“Local SEO is rapidly growing and its value is starting to go away from pure search visibility. The value of engagement is on the rise, and it provides valid points to consider in your business strategy.”
2018 is the year for local SEO to flourish – and the competition is going to be steep. The ever-changing landscape of is about to change even further and local businesses would need to focus their efforts. Many who are trying their best to garner the attention of locals would need to start engaging with their customers better rather than simply playing the search engine visibility game.
The Impact of Rating Systems and Google’s Local Guides
Do you remember Google’s Local Guides Program? If you don’t, you might’ve been too busy or just normal, considering it rolled out silently around early to mid 2015. For the uninitiated, what Google does here is to get the insight of people who are reviewing local businesses, sites and areas and track them through their location services.
Through this program, they reward people for performing honest reviews and the search engine company confirms their visits through their GPS history. Google then lists these reviews and can provide impact to your business. How do they do it?
Why Reviews are a Ranking Factor
The impact of influencer marketing has never been stronger and reviews from sites like Yelp has significantly held sway over customers’ decision making when choosing a business over the other. This holds true for up to 88% of consumers according to Search Engine Land, who trust reviews as much as they trust a friend’s recommendation.
This power can make or break your business and you should care.
- Due to the power of trust reviews, this works as social proof of your business’ value. People will see your review rankings and what people say about you and decide according to that.
- Google’s Local Guide reviews are plastered all over Google Maps – which is fully utilised by all mobile users. Whenever they look for a place to eat out or visit, they will look at their Google Maps app, see the reviews and, again, use that as basis.
- Google’s stars go from 1 star to 5 stars and these are known to impact purchase decisions within consumers. Whilst university studies note that 5 star is unrealistic, the range of optimum purchase is still at 4.2 to 4.5 stars – still very high.
But the biggest impact factor in this is that Local Guides can affect your search visibility. A lot of brand management companies have taken notice since its inception. Some awesome SEO consultants are even badly affected by how raw the system is. One business even tried the illegal way out of it.
How Google’s Local Guide Program Matters
Why should you care about a nearly three year-old rating system, you ask? The truth of the matter is that the system is only starting to get ripe. Currently, the local SEO landscape is ruled by a trinity: traditional SEO, location relevant data and engagement, in the form of reviews.
Google, however, is bound to trust real people more than keywords and engagement is the real metric of success of your local business. Even now, people understand how customer engagement is a key performance indicator (KPI) for business success.
Does this mean you give up on your local SEO? Absolutely not. In fact, here’s some ways for you to build on your local engagement and presence. Laser target these and you’ll be ready to maximise your customer engagement.
1. Review Your Google My Business Listing
The best way to make sure that you get the best out of your GMB and Local Guide is to make sure that you regularly check on your listing. Make sure that your listing has the correct name, address and phone number (NAP) and the right coordinates on the map.
Once you do, check your knowledge panel – which is the list of information and reviews that are in your GMB listing and make sure that everything is up to spec. If possible, make sure that reviews are as helpful and honest as possible.
If you receive a low star rating with no review or was not intended for your business, try to flag it ASAP and try to reach Google for a takedown of an unhelpful or irrelevant review. Whilst Google will make you work for it, they do remove guide reviews that are in violation of their rules.
2. Keep Your Mailing Campaigns Interesting
People hate getting newsletters and they tend to delete them or unsubscribe immediately. With this in mind, you would want to provide valuable content through your newsletters, from coupons, discounts, exclusive tips on optimising their business, software recommendations to boost their experience and many more, depending on your niche.
Utilise the subject line. Talk to your customers directly. Make titles interesting. Make them feel that you’re worth the click. Talk about resolving their problems for them.
3. Utilise Other Local Citations
We’ve been a proponent of local listings for a while – even providing the ultimate guide on how to prepare your own local listings. Make sure that you’re listed in as many of the high value citation sites as possible.
Spreading your business details around not only allows for further reach but also more platforms for social proof. We provided the five best of these local listings that prove awesome for the Aussie market.
4. Be Active in a Community
Whether it’s a group for the locals in your suburb, a round table group for entrepreneurs in your area or just an information exchange forum for anyone who is interested in your niche, being part of an active community allows for you to have a network of followers, online or otherwise.
You can use this to help create goodwill between you and your would-be customers and have an active part in engaging with people.
Create live events, help sponsoring meetups and discuss ways for your business to grow with your community. Take their live feedback, provide a discount and spread the word of your expertise. Tie it back to your business.
5. Actively Comment and Engage in Social Media
Big businesses rely on their PR teams and customer service teams to function on social media. In fact, many epic customer service stories come from a very understanding and welcoming representatives going the extra mile to help.
We personally know how bad it is when people don’t acknowledge you or treat you with respect when you are inquiring for something or have complaints. We also know that people reward businesses that go out of their way to support their customers, so be as epic as you can when engaging with your audience.
Whilst Google explicitly notes that social signals are not a ranking factor, a lot of studies disagree with this – and they have a point. Social signals mean engagement is happening.
Local SEO still has a long way to go, but the value of engagement as KPI is rapidly increasing. It is becoming more and more relevant and for a reason: local businesses should succeed via how they actually do their business with their customers rather than simply SEO.
Whilst optimisation will remain to be valuable, engagement metrics are quickly taking over.