Let’s face it. Today, most of us are armed with cell phones. When we’re out and about and performing a search, it’s usually focused on something local.
Google recently revealed that more searches are being performed on mobile devices than on desktops. That’s huge. Chances are, like you, they’re looking for phone numbers for local establishments, hours of operation, and perhaps a new place to eat.
Without a doubt, a large proportion of the web’s traffic is focused on local commerce.
That’s one of the reasons optimizing a local website is very different than optimizing a website on a national scale.
For local search, the intent of the user is different. Searchers are looking for very specific services or information in a very specific locale. As such, those designing for the local audience need to be mindful of design that will speak directly to these very specific searches.
Here are some tips on how you can optimize for local search. Use these tips on your landing pages, and it should improve results from your local marketing.
Go Mobile First
As we stated earlier, more than half of over 100 billion monthly search requests is coming from mobile devices , Google stated in May.
Just a few months ago, Google began rewarding websites that are mobile friendly, putting webmasters of desktop-only websites into a frenzy. As “Mobilegeddon” took hold, millions of websites were overhauled so as not to lose their precious Google rankings in search results.
No matter what product you sell, mobile needs to be highly prioritized. Your site should have a mobile-only interface or a responsive interface, where one website fits all screen sizes.
Consider Your Website Load Time
Not everyone has the fastest smartphone data connections (but let’s revisit this discussion in five years!).
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been driving to look for a local eatery, only to see that their website didn’t come up fast enough—and then I drove into a patch of spotty data. I’m sure you can relate.
It’s especially important for your website to load fast for mobile searchers, as Google has emphasized the importance of having fast-loading sites for rankings. Just recently, Google has gone a step further and started posting “slow to load” warning labels in mobile search results.
In other words, don’t waste your time with those sites and go somewhere else.
For local businesses, this means you may have just cost yourself a customer.
Have Prominent Calls to Action
Local search traffic typically comes from frantic users who are looking for urgent service and just need a phone number to call or an appointment form to fill out. Perhaps they’re looking for when you’re open or when you start dinner service.
It’s paramount to design your site with your local searchers in mind. Ensure that your calls to action remain above the fold, so that users aren’t scrolling everywhere or navigating to subpages to find what they need.
This example shows you how easily that can be done.
Remember that you’re optimizing for people who are in your neighborhood. Can you provide them with relevant localized content?
For instance, if you’re a heating contractor, you should be providing local weather and content specific to the needs of the local community. If you’re in Buffalo, NY, you should be specifically addressing the chilly weather and how your heating services are better. If you’re in a stormy part of the country, you need to address how your services ensure ideal temperatures and performance.
When your content is location aware, it makes visitors feel that you understand what needs to be done, are a local and can execute well.
Provide Honest Testimonials
I am more compelled to do business with providers who have honest testimonials on their website.
In fact, I choose my doctors these days almost 100% based on online reviews. This “review-first” methodology grew out of a significant discovery: My least favorite doctors had poor reviews online. Clearly, those reviewers are onto something. Good doctors have good reviews.
The same goes for every single business you engage with.
Customer reviews are really important. It’s even better if you link out to reviews from places like Yelp and Google+ because those carry weight. There’s no concern that you “doctored” the reviews. They’re completely objective.
Display Your NAP
Local websites require an established NAP across the web. For those of you new to the local game, NAP refers to your business name, address, and phone number.
It’s important that your NAP is accurate across all websites that may reference this identifying information. Of course, if this is not visible enough on your page, you can assume you’ve just lost a customer, especially if your NAP is hidden.
People go to local websites because they want to patronize local establishments. It shocks me to see how many times addresses are virtually hidden from local websites, only for me to find the address from some external website.
As you can see in this example, it’s easy to show your NAP in a classy way.
Ensure Your Site is Schema Marked Up
Use a schema markup to ensure that search engines have extra information regarding your page content, without plastering it all over your web page (and thereby possibly adding unnecessary information to searchers). A good schema markup helps with getting your site indexed with Google.
Use a tool like Schema Scanner to establish your markup.
Create an Honest “About Us” Page
I don’t know about you, but I like to know the local businesses I deal with, especially those small mom-and-pop shops that have rich history. While I may not need the information TODAY when I’m in a hurry, if I wasn’t in a hurry, I’d want to discover more about who the people are who service my local area.
Potential customers, like me, want to know the real you. Are you a family run business? How many years have you been in business? Has it been passed on from generation to generation?
Show them the real human side of your business; we assure you, this will win you customers.
Don’t Ignore Local SEO!
No matter how you design your website, even if you optimize the site for conversions, you still need to be ranked high in the SERPs (search engine results pages). No one really goes beyond page one on Google on their smartphones.
The final points we’d love to drive home are the importance of checking your search engine rankings and to see that they’re decent to begin with.
The rest is up to you. Your page needs to be speak directly to your customers and to do so in the fastest ways possible. Hopefully you’ll have some tips that will ensure great rankings and great search results.
Do you optimize for local search? Have you noticed better engagement with locals as a result? Share your thoughts in the comments.