Why You're Not Ranking in Local Search and How to Improve
Online rankings matter, especially when your company wants to increase foot traffic in your local brick-and-mortar business. A high ranking in local search tells people that their neighbors trust and frequent your business. These prospective customers will likely check out your web page and buy your products and services.
Unfortunately, it’s getting harder for many business owners to have their sites rank well locally in search engines like Google and Bing. One reason is more consumers turn to their mobile phones to search for nearby companies. Additionally, other community businesses also recognize that exceptional local SEO practices can give them an advantage over their competitors.
Are you having issues getting your business to rank higher in Google’s Local Pack or Bing Places? Today you’ll learn three issues that may prevent you from attaining higher rankings on search engine results pages. You also learn powerful techniques to help your company rise higher and attract customers’ attention.
Ranking in Local Search Starts with a Solid Foundation
Local results appear for people who search for stores, restaurants, and other businesses near their location.
The Three Pillars of Local Visibility
Three pillars increase the relevance of your site that Google uses to determine its local search engine results. This foundation can help you have an advantage over your competitors and win over potential customers.
The core pillars for a higher ranking in local search engine results are:
- Prominence: Your search engine results rank high in your local Google Pack or Bing Places pages
- Relevance: The content you produce is essential for local customers
- Proximity: This features the distance between the searcher and what they’re searching for online or in their community
Local search engine optimization (local SEO) can improve your local ranking results on Google.
In upcoming sections, we’ll discuss several missteps that can impact these three pillars and local SEO.
Local Listing Signals that Can Affect Your Prominence
Local listing signals help people within your area find you. Providing incomplete or inaccurate information about your business listings can lower your company’s rankings on search engines like Google and Bing.
It can also make it more difficult for your local customers to find you online. Here are seven common missteps businesses make that affect their prominence with local customers online.
You Haven’t Claimed your Google My Business and Bing Places Pages
Every business needs an effective marketing strategy to reach prospective customers.
One of the easiest, most effective ways to boost your ranking in local search engines is to claim your Google My Business and Bing Places pages. These business pages provide free advertising that reaches consumers in your area.
Vitally, it allows you to connect with people across major online platforms, including Google’s Search Engine and Maps. During your local SEO audit, find out whether you have already signed up for this listing. If you haven’t already, claim your Google My Business page.
Signing up for an account is simple and completely free. It only takes a few minutes to finish this form. Visit the Google My Business page to start the process.
You can add information that promotes your business, including high-quality photos that promote your brand. Other details you should include are your products and services, hours of operation, and updated contact information.
You Haven’t Specified Local Category Listings on Your Business Page
A great way to get higher local rankings is to select category listings for your business pages. These tags describe the products and services your company offers.
After claiming your listing, select only a few categories versus an excessive amount. Lower numbers help your company rank better in your local pack on search engines.
Every category you use should be accurate, descriptive, and precise. For example, don’t choose a “fast food restaurant” to describe your establishment if you run a “diner.”
You Didn’t Provide Great Photos in Your Online Company’s Listing
Your business page photos make a powerful first impression on your customers. These search engine images are the most visible images of your company. They display these photos everywhere on their platforms, including local business results.
Every business picture tells your brand story and the services you offer. These images are the hardest to get right.
Google reported that photographs on listings increased direction requests by 42%. They also boosted click-through rates to websites by 35%. In fact, according to a recent study by BrightLocal, there is a strong link between GMB image quantity and search performance.
Businesses with more GMB photos:
- Get more clicks, calls, and direction requests
- Get more views on search and views on maps
- Appear in more direct and discovery searches
To pick great pictures for your business profile, start by finding out if search engines will accept your photos. Next, only submit product shots, exterior photos, and interior pictures that positively promote your brand.
Never use logos or headshots for your business profile photos. Each picture should work well in both landscape and square layouts, and all images should be balanced toward the top, not the bottom.
Finally, select outstanding images that display well in small pixel sizes. Check multiple platforms and browsers to ensure your business photographs work well on all of them. If you don’t take great pictures, hire a professional photographer to do the work for you.
You Forgot to Add a Description to Your Online Business Pages
Next, you’ll need to include a full description of your company’s website on your business page. This material should be well-written and tell local people about your services.
This will help users make sound decisions about your products and services, and whether your business matches their needs. Your business page’s description should be informative and not a sales pitch. They should tell locals whether your company aligns with their needs.
Incorporating the relevant keyword phrases and locations that you want to rank for in your description is therefore imperative.
Your Company Didn’t Claim Your Citations on Online Directories
Beyond GMB and Bing, every business should obtain their free listings from top online directories, which include the following profiles:
- Apple Maps
- Yahoo’s Localworks
Although citations don’t make as large of a rankings impact as they did in the past, they’re still foundationally necessary and they still matter for local SEO.
A recent case study was done by Uberall comparing 3,000 locations that were listed on just Google My Business, Apple Maps, Facebook, and Bing versus 3,000 locations with wider citation distribution. What they discovered is that if you only have the basic ‘core 4’ listings and you’re not listed on an extended network of directories sites, your visibility on GMB insights is much less.
Much more importantly, they also found that the engagement metrics on GMB increased as well amongst the locations with a more comprehensive citation footprint.
Do a one-time manual citation build and submit NAP+W business data to the 3 main US data aggregators and the top 50-75 national, local, and niche directories and business listings sites. It is relatively inexpensive and will set a solid foundation for your local digital presence.
You Didn’t Create Your Business Page on Popular Social Media Websites
Search engines, like Google, gather information from a variety of sources to present a comprehensive portrait of your business. One of the most important ones is Facebook since most people use this social media site to search and interact with companies. Other popular social sites include Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
Google automatically adds social profile information for eligible businesses. Your company must be consistent, authentic, and use structured data to have these listings added to your Google search listing.
Respond quickly to all of your posts. If you cannot do so, create an automatic responder. You can present a note with contact information that tells others you’ll contact them later.
You Didn’t Use Consistent NAP Across All Your Platforms
Search engines want companies to provide accurate information across their platforms. A great way to do this is to provide a consistent NAP, which stands for Name, Address, and Phone number.
This contact information should be accurate on all sites, including review sites, maps, social media platforms, and your website. Although you can’t optimize your page for a physical location, it does provide a strong ranking signal and helps provide users with pages that are close to them.
Problems That Impact Your Company’s Local Relevance
Relevance is another issue that impacts a company’s local SEO rankings. Your content must be relevant to locals within your area. The more useful it is, the higher your site will rank.
Here are six issues that businesses neglect that can affect their relevance in local search engine results.
You Haven’t Provided Localized Content
Your website content can have a powerful impact on your local SEO rankings. Google recently adjusted its algorithm to identify sites that produced targeted content for visitors.
It doesn’t matter if you offer long, quality content on your pages. Instead, what matters more is the relevance of your material to a user’s search query. Websites that had strong keywords saw a rankings boost.
Search engines decide whether your content matches the intent of the user’s original query and provides the answers they need.
There are several ways you can improve your content’s relevance for users.
- First, localize your text and keyword anchors
- Incorporate LSI keywords that can increase your potential relevance to your target users
LSI keywords are terms that flesh out the subject matter being discussed and are expected to be included. For example, if your main keyword phrase is ‘apple products’, by incorporating apple cider, apple pie, and Granny Smith, it becomes clear you’re referring to the fruit, not the technology company.
Ultimately, these tactics enable search engines to determine whether your page is useful and thus relevant to visitors.
You Didn’t Reserve Your Listings on Popular Review Sites
Another crucial step you should take is to claim your free business listings on traditional review sites. Other than Google My Business and Facebook, there are several websites which you should claim.
Some of the most popular ones are UpCity, Angie’s List, BBB, Glassdoor, and Yelp. If there is an industry-specific site that accepts reviews, you should claim and verify it as well.
These review sites allow you to benefit from customer reviews, which heavily affect Google’s algorithm.
You Haven’t Increased the Number of Positive Reviews for Your Page
Another thing that can affect your business’s ranking in local search is your online reviews from customers. According to Google, high-quality, positive reviews from clients can improve your business’s visibility and increase the chance a potential customer will visit your company.
Remember, it’s against Google’s policies to ask for a quid-pro-quo for products in exchange for reviews. Other review companies, like Yelp, have similar rules.
Of course, the language that people use in reviews also matters. When your reviewers use your city’s name or other keywords, it tells Google’s search engine that you’re a great local business.
You Neglected to Respond to Online Reviews
Your business should develop an effective plan to follow and respond to online reviews. Taking this step can improve your ranking in local search and overall SEO.
The number of reviews with responses count. Negative ones without acknowledgments also matter, especially on Google’s search engine.
You Have a Low Number of Prominent Inbound Links to Your Website
Websites that have many inbound links are more likely to earn a higher ranking in local search engines. This information tells site crawlers that your website is an authority on certain topics. Therefore, the more inbound links you have from respected sites, the better your website can rank on a search engine results page (SERP).
Growing your website’s backlink profile, especially from high-authority local entities will add local relevance as well as authority. Backlinks from sites such as the BBB, a local chamber of commerce, churches or synagogues, and universities go a long way to demonstrate local relevance.
You should therefore make it your objective to associate with and exchange backlinks with high-authority local entities. This can easily be achieved through sponsorships, fundraising initiatives, and other collaborative efforts.
You Didn’t Include Outbound Links on Your Official Web Pages
These are external links from your website to other ones. They are similar to internal links and allow users to navigate to outside sources for more information about related topics.
A good practice is to have outbound links to your social media profiles and any profiles that lend credibility. Examples include links to professional associations and affiliations you may have.
Another powerful way to incorporate high-value outbound links on your website is to craft a dedicated resources page with links to relevant sources of valuable information your target audiences would appreciate.
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On-Page. Signals Issues that Can Impact Your Proximity
Have you optimized your web pages for specific keywords? If not, it can impact your ranking in local search engines and your relevance on search engines like Google and Bing.
Businesses should perform basic research, including analyzing their competitor sites and results so they can learn what a search engine produces for certain keywords or queries.
Use these seven on-page signals as a checklist. You should be able to go through your target page and check off each one of these attributes to see whether it is relevant to your target keyword or topic.
You Haven’t Made a Mobile-Friendly Website
Last year, Google rolled out its mobile-first indexing for websites. Google now looks at your mobile site first, not the desktop version.
You Didn’t Use Structured Data Markup to Improve Local SEO
With Local Business structured data, you can tell search engines about your business hours, menus, different departments, websites, and contact information. In addition, you can even allow users to make a reservation directly within search engine results pages.
You Haven’t Optimized Your Page’s Title Tags
Another great way to improve your first impressions is by using a title tag. You should use target keywords in your titles that draw audiences. It also tells people what to expect when they visit your page. Make sure you include the city and state to add proximity relevance.
Your Meta Description Doesn’t Include the Target Keyword
This section encourages site owners to expand their title tags and tell visitors about their site’s content. Make sure to include localized target keywords in meta descriptions to increase relevance and conversion rates.
You Haven’t Optimized Your Header Tags
You can develop headings within your content that capture the attention of your users and encourage them to read on. This material helps increase your relevance in the results pages.
These tags should be descriptive and explain the content they precede. Search engines detect these tags and give higher importance to what they contain. Remember to designate the header tags in a hierarchical order, and to incorporate localized terms whenever appropriate.
You Didn’t Include Alt Text to Your Images for Different Audiences
People process information differently. Some people use images to process information, but whenever possible, add alt tags to your images.
These will help make your page more accessible for a wider audience and people living with disabilities. It will also increase engagement on your website.
You Haven’t Created an Intuitive URL Structure
Make sure your website’s hierarchy and site architecture tell users and search engines how they should prioritize and crawl through your page. The URL slug you use should reflect the topic of the page.
The better the user experience, the more likely Google and the other search engines will prioritize your website in a local search over your competition.
Rank Higher in Local Search Engines
Ranking your business in local search engine result pages is well within your reach. It comes by addressing the three pillars of local visibility by optimizing your off-site and on-site signals.
Optimizing your Google My Business and Bing Places accounts can improve your local SEO visibility. You can enhance your ranking signals by using pictures, selecting the right categories, and getting reviews. An effective on-site SEO strategy will also improve your search engine rankings.
Building and executing a great online strategy takes time and expertise. If you don’t have the time or resources to do it in-house, you should hire a team of experts to develop your comprehensive plan for higher rankings in your local Google Pack.