What you need to know about local SEO in 2020

A recent survey from the Google Search Relations team highlighted that SEO’s have become considerably busier since COVID-19 struck. The survey was discussed in the second episode of Search Off the Record, and one theory for the increase in workload is that more businesses have had to move online to remain active during lockdown. 

With SEO offering 20% more opportunities than PPC (both mobile and desktop), it is not surprising that business owners are starting to pay more attention to this channel. 

Companies that can only offer local delivery, and even national companies that have had to cut their offering so that it is closer to home, will need to incorporate a local approach to their marketing strategy.

What is local SEO?

Local SEO is a marketing strategy that aims to rank clients for search results within a specific radius. Local strategies aim to rank organically for search terms that include a location, or when a location isn’t included, but the user lives in a targeted area.

By focusing more on location, companies can better target their key audience and nurture them into paying customers.

Why should businesses and agencies care about localised searches?

Almost 50% of Google searches have local intent, which means there are a lot of opportunities to rank. However, that does mean that there may also be a lot of competition.

Since COVID-19, businesses have made cuts in local search:

ActivityCutback
Local web content24%
Managing local SEO23%
Local web design, development and webmastering20%
Local SEO analytics tracking and reporting17%
Managing local citation15%
Managing reviews14%
Local competitor analysis14%
GMB management14%
Thanks to Moz for this data

Therefore, if you haven’t invested in local SEO before, now may be the best time to invest before competition increases again.

How does local SEO work?

Search engines try to connect content, social profile pages, citations and links to searchers that live locally. The closer a company is to a user, the more relevant they could be, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Local SEO is more successful when the team isn’t siloed into their own department. By working with a larger team, with diverse expertise, you can expect better rankings, higher reach and increased conversions. 

The most effective local SEO strategies include merging the voices, knowledge and experience of:

  • Content writers
  • Webmasters
  • Wider marketing departments
  • In-store staff
  • External agencies

Local SEO should always be incorporated into an overall SEO strategy when there is a brick and mortar store, or the business is limited geographically. 

However, it may be worth experimenting with local SEO even if a national service is available. You may find that you can generate business for less money with this approach, although there is no guarantee. Therefore, testing is essential. If a national company finds greater success with local searches, they might consider allocating some of their marketing budget towards local search.

How to leverage local SEO in 2020

Every SEO strategy should have a substantial focus on quality content creation, a user-friendly website and technical optimisation. When targeting local audiences, the former still needs to be implemented in addition to:

 1. Focusing on reviews

While it isn’t confirmed to be a ranking factor, Google does care about the expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness (E-A-T) that online companies can showcase. And reviews have a significant role to play in that. 

A lot of marketers believe that local reviews impact rankings, although Google is unlikely to confirm or deny that. But even more important than that, reviews will increase the likelihood of potential customers taking the leap and investing in your product or service. 

Additionally, negative reviews are an excellent way for business owners to find and understand issues and work to rectify these, which means customer service is continually improving. 

We recommend creating a protocol and strategy surrounding reviews to get as much from them as possible. There should be an ongoing plan of action on how to increase the number of reviews your brand is getting, ascertaining and maintaining an average response rate and remedying negative reviews. 
And whatever you do, DON’T pay for or elicit fake reviews. It is not worth the risk of Googlebot, loyal customers and potential customers losing faith in your brand.

1. Google My Business is still your friend

And we don’t just mean setting one up and leaving it to run. You should work with people who are well-seasoned in GMB management. This is a brilliant, off-site platform that can rank locally and initiate map-pack listing. Experiment with categories, reviews on google, posting content, interacting with Q&As, and uploading images to find what works best for your brand. 

As with all SEO, Google My Business optimisation will never be ‘complete’. But it is worth your time and effort.

 3. Starting small when it comes to proximity

It may be tempting to hit as many locations as possible. Still, it may be more lucrative to put more effort into promoting one local area and slowly expanding your reach, especially considering the cutbacks that have been implemented so far in 2020.

Many believe that proximity to the business is a ranking factor in local search. Again, Google will probably never confirm nor deny this, but it does make logical sense that they would consider this when assigning ranking. 

Therefore, if you are making cutbacks, or entering the local market online, perhaps put all of your local effort into the area closest to you. As the world recovers from the impact of COVID-19, you can increase your target area.

4. Local schema markup

If proximity is effective in local business rankings, then schema markup is essential. Schema markup is an effective way to communicate directly to Google. Therefore, including your address and phone number, among other pieces of information in your schema will help Gooblebot ascertain your proximity to searchers.

5. Don’t forget about other on-site SEO

There could be a correlation between non-local organic rankings and appearance in local search results. Therefore, even though a large portion of your marketing focus may be on ranking locally, other on-page optimisations may help you rank even better. Not only that, but it will also work to ensure that when users land on your site, they have a fantastic experience. 

Essentially, all of this work is to get people to invest in your products or services. Which means you must have an overall SEO strategy in addition to your local plans if you want to succeed. 

Invest in local SEO

The above is simply an overview. There are plenty of other avenues our SEO team can do down to improve your local presence. Additionally, our focus will always be on the big picture so that we don’t miss any opportunities to get your brand in front of an audience that is likely to convert.