Local SEO is continually getting more shine as businesses begin to realize its profitability; however, when entering into local SEO, many companies approach it the same way they do with traditional SEO and there is friction with that approach. Though local SEO is similar to traditional SEO in many ways, there are many differences as well that are unique to local SEO.
In local SEO, there are often 3 battlegrounds that a business must take into consideration in order to give themselves the best shot to win in local search results.
1. Google Map Pack
We’ll start with arguably the most important battleground of local SEO, which is the Google Map Pack. The Map pack is called a multitude of things including:
- Map Pack
- Local Pack
- 3 Pack
There are many articles, forums, and data out there that will use any of the terminologies above, you can pretty much assume they are all talking about the same thing.
The Google Map Pack is typically the first thing to appear on organic search results and because of its visual nature, it really draws users’ attention. This is exacerbated when people are using their phones, where the map is much more enticing to interact with than text results.
Ranking on the Google Map Pack takes the standard organic search results ranking factors and skews it towards a couple of other factors. Proximity is a much larger factor, and, in addition, the Google Map Pack is heavily influenced by Google My Business reviews, where reviews don’t have really any influence on organic search results.
This is arguably one of the central focuses that businesses should look into if they are going to compete in local SEO.
2. Organic Search Results
The second is organic search results. These are traditional to Google and the area of local SEO mostly everyone will be familiar with. These organic search results take the typical factors of search engine optimization and focus on the local side. So note, that if you want to rank in local search results, you will need to alter traditional SEO strategies to local. This means using geographic modifiers in your headlines, SEO tags, and content.
This is the area of local SEO that everyone is most familiar with so we don’t need to spend too much time here, but remember factors that will help you win here include:
- Backlinks and referring domains
- Content development and marketing
- Technical SEO
3. Reputation Management Sites
Reputation management sites are the area of local SEO where most businesses and sites overlook. Reputation management sites, or commonly known as review sites, are often all over local search results. Some common examples include companies like Yelp, Trip Advisor, and even sites like UpCity. Many reputation management sites compete in local SEO all over the country, so you will often find those listings on the first page of Google.
It is important to not simply think of these sites as a competitor on Google’s first page of search results. The best way to think of these sites is to use them as a strategic partner. There are often 10 results on the first page of Google and realistically, you can only acquire 1 or 2 search results; however, these reputation management sites will often take a couple of search results positions, and typically they are ranked pretty high.
Since these sites often take positions on Google, the best way to compete is to work with them. Add your business listing to these sites and do your best to get to the top position on their own internal lists.
Some sites skew their algorithms heavily towards the number of reviews. Some are heavily skewed towards sponsorship and others are heavily skewed against sponsorship. Whatever it is, it behooves your business to find the best way to work with the reputation management company so that the exposure of your business is as high as possible.
The 3 Battlegrounds in Tandem
By ensuring that your business is winning at all three battlegrounds, you will give your business the best chance to win at local SEO. The best way to understand it is to visualize a typical buyer journey of a user on Google.
If they are conducting a local search, see your business on the Google Map Pack with a lot of reviews prominently listed on the top, scroll down a bit and see your website and then finally if they decide to do more research by looking at a review site and you are there too, you will have provided a whole slew of touchpoints for the consumer.
This will help strengthen the social proofing and confidence that this user/customer can feel confident to engage in business with your site. Most users do not simply just click and buy with the first thing they interact with. They often like to do their research, look around, and do their due diligence and if your business can be found in all these different areas where they will be looking, your business sets itself up for success.
Therefore as you engage in local SEO, ensure that you have a strategy for all 3 battlegrounds. Once you win those battlegrounds, your site will give itself a strong position in search engine results.