6 Local Search Tips for 2018

Voice search! User intent! Long-tail keywords! Oh, my!

When we think of local SEO in 2018, our brains immediately lurk into the realm of Siri and Alexa.

SEO professionals are constantly wondering how new technologies will influence local search ranking factors. It’s still early, but it’s clear that the biggest changes will occur in the area of user intent.

Addressing user intent is nothing new, but the way it’s evolving certainly is. People want their questions answered quickly, and they want those answers to be exact based on their intent.

As a local business owner, your SEO strategy should involve reaching targeted customers through custom-tailored local content.

Here are the top 6 local seo tips to help you shine in your area’s search results, and start driving more leads today.

Answer Long-Tail Keywords

By 2020, voice searches are expected to reach 50% of all online search queries. That’s staggering when you read it out loud, right?

In order to adapt, sites will need to embrace long-tail keywords for their search marketing strategy. And not just any long-tail keywords, ones that serve to answer specific questions.

Like, when someone asks Siri, “what are the best Korean food places in Los Angeles?”

You want your piece of content about the best Korean restaurants in Los Angeles to be featured at the top of the search engine results.

Even if you’re a relatively small business that doesn’t have a big website, you can still rank a featured snippet if you have the right content structure.

The best way to formulate a featured snippet strategy is to see what’s getting ranked as featured snippets in your niche currently. You then have two options, a) create content that answers the question even better than the current one, or b) target a similar query, but not exact to the current one.

An example of option B? Let’s say the main featured snippet that’s ranking is “how to cook a chicken dinner?” Well, the featured snippet that you target could be “how to prepare a chicken dinner with rice?”

For local businesses, the ideal featured snippets involve questions about pricing, features of a product or service, and quality of goods (i.e. the “best Korean restaurants” example).

Long-tail keywords aren’t only meant for featured snippets, they are great for targeting all sorts of user intent on your business website.

Google My Business Optimization

At the cornerstone of local optimization is GMB, or Google My Business.

Xcel SEO Google My Business pageThis informational knowledge graph is like the homepage of your brand on search results pages. It’s the first thing most people will pay attention to after searching for your brand, so it’s key that you treat GMB like you would your own website.

Make sure that all information is filled out. From photos to business hours, service categories, and website URL, the more data you can provide in your GMB the more Google likes you.

Review Generation Strategy

Google also like reviews. Another component of Google My Business is the ability to generate reviews on your profile, and most importantly, respond to them—whether positive or negative.

But how do you get reviews in the first place?

The quickest way to start gaining reviews is to place call to actions across your controllable assets, like your website. Or send a link to your email list, allowing them to quickly and easily leave a review.

Tools like Pleper allow you to condense your review link into a manageable URL, and also track it’s progress using analytics.

Local Citation Building

Business listings are a great and necessary method of exposure for any brand. Services like Whitespark or Yext can help you list your company in dozens of local directories with a couple clicks of the mouse.

You can also perform this process manually by researching the listings of your local competitors and adding your business to each of those.

Use Competitors’ Backlinks

Using your competitors’ local listings is one thing, but it’s good to draw inspiration from their entire backlink portfolio.

This isn’t to say that you only use their backlinks rather than coming up with your own opportunities, but this is a good way of seeing what’s giving them rankings over you.

The best way to find these links is by using a tool like Ahrefs or SEMRush, and finding the ‘link gap’ where 3-4 of your competitors share links that you don’t have.

If you’re seeing multiple competitors with backlinks from the same referring domains, that’s a huge sign that these links are valuable and you should pursue them.

Sponsorship Opportunities

One advantage of being local business is having the ability to network with other local businesses in your area.

This is so important for a variety of reasons. Not only can these businesses become clients of yours if you’re a B2B company, but these relationships can lead to sponsorship opportunities that can help you earn local trust in your community and attain valuable backlinks.

To find sponsorship opportunities near you, simply go to Google and type in your city name followed by “sponsorship opportunities” in quotes.

Typing in Denver sponsorship opportunities in GoogleThis will show you all the nearby businesses willing to accept small donations in exchange for sponsorship and will provide you with a backlink in return.

How to Optimize for Local Search Moving Forward

With so much talk surrounding voice search and machine learning these days, a lot of business owners are throwing in the towel on traditional methods of achieving local rankings.

Cracking the local search engine isn’t Da Vinci’s Code, so why are so many businesses making it feel that way?

Fear not, it’s these deficiencies that can give you a leg up in your local markets above your competition.

It’s clear that many local businesses still don’t fully understand search engine optimization, even in its most basic form. By taking the above measures, you can easily stand out from the crowd—including many of your own competitors—and start to excel in 2018 and onward.

Hopefully these local SEO tips of 2018 have inspired you to continue taking action and take your online marketing strategy to the next level.