The coming year is going to be a landmark year for local SEO. Google has begun to roll out its mobile-first index, putting more focus than ever on mobile optimization.
Mobile searches are intent-driven, with an immediate local focus at play. Local and national brands will reap big rewards by targeting users when and where they search.
Approximately 50 percent of individuals who perform a location-specific search will visit a store location on the same day. Given the increasing trend of high-intent searches and limited search-engine results page real estate, brands need to work harder to get in front of consumers when they are most likely to purchase.
By adopting a mobile-first focus and aligning with on-the-go user intent, brands can succeed at the local level even if they are competing with brands several times their size at the national level.
What this means is that local search-engine marketing is one way small businesses can truly compete with huge brands — and succeed.
So, how can you put a limited marketing budget to use to reach high-intent customers, edging out bigger brands? Here are five ways to successfully implement location-based targeting in your SEM campaigns in 2018.
1) Adopt a mobile-first mentality
The rise in location-based targeting goes hand-in-hand with the surge in mobile searches. Google noted that searches including “nearby” or “near me” (hyperlocal searches) increased twofold between 2014 and 2015.
Interestingly, this trend is already changing with “near me” and other location-modified searches declining as searchers know their results will be relevant because they were conducted on their phone. Eighty percent of those hyperlocal searches occurred on mobile devices, so you should stop treating mobile optimization as optional.
Implement a responsive design on your mobile website, prominently feature your contact information above the fold and include a click-to-call button to make the path to purchase simple for mobile users.
2) Optimize Google My Business
How can anyone hope to find your business on a results page if you haven’t properly optimized your Google My Business profile? Get featured on the local three-pack when users conduct hyperlocal searches by making your business appealing to Google and to customers.
Pay attention to the details: Ensure that your business is connected to the correct categories to appear in relevant searches; upload attractive, professional photos of your business; and encourage satisfied customers to leave a review to boost your visibility.
3) Account for voice search
At the Google I/O conference last year, we learned that one in five queries via the Google app and on Android devices come from voice search, and that number is poised to increase substantially in 2018. Digital assistants like Siri are improving, and voice searches are becoming more convenient.
Voice searches are all about convenience, and users who are walking or in transit will be posing hyper-specific queries with an intent to buy that day.
To take advantage of this rise in voice search, center your SEO around long-tail search keywords that reflect conversational language. And remember, voice searches aren’t limited to smartphones: Smart home hub sales increase every year, and voice search is a substantial component of these devices.
4) Consider in-store customers
Many shoppers look to their smartphones for information even after they’ve entered your store. This is not cause for alarm. Often, they are searching for product reviews or clarifying which model, size or color of a product they want to purchase, according to Google.
Optimize mobile functionality to assist customers in these moments. Tools like Google’s Proximity Beacon API can help developers create in-store messaging associated with promotions or featured products. Leverage APIs to create an app that can connect in-store customers with product reviews, discounts, related products and helpful FAQs in order to increase conversion and drive brand loyalty.
5) Create compelling local content
An organic method of driving traffic to your website is to write content that is useful for local customers. For example, if you sell mobile devices and electronics in the Houston area, consider writing an evergreen piece of content highlighting the best neighborhoods for cell reception.
In addition, write content featuring any popular geographical landmarks around your business. If anyone searches for businesses near that landmark, your content will improve your location-based targeting capabilities, placing you on more users’ search results.
Using these strategies, you can structure an SEM campaign around hyperlocal searches, driving conversions and increasing overall brand awareness. And the best news for small business owners is that these hyperlocal strategies can help your company compete against competitors and budgets many times the size.