The Local Search Market—Targeting your SEO Efforts using Geolocation | How-to optimize mobile search rankings*
If you own a local business, optimizing your site for mobile search and engaging in local SEO efforts can provide significant organic search results for your business. You have the ability to gain local search mobile visibility in increasingly diverse and segmented search environments, as well as increase the likelihood that your total online presence is working to promote increased user engagement, thus providing a positive feedback loop for your combined SEO efforts.
*Note: for the purposes of this post, in-paragraph bolded text represents—keywords, keyword phrases, and longtail phrases— a keyword list used to develop of keyword strategy.
Optimization for Local Search Queries
If you want your site to have a visible presence among mobile searchers, you’ll need to build your mobile site with the mobile-user in mind. A study conducted by eMarketers predicts that mobile ads will represent 72.2% of total digital ads by 2019. This prediction implies that if you want your business to remain visible to the growing—local mobile search—market, you will need to build or modify your site to meet the demanding expectations of the mobile user. Some basic ways to do this are to check your mobile configurations and test your local search rankings. Design structure and functionality will also serve as important factors.
What follows are some tips on getting started or refining your current mobile presence—in a way that will help your business rank higher on mobile SERPs.
SEO Mobile Configuration
In order for Google to crawl your content, your local search mobile configuration must be able to handle screens of all sizes and platforms.
- Responsive web design serves the same HTML code to any device, but automatically renders the display, based on the size of the screen.
- Dynamic serving generates a different HTML code, based on device, but uses the same URL.
- Separate URLs are a configuration that serves different code to each device, on separate URLs using HTTP redirects.
As long as you have one of these configurations in place, Google will be able to crawl your site; the first step in gaining visibility via mobile devices.
Local Search Rankings
Google’s ranking decision for a mobile search is based on whether a specific page from a site is mobile-friendly. So if (according to Google’s mobile-friendly algorithm) a site is mobile-friendly, Google will incorporate this information as part of its ranking decision. Google’s aim is to provide users with the most relevant results for their intended query, given the specific device they are using. A mobile-friendly site is critical for any business that wishes to gain visibility from mobile users.
Further, there are some things to consider when distinguishing SEO efforts for mobile users who are specifically searching for local business listings. If your aim is to produce content to gain exposure from your target audience, mobile SEO will certainly help to increase visibility from interested users and potential customers. As an example, I’ll distinguish how SERPs for desktop users differ from handheld devices to show how a quick search for ‘pilates’ displays more distant results when using Chrome on Macbook Air vs. Chrome on iPhone.
Figure 1 shows a search query for the typed entry, ‘pilates’, along with adaptive search prompts and blended results. Notice that even though I did not prompt a query for local business locations, the first displayed results are listed by proximity.
Figure 1. Google Suggest provides content ideas and nearby studios (generated by Chrome for Macbook Air).
Figure 2 shows the same query on a mobile device. Note that even though the Chrome browser was used on both devices, the mobile device returned a different set of local results—results that are even closer in proximity to my physical location.
Figure 2. Local queries by mobile device are more closely targeted towards local business listings.
This simple Google search reveals that the mobile landscape has evolved into a mobile-first, local business search environment. Notice that the business, A Beautiful Surprize appears first on mobile search and not at all on the desktop search. The key advantage of SEO for mobile is that local businesses can utilize SEO to rank higher in mobile organic search results, thus increasing their potential, local customer base.
Design and Local SEO Function
When it comes to optimizing for mobile users, all standard SEO factors will influence your rankings. A few basic SEO factors across all platforms are to make sure that your listing includes relevant text in each page’s ‘title’ tag, <h1> tags, page content, links, and so on. All pages should load quickly—ideally in less than a second. It is important to make sure the page content displays and functions properly, keeping in mind finger-friendly gestures and using tap targets that are spaced for touchscreen usage. And finally, make sure that your site is free from redirection errors (301/302). All mobile version URL requests should return 200 (OK) status codes.
As the growing need for immediate local information increases, implementing these basic SEO for mobile strategies should help to effortlessly point potential customers your way—thus keeping your business ahead of your competitors.
 eMarketer: The Mobile Shift
 Moz: Search Engine Ranking Factors 2015
Enge, Eric., and Ebooks Corporation. The Art of SEO. 2nd ed. Chapters 7-8, 10. Theory in Practice (Sebastopol, Calif.). 2012.