Optimizing for local search is a very important step if you have a business that attract customers nearby. Think of businesses like hair salons, dentists, wedding gown galleries or handymen you’d visit in a neighborhood rather than avail of services off the phone or via the Internet.
Although their businesses are conducted offline, their online presence is critical because potential customers looking for them likely use search queries characterized by combination of name of service and constrained by geographic location. When someone searches for thai food kowloon city or shoe repair hang hau, it’s logical to imagine they are restricting their search for shops at specific locations.
Google has figured that out, that is why instead of finding just web pages on search results, we now also find maps with possible locations of shops and businesses for better user experience.
As business owners, we also want our presence be more prominent online so it would be easier for people to find us.
How then can we optimize our presence our presence for local search?
1. Do a keyword research.
It’s often no brainer to understand what a dentist in Causeway Bay might expect her potential customers will use as search query: dentist in causeway bay. But until one performs a keyword research and proves that indeed that is the keyword most people use, then it is purely speculation that can be totally wrong. Who’s to say it’s not dental check up cwb or tooth extraction in causeway bay?
We can start with Google AdWords keyword planner which tells you not only the popularity but also the competitiveness or how difficult to rank for that keyword. Using the tool indeed confirms whether a target phrase is indeed popular as well as help us decide whether to use them or another keyword variation that’s easier to rank even with lower popularity.
List them in an Excel sheet and identify possible topics that relate to the main target keywords as well as secondary to long tail keywords which include more detailed information about your business. For dentists it can include root canal procedure, molar extraction, gum disease or toothache medication. The objective of this exercise is to try to connect with your target audience by using the same terms to they use online to look for service like yours.
2. Optimize your website content with local signals.
Make your business location information stand out on your web page without looking too obtrusive. The idea is for search engines to easily associate your website presence with the physical location of the shop. Complete address, contact details like phone or email, opening hours are information that’s vital for search engines to associate with local search results. And of course it makes it easier for visitors to locate your shop or contact you.
Typically this information is located at contact us page, or at the footer section of the site so it is consistently visible wherever a visitor happens to be in the website.
3. Publish your business at Google My Business.
Additional search signals are extracted from sources like Google My Business. Submitting your business to this service enables it to be embedded on Google Maps as part search results for local queries. Information such as address and business hours are expected to be consistent with what is visible on your website.
Otherwise, search engines may find inaccuracies (using “Ltd” instead of “Limited”) and could possibly downgrade or remove listing of your business for relevant queries. Human visitors, on the other hand, might get confused and skip your website in favor of a competitor.
4. Claim your local listings.
Whether you are featured in a Sassy Hong Kong or Localiiz without inbound links from them, such mentions become part of citations, which are also believed to be in play in search engine ranking signals. Google, for instance, has become very sophisticated when it comes to understanding both content and user intent and matching them more accurately than ever.
So if TimeOut Hong Kong website will feature a new Korean restaurant in Mong Kok, such restaurant’s listing for queries related to Mong Kok and Korean restaurant could get a boost even if TimeOut did not create a hyperlink towards that restaurant website.
While Google My Business is a must-go place to promote your business online, there are local directories or business listings such as Yelp, YP.com.hk or local Yalwa version that you can claim for your business presence and provide business information.
5. Get links from local websites.
To enhance local flavor, it helps to get links from local websites. And by that I mean .hk websites for businesses with presence in Hong Kong. Search engines will then be notified of more signals about the local presence of a business.
6. Be consistent with your listings.
When placing a phone number, it might help to include the country code as a location signal, filling out the location information on your business’s listing on social media, which includes link to your website address and using target keywords as part of your profile description. Go beyond Google+ as other social media platforms are also considered search signals.
These are things that help your business find its way to be more visible and get found easier by locals.