Whether you're trying to do your local search marketing yourself or you're paying an agency to do it for you, the process of elevating your local search ranking can seem lengthy. If you've been working on your business's local SEO for a while and you aren't seeing results yet, you're probably wondering what the heck is taking so long.
As difficult as it is, try not to get frustrated or lose patience. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, I promise. Keep reading to find out what's going on behind the scenes and why good things take time.
What is local search marketing?
In case you didn’t already know, local search marketing is kind of our thing. Sorry, I'm contractually obligated to mention that. (Just kidding.)
Local search marketing involves telling search engines exactly what they need to know about your business. The main information that search engines need to know about your business is relatively simple. We commonly refer to is as your business's NAPU (name, address, phone number and URL). When this data is structured together (your Google My Business page, for example) it's commonly referred to as an online citation.
But it goes further than that. Search engines also need to know your business’s hours, service area if applicable and anything a consumer might need to know when searching for a business online. Think menus, photos, services, business description, customer reviews, etc.
Why aren’t you seeing results?
Some digital marketing agencies might promise to immediately get you to the top of the local search results. I’d love to tell you local SEO works that way, but it doesn’t. You can think of local SEO as building trust with search engines. You don't build trust overnight, so you shouldn't expect to improve your search ranking overnight.
If you hired a digital marketing agency and they’ve promised you overnight results, you probably shouldn't believe them, unless they're talking about paid advertising.
Let's get down to it. Here are our three reasons you might not see instant results:
1. Your business is new and/or there’s no information about you online.
Local search marketing is complicated, and this is especially true when a business is brand new or has no information online.
In order to get businesses listed online, marketers will have to create and optimize the following:
- Social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, etc)
- Google My Business
- Bing Local
- Industry specific listings
It’s not as simple as plugging a little information into local listings. You also need to add images, a bio and links back to your website (and if your business is brand new with no website, then you will also need a website that’s optimized for local searches).
And once you've created all these local listing pages, you will need to add your information to the big four data aggregators (Localeze, Infogroup, Acxiom and Factual). Data aggregators send information about your business to business directories. And search engines use information from directories to list your business in searches.
And this is just a small piece of the local search pie.
There’s a lot involved in local search rankings. According to Moz’s list of local search ranking factors, there are eight main categories that affect your business’s local search ranking:
1. Google My Business signals
2. External location signals
3. On-page signals
4. Link signals
5. Review signals
6. Social signals
7. Behavioral/mobile signals
And those eight categories are broken down into many more signals search engines take into account when they rank your business in local searches.
Industry also plays a role in how long it will take to see results from your local search marketing efforts.
If your business is in a highly competitive industry, it could take even longer to rank in local searches. This is because your competitors are likely already established online and will show up before your business in search results until you can prove to search engines that your business is trustworthy.
Building trust with search engines involves building your online presence with the aforementioned profiles and citations as well as acquiring customer reviews. Check out this post for more information on the importance of reviews in making sure your small business is found online.
And while those factors have a positive effect on your local search ranking, there are a number of factors that will have a negative impact on your local search ranking (like incorrect or incomplete citation information).
2. Your business is established, but there’s a lot of incorrect or incomplete information online about you.
Let’s talk about the negative factors. If your business has been around for a while, but you’re still having trouble making it to the top of the local search results page, some of these negative factors are probably affecting your business.
One of the most common problems local businesses face when trying to rank higher in local searches is incorrect citation information. And guess what. Incorrect NAPU across the web is one of those negative factors. Ever changed your business name, moved locations or updated phone numbers? You probably have incorrect information floating around.
Cleaning up inaccurate and inconsistent business information online takes time. Here’s what’s involved:
- Searching for your business in Google, Bing, Google MapMaker and directories to find the incorrect information
- Working your way through the incorrect listings and correcting the information when possible
- Sending correct information to data aggregators, which feed information to search engines
There isn’t just one place search engines get all their information about your business. They take information from all over the Internet. This can be a problem, because if a search engine finds conflicting information about your business on different websites, it becomes confused and doesn’t know what to tell searchers.
Because search engines are really only interested in world domination and giving searchers the best, most relevant search results, they penalize businesses that have conflicting information online.
3. Search engines take a while to catch up.
Once the information has been cleaned up and listings have been optimized, search engines have to catch up. Google and Bing are smart, but they don’t change (or display) your local information the second it’s updated in a few directories.
Search engines have to do something called "crawling and indexing" (finding and processing) webpages before they use and display new information from those pages in searches. Even when you submit new information to directories, those directories have to be crawled and indexed before the changes appear in search results.
The same goes for your website, and it can take anywhere from days to months for search engines to crawl new pages. You can, however, submit your sitemap to be crawled in order to speed up the process.
Even Google My Business takes time. Once you’ve verified your page, it can take a few days before the information you added about your business shows up online.
And don’t forget that once your information is showing up and you’re being found online, the work still isn’t done. You'll need to keep an eye on your rankings to make sure they don't slip because of new, conflicting citations.
So, why are you still paying for local search marketing once all this is done?
Even after all this information is cleaned up, search engines might still find new, incorrect information about your business. And, as I mentioned before, this conflicting information can cause your local search rankings to drop.
We mentioned this in our post about citations for local search, but something as simple as an apostrophe in the wrong place can cause citations to be incorrect.
Local search marketing is not something you can do once and reap the rewards.
That’s why it’s helpful to have a digital marketing agency to have your back when things like incorrect NAPUs and negative reviews happen. Not only do you have to continually check that your citation information is correct, but you need to be consistently asking customers for reviews (since reviews are a local search ranking factor as well) and making sure your business has a social presence.
What if you don’t want to wait?
Did you know that if you have a Google AdWords account linked to your Google My Business account, your business could have local ads displayed on Google Maps results? Even if your business is new or if it has a lot of incorrect and incomplete citations online lowering your local search ranking, you can still make it to the top of local search results.
And the ads look almost exactly the same as a local search result. If your local search marketing is taking too long, you can always try paid advertising. Either way, keep working on your local search ranking, and remember that it will be worth the wait!
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