Local SEO Converges with Mobile Search

female driver hand holding a phone with interface navigatorConsumers searching for information about local businesses increasingly turn to their smartphones for answers. According to Google’s Mobile Search Moment Study, 77 percent of mobile searches take place at home or work, where a PC or other device is available to the searcher and now over 1 out of every 3 searches is done on a mobile device.

Local search has become an almost-daily ritual for consumers, two-thirds of whom use local search three to four times a week. Four in ten of those consumers use local search every day.

When it comes to mobile devices, local search is provided by multiple search engines, data aggregators, social networks, and review sites, including:

– Voice search with Siri, Google Now, and Windows Cortana.
– Map applications like Google Maps, Apple Maps, and MapQuest.
– Various search engines used by mobile browsers, such as Chrome, Safari, IE, Firefox, Dolphin, and Opera.
– Aggregator and search-powered location-based apps like FourSquare, Yelp, Google Now, YouTube,  and eBay.
– Email search powered by such native email apps as Gmail and Yahoo Mail.

Consumers crave accurate, relevant local business information; almost three-quarters of U.S. consumers use location-based services on their smartphones. Further, these on-the-go local consumers are highly motivated and display great intent. Recent research from Google shows that nine in ten consumers take action after performing a local search, and 70 percent of them call local businesses directly from their smartphone search results.

In addition, new research from comScore and Neustar Localeze shows that the top reason for a local search is to help a consumer find a specific business. However, the second most common reason is to find a product or service in a specific geographic area. According to comScore, “Nearly half of all service, restaurant, and travel searchers were looking for a business they have never made a purchase from before.”

They’re not just kicking the tires either. Google and Nielsen also report that 55 percent of mobile search conversions happen within the hour.

The accuracy, comprehensiveness, and perceived trustworthiness of local business information are of great concern for mobile consumers. Seeing a business show up in multiple places online increases its perceived credibility.

Mobile search optimization is not the mere act of search and syndication; rather, it is all important multi-location, multi-aggregator management of your local business data to the device user’s intent. Local business content management calls for a complete solution, enabling multi-location businesses to provide mobile searchers the type of cohesive, accurate experience that instills trust and encourages action.

Marketers who power their local search optimization with automation solutions from Rio SEO and other software providers will find it easier to define and manage Web content disseminated through search engines and on local websites in areas where they do business.

How to Optimize for Local Search

Most experts agree that local search should continue to be an area of focus for search marketing professionals in 2014. Google continues to pay attention to improving local search results, and expanded use of the Local Carousel is just one example of Google’s recent enhancements. How should your business — assuming it has a physical location and regardless of size — optimize for local?

Here are some tips:

–  Claim Your Google Places Listing: Google Places are business listings that allow your business to be found on Google Search, Maps, Google+, and mobile devices. By claiming your Google Places listing, you’ll be able to ensure your address, telephone number, hours of operation, and contact information are correct, and you’ll be able to connect with customers by sharing photos, updates, news, and special offers. In addition, claiming your business allows you to respond to reviews that are placed within the site. Visit Google Places for Business to claim your listing.

Build a Dedicated Local Page: When building a page for local, remember that people searching locally are likely to have a more immediate need for your services. Thus, it’s important to add elements that will easily enable visitors to find your physical location. Store locators, mapping technology, telephone numbers, and product/service reviews are essential to your dedicated local page.

–  Identify Local Search Terms: Your market is generally coming from a geographic area that can be as narrow as a few-block radius or as wide as several counties. The geographic qualifiers depend on the size of your  community and the competition for your service. Think about how far your geographic reach is and add those search phrases to your dedicated local page. For example, people likely travel a short distance for a grocery store but may travel a significantly larger distance for fine arts and  accessories. Then, infuse the page with geographically relevant search terms including surrounding towns that searchers may include in their search to learn more about your business.

Get Listed in Local Directories: Once you have a dedicated local page, getting listed in many relevant local directories is an important local search factor. It is vital to make sure your citation information (name, address, phone number, description) matches the information in your Google Places listing. Google will discredit your business if there are inconsistencies between the Google Places listing and those listed in other directories such as Yelp, Foursquare, YP, and Patch.

You can quickly and easily manage your online business listings with a single click at Moz Local. Moz Local pushes your listings to all of the major local data aggregators, where search engines can access your information, ensuring it is correct, consistent, and visible across the web.

Be careful when using paid submission services. Some services will remove your listing(s) once you stop paying for the service. It’s worth noting that another advantage to manually submitting your business listing is that you’ll maintain control over your listing’s passwords.

Optimize Your Website for Mobile: With mobile penetration expected to reach upwards of 75% this year, more consumers are likely to be searching for your business from their mobile device. “If you want to stay relevant and attractive to your visitors, you need to provide them with easier access through their mobile devices,” says Ben Oren, Director of SEO at WhiteWeb Technologies.

Businesses should consider site design from a mobile-first perspective. Content, navigation, and interactions must be carefully developed for mobile. For example, content order is important because of its tendency to restack on smaller screens, and logical navigation is important because people are tapping buttons or links with their thumbs.

One option for mobile that many businesses are considering is responsive website design. With responsive design, your site adapts to the screen size of the device on which it’s displayed, which means that you won’t need a separate mobile version for your website. According to Google, responsive website design is considered an industry best practice and is their recommended configuration.

From an SEO perspective, site owners can develop a mobile SEO strategy that includes location-based terms more likely to be used from a mobile device. Likewise, you won’t have to duplicate your link building, site authority, and social share efforts, as you’ll be able to dedicate your efforts to linking to a single site.

Engage With Your Customers: Google Places, Google+, Yelp,  Foursquare, and others are relevant because of the independent review provided by consumers. Engage your customers via social media or other methods, and encourage them to leave reviews on local directory sites. Positive reviews add credibility to your brand, increase your domain  authority, and provide Google with clues that your business should appear high on search results.

Optimizing for local search is no longer an optional activity. It’s an essential part of your overall optimization strategy and should not be overlooked.