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With the growth of mobile, and the increasing use of local factors by Google in desktop searches, ranking for searches in their locality is ever more important for businesses. 

This is something that can benefit businesses small and large, and some of the techniques for improving rankings are very simple, and cost nothing. 

For example, just creating a Google + Local listing for your business will greatly improve your search visibility, especially if your local competitors haven't figured this out yet. 

Here, I've outlined why local search is so important, and asked a couple of search experts for their tips... 

Why is local search so important?

There are a number of reasons, including... 

Mobile

More and more people are using their mobiles. They're using them to find directions, look for somewhere to eat, something to do, where they can buy the latest gadget, or perhaps a bit of crafty showrooming

Here's a few stats: 

  • comScore study found that the total number of US searchers using mobile phones grew 26% between March 2012 and December 2012, from 90.m to 113.1m searchers.
  • Search on tablets was up 19% between April 2012 and December 2012. In comparison, desktop searches were down 6% between November 2011 and November 2012.
  • According to Google's Mobile Search Moments Study40% of mobile searches have local intent. Similarly, 77% of mobile searches occur at home or at work, while 17% take place on the go.
  • Shopping queries are twice as likely to take place while the user is in-store.
  • Three out of four mobile searches trigger follow-up actions, whether that be further research, a store visit, a phone call, a purchase or word-of-mouth sharing.
  • According to a survey included in the Econsultancy Mobile Commerce Compendium67% of smartphone owners had used their device to search for information in the previous seven days.

What tasks have you carried out using your smartphone in the past week?

(More mobile search stats here). 

There are easy wins to be had

Simply ensuring that you have a Google+ Local listing can make a massive difference. This is where Google gets the information for the map-driven local search results. 

Let's take the example of restaurants, a common search for mobile users.

In London, it seems that many have twigged onto this, as plenty of Google local results appear when you search for restaurants, though there are still opportunities in some areas, and you can enhance your listing with images and contact details to make it stand out from the others. 

       

However, not everywhere in the country is the same as London, and local businesses outside the capital have the opportunity for some easy wins here. 

To use the restaurant example again. Yarm, in the north east, has at least 10 restaurants, yet only four have a Google Local listing, so they're the ones that win on this search.

In fact, the Google Local results dominate so much that you have to scroll a long way down to find any of the others. If customers search directly through maps, the Local listings are even more dominant. 

 

Creating a basic Google Local listing takes a matter of minutes, and costs nothing. Why wouldn't you do it? 

What are the most significant ranking factors for local search?

Tom Gregan, SEO Account Manager and Local Expert, Mediacom:

An effective local search campaign has to focus on sending clear signals indicating the relationship between the website/business and the locations they would like to target. 

This is best achieved with clear Name, Address and Phone (NAP) information, occurring both onsite and externally. Consider using markup such as http://schema.org/PostalAddress

Having your business’s NAP information feature prominently within your website, and securing authoritative links from websites which include clear NAP information are key to sending a strong signal that you are related to searches which are either performed in that location or have that location as part of their make-up.

Andrew Girdwood, Media Innovations Director at LBi:

This seems to be a moving target. For a start you have to consider where the local search happens; Google Maps, in Google+, a mobile search of the search engine or a desktop one. You should also recognise that Google really is very active in tweaking in this area.

I conducted a study of 500 unique searches, in G+ Local, from an Edinburgh IP address for a presentation for SES London 2013. I won’t claim the methodology was bullet proof but based on the G+ Local filters the order of importance was; Number of Reviews, People Like You, Score, Distance, 'Because you' and Your Circles.

Those labels no longer feel appropriate although Google used them at the time and the study may still have some insight into what Google was thinking.

How do local search results differ between desktop and mobile? 

Tom Gregan:

Local search can be divided in to searches which include a location within the query, e.g. “Korean restaurants in London” and searches which returns results that are related to where the search has been performed e.g. “Korean restaurant” when physically stood in Soho, London.

Desktop searches tend to less often be influenced by the location the searcher was when they made their search, which means it is more important to optimise for localised search queries.

Mobile searches must be more comprehensive in their optimisation, and there seems to be a preference towards showing Places/+ Local results.

With that in mind we recommend making sure your profile has clear phone information so that users can click from the result to call your business.

Andrew Girdwood: 

Once again this is a bit of a moving target as Google (and the others) experiment.

There is one constant answer though: people browse mobile results and desktop local results very differently. Your time to capture is mobile searcher is far shorter than your time to capture the click from a desktop searcher.  

Desktop searchers typically use more complex query terms but that may dramatically change if Voice search becomes more popular. If that happens then expect mobile search to be responsible for far more complex queries.

How important is Google + Local for local SEO? 

Tom Gregan:

Registering your site/business on Google Places and Google + Local is integral to both help to categorise and provide basic information about your business.

Providing category information about your site gives Google a better understanding of the topic of your business and creates a signal that you are related to localised searches related to what you do.

Clearly stating NAP information will work as a significant signal that you are a business related to a location, which will improve your visibility.

Andrew Girdwood: 

It’s very important. 

Google agreed with the FTC not to 'scrape' data from the likes of Yelp. Let’s park the debate about what the difference between indexing, crawling and scraping is and recognise that this gives Google a huge incentive to collect local data directly on to their platform and use it. 

It’s also worth comparing Google Places to Facebook. No one questions that if you want your local business to be found in Facebook’s Graph Search that it needs a Page.

Facebook can present that data in whatever they want because it’s been given to their system. Google will do the same.

What is the one tip you would give a local business for ranking locally? 

Tom Gregan:

Get involved in with things/events happening within your locality.

Links from other local businesses, as well as local press and media, are generally easier to secure and are great for helping to improve local search visibility. 

Why not register at your local chamber of commerce, within any business directories offered by local press or sponsor a local school football team.

All can be a great way to secure local, high trust links, which will work to improving the overall authority of your site.

Andrew Girdwood: 

Find out whether your city is in the Google City Experts program or not. If is; invite one around.

Graham Charlton

Published 13 November, 2013 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (23)

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Mike Rees

Good article, though it has to be said that the majority of the above techniques reference local search from a single location perspective - i.e a business trading from a single physical address. These techniques are great for businesses of this type, but for 'service' based businesses operating across a wider area, gaining visibility can be a little more tricky.
There are a number of posts that discuss how to tackle this, but I've found the best results come via well written, relevant content addressing each target location. Back this up with links from good-quality local websites (as mentioned above) and ranking well for a broader number of localities is possible.

almost 3 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Thanks Mike - that issue is something we have covered in research, and we'll follow up on at some point here.

almost 3 years ago

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Mike Rees

Great - look forward to it!

almost 3 years ago

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Jon Tonti

I agree with the tips, but is seems everyone forgot about Yahool Local, Bing Local, etc. I agree that having your NAP organized (easy), and the Google+ profile setup (easy) are the absolute baselines. From there the off page citations (a little bit harder) give Google confidence to put your listing in the "7 pack" or on the carousel. If you are small business you can do this for yourself with some research and sweat equity. However, if you are a brand manager responsible for increasing the visibility of all your channel partners to drive sales then you should have a room of people hacking away at it. We do this at my company and I can tell you it is one of the most painless things a brand can do to increase partner sales, the ROI can be pretty impressive.

almost 3 years ago

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Nick Stamoulis

"Simply ensuring that you have a Google+ Local listing can make a massive difference. "

I know that most of my local searches are based on finding a phone number or directions. Make it easy for potential customers to find and do business with you! The fewer clicks/actions it takes the better.

almost 3 years ago

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Dare

Local SEO listing is the way to go in order to beat out competitors.

Google+ local listings worked extremely well for a client, to an extent that he now focus most of his advertisement on Google.

Thanks Graham for sharing this educative piece.

almost 3 years ago

Melih Oztalay

Melih Oztalay, CEO at SmartFinds Internet Marketing

Hi Everyone,

This post and the statistics are great!

The space of local marketing has been growing since 2008 when the maps really began as part of the search results.

The odd situation we find is while the Internet industry is on "Local 5.0", businesses, particularly multi-location national companies haven't figured out "Local 1.0".

Many are assuming information syndication is all you have to do (taking the traditional yellow pages approach), while there are others that don't even realize that the local marketing tools even exist...and yet another group assumes they only have to update their websites.

For examples

...a petroleum company completely misses 2000 of their 5000 stores in Google Maps.

...or...a national financial firms that cannot be found for terms in their industry

...or...business that rely on word of mouth not managing their ratings and reviews.

We certainly welcome these types of studies and hope more people will learn that "all business is local"! :)

almost 3 years ago

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Pavol Hollosy

What is the one tip you would give any business for better ranking locally and globally?

Answer is: global catalog dot com

Global Catalog is the fastest growing and most efficient online global business network. Continually expanding to nearly every country around the world and already available in 55 languages. FREE!

almost 3 years ago

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Jeremy Cid

One thing to point out that our company has been battling is the difficulty and number of steps involved in trying to eliminate or merge previous Local Business listings on Google with the newly created Google+ local listings automatically created with a new G+ profile. In order to create the G+ page, the business has to be verified. In order to create the G+ local listing, it has to be verified. Then you have to release and request removal of previous local listings created before G+ became so important. Any thoughts on an easier way to do this?

almost 3 years ago

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Darren

Great article with excellent visuals. Now that Google has rolled out recent interface changes like (http://www.chatmeter.com/google-local-changes-requiring-greater-review-management/) and launched Hummingbird (http://www.chatmeter.com/is-hummingbird-flying-google-into-the-future-of-local-seo/), it will be interesting to see how local search continues to be affected and evolve.

almost 3 years ago

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webitmd

Nice and well expressed article this will definitely help some one who is planing to target local area. Thanks for sharing

almost 3 years ago

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pari

Thanks to your page. wonderful article. lloking to get more such articles. I want to share how my website's ALEXA ranking went from 3 crore to 4 lac within couple of month. And if you think why SEO is necessary, then as far as if you want to be on top of the searches, you must have your website properly optimized. I have also write an article on it..hope it will benefit you. http://catchupdates.com/tips-to-increase-alexa-rank/

almost 3 years ago

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Ajaz Elahi

Some great tips here. Google Places and Google+ Local is something so simple yet I overlooked this myself. Will reference this page. Thank you.

almost 3 years ago

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Apon

Now local search became more important for a site.Google is also giving extra look of it. Thanks for the guideline to include local mapping of SEO.

almost 3 years ago

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isoftway

Hi,
your article is so good....great post...this will help for local marketing people...thanks for your kind information.

over 2 years ago

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software development companies Delhi

Acetech Software Development Company provides Software Product,customized software,Healthcare Services, SEO, Digital Marketing,student health management sortware,online examination software,HRMS software.

over 2 years ago

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web design seo

This is a great overview- it is all too easy to neglect local SEO by attempting to just focus on the bigger but mobile is going to define the season so it is a definite must!

over 2 years ago

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web design seo

This is a great overview- it is all too easy to neglect local SEO by attempting to just focus on the bigger but mobile is going to define the season so it is a definite must!

over 2 years ago

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Ati

Amazing blog........
It was really informative, i am working on some local projects and i was looking for some Local SEO tip that can improve ranking of keywords for local searches, this blog was helped me. Thank you for sharing such great information.

over 2 years ago

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cass do

Also, do you know how I can put the social media plugin that you have. I really like them. Both the one to the left and the nice widget you have on the right. Very nice

over 2 years ago

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Robert Emery

Interesting Article,
We are an agency providing services in the clients' home. We do not really have a high street store, and many of our competitors do, so I wondered whether Google Local would be very beneficial. It turned out that it is, as it benefits our rankings and Google has rewarded as in the 7 Pack for Music Lessons!

I find incredibly interesting to learn about Local SEO, to me it is like the ultimate future has finally arrived.

over 2 years ago

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Ohiopro Video Productions

Thanks for this article. We are a new video production business in a small community. I'm sure our rankings will improve. We've tried to secure a solid web presence with accurate local information. Yelp and Foursquare also said to be strong listings as well.

over 2 years ago

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Local SEO

Excellent blog!! love what you guys are doing. You focus on local SEO is much appreciated.

over 2 years ago

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