Here at Liberty, we see and hear a lot of stories about how Local SEO can provide a lifeline for many small businesses across the country. We also see a lot of cases where bad Local SEO can cause fundamental problems which can virtually undo a business’s hours of investment, as well as lose them money and custom to boot. But by far the most common occurrence is businesses that want to get started with Local SEO, but don’t know how to go about it.
To be fair to all those people, the online world is as much an ever-changing landscape as, say, the town centre in which you choose to set up shop. In particular, the way people use search engines like Google to find local businesses has changed dramatically, and the types of businesses you’re competing against these days may come from further afield than you expect. In this series of posts, we will give you the background information you need to start and maintain a successful Local SEO campaign.
Part 0 – Introduction to Google Local
So you want to know if Local SEO is the way to go for your business, right? That’s great – we fully endorse that – but the days where you just picked a vaguely relevant keyword, appended your nearest town on the end, threw together some basic directory listings, and prayed for the best are long gone. Here’s the kicker – they’re not coming back either! Does your business still get many calls from people who found you from your basic listing in the Yellow Pages? We thought not.
Because of the way our shopping habits are changing, the way that sites like Google provide us with search results has also had to adapt. In fact, Google is a far different tool from when it started out 15 years ago. Google’s not content to just be a search engine anymore – oh no – their ultimate goal is to become an “Information Engine”. This may seem a subtle reinvention on the face of it, but it means in future they’ll be anticipating what customers want whilst they’re typing those magic words in the search bar, and providing instant information without that customer having to trawl through the myriad of results available. In fact, some of these changes have already been made!
Local search is probably one of the areas that has changed the most in the last few years – in fact, we wrote a whole post about that recently. The emergence of new technologies, such as mobile, yields a great potential for revenue, so it’s only natural for the big search companies to want to take advantage of this. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves; you’re here to find out the basic layout changes. Well, as you might have noticed, there isn’t a simple Google page with 10 results any more – when you’re searching locally you might encounter some of these:
These are the most basic of local search results, and they have been around for the longest too. The order in which they are listed is far too complicated to explain (in this introduction, at least), but there are two basic requirements for them to appear:
1. The business has a Google Places page set up
2. They are considered relevant to the localisation of the search term
You may have also noticed that local maps results don’t require you to enter an actual town any more. This is because the big data servers behind Google can often determine your location from the IP address of your computer. Furthermore, if you’ve performed any local searches before, there will be cookies stored on your computer that indicate this. Lastly, if you’re searching on a mobile device, Google can access data from your inbuilt GPS as well.
The “Knowledge Graph”
What on earth is the Knowledge Graph, I hear you ask? Well, it’s part of Google’s drive to provide information right there on the first search page. The prevalence of these has increased dramatically in the last few months, thanks in part to the rollout of Google’s Hummingbird update. The actual information in the Knowledge Graph is collated from a number of sources that Google trusts, but there are no clear rules as to what can be in there yet – it can contain anything and everything.
You may think that this is the preserve of famous people, but you’d be wrong. It also can show information for well-known brands, landmarks and towns too. For this reason alone it’s more important than ever to make sure your business stands out from the crowd. If you’re just riding on the back of other local business successes, you could find this tactic to be less rewarding as time goes by.
The Carousel is the latest addition from Google, but the idea behind it is probably something you’re familiar with from many other websites. It is essentially a scrolling bar at the top of a page that gives you numerous options related to your search. For example, if you were looking for “things to do in Cardiff” it would provide you with a variety of places to visit and take you to a new search page if there’s any you’re particularly interested in.
From a user’s point of view, this is very useful as it can save lots of time in refining their search down. For a business, it’s not so clear yet as to how to capitalise on the Carousel presence. But one thing is for sure: these results will only become more prevalent over time. If you’re one of the lucky few to find your business on one of these, it could really pay dividends in time.
With all these new and interesting ways for local results to show up in Google search, it’s as good a time as ever to get your Local SEO sorted. Don’t know where to begin? Don’t worry – we’ll be back soon with more advice on how to get going and how to get the vital local traffic your business deserves.