This is just traditional SEO, but with a focus on targeting localized keywords and backlinks to reach local customers. In this guide, I’m going to show you 14 ways to fight back against big brands and other competition to resurrect your dying local search rankings. Just take a look at your local ranking factors under “Behavioral Signals,” and you’ll see it: Mobile Clicks to Call. Search for your business. And add it to the review URL like you see here: https://search.google.com/local/writereview?placeid=ChIJ7bdU9rJqkFQRqx0_701azUU Now anyone you send this link to will be prompted to leave your business a review. Strategy 8: Target top-ranked directories In the former days of local SEO, it was common practice to spam your NAP to every directory online. Search for your business. Ask if they have a business directory that they can add you to or another place they can link you. Then, ask them to link to you instead. Once you get all of that in place, you’ll want to build a strong review profile by encouraging customers to leave reviews.
Back in 2014, Google’s Pigeon algorithm update marked the beginning of a crackdown on local SEO.
They slashed the local pack to three listings.
They weakened the relevance of directory links.
They shifted and shrank targeted geographic regions.
And that was just the beginning.
Over the past few years, Google has been making it easier for large, recognizable brands to dominate local search and harder for the small, local places to stay relevant.
And they make no effort to hide it. Just take this directly from Google’s local ranking documentation:
“For example, famous museums, landmark hotels, or well-known store brands that are familiar to many people are also likely to be prominent in local search results.”
You may have even noticed famous logos popping up on Google Maps over the past year.
That’s a tough break for local restaurants. So far, Google has only offered this feature to select major brands like McDonald’s, Walgreens, and Kohls.
So you can no longer just target keywords like [business type] + [city], create a small blog, then spam directories and social media to get on the first page of Google.
The good news, though, is that Google’s search algorithm doesn’t actually care about big business any more than you. What it cares about is satisfying users and creating happy customers.
And many times, small and independent local businesses still offer the best value to their customers.
You just have to show them that you deserve it.
Why shrinking local SEO matters
Today, 96% of Americans shop online. If you’re a small local business, that might sound scary.
But there is hope. That same report found that the average American still spends 65% of their shopping budget in-store.
That means despite all the noise, traditional retail is still alive and well.
Traditional marketing, however, is not.
In 2017, the most common way consumers found out about a small business for the first time was through online research.
At nearly 37% of the population, the Internet even beat out word of mouth (at 35%), which has been the lifeblood of local business pretty much since words have existed.
That’s not even including the 13% who said that social media was the place they were most likely to discover a small business.
Add them in, and you’re looking at nearly 50% of all consumers who find new local businesses primarily online!
So while people are still shopping and spending in-store, they’re searching and making the critical decisions about who to visit while online.
If customers can’t find you there, you effectively don’t exist.
Even if they do hear about you from a friend first, you can bet they’ll type your name into Google before deciding to give your business a visit.
Out of everyone in the survey, only 7.2% of people said that they don’t do any online research before visiting a small business.
That means that you need to have a strong online presence.
For those of you who are online, I have good news: customers are looking.
It’s true — ranking as a local business today is harder than ever.
But if you’re willing to put in the legwork, Google will reward you with those competitive top spots and all the leads, customers, and sales that they command.
The two main ways to rank locally
One of the unique things about local SEO is that there are two different ways to rank. And the factors differ a bit for each. If you want to win at local SEO, you need to pay attention to both.
The first way to rank is the local pack ranking. The local pack includes the top three results that Google Maps shows for a local search.
This is effectively “position zero” on the search engine results page (SERP) because these results appear before the normal organic results.
By seeing your close location, it creates an immediate connection with potential customers who want something convenient and tangible.
The second way is through localized organic ranking. This is just traditional SEO, but with a focus on targeting localized keywords and backlinks to reach local customers.
These are still critical as the highest ranking results will still be the first websites that customers see.
Google explains how they determine these rankings in very broad terms: relevance, distance, and prominence.
While I can’t change the location of your store, I can show you how to beat the competition with relevance and prominence.
Each year, Moz compiles a report that takes those broad factors and breaks them down into more finite categories.
Do you notice anything?
Google considers the same eight factors for both types of ranking. The only difference is how much weight they give to them.
So, if you find yourself in the local pack, but not the first page of localized organic results, you just need to shift your focus slightly.
Anything you do to improve one will improve the other.
In this guide, I’m going to show you 14 ways to fight back against big brands and other competition to resurrect your dying local search rankings.
Strategy 1: Conduct a local SEO audit
Before you get too deep into tactics, you should conduct a short audit to make sure you have all the basics covered.
Here’s my guide to completing a comprehensive local SEO audit in just 45 minutes.
Strategy 2: Make sure your NAP is consistent across the entire web
Matt McGowan is the Head of Advertising Strategy at both Google and YouTube on local SEO. And he says that this is one of the most important things you can do for local search.
You need to make sure that your NAP (name, address, and phone number) is correct not just on Google My Business but also across all your social media profiles and various online directories.
If Google finds conflicting information for your business, it may not attribute any of the information to you. Or worse, you could be penalized.
Strategy 3: Implement Schema
Once you get your information consistent across the web, you need to make sure that your website is easy for search engines to read and process.
You do this by talking to Google explicitly in a language it’s guaranteed to understand: Schema markup.
Don’t worry. You won’t need to know any HTML or coding to set this up. I have a handy step-by-step guide on structured data to help.
Once you implement this, all major search engines will be able to easily read and index your contact information for search.
Strategy 4: Focus on mobile
Hubspot found that 89% of study participants searched for a local business on mobile weekly. And 58% performed a search every single day.
The data also shows that these searches have actionable intent. As many as 78% of those queries result in an offline purchase.
Just like with any website, Google tracks click-through, conversions, and other user behavior to gauge whether or not you are the best option to meet customer needs.
With this segment making up an increasingly large portion of local searches, you’d be crazy not to prioritize the mobile experience.
There’s one super easy update you can make right now that I consistently see businesses ignore.
Just take a look at your local ranking factors under “Behavioral Signals,” and you’ll see it: Mobile Clicks to Call.
That means that Google is specifically watching to see how often customers visit your site and click on your phone number to contact you.
In marketing, there is a golden rule.
Make it as easy as possible for your customers to do what you want. The more friction you remove, the more likely they will be to take your desired action.
In this case, you’re making it easy for them to get in touch with you so that you can sell them on your business. As a bonus, you’ll start to see your Google ranking climb.
And it only takes 60 seconds. It’s as simple as adding a web link to your site.
Normally, a link on your site would look like this in HTML.
<a href=”www.mysite.com/about”>About Us</a>
To make that link open a phone’s dial pad, you just need to add the “tel:” prefix inside the tag. Following that, type the number as the link destination.
<a href=”tel:5555555555”>Call Us!</a>
Or it could look like this.
<a href=”tel:5555555555”><img src=”http://www.mysite.com/files/image-name.jpg”>
If you’re using WordPress or another HTML-editing tool, you should be able to just hit the “Add Link” icon and enter tel:5555555555.
In all of the examples above, just replace “5555555555” with your phone number.
You can put this anywhere a normal link can go — within text, a button, an image, or anywhere.
Strategy 5: Get more reviews
Review signals are a major ranking factor, accounting for 13% of the local pack rank and 7% of your localized organic rank.
Besides, 85% of consumers said that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. And 30% said that it’s the key decision factor when judging a local business.
It shouldn’t surprise you that Google seems to favor Google Reviews the most. So that’s what we’re going to focus on.
Do you remember what I said about making action as easy as possible for your customer? That rule applies here, too.
I’m going to show you how you can make it painless for customers to give you a Google review.
First, make sure that you’ve set up Google…