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Common and Uncommon Local SEO Challenges For Online Marketers


The gap between local and global is shrinking. Global brands have been competing with each other to create a foothold in the local markets. They are also bringing changes to their marketing stratagem to attract local customers.

Case studies

Take IKEA for example. Being a global furniture and accessory brand, they have always followed the non-discrimination policy. But when they realized this policy won’t work in Saudi Arabia, they backed out.

See the two IKEA catalogue images below:


The first image shows a woman, whom IKEA erased in the second image. They have drawn a lot of flak for this, but that discussion is saved for some other day.

The point is IKEA felt the need to erase the woman in the second picture, and that shows brands, especially large brands understand global marketing is different from local marketing and they are receptive to cater to the needs of local audiences.

A Chicago-based eye institute called Hauser-Ross Eye Institute & Surgicenter wanted to rank for highly competitive keywords such as “Cataract”, “Optimal”, ‘Lasik” and ‘Cosmetic.” The in-house digital strategist called Jennifer Smith knew the keywords are extremely competitive. But she also knew that she couldcut through that competition to boost visibility and certainly attract users with a high-intent to purchase.”

The eye institute put location-specific references after the competitive keywords and turned them into geo-targeted keywords. That resulted in a whopping 330% increase in revenue for them.

One can gauge the power of local SEO from these case studies. What’s difficult is to anticipate the challenges.

The challenges can be classified into two categories; the ones that have easy solutions and the ones that don’t. The first category of challenges include:

NAP consistency

NAP is an acronym for name, address, phone number. NAP accuracy and citation consistency affects local businesses. If you have a single location business, then bringing uniformity in NAP is easy for you. In that case, you just need to keep the business data updated on the web and that’d be all.

Problems arise when you have a multi-location business. A multi-location business has different citations for different locations. The NAPs differ from each other because phone number variation is inevitable. Website URL variation is also likely if the business has an overseas branch.

Let’s say you have five locations including one overseas, and two phone number variations for each location. There will be a total of (2 x 5) + 1 + 1 = 12 NAP variations.

You are more likely to face this challenge if your business belongs in the retail segment. Then expansion would mean setting up new units, and maintaining NAP consistency would be all the more difficult for you.

Fake Google Map review

For a local business, Google map optimization has many pluses and a few minuses. A competitor or a pissed customer can post a fake review on the Google Map listing page of your business. Customer reviews are very powerful and fake reviews can tarnish a brand’s reputation.

Fake reviews are harmful because they scare off prospective customers. Luckily, Google has announced that fake reviews will be considered as spam. The search engine giant has also laid out instruction for businesses.

Google’s recommendation reads “If a business accepts paper comment cards it might be tempting to collect them and ‘digitize’ them by posting the reviews on Google+ Local….” The only catch is if a reviewer follows Google’s policy guidelines, then Google may not take down his review.

That’s why brands can’t be too dependent on Google. They need to seek for a solution themselves. Flooding the page with positive reviews is a great solution. Positive reviews can offset the ill-effects of negative reviews and get you new consumers. Studies have found that it takes twelve positive reviews to nullify the effect of one negative review.

Local testimonials

It’s ironic that the problem persists despite having a simple solution. It persists because brands let it persist, unknowingly of course. They mishandle the distribution of customer testimonials and aggravate the problem.

A multi-location global business needs to distribute customer testimonials to the right audience. Someone from Miami, Florida shouldn’t see a testimonial of a customer who is from Nashville, Tennessee. He should know what a Miami-based customer has to say about the product/experience.

The power of testimonials increases when they come from local customers. Such testimonials, written in support of a brand can boost your local SEO. See the infographic below:

The common challenges are easy to overcome. The not-so-common challenges that lack easy solutions are:

Localized content

Localized content has been described as the key ingredient in targeting and nurturing customers. Customers tend to equate localization to personalization. Studies have pointed it out, though the exact reason behind this is unclear.

Creating localized content is difficult. Language barrier is a big problem. Global brands that operate in overseas locations face this problem. They hire translators, whose translation often fails capture the nuances of the original language. Understanding the audiences, their test and preference is yet another challenge.

To draft a localized content strategy, inbound marketers first need to understand local audiences. Based on their likes and dislikes, a list of Dos and Don’ts should be created and followed. The content shouldn’t be overly promotional or mundane and lackluster; any of the two extremes would fail the campaign.

To remove the translation bottlenecks, a brand needs to do the following:

The communication between copywriters and linguists would yield productive outcomes, such as expanding the glossary with new, brand-specific terms that’d strike a chord with local audiences.

Localized email

Localized email can drive up the conversion rate. It’s been found that almost 85% Internet users purchase products when the product descriptions are in their native language.

This is an eye-opener for every marketer, who’s running a drip email campaign for local audiences. The email content should be in native language. The subject line is the most important part of an email. Unless it is click bait, the odds of recipients opening the email are low.

Making the email subject-line catchy, that too in native language is an art. Copywriters with proficiency can pull this off, but they need to be armed with research data on local audiences. Take Coca-Cola for example. They partnered with several companies across 90 countries only to tailor their message to the local audience’s needs. They came to know about local themes, festivals, culture, language, people, etc through these partnerships.

Localized email marketing requires responsive email template. Call to action, translated from English to another language, may break the lines or blow the fixed width elements. A responsive email template can adjust the variable elements. See the two images below:

Figure 1

Figure 2

The font size in Figure 1 is a little bigger than that in Figure 2. The translation is not literal, still retains the meaning. The Portuguese, “opções pagas” means paid option. Had the font size been same, the Portuguese version would have broken the width.

Responsive email and newsletter templates ease up email content localization.

Problem with local keywords

PPC professionals love local keywords because their bid price is low and they are less competitive, compared to global keywords. But organic marketers hate them because it’s difficult to create content around them.

The Hummingbird update worsens it. The update stressed on LSI keyword ideas. Since most local keywords are geo-targeted, replacing them with semantically equivalent phrases can be hard.

Let’s say you select the keyword “automotive parts” for your auto store in Miami, Florida. The location-specific form of the keyword would be “automotive parts in Miami.” If you replace the original keyword with “car components,” the two keywords would be similar in meaning.

Now, since you are localizing the content, you make the second keyword location-specific too by changing it to “car components in Miami.”

Organically inserting these keywords in the content could be challenging. Consider the statements below:

Statement 1: The list of car components is so huge that it often confuses the buyers.

Statement 2: The list of car components in Miami is so huge that it often confuses the buyers.

Statement 1 makes sense but the second statement doesn’t. Location-specific references around a keyword and its semantic variations can make a statement completely out of context.

The only solution to this problem is naturally inserting geo-targeted keywords in the content. Consider the statements below:

Statement 3: I can be your guide if you want to select car components.

Statement 4: I can be your guide if you want to select car components in Miami.

Both statements are meaningful, though they are slightly different in meaning. Only content development skills can allow for the natural insertion of geo-targeted keywords in the content.

Local landing pages

Optimizing the local landing pages extends beyond maintaining NAP accuracy. For starters, you need to showcase your achievements in the region where your business is located, if possible a virtual map of the city and the location of your store in it. Google Map API is available for free public access along with various third party map APIs.

Offering region-specific giveaways can give your local landing page remarkable visibility and boost your sale. A short video on a local landing page introducing the staff who work in that branch is an entertaining way to personify your business.

Be creative, think out of the box and come up with your own ideas of optimizing the local landing pages.

Summing up

Local SEO has so many aspects to it that taking care of each and every one of them is not easy. The more challenges you overcome, the better your local SEO campaign works.

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