The internet is an enormous place filled with millions and millions of websites. Competing in such a massive world can be daunting for small business owners trying to promote their local shops. But don’t fret. There is a way for your business to stand out and connect with nearby customers. It’s through local SEO.
Local SEO helps brick-and-mortar and service-based businesses get found through search, even when competing with large brands and national businesses that have a massive online presence.
WHAT IS LOCAL SEO?
Before you can understand local SEO, you first need to understand what SEO is. SEO stands for search engine optimization.
SEO refers to the tactics and strategies that marketers use to help their brand show up organically when a user searches for a keyword related to the brand’s business, products, or services. Businesses want to show up when someone searches for a topic related to their brand, products, or services. SEO helps them do that.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SEO AND LOCAL SEO?
Brands that offer services to anyone anywhere – like a car insurance company or an online software provider – want people across the country (or even the world) to find their business through search.
But local brick-and-mortar and service-based business owners don’t need people around the world to find their business. They only need nearby searchers to find their business. Local SEO helps them do that.
Local SEO refers to the tactics and strategies that marketers use to help their brand organically show up when a nearby user searches for a keyword related to the brand’s business, products, or services. It optimizes a brand’s online presence so that local customers can find the brand via search.
HOW DOES LOCAL SEO WORK?
Local SEO follows many of the same rules as SEO. Of the three primary categories that drive local SEO, two are also related to general SEO.
- Relevance: Search engines want to show results that best match what the user is looking for. Relevance helps them match results with search phrases and intent.
- Prominence: Search engines want to show results from leading brands and publications. Prominence helps them determine which sites are the most well-known and trustworthy. Sites with higher online authority receive higher search rankings.
Both relevance and prominence are related to general SEO.
Search engines want to present results from top websites that are closely related to search phrases. But in local SEO, search engines consider another factor.
- Proximity: Search engines want to show results that the searcher can use so they prioritize results that are near the searcher when the search is related to a local need. Proximity refers to the distance between the searcher and the location of the business displayed in search results.
WHAT DO LOCAL SEARCH RESULTS LOOK LIKE?
Now that you know how local SEO works, let’s look at what local SEO looks like when you see it in search. General search results and local search results can sometimes look the same in search.
General Organic Search Results
Organic search results display websites that search engines have deemed to be the most useful for searchers. The top placements are earned by websites that have strong SEO. In organic search, you might find results that are tailored to your location as well as general results.
General Sponsored Search Results
In general search, you will also find sponsored search results. These results appear because the brand paid for the placement. The position wasn’t earned; it was placed through pay-per-click (or PPC) marketing.
You can tell the difference between an organic result and a sponsored result by the “Ad” designation on the search result. Like organic results, these results might be closely related to a local search or relevant for a wider audience.
While organic and sponsored search results appear for both general and local searches, there are some results that are specific to local SEO. They are Google My Business (GMB) and Google Guaranteed Listings results.
Google My Business Results
Google My Business results are rich results that appear differently from general results. They might appear as listings and maps that show businesses relevant to the search phrase and located near the searcher.
For a business to appear in Google My Business search results, it must have a page set up on Google My Business. Google pulls information from those profiles to create listings as well as rich search results for individual businesses.
The results in the listings can be organic and earned by following local SEO best practices, or they can be sponsored and paid for through PPC campaigns. The same “Ad” notation differentiates organic listings from paid listings.
Google Local Service Ads
Other search results that are unique to local SEO are Google Local Service Ads. Google Local Service ads feature service-based businesses by positioning them at the top of search results pages. The results might also be featured on a Google Local Services page when a user searches for a service-based business.
Businesses that appear on this list have signed up through Google Local Service ads, met certain criteria, and paid for placement. Some businesses have taken it one step further and become a Google Guaranteed business.
Google Guaranteed businesses have a special destination that shows that they have passed a Google screening and qualification process and are backed by a guarantee.
If a customer uses a business backed by The Google Guarantee and is unsatisfied with the work, Google might refund the amount paid for the service.
Service-based businesses might want to join Google Local Service if they are looking to stand out in search.
THE BENEFITS OF LOCAL SEO
Having your local business appear in any type of search results is beneficial. Of course, the more people who find your business, the better. But the local search is helpful in other unique and specific ways.
Local Search Is Widely Used
A lot of customers use local search. Forty-six percent of all searches on Google were for local information, and between 2015-2017, there was a 500% increase in the number of mobile searches that include the phrase “near me” and a variant of “can I buy” or “to buy”.
Local Search Is Specific
Local searchers are often near the end of the purchase funnel. They often know what they want and just need to find a place that sells or provides it. Eighty-eight percent of searches for local businesses on a mobile device result in either a call or a visit to the business within 24 hours.
Local Searchers Are Eager To Visit A Business
When someone searches for a local business, they are usually only a few steps away from visiting the business. As of 2014, half of the consumers who conducted a local search on their smartphone visited a store within a day.
Local Searchers Are Eager To Buy
People who perform a local search are often ready to buy. They’re looking for a place that offers what they want and is only a few steps away from making a purchase. Eighteen percent of local mobile searches lead to a sale within one.
If your business isn’t showing up in local search, you could be missing an opportunity to connect with customers at the right time. Local searchers are eager and ready to do business with a local brand. You need to use local SEO to make sure you are the option they find while searching for their options.
LOCAL SEO BEST PRACTICES
Now that you know what local search is and why it’s so important for small and local businesses, let’s look at how your brand can set up a successful local SEO plan. Here are some top local SEO tips to keep in mind as you build out your strategy.
Closely Manage Your Business’s Online Contact Info
Proximity, or the distance between the searcher and the business, is a top local search component. So it should be no surprise that the management of your business’s address needs to be a top priority for local SEO. Your business contact information needs to be consistent and up-to-date across your entire online presence.
Your business contact information often referred to as your NAP (name, address, and phone number), is what tells search engines where your business is located and how customers can contact you. If it is inconsistent, search engines might decrease your search rankings or fail to show your business at all. Keep your NAP consistent by always:
- Using your official physical address.
- Carefully spell out your business’s name and address.
- Using the same variation of the name, address, and phone number all across the web.
Even just a small change in your address (e.g., having one listing that includes your suite number and one that doesn’t) can throw off your NAP consistency. So make this a top priority for your local SEO.
Fully Understand The Local SEO Landscape
While there are best practices to boost your local SEO (which we’ll discuss later in this post), there is no exact plan to get your brand to the top of SERPs. How much work it will take to improve your ranking depends on the competition in your space.
So before you start your local SEO plan, take some time to review your sector to see what you are up against. If the competition is high, know that it will take more work to get top placement. If the competition is low, expect to see results quicker.
Research Your Industry And Competitors
First, look at the brands that are already winning in your industry and location. Perform a search to see which brands receive a top placement. Also, look at how many other businesses are in your category and in your area. Look closer at the brands in the top placements. Understand that you will need to outperform them in order to claim the top spots in search.
Make a list of top competitors and research their strategies to see what you will need to do to compete and overtake their rankings.
Pro Tip: Search engines personalize your results depending on past actions and preferences. For example, if you have already visited the website for Fantastic Sams Cut and Color and you search for “hair salon,” it’s likely that Sams will show on the first page of results. So, if you want to get an objective, unaltered view of results, search from a private or incognito browser that doesn’t consider preferences or past searches.
Research Your Keywords
Next, research the keywords that are top terms in your industry or category. We’ll dive deeper into this later in this guide. But at this point, understand that some keywords will be more difficult to rank for than others.
While you might go into your local SEO strategy planning to rank on the first page of search for broad keywords like “hair salon” and “hair stylist,” you might have to adjust your strategy depending on the competition for those terms. You might find that you need to focus on terms that are less popular but also less competitive (such as “best Tampa hair stylists” and “best hairstyles for the beach”).
Always Put User Experience First
While there are more than 200 ranking factors that help search engines decide which sites to put at the top of organic SERPs, search engines are really looking for one thing – what results will provide the best user experience.
Search engines want users to find the best results. They want to offer the most useful and relevant information in the best packaging. So as you go through the local SEO checklist, always keep this in mind. Follow local SEO best practices, but always think about how what you’re doing will affect users.
Do what will provide the best experience for them. Pleasing users helps to build brand trust and affinity. Plus, keeping users on your page longer helps boost your SEO even more. Search engines also consider engagement metrics (like time on site and bounce rate) as ranking factors. So always keep the user experience at the forefront of your SEO strategies.
Understand That Backlinks Are Good – And Bad
Gaining links back to your brand’s website is a top-ranking factor for both general and local SEO. But it’s important to know that backlinks can be both good and bad.
- Not all links are equally valuable.
- Backlinks from sites that have high online authority are more likely to boost your SEO than backlinks from lesser-known sites.
- Backlinks from spammy sites can actually negatively impact your SEO.
- Links from a few quality sites are better than a lot of links from low-quality sites.
So as you develop link-building strategies and build citations for your website, always check on the quality of the linking site before creating the connection.
Consider All Search Engines
While most of this post is about Google, most SEO advice refers directly to Google and most searches are performed on Google-you can’t ignore other search engines. Remember that searchers might be using other search engines like Bing or DuckDuckGo.
Many of the tips for optimizing for Google will be the same as optimizing for other search engines. But as you go through tips for optimizing for Google, keep in mind that you might need to repeat steps for other search engines – such as creating a local listing on Bing Places for Business and running sample searches on sites like DuckDuckGo.
originally posted on godaddy.com by Raubi Marie Perilli
About Author: Raubi Perilli is a website strategist, content creator, and founder of Simply Stated Media. She loves helping freelancers, small businesses and start-ups use their websites to drive more interest, leads, and sales. Learn more about Raubi by following her on Instagram.