The Latest Findings for Local SEO: How to Optimize for 2021

We write a lot about local SEO here at MediaJel, and for good reason: it’s one of the most critical factors in getting your business discovered by potential customers. Because dispensaries rely on local traffic, making sure your website is optimized for local SEO is absolutely mission-critical to maintaining and increasing not only your online presence but your bottom line.

If you read our blog with any frequency, you already know about the nuts and bolts of local SEO: creating compelling content, optimizing each and every page, and maintaining an up-to-the-minute GMB presence are all vital, now in the era of COVID-19 more than ever.

But all these actions center on you as the business owner/dispensary operator. In today’s post, we’re going to look at the other end: How does Google decide how to weight its searches when it comes to local SEO? While the search engine / online marketing / literally everything giant doesn’t generally disclose the workings of its algorithms, we can make some educated guesses about what helps your listings rise to the top.

For some authoritative backup, we’re going to work off of the semi-regular survey that SEO specialists Whitespark makes available. A survey of 44 experts from across the SEO spectrum, it’s a fascinating and ever-changing snapshot of the ways in which the industry is constantly realigning itself around the quirks and fluidities of the game. 

Local SEO for 2021: The Primacy of Google My Business (GMB)

No great surprise that Google would prioritize GMB over other search factors. After all, it’s logical that the company’s proprietary business listing wing would get pride of place. Google essentially gets to set the terms of online searching; it’s up to us to make the best possible use of it.

GMB signals have been increasing in importance for several years now, but in the last few they’ve leaped higher. The surveyed experts believe that roughly 33% of the total factors Google takes into account revolve around GMB. What does that mean for you? As we said previously, it’s vitally important that you make use of this (simple! free!) resource.

This includes:
-Keeping up-to-date business information such as hours and availability (now more than ever
-Strong use of GMB posts, which boost local SEO by generating organic (that is, not ad-driven) clicks 
-Sharing compelling images, videos, CTAs, and more via posts

These are all best practices to do on a daily basis. But what can you do to improve your GMB ranking? To answer that, let’s start with some factors you can’t control:

Keywords in Business Title: These count for a lot, but they can’t really be gamed. Your GMB name needs to be the actual name of your business. Stuff a keyword or two in there and you run the risk of having your listing suspended.

Some sources argue that changing your business name to include a keyword is a reasonable step, given how heavily Google weights results this way. Frankly, we’re a bit lukewarm on the idea, given the time and effort, it takes to build a brand (not to mention the fleeting nature of keywords).

Proximity to Searcher: Using geolocation algorithms, Google will weight search returns towards results that are physically closer to the person searching. Unless you’re tailing potential customers with your marijuana delivery pedicab, there’s not a great deal you can do about this.

Geographic Location: (Almost) needless to say, your business must actually be located in the town or city in which you’re trying to rank.

So…what can you do to boost your ranking via your GMB listing? It’s not difficult: 
-Be sure your primary GMB category is the one closest to the search term you want to rank best for. 
-Check off every other relevant category, as long as they’re actually relevant and accurate. 
-Be sure to fill every field in your listing (this tends to improve conversion rates, too).
-Make sure Google verifies your GMB listing.

If you have any other questions about optimizing your GMB listing, ask for help! Send us your contact info and we’ll share our field-tested checklist for free!

Local SEO for 2021: Reviews, Citations, and Content 

After the increasing shift towards GMB’s primacy in determining rankings, most SEO experts surveyed pointed towards online reviews as a major factor. Reviews are huge: As we’ve written previously, reputation management—in essence, the safeguarding of your business’ online persona—is more important now than ever. Some analysts estimate that online reviews currently influence a whopping 90% of consumers.

So, if the importance of reviews increased, what decreased to counterbalance it? Most of the surveyed experts believe one answer is citations or listings of your business in all those business directories across the web. As there are so many of them—and so many of them aren’t particularly well-known or well-trafficked—that’s hardly a shock.

What about what’s actually on the page? Don’t think for a moment we forget about content! Though web traffic continues to migrate towards mobile as opposed to desktop usage, it’s more important than ever to be sure you’re sharing sticky, compelling, and useful content.

And on a technical note, the surveyed panel of experts pointed in particular towards the importance of using keywords in the anchor text of links pointing inbound to your domain. In plain terms, that means it’s important to try and generate high-quality mentions of (and links to) your website. (Here’s how.)  

Local SEO for 2021: The Importance of Conversions 

So, we know that the importance of GMB for search returns is increasing. It’s more important than ever to pay attention to reviews and work to engage with customers across this important channel. What else matters when you’re trying to improve your ranking? Conversions.

Wait a second. I thought we were talking about rankings, not conversions.

We were, and Google doesn’t track your conversions for you (unless you’re using Analytics, which you should). But as we’ve pointed out, Google does pay attention to optimization, and optimization benefits conversion rates too.

That points out an important nugget buried in all this talk about local SEO: Rankings are highly important, and it’s well worth your time to do everything you can to improve them. But conversions are where the rubber meets the road. Ideally, your efforts should be pivoting towards actions that improve both rankings and conversion rates. As we pointed out, some of this takes place within the realm of GMB—which will only continue to grow in importance—and some will take place within your own digital properties, such as your website, social media pages, and the like.

Want to know more about maximizing your efforts in this arena? We’d love to help. Ask about our free GMB checklist,  check out our dispensary SEO service, or drop us a line to get the conversation rolling. Let’s all look forward to a far brighter 2021 than 2020!