As it gets easier to find businesses close to home, how are service-based organisations that operate nationally affected?
The changes to local SEO in the last 12-18 months have been more significant than in the preceding years. With mobile searches continuing to soar, visibility has never been more important for business.
The importance of search and finding the right business for consumer needs has meant that search engines have become smarter, more reliable and – if you work in the digital marketing industry – harder to please.
The biggest change for both local and national businesses is the emphasis that Google is placing on geography and localisation. With just a simple search for ‘plumbers’ Google can determine your exact location and also understand that the term itself holds a strong element of ‘local intent’ – thus Google presenting you with a map of reliable, local service providers near your location.
The impact of local search on national brands
There are many services around that could be deemed ‘local’ where users are presented with local businesses even if they do not ask for them. So how can a national company operating in these industries still compete in the localised landscape? To answer this question, let’s use a fictional example: National Skip Hire Co.
National Skip Hire Co used to appear on the first page of Google for ‘skip hire’ regardless of the town or city their customers searched from. But now, the landscape changes depending on the geographic origin of the search – this tends to bring up lists of local skip hire companies rather than the National Skip Hire Co.
This company’s head office is based in location A, however it operates nationwide and have shops B, C, D and E across the country. It understands that people searching for this particular service want a local company rather than a company 50 miles away. At present it only appears locally for its head office branch (location A) despite having coverage across the UK.
National Skip Hire Co has validated the online demand of each local market based on their physical locations with a digital health check tool and are aware it needs to find a way to get back on page one in front of its customer base.
So what can a national company do to compete with local businesses? In short, it’s about taking advantage of each individual location separately and treating them like independent local businesses to build trust with both your customers and Google. The brand is still important but the proximity to the user is often the defining factor on whether your business is deemed a ‘relevant’ result.
For a national business to rank locally, there are two key actions needed:
1. Claiming and optimising Google My Business (GMB) profiles
The National Skip Hire Co already ranks extremely well locally for its main location. However, the impact of local search now means that every other branch also needs to have its own specific GMB page. The GMB page will ensure each of the locations is put on the map and has the opportunity to reach those in its local area.
There are many external resources explaining what needs to be included within these pages but here are the most important elements to consider:
NAP Details – Ensure your company's name, address and phone number are consistent between this page, your website and directory listings online. This improves Google’s trust in your location.
Website details – Link each GMB page directly to a page on your website that is relevant to that location.
Business description & categories – Carefully write your description and choose your categories. These help Google determine which keywords your business should be appearing for.
2. Creating and optimising area specific web pages
National Skip Hire Co not only creates a Google My Business page for each location but also ensures there is an individual branch page on its website for each and every one of its physical locations. Each of these area pages includes the following information:
•NAP (Business Name, Address and Phone Number)
•Imagery of work done in the local area
•Photos of the branch and team
•Map of the location
•List of services/products provided at this branch
•Unique content relevant to the specific location
Here’s a fantastic example of one of these pages in action for a large window installer.
Ensure you are following the above tips for each of the branches you have. Google needs to see each of these locations independently in order to give them the local exposure they deserve.
With mobile searches soaring and exceeding that of desktop it’s safe to assume that search engines are going to be increasing their focus on localisation in the coming years.
As a national brand in this environment it will be increasingly important to leverage your physical locations not just for operational coverage but also as marketing mechanisms themselves.
This article comes courtesy of Creare, the web design and digital marketing agency.