Local search ranking has been a pretty hot topic over the past couple years. As Google continues to strive to deliver the absolute best results to the user (after their ads of course), changes will continue to be made. It seems that ranking for local searches has become harder and harder as Google keeps tightening the SERP-Belt. We are here to help you check off what is important in order to best compete in the local search realm.
"Does local search even matter for my company? We sell worldwide." The answer is yes! Regardless of your industry, local search is extremely important and should not be overlooked.
Why? Because that is often what Google is choosing to serve up first. We'll get to the tips soon, but first we'll look at a simple example. If you want to jump ahead, feel free to skim to the "What to Do..." section.
In this example, I opened an incognito search window and Googled "marketing company." Even though I live and work in the Basel, Switzerland area, I could potentially work with a marketing company anywhere in the world. However, Google still chooses to show me the local search results first. Showing up here is a huge benefit, as these are the results that potential customers will see first. This is even more obvious if I search on a mobile device, where all the organic results are well below the fold. Sure, some users may scroll past these results, but why not do what you can to rank here as well?
Many aspects of local search still depend on the historic, major ranking factors. However, there are things you can and should do in order to optimize your site for local search as well.
What to Do to Improve Local Search Ranking in Basel
1. First and foremost, a solid, clean website is still the most important aspect in rankings. The fact of the matter is that it doesn't matter how high you rank if you are not able to convert the visitors to your site into customers/advocates/fans/etc. Here are some things to think about in regards to your website.
- What is the purpose of my site, and what do I want visitors to do once they are here?
- Is my site user-friendly? Does it flow well and make sense to the average user?
- Does my site load quickly?
- Is my site optimized to help me rank not only for the keywords that my target market are searching for, but do I also include local keywords for the Basel region?
A clean, optimized site is a living thing. Changes will most likely need to be made on a quasi-consistent basis. It is not simply "set and forget." For more in-depth info on what this means, check out this checklist.
2. What was once Google+, Google My Business has become a key place for every business to have a presence. If you are not featured here, or have not yet "claimed" your business, do this immediately! In doing so you are ensuring that you will be found and featured on Google Maps, which will in turn help your local Basel search ranking. If you're not sure how to do this, you can get all the info you'll ever need right here.
After your business is present on GMB, work at getting positive reviews. Recently Google made a huge step in including businesses with even just one review, so don't worry about starting from scratch.
- In setting up your Google My Business account, even if you are a small business of one or two employees, use a business Gmail account, not a personal Gmail account.
- If you have a bit of extra cash to spend, TURBO charge your GMB account with a virtual tour. Be warned, in order to do this you are required to hire a "Google trusted" photographer... and that will cost some money.
- Make sure your "pin" is dropped in the correct place on Google maps. At least on the correct building, and at best on the specific part of the building that your business resides.
- These sites are a great way to not only get more visibility for your Basel business, but also to place a few links. Most of the time these are "no-follow" links, but they are important nonetheless.
- When creating these accounts, FILL THEM OUT 100%! Poorly completed account profiles look bad for your company and Google doesn't like it.
- One great way to find those "diamonds in the rough" are to simply search "your city + business directory." I did this search for the Basel region and found yellow.local.ch which is a section of the online yellow pages. Be careful though, and make sure these directories are legit. Here are a couple more examples for Basel business directories.
Angloinfo.com (actually for Zurich, but shows in Basel searches)
4. Once you have these profiles created, encourage users to submit reviews. I DO NOT mean mass emailing every contact you've ever made and asking for a review. While this isn't technically against the rules, it looks spammy and you're likely to get more harmful reviews than good ones. What I DO mean is:
- Be active on these review sites. Thank users when they add good reviews, and engage users in honest conversation if they add not so favorable ones.
- It's ok to ask recent customers for a review or encourage them to look up your business on these sites, however be selective and NEVER offer compensation of any kind.
- DO NOT review your own company, whether as an owner, employee or intern. This is bad practice. If you work there, be fair... don't muck up the rating systems.
Parting Thoughts: Things to Consider
As stated before, these steps in ranking for local search require time, effort and upkeep in order to ensure the best results. Be sure you are keeping them up to date with the most consistent information and engaging users when necessary.
If you are suffering incredibly in local search rankings and you have done all you can to change it, don't sweat it too much. Recent studies have shown that, at least for now, proximity to User is the most important factor in local search ranking. I imagine this will change soon as users realize and vocalize the fact that these results are not necessarily "the best" (although they could be) and simply are "the closest." On the other hand, if you have not completed the above steps, I highly suggest doing it now. While local search ranking factors may change, having these key building blocks in place is important if you want to beat out your competition in Basel and the surrounding area.
For more help on optimizing your website for visitors and converting as many as possible, download our FREE "25 Website Must Haves" guide below.