Consumer behaviour is trending toward on-the-go mobile shopping.
A 2018 study by Uberall revealed that 69% of smartphone users rely on their devices for shopping. Among those in that group, 82% had customised their searches to be “near me.” Data released in 2017 confirmed this trend: Four in five consumers want search results and ads to be customised to their local area, and half of smartphone shoppers visit a local store within a day of their search.
What does this mean for businesses hoping to capture the attention of these fast-moving mobile audiences? In all of their online activities, they’ve got to do one thing: Think local.
If you optimise your online content for local searches, you’re offering consumers looking to make a purchase three essential factors: time, convenience, and motivation. They don’t have to look all over the place — literally — for what they need because you’ve handed it to them in a nicely packaged local search result.
It’s a win-win: for them and for your bottom line.
Go local with your digital marketing strategy
Targeting locally doesn’t require an overhaul. You’re already implementing a digital marketing strategy, and you’re already drawing customers with your content marketing. You need to optimise these strategies for localised search results.
We worked with one dental practice in Hollywood, Florida, for example, to implement 15 location-based keywords throughout its website — in content and metadata. Off page, it focused on directory listings. Within a year, its performance in search results had improved dramatically. For the keyword, “best children’s dentist Hollywood, FL,” the practice went from No. 32 to No. 1 in Google Maps.
Layering a local approach on top of your existing marketing strategy might look like:
- Use regional keywords in your blog posts
- Refresh your website content and metadata to include locally targeted terms
- Ensure your company name, address, and phone number are consistent across local online directories
- Embed a Google Map on your about page
- Create a Google My Business profile
Other than the Google My Business profile, these aren’t time-consuming projects. They just require deliberate, consistent efforts over time. Be sure your marketing strategy has built-in time for these tasks, and positive results will follow.
Launching into local search results
Once you’re thinking locally in your digital efforts, you can start to go deeper with four specific strategies.
Optimise Google My Business and Local Listings
Your Google My Business page serves as a local listing and tends to rank high in search results. But doing this right requires some focused effort. To optimise these listings, work on the following:
- Properly set up your page. Add or claim your business on Google My Business, and fill out as much information as possible. The more you include, the better. Otherwise, anyone can suggest edits to your page. Put in your information, provide up to 10 semiprofessional images and videos, and follow the steps to verify your business
- Choose your products and services. Highlighting the correct products or services is critical to improving your listings in organic search results. Some businesses have even jumped five to 10 spots simply by changing a secondary category to a primary one. It’s important to be thorough, so conduct searches around several categories you’re considering and think about the landscape. Take note of the categories for each local competitor, and focus on the ones that best position your business. Tools such as PlePer.com can help you choose, too
- Request (and engage with) more reviews. Because reviews add credibility, they’re critical for improving your click-through rate in searches. What’s more important, though, is that you, as the business, engage with the reviews. Thank customers for positive reviews and respond professionally to negative ones. Always take the high road with the latter, and try to push for following up offline. Never write, buy, or encourage fake reviews
- Keep it up to date. Don’t set up your Google My Business page, then leave it to collect dust. Beyond engaging with reviews, you need to keep your information and photos fresh so that it’s clear your business is active. If you run a local restaurant, for example, you could post menu additions and other news on your page every week
Introduce local keywords
You are probably already targeting industry-specific keywords throughout your site. Now, add geo-specific terms. Use tools such as Google Ads or SpyFu, and explore related searches to examine the popularity of various combinations of your industry-specific keywords with locally-focused ones.
Once you know what terms you want to pursue, find a variety of ways to work them into your site’s content. Beyond the simple strategies mentioned above, getting involved locally can provide you more topics to write about from a local angle. You can host, attend, or sponsor local events and then write about your experience, incorporating your keywords. (This could also help boost your efforts for No. 3, explained below.)
Look for ways to share your expertise as part of the local community, too. Your site may already have an FAQ page, so why not turn expanded answers into full, optimised blog posts? That information is likely serviceable, insightful, and helpful for your readers. Use the opportunity to discuss your services within the local region, and add area-specific calls to action. Finally, use plug-ins such as Yoast to monitor readability and SEO-friendliness.
Earn authoritative inbound links
This strategy is more time-consuming, but it’s worth it. Local authoritative inbound links will help local readers find your website and boost your search results. But it takes offline, long-term legwork to make the connections happen.
What people or businesses are trusted authorities in your community? Make a list and start thinking about how to network and collaborate with them. Your goal is to have those authoritative local websites link back to your site. As you make your connections, here are some opportunities you might look for to build inbound links:
- Guest post on well-known local blogs
- Reach out to vendors and other business affiliates that can drive traffic your way
- Get involved in local schools and universities (through guest lectures, other volunteering, or sponsorships) to score authoritative .edu links
- Send out SEO-optimised press releases to earn links from local news sites and others like Yahoo News
Through your own expert content, you can also create organic opportunities for other sites to link to your content. For example, a heating company could list local energy pricing statistics on its site, which invites other blogs and websites to link to the information.
Whatever strategies you use to build these links, remember you’re playing the long game. Building connections within a community will take time, and you’ll have to wait for other folks to create inbound links based on your content. In addition, it takes time for search engines to index your site, and if you’re behind your competitors in backlinks, it will be a slow process to catch up. Be patient and, more importantly, be persistent.
Use social listening to find topic ideas
Social media provides a way to learn about what your audience wants. So listen to the conversation, and find out what’s important to your audience members. Follow local influencers, analyse the behaviour of your followers, and look at trends across platforms. Use social listening tools to track location-based keywords and target other relevant data so you can cut through the noise.
Say you run a local restaurant with multiple locations. It’s always good to see what people are saying about your locations on social media. So set up alerts for mentions, using both your handle and common search terms.
It’s even better, though, to follow other local restaurants and restaurateurs, regularly search industry buzzwords, and look for conversations around brand names and social media handles that you relate to. In doing so, you’ll learn what’s important to the people who might visit each location. You will gather important intel about what your customers think of you, your competitors, and your industry; then, you can use that to your advantage when you create content.
You might find out that social media users care about where local restaurants’ food comes from. So you can write a blog post highlighting the local farmers you partner with or explaining the background of ingredients in a signature dish. Or you might find out that users are craving a particular type of food — we’ll go with fish tacos. Add information to your website about your restaurant’s fish tacos, incorporating keywords about “your city + fish tacos.”
With local social listening, you’re not just shooting in the dark. You’re building a content strategy based on what’s important to people who live in your area.
In today’s economy, consumers are more globally connected than ever. But that hasn’t pulled them away from the local economy — if anything, it’s made them more informed, more invested local shoppers. Make sure everything you do online is designed to capture these active local customers.
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Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.