local search

So, what is Local search?

Local search is the art & science of optimizing your business's online presence so that you show up in local searches. Local search has a geographical component to it thus applies primarily to brick-and-mortar businesses (those with a physical location).

How does Local search Work?

These days we rely on Google to provide answers and information to everything from What's the score of the Packers game? to Where should we go out to dinner tonight? 

Google takes this job seriously and has made it clear their top priority is their customer - the person searching for information. Google doesn't give a flip if the best answer to the searcher's question comes from your website or your competitors. They just care that the information is relevant, trustworthy and high quality content that answers the searcher's question.

At Making Waves, it's our mission to stay up-to-date with Google, the experts' theories around it's algorithm and best practices for attracting customers without having to pay for ads.

Let's take a look at what this means to you and your pub or restaurant.

a typical scenario

A couple is driving around looking for a new place to have dinner.

They are within 10 miles from your business.

The woman searches “restaurant” on her phone.

Search results return a list of restaurants, pubs and cafes that serve food within 5-15 miles of the couple’s location.

The couple reviews the first several places on the list.

What just happened?

The couple in our example unknowingly relied on Google's "local search" algorithm to find a restaurant in their area. From Google's perspective, it went something like this:

  1. Google took note of the couple's current location, obtained from the woman's geo-location data on her phone.
  2. Google assumed someone searching for a restaurant wanted local results. This seems obvious because why would you want a restaurant in San Francisco, CA if you're sitting in Richfield, WI?
  3. In a split second, Google gathered and plugged the information into its local search algorithm, received data back including ranking of each webpage matching and displayed the results to the couple.

The SERP (search engine results page) looked something like this:

SERP search engine results page for restaurant search

 

Google considers your search words (aka "keywords") then gathers data from a variety of signals and plugs them into its algorithm to determine what will be included in the SERP (search engine results page). This is an oversimplified description of what really happens, but you get the picture.

If you want more customers, you need to show up as high as possible in the SERP. In order to make that happen, you need to get connected by having a strong local SEO strategy.

Local Search Strategy

It's not uncommon for business owners to expect customers to come in droves after they build their website.  Wouldn't that be nice? Sadly, it doesn't work that way.

At Making Waves we believe local SEO is a highly effective and sustainable digital marketing approach versus paying a wheel barrow of cash on Google ads.

In order to win at local search your business needs an effective local search strategy. A key part of The Right Mix is a sound local search strategy. Did we mention it's uniquely designed for restaurants?

Let's take a look at the key local search signals.

key local search signals

website

Consumers expect businesses to have a website. Especially restaurants and bars because they want to know your address, hours, what's on your menu, what wine and beer selections you have etc.

From your website Google wants to know:

  • Is your content relevant, high-quality, unique (no duplicates) and updated frequently?
  • Keywords - are they in your titles, h1 tags and throughout your content?
  • Does your site include "schema"code allowing Google to easily scan and interpret your site?
  • Is your name and address consistent with other online channels?
  • What is your domain authority?

Search Engines

Sometimes referred to as business listings or citations, search engine accounts truly deserve a category of their own - they are that important.

The most crucial search engine account of all is Google My  Business. It allows you to manage your online presence across Google, including Search and Maps. 

Ask yourself:

  • Have you claimed your Google My Business listing? Is it optimized and categorized correctly?
  • What about Apple Maps and BING Places? 
  • Are all accounts complete and consistent:  Name, address, phone are all identical on every listing?

Citations

Often referred to as business listings, citations are places online where your business is mentioned. There are many different sources including online directories like Yelp! and TripAdvisor, social media like Facebook and Instagram, partner websites and public records.

The most crucial business listing of all is Google My  Business. Google My Business is a free business listing and tool to manage your online presence across Google, including Search and Maps. 

Ask yourself:

  • Have you claimed your Google My Business listing? Is it optimized and categorized correctly?
  • How many total business listings are there for my business?
  • Are my listings consistent? Name, address, phone are all identical on every listing?
  • Am I listed across a variety of citations and those that are specific to restaurants and bars? 
  • Do I have at least as many citations, if not more, than my competition?

reviews

According to BrightLocal, 84% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. This isn't lost on Google. If you want a better local search ranking Google needs to know your restaurant or bar is worthy based on the feedback of other customers. 

Google looks at:

  • Quantity - how many reviews do I have?
  • Quality - how many reviews are good vs. bad?
  • What is my review velocity? Did I just get 100 reviews in a day or are they spread out over the year?
  • What is my review diversity? 

social

Google wants to know you care about your customers. Presumably, if you have social media presence and activity, you are engaging with your customers and care about them. 

Google will be looking at:

  • Do you have presence on the top social platforms? 
  • Do you engage with your customers? Post and respond to comments regularly?

links

Your website should be linking to other pages within your website. This helps Google determine your site's structure.

Also, other websites that link to your website can provide immense benefit to your search rankings, but they must be trustworthy and related to your industry.

Google will be looking at:

  • Quantity - how many links there are internal and external to your site?
  • Quality - how many links are trustworthy and credible? (and how many are just an array of random and spammy links you collected to fool Google?)
  • Does the site linking to you have a high domain authority? 
  • Does the text associated with the link contain relevant keywords?

Personalization

Personalization could be considered a connector because it affects the search engine results. In fact, it's super important. However, you have no control over it so just sit back, know what it is and let the cards fall as they may.

Google's number one mission is to provide the best results to the person searching. In order to do that Google considers information related to that person. Personalization refers to the location and previous search and click habits of the person requesting information from Google.

Google looks at things like:

  • Where is the searcher's location (city, state, country)?
  • What is the searcher's previous search history?
  • What sites have they visited before and where have they clicked?