Searching Our Surroundings
It was through the advent of portable electronic devices like cell phones and laptop computers that our society completed the transition from an analog world to one that is primarily digitized. It is because of this technology and the evolving internet that commonplace search tools have become obsolete. Gone are the days of phone books and maps to access information when it is far more convenient to type a query into Google for an immediate answer. Though these compact devices allow us to access information provided by the entire world, metrics that analyze Google data have shown something important: we are commonly searching for places in our immediate surroundings.
Google is the world’s most frequently visited website, and it has been widely reported that nearly half of all searches are performed to include the user’s location. Intuitive technology has paved the way for local businesses to thrive through local search engine optimization (local SEO), where companies can bump their rankings based on some region-specific criteria. Devices with location capabilities through means like GPS and WiFi allow people to conduct searches specific to their location.
How Local Searches Work in Google
The vast amount of online material requires tools that help users refine their searches. Not everyone will think to type their request along with their city and state. Google recognizes words like “local” and phrases such as “near me,” and “close by”. In many cases, the prediction feature in Google will prompt a person to use this language, or even choose nearby cities.
When location services are enabled, this feature can also determine where a person is to pull the most relevant results data in his or her vicinity. The search engine powerhouse also has its own map app, Google Maps, that will list searches relevant to the local user’s area. Results will appear in the following order:
- Google Maps
- A local 3-pack
- Listings below
On the map, each local listing is designated by a red marker and generally a letter (A, B, C, and so on). A local 3-pack appears at the top of the page and will list each business’s name as well as the letter that corresponds to the map, phone number, address, hours of operation, as well as their star rating. The pack feature is determined by Google and is not always available. While 7 listings once appeared at the top of these pages, the number has been reduced to 3, hence the name. The listings below will also contain the keyword and most relevant search results, but for various reasons may not be as pertinent to a person’s needs. In some cases, one or more keywords may be missing from the listings on the search pages.
One of the target locations for local search engine results is within the local 3-pack. The location at the top of the page is important, and the information included with the result provides important information about the business. These results are essentially Google’s top three suggestions for the user based on their search. There are certain factors that contribute to whether or not a business will be listed:
- The location of the business
- Local reviews
- Local links to other businesses or entities in the area
- A completed Google My Business profile
- SEO within the pages on the website
Why Local SEO Can Benefit Your Business
The more visible a company is, the more people will explore their website, which can turn into profit if the searcher becomes a patron. Traditional SEO has taught business owners that they are most likely to receive web page traffic when their business is represented on the first page.
Traditionally, this has been through a headline that serves as a hyperlink. Local SEO adds enhancing features, including a visual map, contact information, and the business’s ratings. The way there is a click disparity from page 1 to page 2 of search results, the same is true from a local 3-pack where each business is featured to the listings directly below.
Being Featured in the Local 3-Pack
One way to earn a coveted spot at the top is to ensure your business’s information is consistent wherever it is listed online. When the name, address, and phone number (NAP) appear repeatedly, Google can analyze the data and determine that the contact information is correct. Other area businesses that feature your link will also add to the company’s credibility and trusted online presence. Companies that specialize in SEO can help create content that features the necessary information for optimal search rankings and increase the likelihood of placement in the local 3-pack.
5 Tips for Improving Local SEO on Your Website
With a little help from SEO experts, you could profit from a top-ranked page. Here are suggestions that can be implemented:
- Catering to customers in a specific geographic location can be difficult, but the key is ingenuity. By listing surrounding areas in the writing on your webpages, you could also be featured in web searches that were not conducted based on the exact brick and mortar address of your business.
- By providing a great product or service to a customer, customers will be inclined to leave 5-star Google reviews. Businesses can also ask their customers to provide them positive feedback in this way. The local posters will help to create a preferred area business that links to multiple people in the area.
- Optimizing local web traffic will also require you to modify the language of your content. By using simpler words and phrases within the text that may be searched in Google can also help draw in customers. Using synonyms will also broaden your search and include others who may need assistance with their search criteria. The tactics that explain the page data are collectively referred to as schema markup.
- While intentional content will help produce rankings, making your site mobile-friendly is a key to improving your web traffic. Since cell phone users generally use their devices to search the internet, pages hoping to compete for a top spot must be easily accessed by through mobile versions of the full website.
- Certain visuals connected to the location will also improve your rankings. Embedding a Google map within your webpage is one way for Google to recognize your location and link to it. Businesses can also post a picture of the exterior and interior of their location, staff photos, and any products that may be offered. Images will also appear in the search results and can be optimized