Local business directories got a bad rap a couple of years ago when a major online SEO blogger twisted an answer from Google’s Matt Cutts, the search engine’s go-to guy when people have questions about Google’s algorithms. Matt was asked a question about the importance of the number of local business directory listings to where businesses end up on the search results pages. His answer, taken in context, explained that local businesses shouldn’t pay someone to list their businesses in hundreds of local business directories, and should focus instead on maintaining their listings on highly rated, good local business US directory sites.
That’s a pretty key difference in interpretation. In fact, search engine marketing experts have confirmed that Google – and other major search engines – do indeed take business directory listings into account when they post up the search results. Businesses with storefront locations are much more likely to rank high in search results when they’ve claimed and customized their listings in highly regarded local business directories and online review sites. While those local directory listings may be only one factor in local online marketing, they’re a pretty important part, largely because they contribute to so many other ways that prospective customers find a business.
Local SEO and Why It’s Important
Local SEO translates to “local search engine optimization” – specific things that business can do to help search engines like Google decide where they should show up on the search results page when someone is looking for a business in their area. For a long time, local business owners didn’t pay a lot of attention to online marketing – but that’s changed as more and more of their potential customers have taken to searching online for just about everything they want to do or buy.
The search engines have also upped their game when it comes to figuring out why a person is searching for something so that they can deliver the most relevant results. It used to be that the top search engine results nearly always listed national chains and advertisers with big budgets. That’s changed as they’ve gotten better at figuring out where a searcher is located, and why they’re searching for a particular item. While searchers used to have to enter a city name or some other clue to let Google know that they were looking for a place to order pizza rather than a recipe for pizza, the search engine algorithms have gotten pretty good at figuring out when searches have “local intent” – in other words, when the person searching is looking for a local business.
And those searches tend to lead to purchases. According to market research, about 70 percent of the time, when someone does a local search, they visit a store from the search results (or make a purchase) within 24 hours. The research is even clearer about local searches on mobile devices – more than 80 percent of local searches result in an in-store visit within 24 hours – and usually much sooner.
How Customers Decide Where to Go After a Local Search
Here’s the important part – it’s not enough for local businesses to get on the page with a search engine. It’s also important to land a spot near the top of the local listings. Research shows that people are most likely to click on – and follow through with – a visit to businesses that are listed near the top of the page when they do a search. Even more importantly, Google gives some businesses an extra boost if their business directory listings and online reviews meet high standards. In the past few years, the search engine has taken the highest ranked businesses from their Google maps and placed them at the very top of the search engine pages, with a special call out box that lists extra information about them.
How to Get Into the Local Pack
There are two major requirements for businesses that want to get a spot in that Local Pack and claim the benefits that go with it. First, they need to submit a listing to Google My Business, and optimize their business listing with as much detail as possible. This is Google’s on local business directory, so the search engine puts a lot of trust into businesses listed there. As a special added bonus, less than 10 percent of local businesses actually claim their GMB listing, so any local business that does starts out ahead of 90 percent of other local businesses.
In addition to GMB, local business owners should also list their businesses in as many relevant local business directories as they can – with the key word being “relevant.” Online directories like FindUsLocal are always relevant, and offer a double advantage for businesses that list with them. Not only do they get a boost in search engine rankings, they also reap the benefits of being found by potential customers who come directly to the website to find local events, read local news and start their day off with an inspirational quote.