If you're creating marketing strategies for national or virtual companies where the only location is a headquarters office (if that), you may believe local SEO to be a waste of time - or perhaps even harmful to your overall messaging. But this is not true, and ignoring local SEO leaves you open to your competition capitalizing on its many benefits.
It is essential to understand that business searches are shifting more and more towards map-based searches and away from traditional desktop searches. This means your website optimization strategy needs to incorporate more than regular SEO tactics.
Map-based searches are becoming so prevalent with apps such as Alexa and Siri that directory services like Yelp are being incorporated right into navigation systems and search apps. Yelp, for example, is included in navigation systems for Mercedes, BMW, Honda, Audi, and more, as well as being included in search apps such as Apple Maps and Mapquest.
What do industry experts say about local SEO?
Advice from Miriam Ellis, a local search expert at SEO tool vendor Moz, is that “Every location-based business needs to own as much of its branded and core keyword SERPs as possible.” She adds that “the citations that matter most for your business are the ones that rank highest for your business by geographic market.”
The consensus from marketing experts seems to be that if you have at least one physical location, then you should make efforts to build and leverage local SEO. If you are a 100% virtual company (no physical address), it is advised that you should focus on branding and national SEO strategies.
Beyond the importance of participating in local SEO, industry experts stress that you should seek out potential erroneous data about your business on search apps and directories to avoid confusing search engines. Confusing search engines can impact your website being served up on searches.
Even though potential erroneous information about your business is third-party data, potential customers will judge your business by that data. You should strive to correct any misinformation about your business - incorrect phone numbers, addresses, business classifications, and etc. Keep in mind that sometimes prospective employees, vendors, or even customers may come to your HQ based on the Google listing!
Another point on misinformation, is that online scammers are increasingly taking advantage of businesses with weak online profiles as reported by the Better Business Bureau. You should ensure your business phone number and company details are clearly displayed on your website and on directories to help potential customers avoid confusing your business with people falsely representing your business.
[Note: If you personally use Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant to look up business numbers, be sure to double-check the number against the business’ website before handing over credit card information to help protect yourself from fraud.]
How does local SEO help?
It is easier to compete on the local stage as there is less competition. You can more readily get noticed and command keywords locally. And you can tie in local marketing efforts, such as attending local industry events, to your national messaging. You will also find that developing business relationships and participating in community events locally will yield you more chances at inbound links from local news and industry contacts, which will improve your SEO.
How do you list your business on local listings?
There are agencies you can pay to do the work for you - but beware, they are not all created equal. There are companies such as Yext, that pull listings down when you stop subscribing to their service ($500/month), so you could get locked into a situation with run away price increases.
Whether you approach local listings in-house or hire externally, it should be a priority and an area you revisit annually to ensure accuracy.