LOCAL SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION & THE IMPORTANCE TO YOUR PRACTICE

Every business wants to appear at or near the top search results for the major search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo! The overwhelming majority of click-throughs result from pages that land in the top ten or, at least, on the first page of search results. The higher the search engine listing of your website, the higher the click through rate. However, that’s only a part of the search game. Recognize that “dominance” plays an important role to the consumers influence. So consider the other “Search” real estate: maps, organic, sponsored, mobile, and the all-important Local Listings.

The objective of local Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is to help your website achieve the highest placement possible in search engine results pages. As the internet continues to grow in both size and importance, it can become even more difficult to get noticed.

What is Local Search?

Local search is simply a search that is intended to find something within a specific geographic area. For example, a user may search for “pediatricians in Las Vegas”. Any local-centric business that draws clients from within a specific service area must be concerned about creating an effective local search optimization campaign.

Typically, local online searches result in the completion of a transaction offline, and more and more local searches are being conducted with mobile devices such as smartphones.

Searching Locally

In today’s digital world, people use search engines to look for services and products within their local reach such as restaurants, doctors, lawyers, and lawn care services. As a result, the major search engines now deliver more localized search results into their organic listings.

A recent survey from Pew Research found that over 79% of U.S. consumers conduct local searches on the internet before making a buying decision offline. As a result, it’s become increasingly important that businesses understand what local search is and how it works.

Small and mid-sized businesses need to recognize and take advantage of the fact that people are using search engines to find them locally. After all, if you’re running a practice in Las Vegas, do you really care if people in Miami view your website?

How does one improve their local search engine optimization process? Just like standard SEO, creating relevant and compelling content is crucial. Well-written copy for your user and proper local keyword research goes a long way in giving your business a competitive advantage in the SEO battle. Successful local SEO can demand more creativity.

The fact that local search results are being listed before organic web results gives your practice a golden opportunity. To take advantage, you now need to pay more attention to local business listings as an essential part of your search engine marketing (while still optimizing for the traditional web listings).

The Importance of Content

Today your practice must be strategically engaged on available digital media outlets. Your customer base is more diverse than ever and they like to get their information from a variety of marketing channels and platforms including websites, blogs, and social media. This makes fresh, unique and relevant content critical. Although this can make your job more difficult, it can also create unprecedented marketing opportunities.

Content is what draws in visitors and it’s what keeps them engaged. Fresh, relevant, quality, professionally-written and optimized content is also what attracts the attention of the search engines – translating into higher revenues for your business.

Social Media

One of the best ways to create a content marketing campaign is with an effective social media program. You make it easy for customers to find your business and to talk about it online. Social media sites will help boost your local search results, your long-term brand awareness and increase sales.

How? Social media lets you communicate directly with your customers, create engaging discussion topics, take your marketing viral, boost your online brand awareness, and helps propel your business to the top of organic local search results. Some engagement examples include using monitoring tools to listen for conversations around important topics that you can service or be an information resource. Establish a keyword list and be notified anytime someone in the geographical area posts a question or related comments.

Here are some examples that will help you achieve those goals:

Start a Blog. To truly understand the importance and effectiveness of content marketing, start a blog. Write information that your customers want to read instead of dictating to them. Let your visitors leave comments and reviews.

Build a following on Facebook. Half of Facebook users follow a specific brand and more than half of them eventually purchase that brand. “Likes” on Facebook spread brand awareness virally, delivering information to everyone befriended by your followers.

Open a Twitter account. Twitter is a great way to keep in touch with your current customers. Increasingly, Twitter users follow a specific brand and most will eventually purchase that brand. Twitter posts should be used to engage your clients by providing them with helpful information about your products and services. Offering special deals to your Twitter followers is a great way to grab their attention.

SEO Practices for Organic Local Search

Even without a social media campaign there are many SEO practices that can greatly improve your local search rankings. Here are some basic, simple and effective practices that will help you achieve higher organic search results and improve your click through rate.

Content is King. Carefully crafted quality content establishes you as an authority in your field. Create useful, information rich sites, microposts and posts that clearly add value to the visitor’s experience. The more useful the visitor finds the information, the more likely he/she will pass it on to their friends, followers and connections.

Customer reviews. Encourage customer reviews. Consumers love online reviews because they can see what others think about you and your product or service before they make a purchase or decide to use your services. In addition, reviews on social media sites improve your organic search engine rankings and will drive free web traffic.

Keywords. Give serious thought to the keyword selection. Put yourself in the searcher’s mindset. What keywords would he/she use to find you? You’ll find that long tail keywords – specific key phrases that are four or more words long – are often the most effective keywords. Potential clients tend to search long tail keywords when they’re close to scheduling an appointment.

Website domain (URL) name. Don’t underestimate how important a good domain name is. Having your most important keyword in your domain name will give you tremendous advantage over your competitors. (ex. On name: SantaFePediatrics.com)

Page titles. Your website page titles (especially your home page) need to be targeted to the primary terms that you’re trying to rank for. For example, if you’re a pediatrician, your home page title should target your pediatrician services in your locality.

Manage your local business listings. Nearly every major search engine and Internet Yellow Pages (IYP) offers a free method that allows your practice to claim and manage your local business listing data. This includes the Big Three: Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Take advantage of this tool by working with professionals on claiming, optimizing and managing your local business listings on the local search engines and major IYP’s, related sites such as local medical directories or review sites. Add all relevant categories that describe your practice offerings that can be easily found when users search for you.

Some top factors if you had sort chronologically:

– Physical Address in City of Search
– Proper Category Associations
– Proximity of Address to Centroid
– Domain Authority of Website
– Quantity of Structured Citations (IYPs, Data  Aggregators)
– City, State in Places Landing Page Title
– Quantity of Native Google Places Reviews  (w/text)

Site promotion. Many businesses think that their job is complete as soon as the website is launched. You website needs to be promoted just like any other product or service. Plan it into your business budget accordingly. Discuss this with a digital marketing agency or industry related consultant to find out what marketing mix will work to maximize your exposure and give you the proper return on investment. Each tactic has different weighing factors but ultimately it’s about marketing.

Traffic and next steps.
Most local directory sites have some kind of traffic measurement dashboard providing stats like asked for directions, views of your business, number of reviews,etc. These are good places to start your monthly reporting as to whats working in marketing or advertsing and even tracking offline promotions like coupons or event signups.

Todays consumers find local businesses in many channels. Getting timely local search marketing consistently and dilllingently has many benefits to meet your organization’s goals.

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Keith Clark, a digital marketing strategist with over 25 years experience related to small businesses and large brand enterprises. As the original founder of Abode Systems, a firm that prides itself on providing innovative resources to maximize exposure at all levels sustainably and within budget.