Local search: It’s all about mobile
More and more, people are searching for local options on mobile devices -- and columnist Jacob Baadsgaard points out that if your business isn't showing up for those searches, you're likely missing out.
Optimizing for local search is important, but if you aren’t optimizing for mobile, you’re going to miss out on your most important source of local traffic.
For years, Google has been improving the relevance of local search, from its “Pigeon Update” to Promoted Pins. And since there are more searches on mobile than desktop, it’s no wonder that Google has put a big emphasis on mobile-friendliness in its ranking algorithms.
Taken together, that means that Google is putting a high priority on mobile local search — and so should you.
The fact of the matter is, more and more local searches are taking place on mobile. More importantly, many of those local searches come with a high purchase intent, making local mobile searches an incredibly important opportunity for your business.
Since the customers you care about are on mobile, mobile is where you need to focus the majority of your local search optimization efforts. Here’s what you need to know:
Mobile and desktop are different
You use your computer differently than your smartphone, right? Your mobile and desktop users do, too.
Since desktop computers tend to be kept at home or in the office, that’s where they get used. As a result, if someone is conducting a local search on their desktop, they probably aren’t looking for instant gratification. Their searches are still important, but they’re more likely to be making plans for the future (that can change pretty easily).
On the other hand, people searching for a local business on mobile are looking for instant gratification. People search on mobile because they have an immediate need, and in this day and age, people with an immediate need want things fast.
So, if you want to win at local search, you need to be the quick answer to people’s problems.
Winning at local mobile search
The basics of local search (like managing your reputation, getting backlinks built and claiming listings for your business) have been covered before. In this article, we’re instead going to focus on how to provide local mobile searchers with the immediate solutions they’re searching for.
Let’s start with what’s free: organic search.
Organic search on mobile
Long-tail keywords are a best practice for desktop searches, but when you’re on your phone, you generally don’t type out everything the way you do on a computer… do u?
People don’t make long-tail search queries nearly as often on mobile, so if you’re optimizing for mobile search, it doesn’t make sense to prioritize long-tail keywords.
Instead, it’s better to go after shorter phrases and keywords. After all, that’s what your audience will be typing into their phones. In addition, you’ll need mobile-optimized landing pages if you want those keywords to do anything for you.
Identifying mobile keywords
Remember, desktop and mobile are different — that still applies when it comes to the specific keywords you target. You’re going to need to research your keywords a little differently from the way you do on desktop, and most of the tools out there for keyword planning are not optimized for mobile.
However, if you’re running ads on paid search, you can find mobile-specific keyword information by checking the Search Terms report. Open AdWords and click the Keywords tab. From there, select Search Terms, then click the drop-down menu labeled Segment. Choose Device.
This list will give you the searches people entered that triggered your ads. This is helpful information, but remember, your Search Terms report shows you how people find your ads — not your business.
To learn more about how people may be searching for your business online, ask people, “What would you type into your phone to find [your local product or service]?” Take that data, mix it with what you found in your Search Terms report, and you have a great list of keywords to target for local search optimization.
Additionally, you might want to ask people whether they use voice search or not. According to Google, about 20 percent of mobile searches use voice search — and that statistic is from mid-2016. It looks like it’s still growing. In order to optimize for those keywords, you can also ask people how they would phrase things when they search for something using voice search, rather than what they would type.
With all of this together, you should have a great collection of local, mobile-specific keywords to target.
Optimize your site
Identifying your target phrases and keywords is only half the battle. Now you need to work on the site pages you’d like to rank well for mobile searches.
When it comes to desktop search results, longer text often equals higher search rank, and it can even yield better conversions, but on mobile, long text really isn’t your best friend. On most devices, thousands of words of text usually get about the same amount of engagement as that user-license agreement that you never read.
At Disruptive, we’ve tested mobile content and found that not only does shorter content increase engagement, it also increases return on investment. Interesting, no?
This makes things difficult for you. You need the right keywords to appease Google’s bots, but you need the right site experience to make your mobile searcher’s happy.
So, which one should you pick?
When it comes to mobile search, it’s better to prioritize your user’s experience over your Google bot experience. In optimizing for mobile, that’s what usually produces the best results. Plus, Google is trying to emphasize page experience as a ranking factor, so improving your user experience should end up making Google happy as well.
Paid search on mobile
Organic traffic is great, but it will only get you so far. Since local search rankings on mobile are usually based on short keywords, ranking can be difficult — especially if you’ve got a lot of competition.
To get in front of a bigger audience, consider using paid search. Here are three things to remember:
1. Maintain a ‘local feel’
People who are conducting local searches will be looking for local results. As a result, they’ll be more likely to respond to ads from the companies that seem to be close to them.
To clarify my point, pretend you live in Austin, Texas. You live in a home that’s a little bit older, and one day the fuse box spontaneously catches fire. You’ll probably reach for the fire extinguisher, put out the flames, then grab your smartphone and search for an electrician near you.
If you see an ad like this, how do you think you’ll respond?
Sure, it’s not a bad ad, but you don’t want to submit your ZIP code and then twiddle your thumbs waiting while you worry about your home burning down!
To make matters worse, this ad is clearly from a national company, and there’s no way to know just how available or local the electrician it tries to pair you with will be.
Once you scroll past that ad, though, you might see an ad like this one:
Now there’s an ad worth clicking on! The title shows “Austin Electricians,” and the area code is local, which means this business is probably in your area. On top of that, you can just click and call right now for more info.
Which ad are you going to click?
Now, not every potential customer will be desperate for help when they search for your business, but the point remains: people who are looking for local businesses don’t want to wonder whether your business is local.
The easiest way to show them that you’re local is to simply include your location in your ad copy. Break out your paid search campaigns according to location or use dynamic keyword insertion (DKI) to ensure that the location a potential customer is searching for shows up in your copy. Yes, this might be a bit more work, but your ads will be much more relevant to their search query.
2. Use mobile ad extensions
Ad extensions can do a lot of good for your local search results. For mobile search, consider the following extensions:
- Location extensions: Location extensions are one of the best things you can do for your local search presence. Nothing shows how local you are like showing your address.
- Click-to-call ads: If people often call your business before they come in, you can eliminate a step for them by making the click on your ad lead to a call (maybe to set a reservation).
- Sitelinks: Sitelink extensions let you focus on some of your site specifics, like driving directions, or your “contact us” page.
Play around with different extensions and see which ones are the most effective for your business.
3. Give Promoted Pins a try
Promoted Pins are a great way to stand out on Google Maps. They increase the accessibility and visibility of your business for local searches by putting your logo right on Google’s Map.
Even if you’re not a well-known brand, the Pin will help your business stand out on the map. As an added bonus, Promoted Pins even let you show promotions and allow potential customers to search your inventory to see if you have what they want before they head to your business.
More and more, people are searching for local options on mobile. If your business isn’t showing up for those searches, you’ve got a big problem.
However, by implementing the tactics we’ve discussed, you can make sure that you are the easy, readily available answer to your customer’s problems and win their business!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.