Have you ever searched for where to find the best take-out food near you? How about whether or not a local store is still open? Or directions to the nearest coffee shop?
Local search forms a large part of why people use search engines daily. It’s a convenient and fast way to find the ideal business nearby to suit users’ needs. They can easily find reviews, information, directions, opening hours, and more, just with a simple search. Users frequently find new brands when searching locally, with 84% of local searches being focussed on discovery and just 16% looking directly for specific businesses.
This means that if you have a physical storefront as well as your ecommerce store, you should be thinking about local SEO.
What is local SEO?
As you may be able to guess, local SEO is how you optimize your store content for local search users. Local search is a growing part of search, as users grow to use search engines more within their daily lives. The increase in voice search and smartphone usage has meant that when users need to find something nearby, they turn to Google.
- 46% of searches have local intent.
- 76% of users using search on their smartphone visit a business within a day.
- 4 in 5 consumers use search engines to find local information.
- Over 75% of voice-enabled devices use voice search to find a new business every week.
Local search users have what’s called local intent - their queries are related to finding something related to an area. For example if someone searches for “best coffee shops in New York”, or “best coffee shops near me”. They may even drop qualifiers altogether, as many users understand that search engines can determine their location and terms become even less specific e.g. “coffee beans pickup”. Equally, a user may be searching local results even if they’re not in that area such as for an upcoming vacation or if they plan to travel to a nearby city to satisfy their needs.
The results page for a local search may look like this:
Search engines will interpret the user’s intent to provide them with search results relevant to their location. Local search and SEO is therefore especially important for businesses who have a physical storefront, or who offer local services such as delivery and pickup. If you focus too much on your online store with little mention of your brick-and-mortar location, then there’s a chance your store won’t rank highly in local search results even though you want to attract local customers.
So what should you do to make sure you stand the best chance of ranking in local search? Let’s take a look at 6 steps you can take to optimize your ecommerce store for local SEO.
#1 - Optimize your Google My Business listing
Where better to start your local optimization process than with the tools Google gives you? Optimizing your Google My Business listing is a free win for your local SEO, and can be done in a relatively short timeframe if you know what to do. Here’s a quick list of the elements you should start with:
NAP - Short for Name, Address, Phone Number. This should be consistent with your site and any other directories.
Description - Your description should summarize your business and what you sell, including some of your target local keywords. Don’t stuff it with keywords, and avoid using branded language.
Business category - Choose a category that best describes your business, rather than the products you sell. For example you may sell specialist running apparel but your category would be “Sportswear Shop”. If you have the choice between a few categories, choose the most specific or specialist option. To use the same example you may be able to choose between “Clothing Shop” or “Sportswear Shop”; “sportswear” is a lot more specific to your products so you’d choose this option.
Opening hours - If a customer finds your hours online and turns up only to find you’re actually closed as you’ve recently changed opening hours, this means that your store wasn’t a good suggestion for their query. The more this is reported to Google as inaccurate, the more harm it can do to your local ranking.
Products - Adding some of your products to your Google My Business listing can help it appear in those more specific local search results and gives users more to browse to decide if your store fits their needs. If you have a large catalog, add your bestsellers or those which typically see the highest traffic from search.
Services offered - If you offer any local services, these are well worth adding to your profile. This means that when a local user searches for “coffee pickup” or “coffee local delivery”, your store is more likely to rank higher.
- Temporary closures/hours - Much like your opening hours, letting customers know when you’re closed is important for Google and local search. It can actually help you appear in search results, for example if a customer is searching for where is open on Christmas Eve then your store will be seen by Google to be a reliable result as you’ve recently added your temporary hours.
Once you’ve completed your profile, ensure you check it for accuracy on a regular basis. If your services change, or your business gets a new phone number, these should be updated on your Google My Business listing as soon as possible.
To take advantage of the benefits GMB can have on your local SEO, you should aim to frequently engage with customers through your profile. This includes responding to reviews, answering any questions users may submit, and posting regular updates. This demonstrates to Google that you’re active and engaged with customers, which may benefit where you appear in the local pack if the choice is between your store and a less engaged competitor.
#2 - Create a local landing page
Incorporating local content into your ecommerce site can be tricky. After all, you don’t want to confuse online-only customers with too much local content as this may then result in slipping down search results pages for online-only search users. At the same time, you want your store to rank for local users. One simple way to include relevant local keywords and content is by creating a landing page.
Your landing page should include details of your physical stores, including addresses, maps, and opening hours as well as contact information and in-store services. To really boost your chances of ranking, you can add extra written content that allows you to include local keywords. Add internal links to any locally focussed blog articles and resources, and any relevant FAQ links.
#3 - Add local content and options to product pages
Omnichannel commerce is the expectation for most customers, especially those local to your business. This means that they look for fluid shopping experiences that allow them to easily switch between different channels including shopping on your website and in your physical store. They want to be able to browse your products online, visit in store, opt for collection, return items purchased online in your stores and so on. The easier this is to do, the better the experience and the more likely your store will be to rank for local customers.
Any local options you offer should be included on your product pages, not just as options at checkout. These options may include:
- Checking in-store stock availability
- Buy online, pick-up in store (BOPIS)
- Local delivery
- Buy online, return in store
- Order in-store for home delivery
- Links to any local FAQ information
Making these options clear on product pages will make for a better local user experience. This will help to make it more likely that Google will rank your store for users looking for your products locally.
#4 - Create local focussed content for your blog
Blogs are a great way to add fresh, SEO friendly content to your store in a way that’s authentic. Brands that create and publish blog content consistently see as much at 97% more backlinks than those who don’t. Especially if you’re looking for a better way to target local keywords and topics, blogs are a simple way to achieve this.
Start by finding the topics and keywords that local users are searching for related to your product niche. If you sell activewear, then those topics may be around where the best running trails are in your area or reviews of different juice and health bars. You want to include any relevant local keywords around that topic, e.g. “10 of the best coffee shops in Chicago to work from”, or “Easy hikes within driving distance of San Francisco”. You may also want to explore features or qualities which potential customers look for when they search for businesses. That may be coffee shops which offer plant-based options, or stores which offer services such as personal shopping.
These blogs then target local search users, and position your brand as one of authority within that topic. Local customers may then be interested to learn more about your products, now that they know you’re a local business. Search engines will crawl your site and take note of those local keywords and topics, making it more likely that your store will appear in local search results.
#5 - Think about voice search
Voice enabled technology has changed how people use search engines. Whether it’s asking a question to a smart speaker, or looking for directions in the car, voice search is growing fast. Local queries are some of the most common too, with 58% of consumers saying they use voice search to find out more information on a local business.
This means it’s vital to your store and local SEO to consider how people use voice enabled tech to search for local businesses as part of your local SEO strategy. Think about how voice changes the kind of query a user may submit. Say you’re a Nashville based cookie brand; you sell cookie boxes online and have a local delivery service. Typically with a screen-based search, you may target “cookie delivery Nashville”, however it needs to be adapted to suit how people actually speak when using voice search. That may be “Who does cookie delivery in Nashville?” or “Who locally delivers cookies?”.
The key to increasing your chances of ranking for local voice search is really through implementing some of the tips we’ve already discussed - keeping your GMB profile up to date, responding to reviews, and adding local content. When you’re creating content for your site that targets local customers, consider the kind of terms they may be using with their voice enabled tech to ensure you cover your bases.
#6 - Encourage local customers to leave reviews on Google
As a local business owner, you’ll likely understand the importance of reviews to local customers already. They’re also extremely valuable to your store’s SEO both online and locally. Just as they demonstrate trustworthiness to customers, they do the same for search engines. In a Brightlocal consumer survey:
- 98% said they read reviews for local businesses
- 74% of consumers left reviews for local businesses in the last 12 months
- 49% trust consumer reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends and family.
Reviews are a powerful way to convince customers and search engines that your store is the best option available. That’s why it’s so important that you encourage local customers to leave reviews, especially on Google. There are a few methods for going about this:
- Asking when the customer checks out
- Adding a request on printed receipts
- Adding the request on collection receipts sent via email or SMS
- Sending the customer an email or SMS a few days after their visit
- Adding a review request on a printed flier included in local deliveries
You can also incentivize customers to leave reviews, however to remain within Google’s guidelines you cannot ask specifically for positive reviews. You also cannot ask employees or friends to write reviews, or pay for someone to leave a review. To make the most of the reviews you receive, respond to all of them - positive or negative.