This year, local businesses need to step up their game to get online visibility.
Competition in the local SERPs is getting more difficult and “your website doesn’t matter” anymore.
Dana DiTomaso, President and Partner at Kick Point, recently spoke about local SEO in 2018 and beyond during PeepCon 3.0.
DiTomaso explained why businesses need to focus more on optimizing for local search and how they can get better online visibility through local engagement tactics.
This is a recap of DiTomaso’s PeepCon 3.0 presentation.
Local SEO: Today & Beyond
Local search is undergoing a few challenges, including review spam and listing spam. But Google is making steps to address them.
“Spam is like whack-a-mole,” according to DiTomaso. “Spammers try new stuff, Google smacks it down.”
To improve the quality of its listings, Google introduced the Local Guide program where people provide relevant information about local businesses to Google.
When people search for businesses, visit their location and review them from your Android phone – all with your Location Services turned on, then Google knows where you’ve been.
Most people only have one phone and searching for a business, going there, and reviewing it are all measures of local engagement taking place on mobile.
What’s more, it’s hard to fake location data.
Currently, local search comprises of about one-third engagement, one-third local data, and one-third traditional SEO.
But in the future, DiTomaso said, engagement will become a more significant factor for local SEO – as it is the best way how Google can differentiate the quality of businesses.
Google knows so much about people – from the topics you’re interested in and the videos you watched, to the places you went to, and the things you said.
Through these bits of information, Google has a complete snapshot of your engagement with the world.
How to Focus Your Tactics on Building Engagement
We already know how to build citations so we should now shift our focus to building engagement.
Here are a few tips on how to do it.
1. Review Your Knowledge Panel
It is your basic health check so regularly review if the info in your knowledge panel are accurate and update them when necessary.
2. Check Your Google My Business Timeline
Google has rolled out a Q&A feature where people ask questions but business owners don’t get notified. This is an important feature to pay attention to.
Prospective clients are already reaching out to you and all you need is to respond.
3. Keep Your Email Newsletter Interesting & Consistent
You don’t want your customers to unsubscribe.
4. Make Your Transactional Emails Worth Reading
No one likes to be sold to.
Try to add value to your transactional emails so that subscribers appreciate it.
5. Segment Your Email Marketing Lists for Gmail vs. Non-Gmail Subscribers
Aim to boost engagement signals on your Gmail segment.
Google can see if people are opening your emails in Gmail and it’s possible that they might use this data for local map-pack listings.
6. Consider Social Signals
While Google says social signals don’t affect search rankings, it’s still possible that they’re taking note of it.
After all, social signals are pure engagement metrics.
7. Engage People Who Talk About What You Do
Set up your major search terms in Zapier – “anyone who mentions (keyword) in (location radius)” will trigger a tweet bot and send them something (e.g., a coupon or discount.).
8. Use a Review Management System, Ask for Reviews
Find out what are the best review sites for your locality or niche.
Think you can spam reviews? Google’s going to know because you never visited the business.
9. Spread Your Reviews Around
People leave reviews on different places so don’t focus on Google alone.
10. Use Google Calendar Events
You can confirm appointments here.
11. Make it Clear That People Can Text Your Business
Some people don’t like talking on the phone.
If your business allows for it, let people know that they can text you.
Don’t just simply put your telephone number on your website – add a CTA.
12. Providing Directions? Create a Trackable Custom Link
Help people find your location by providing them directions through a custom link.
Place it in your contact page, footer, and confirmation emails.
The clicks on links to your driving directions are also an engagement signal.
On top of the tips provided above, you should make sure that your website is easy for your target users to use.
Not everyone has the same computer skills and if you make navigating your website difficult for your users, then they won’t choose you.
“The strongest signal is when someone picks you,” DiTomaso said.
Focus on engagement because it will ultimately pay off in rankings.