Whether it’s on Google Maps, Facebook Places or Yelp, over 40% of consumers use the internet to find local businesses every week. Local search has become a prominent aspect of customers' lives. No matter what they are looking for, when they need a business with a physical location, their search and discovery process lives online.
This makes local search one of the best opportunities for brick-and-mortar businesses to drive traffic to their physical locations. However, the degree to which you’re able to use search to drive in-store traffic largely hinges on the success of your local SEO strategy.
Local SEO Health Check:
This health check will help you determine your strengths and weaknesses in terms of local SEO and show you exactly where you need to focus in order to see your rankings and store traffic climb.
Part 1: Google My Business (GMB)
With over 75% of searches with local intent coming from mobile devices and Google driving 93% of all mobile search traffic, there’s no better place to start your local SEO health check than on Google’s own hub for local search.
GMB is a free tool for businesses and organizations who have physical locations or operate in a specified service area. It is designed to help them manage their online presence across Google including both organic and map search.
You are going to want to be sure that your Google listings for every business location are as accurate and complete with as much information as possible. Below is a complete list of what you should have filled out on your GMB listings:
- Business Name
- Phone Number
- Operating Hours
- Business Category (Be as specific as possible)
- Photos (Cover Photo, Profile Photo and Logo)
- Link to menu, reservations or bookings (if applicable)
Optimized: Not Optimized:
Ensuring that your GMB listings are accurate and complete is the foundation of a good local SEO strategy. It shows Google and potential customers that your business is active and the information is up to date. This builds trust in the online space and helps customers make a more educated decision about which business to choose.
Part 2: Listings
A listing is an entry of your business information - mainly name, address, phone number and website - on an online directory like Google Maps, Yelp and Facebook. It is important that your listings on all of these directories aren’t just accurate, but that they are consistent across all the search providers and only one listing exists on each site. Having accurate and consistent listing information that isn’t duplicated on the same search sites, such as having unofficial Facebook pages, is one of the most important aspects to optimize for your local SEO health; it accounts for over 50% of how Google decides to rank businesses in the local search results.
Apart from the previously mentioned big three - Google, Yelp, Facebook - there are hundreds of online directories where your business listings may or may not exist (You can find a list of the top 50 online directories here). We recommend that you go through each of the tier 1 directories and top data aggregators and ensure that all of your listings exist and are accurate and consistent for each of your locations.
Part 3: Rankings and Competitive Landscape
Knowing where you currently rank and who your top competitors are in each market is powerful knowledge that will help you make location-by-location improvements in order to better compete in each local market and boost your local search rankings.
In order to determine your local search rankings and local competitors for each location you will want to start by getting into the mind of your potential customers. Pick 5 to 10 relevant and unbranded keywords that they would likely be searching. Natural phrases like “Best Mechanic”, “2 Bedroom Apartment” or “Family Physician”.
It’s a bit tedious, but next you will want to head over to Google Maps and search each of those keywords in each of your local markets. For example, if you were someone like Macy’s and you wanted to get your local search results for your store locations in San Diego, then you would search “Department Store San Diego” or “Women’s Clothing Store San Diego”.
Record where and if you appear in the local search rankings for each of the keyword searches or click here to have your local search rankings calculated for you!
Note: 75% of customers will never scroll past the first page of results. Which means if you aren’t on page one, chances are customers aren’t even seeing your listing.
In the game of local search, you’re competing for views, clicks, calls and requests for directions - online conversions that lead to in-store sales. 20% of all clicks go to the very first search result and over 65% to the top 5. This means that your local competitors are going to be whoever appears on page one of the local search results when you search that list of 5 - 10 keywords. Focus on the competitors who are consistently showing up in the top 3 to 5 positions.
Take note of where you rank and who you’re competing against. For each of your competitors, you’ll also want to record their star rating and number of reviews to later compare with your own.
Part 4: Reviews
Reviews have a major influence on your local SEO health and online presence. They are a strong signal to Google and other search and review platforms of how well customers like your business and whether or not they should recommend you to searchers. Specifically, reviews account for over 13% of how Google decides to rank businesses; this means that the higher quantity, quality and incoming velocity of reviews you have, the higher you will rank.
Equally important to earning good reviews is responding to the reviews that you receive, both positive and negative. Google has confirmed that responding to reviews increases your rankings in the local search results. In addition, review responses show potential customers reading through your reviews that your business is listening to what customers have to say, engaging with people interested in their business, and willing to make changes to improve the customer experience.
The number of review sites across the web is extensive, making it difficult to monitor and manage all your reviews manually. However, be sure to record the total number of reviews, average star rating and number of review responses for the top priority sites listed below:
- Top Industry specific sites:
- Apartments - Apartment Ratings
- Healthcare - HealthGrades
- Auto Dealership - Cars.com
- Real Estate Agents - Zillow.
Part 5: Social Signals
As many as 74% of Americans will be using social media to guide their local purchase decisions. They are looking at things like photos, tweets, comments, likes, shares, etc. to see what other people are saying about you and to get a sense of how your business engages with customers.
Facebook - The most important thing here is the popularity of your local store pages, rather than your national brand page. You will want to start by checking how many comments, likes and shares your posts are receiving. This will show you which stores have the biggest social following and engagement and which stores need to make improvements.
Instagram - Aside from the usual comments and likes, Instagram has a hidden detail that most businesses with multiple locations don’t know about. When customers take a photo at your store and geotag your location the post goes to a store location page that most businesses never monitor.
If the customer doesn’t actually @mention your Instagram name (which they barely ever do), you won’t be alerted that there was a photo taken at your location. The only way to find these photos is to do a location by location search on Instagram any time you want to see what new photos have been added. My recommendation is that you check those pages frequently, you never know what damaging or repostable pictures could be hiding out there.
Twitter - Apart from monitoring how many replies, retweets and likes you receive on your own tweets, it is important to monitor what your customers are saying about you. However, Twitter is like a fire hose of information that never turns off. This makes it nearly impossible to monitor for information that is actually relevant.
While you can try to aggregate all of your Twitter information manually, I highly recommend finding a tool that allows you to monitor tweets based on a specific geographic region. For example, you will want a tool that allows you to filter out tweets so you only see highly relevant content coming from within 10 miles of your store locations.
Whether you’re new to local SEO or already have a strategy in place, it is important to monitor and analyze your complete online presence and where you stand in the the local search results. Schedule a FREE demo with Chatmeter to request an analysis of your local SEO health and learn more about how local SEO can help you drive more customers to your physical locations.