In a competitive marketplace, it’s hard for local businesses to stand out. With many consumers turning to search engines to find local products and services, implementing effective local SEO strategies is increasingly important.
In this post, we will define local SEO, list its key elements and review its importance to small businesses.
SEO – A Definition
How do you increase awareness of your business? Where do you want potential customers to visit to learn more about your small business? Most likely your business website, but how do you ensure your website shows up when a prospect types a search phrase into Google?
Typically, there are thousands of websites competing to show up for a given search phrase/intent. In our series of posts on search engine optimisation, we defined SEO as “a process designed to increase the visibility of your web pages in the search results.”
Local SEO is a key element of a local marketing process. It is defined as a process designed to increase the visibility of your web pages in LOCALISED search results. Where a localised search generally takes the form ‘service in location’
As a small business operating in a restricted geographical area, you want your website to show up if a prospect in that area makes a search. To a point, that makes SEO easier for a local business than one operating on a national (or international) scale.
Local SEO – Key Elements
The key elements of local SEO are:
- Website structure.
- Local links.
- Reviews and citations.
- Google My Business and Bing Places.
- Website design.
This list is the same for a business undertaking SEO on a national level except for Google My Business and Bing Places. These are specific (localised) elements provided by the major search engine businesses.
The above is my list, but most search engine optimisation experts would agree on the first four elements. I believe Google (not so sure about Bing) can now interpret the design of a website (layout, text, graphics, consistency across pages) and use this information as one input to the ranking algorithm – others may disagree.
I also believe buzz, has an impact on ranking – again others will disagree. I define buzz as referral visits, social media driven visits to a website
If your website structure is incorrect (the technical setup of your website on mobile and desktop) you will waste your time on all that follows. A website also needs some content (words, graphics or video) or it will be really difficult to rank on the search engine pages. Content, wherever practical, should relate in some way to the locality.
Backlinks are links to your site from other websites and they are important, especially for relatively new sites. For local SEO it is best if those backlinks come from other websites in your locality or with some relationship with the locality.
Finally, reviews and testimonials are vital for local businesses. The best of these should be on the website to build credibility, but they are also an important element of the Google My Business and Bing places listings. Citations (mentions of your business details on websites you do not own) are also important as is their consistency across the web.
The Importance of Local SEO To Small Business
As those searching for local products or services scan down a typical search engine results page, they will see the Ads, then the Google My Business panel and finally the organic (SEO-influenced) results. If your website ranks well in these results it can influence your profile in the Google My Business panel. A high-ranking website also boosts your credibility.
As explained in our post on creating awareness you have two types of prospects. There are those who have an immediate need and those who might buy from you in future. Those with an immediate need you can attract via Ads and/or Google my Business. These will both direct your prospect to your website.
When trying to attract those with a potential future need, it is likely you will need your website to rank in a high position on the search engine pages. You need to rank for a localised search for search phrases related to your product or service. Prospects may view your site, but as they are not in the market take no action. A waste of time and effort you may think, but that prospect has mentally logged your business and you have increased your credibility.
Don’t forget the power of word of mouth. If your business does good work then people will refer to their friends, family and colleagues. Anyone referred will probably check your website before interacting with you. If your website shows in a prominent position on the search engine pages and has testimonials and reviews, it will help.
By optimising their online presence to target local customers, small businesses can boost their visibility, attract qualified leads, and drive foot traffic to their physical locations. You do not need a marketing agency to succeed, but you do need to put consistent effort into the process over time.
Google My Business and Bing places are free. Hopefully, you already have a process to collect reviews and testimonials and most small businesses have at a website. However, you will need content in some form and be aware of link opportunities. You might also need to deliver your content via whatever social channels fit your business.