When it comes to Search Engine Optimization in ecommerce, we tend to focus on bringing in traffic from around the world wide web. However even in your own day-to-day life, you most likely encounter local businesses and listings whether you’re searching for the best coffee roaster in your area or what stores nearby sell winter coats. The same goes for people in the area local to your Shopify store.
Today we’re going to look at three areas of Local SEO that you can focus on as part of your wider strategy and ensure you get those local clicks. We’ll be looking at Shopify stores with a physical location for this article, however if you’re a local business without a brick-and-mortar storefront and still want a slice of that local pie then stay tuned for next week’s article.
What is Local SEO, and why is it important?
Local SEO is pretty much as it sounds - it’s search engine optimization focused on targeting local search users. The idea is to increase traffic and brand awareness through search enquiries that people are conducting in the area your business operates in. This is commonly done by finding keywords users are searching for locally, optimizing site content, and keeping on top of your Google My Business listing.
As for its importance, it all comes back to user search intent which we’ve spoken about previously. Take the example from the introduction - say your business is a coffee roaster. You sell your coffee beans and other equipment through your Shopify store, and your roastery is based out of Dallas. You may have optimized your store for searches related to selling coffee beans online, but you haven’t optimized for local search. So when people who live locally search for “local coffee roasters”, your store doesn’t pop up and they go elsewhere. In fact, Google has said that local search users are even dropping qualifiers such as “near me” and “local” because they know that they’ll be shown local results as a priority. Local intent is a big driver for search users - 46% of all searches have local intent, and according to Google 76% of users who conduct a local search on their smartphone visit a business within 24 hours of that search. That’s a lot of potential local customers that you could be missing out on very easily.
Finding local keywords
Local keywords are a bit easier to identify than standard keywords and you’ll be glad to hear that they don’t need to be updated as often. Think of the keywords that describe your business if someone were to search for it along with your top brand keywords, then plug them into Google and look at the suggested search terms and “People also search for” as a starting point. For example if you sell gardening tools in Boston then it might be “gardening tools Boston”, “gardening equipment MA”, “where to buy gardening tools Boston” and so on. From there you can start including these keywords where relevant on landing pages with the most local traffic. Additionally if you have several locations, you can set up landing pages for those locations specifically with contact details and opening hours as well as some content written to include keywords relevant to that location.
Optimizing your Google My Business listing
Identifying basic local keywords is simple, but we know that searches aren’t always so straightforward. Users can get incredibly specific with search terms, for example they might not search for “vegan bakery LA” but instead “where to buy dairy free cupcakes downtown” - it’s more complex and also trickier for a business to target. That’s where Google My Business (GMB) listing comes in. Optimizing this is straightforward and will improve your store’s chances of coming up in a local search.
Make sure your NAP is correct across channels
Another one for your SEO glossary, NAP stands for Name, Address, Phone Number. It might sound obvious, but your NAP is a signal for Google to verify that your business is where you say it is. It uses NAP citations from around the web to do this, so if your business is listed under a different phone number on Yelp compared to your GMB listing then that can cause issues for your GMB listing. If any of these details have changed ensure they’re updated and correct across all channels.
Fill in as many details as you can
Having the correct contact details is just the beginning - Google My Business also allows you to add business categories, products, services, amenities and more. Add as much detail here as you’re able to so that Google knows to bring up your business when a user has one of those really specific enquiries we mentioned earlier.
Use your description space wisely
Your description on your GMB listing should achieve two things - succinctly describing what your business does, and including a couple of your most important keywords. Be deliberate with your word choice, and it’ll make a world of difference. It’s important that you use a neutral tone, keep it short, and don’t stuff it with keywords. You can see Google’s guidelines for your description here.
Bonus: Add Covid-19 specific details
Keeping people informed is extremely important both during and after the pandemic as we go into 2021. GMB has added extra options for businesses to show details about what health and safety precautions they’re taking, as well as if physical locations are temporarily closed. Make use of these as well as the posting feature to offer up-to-date information on how your store is currently operating. For additional guidance on what you can do with GMB during the pandemic, check out this page from Google.
The role of reviews in Local SEO
When it comes to Local SEO, it’s hard to understate the value of reviews. Think of how many times you’ve searched for a restaurant or local store and checked the reviews - that’s exactly what your potential customers will be doing.
Reviews are one of the major local SEO ranking factors, acting as trust signals for Google. Encourage and incentivize reviews from customers who purchase products from your store both in-person and online. Giveaways or sweepstakes, small discounts on a future order, and free shipping are all great options for incentivizing a customer to leave a review and potentially secure a future purchase. Be sure to respond to reviews where possible, and especially if someone leaves a poor review. When it’s a positive review, the additional effort spent in responding with a simple thank you shows both customers and Google that you are active and engaging with users. When it’s a negative review, try to explain and resolve the situation in an honest and polite manner. 53% of consumers who have left a negative review say they expect a brand to respond to it within a week, but 63% also say they’ve never had a brand respond to a review. By responding to negative reviews, you’re showing both the customer and Google that you care about their experience, and you have the opportunity to turn a disgruntled reviewer into a satisfied one. A win for your business, the customer, and your local SEO!
Paying attention to Local SEO as part of your search engine optimization strategy is another tool under your belt to edge your competitors out of those top SERP spots. By keeping your Google My Business listing up-to-date with glowing reviews and posted updates, as well as incorporating local keywords into your site content, you can attract more local customers to your Shopify store who will champion their new favorite home-grown brand.