally, multiple listings appear spammy, which can feel suspicious to potential clients and dissuade hopeful business partners.
3. Increase positive reviews and relevant backlinks
Some might compare Google to the mean girl in high school; it’s all about being popular. Google wants to know that other sites like you so that Google can like you, too. Therefore, it is essential to be strategic with your off-site link strategy. Public relations specialists have a knack for scoring well in this territory. As a result, third-party links from PR sites or related third-party websites receive an increasing return on SEO.
The same can be true for reviews. These strategic off-site links have begun to outweigh the prior relevance of third-party citation sites related to local search. In addition, there are many review platforms and numerous third-party applications to help you solicit reviews from customers at the opportune time. Finally, in an age when programs decide what we do and don’t see in our searches, reviews can provide the needed human touch for more empathetic users to make their decisions.
Staying First in Local SEO
While maintaining directories, cleaning duplicates and improving reviews are vital to staying competitive in local SEO, that’s just the beginning. Analytics are needed to ensure your site is healthy and performing well. And ongoing SEO is a must because things don’t stay fixed. You’ll need to regularly keep your site updated against vulnerabilities, improve your UX as themes and browsers change, and so much more just to stay relevant in your local pack.
So, are you ready for an SEO strategy that raises your organization’s digital profile? Talk to the SEO specialists at Group3. We’ll help you define your goals and optimize your digital presence on the web.