Last Updated in February 2021 by Lukasz Zelezny
Where does your brick-and-mortar business’s website rank on Google for local searches? Statistics show nearly half of all Google searches carry local intent. Maybe a prospective customer wants to find your business’s phone number, or perhaps he or she simply wants to learn more about your business’s products or services. By optimizing your brick-and-mortar business’s website around the top local factors for Google, you can reach more prospective customers.
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Name, address and phone number (NAP) is a highly influential local ranking factor for Google. When Google crawls your website, it will look for this information to determine the local search results for which your site should rank. For example, if your website displays your business’s name with a Chicago-based street address and telephone area code, Google will assume your business is located in Chicago. Therefore, Google will likely rank your website higher for searches performed by users in and around Chicago.
To ensure Google can read it, use a standard text format for your business’s NAP. If you use an image format, Google won’t be able to read it. Prospective customers who visit your website will still be able to see the image-formatted NAP, but not Google.
Google My Business (GMB) is another important local ranking for Google. Available by visiting google.com/business, it’s an online directory of local businesses. GMB contains the information of thousands of local businesses, which are automatically added to Google Maps. When you create a GMB listing, you’ll be able to specify your business’s street address, phone number, hours of operation, website address and other information. Google will then associate your business’s website with the specified street address, resulting in higher local search rankings for your site.
In addition to higher local search rankings, as well as a presence on Google Maps, creating a GMB listing allows prospective customers to find your business in a special three-pack at the top of Google’s search results. If a prospective customer searches in or around your business’s location searches for your business on Google, he or she may see its GMB listing in the three-pack.
Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
Don’t forget to optimize your website’s title tags and meta descriptions. If you’re trying to rank for searches performed in a specific city, consider using that city’s name in the title tag and meta description of your website’s homepage. Of course, both HTML attributes should also include your business’s name.
If your business serves customers in multiple cities, consider creating multiple geo-targeted pages. On each of these pages, you can talk about your business’s products and services and why consumers in the respective city should purchase them. You can then optimize the page’s title tag and meta description to include the city’s name.
Your website’s content will affect its local search rankings on Google. Whether you’re writing an article, a blog post, a product tutorial or any other piece of digital content, try to weave in some of your local keywords. Just remember to use local keywords naturally in your website’s content to avoid triggering a keyword stuffing penalty.
For images published on your website, add relevant local keywords to their alt text. While Google can’t read text embedded in images, it can read their alt text. Short for alternative text, this HTML attribute is used to provide a text description of an image. If a user’s web browser fails to load the image, he or she will see the alt text, which acts as a placeholder. Search engines, however, use alt text in their ranking algorithms as well. By optimizing your website’s images with localized alt text, Google may reward your site with higher local search rankings.
According to Moz, backlinks hold more weight over a website’s local search rankings on Google than any other local ranking factor. If no other websites link to your site, Google probably won’t rank it high for either standard or local searches. You must show Google that your website is popular enough to merit high search rankings. Backlinks, also known as inbound links, project your website as being popular.
Contrary to what some business owners believe, building more backlinks doesn’t always lead to higher local search rankings. If a backlink originates from an irrelevant, spammy or another low-quality source, Google’s algorithm may simply ignore it. For high local search rankings, focus on acquiring backlinks from relevant, authoritative and trusted sources.
Google uses online citations as a local ranking factor. What are online citations exactly? Basically, they are online listings consisting of structured data about a business. GMB, for instance, is a directory of online citations. Others include the Better Business Bureau (BBB), Angie’s List, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Apple Maps and Superpages and Yellow Pages.
When creating online citations, be sure to use the same NAP as displayed on your website. If you use different NAPs, Google won’t know which version is correct. So, always use the same NAP format as your website when creating online citations.
Encouraging customers to review your business online can help you secure higher local search rankings for your website. Google looks at customer reviews posted online to determine which businesses are popular among their customers and which ones aren’t. If Google discovers a lot of customer reviews praising your business and its products or services, it will rank your website higher in the local search results.
Keep in mind, most online review portals don’t allow businesses to incentivize customer reviews. In other words, you can’t offer customers something of value, such as a free product or discount, in exchange for leaving an online review. Yelp has an even stricter policy regarding reviews. While you can ask customers to review your business on Google, Facebook, TripAdvisor and many other review portals, you can’t ask them to leave a review on Yelp.
Google has revamped its indexing and ranking algorithms over the years to provide users with customized results based on their location. No longer does it show the same results to all users. Google now shows different results for searches performed in different locations. By targeting these local ranking signals, you can encourage Google to rank your brick-and-mortar business’s website higher for local searches.