More than 90% of all online activities begin with search. It makes one wonder how we found anything before Google! What may come as a bit more of a revelation is that 46% of searchers, now use mobile exclusively for their product research, and the majority of these mobile searches are local specific. People act quickly after a local search, and 50% of people searching on a mobile visit a store within a day. It’s become second nature to search on the fly and as a result, Google particularly has really upped its game in local search recently. Understanding how to gain visibility in local search is becoming critical for local businesses; but is also something that every business should be thinking about. It can sometimes be tricky to identify where the best opportunities lie in local search. The ultimate objective is always to gain some visibility on page one “real estate”, but opportunities range from local pack results, through to organic results for high volume “head” terms, as well as results for long-tail and geo-modified search terms. Generic keywords, such as “plumber”, “accountant” and “florist” tend to be the most competitive and highly sought after, and generate the largest search volume. Generics are what all local businesses aspire to rank for, but the reality is that they are generally out of reach. These tend to be the exclusive domain of large businesses such as news publishers, national directories, UK-wide or global businesses, and government sites. The better opportunities for local businesses to appear in page one results lie in the local pack. Of the three main search engines, Google is the most generous, displaying an average pack size of six results versus just three or four displayed by Bing and Yahoo. In addition to this, long-tail terms are where local businesses could be setting their sights, to help gain visibility in organic search results. However, the search volumes for long-tail terms are significantly less than generic terms, so businesses should be aiming to rank for a high number of them for it to have any benefit on site traffic. Long-tail keywords are longer and more specific keyword phrases that visitors are often likely to use when they’re closer to a point-of-purchase or conversion. For example, a local coffee shop is never going to rank near the top of an organic search for the term “coffee shop” as there’s too much competition. But if the coffee shop in question is an authentic Italian delicatessen, then keywords such as “Italian deli cafe” or “Italian delicatessen cafe” are going to help find customers looking for exactly that sort of establishment. By additionally adding a geographical modifier to long-tail keywords, such as “Italian deli cafe in Bournemouth”, this can also act as proof of local relevance, and hence boost a business’ chances of page one visibility. It’s this understanding that helps to explain the importance of local businesses using content to gain traction and visibility in first page search listings. Local businesses need a solid content strategy that is focused on delivering original, engaging content, on a regular basis, across a wide range of local relevant topics.
So how do local businesses go about delivering content for their long-tail search strategy?
- Localising websites with region-specific landing pages, naturally peppered with long-tail keywords, is a must. Begin with the locations or markets that are likely to have the greatest impact and test the effectiveness. If this seems like a daunting task, third party tools are available to help automate the processes, enabling businesses to quickly and simply give their websites a local feel.
- Writing a blog with a local focus, around a variety of relevant topics, can also be a clever tactic. It’s a good idea for businesses to research a reliable, renewable source of long-tail keywords that are right for them and their niche, and this can be used to underpin their blogging strategy.
- Attending local events and getting involved with the local community can also help to build a strong local presence, as this will naturally led to local online PR in the form of blog posts and press releases, and inbound links from local news sites or community sites. Whenever a business has a chance to mention their region or city in online content, they should grab that opportunity.
- Finally, consider all sorts of content, including video. Producing video content with a local feel can help to encourage organic ‘virality’, as it often feels more personal than generic branded content, and so is more likely to be shared. A great example of this is local Christchurch coffee brand Jimmy’s Iced Coffee which recently released its debut single ‘Keep Your Chin Up’ on YouTube, and shared via social channels. In little more than a month it has amassed over 400,000 views, which largely originated from its hyperlocal audience. “By capturing the essence of the brand through the people and places closest to it, I think people feel some level of pride and absolutely relate-ability,” says co-founder Jim Cregan.