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Local SEO: Smart Online Marketing for Small Businesses

Mike Shaw
July 29, 2016 5:18 pm

Before we get started

There are many factors making up SEO. As you will read, local SEO is a sub-set of search engine optimization that can be just as daunting. Our goal is not to cover everything in one blog post, which would be miles too long. Rather, the goal of this post is to explain what local search is, why small businesses need to utilize it and best practices.

Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy, making competition fierce online. Local SEO, strategically, should be a core component of your online marketing. With so many businesses online, you need to have a strong online presence, especially when mobile is changing how users search.

Just like SEO, it is easier said than done. There are multiple factors to consider and best practices to follow. That’s why we are going to cover more local SEO topics in the months to come.

So let’s find out more about what local SEO is, why it is important, what’s required, common issues faced, and how to get ahead.

 

Magnifying Glass

 

What is Local SEO

Local SEO is the practice improving your business’ visibility for the local results in Google. Big companies with massive budgets don’t have the edge anymore when it comes to local listings!

For example, when I search for “coffee shops in Lancaster” I see local coffee shops in the results. Several years back, top spots would’ve gone to Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts or Seattle’s Best. Now we see results for coffee shops located in Lancaster, PA such as Mean Cup and Square One Coffee. This is much more relevant and closer to where I live.

Google has given local businesses a lot more leverage to compete against larger corporations and to be seen for geographic results.

As a local business, you want to promote yourself to the locals in your area. Local SEO is the catalyst to propel your brand forward. This is a significantly important form of online marketing that many businesses are still not utilizing to the fullest potential. If you want your local business to thrive, you need to get on-board with local SEO.

 

What Does it look like to Rank Locally

Have a look at the screenshot below.  When we searched for marketing in Lancaster.  We found a map locating internet marketing companies.  This included:

  • Reviews
  • Address and contact details
  • Business hours
  • and directions to our location

If you are a small business, ranking locally in Google’s search results can bring in a lot of traffic.

 

Local Search Results

 

How does Local SEO Actually Work

Internet marketers use search engines along with online business directories such as Foursquare or the Lancaster County Business Directory. These websites already have a strong, authoritative presence online helping users find local products and services in their area.

 

Local business markerLocal SEO allows for focused digital marketing

Local SEO is more granular and targeted because it has the capabilities of reaching a specific audience. It targets local consumers who are already willing and prepared to buy, because they know what they are searching for. It allows local businesses to promote their services to local customers at the specific time they’re searching for your type of service.

Local Internet marketing helps more than just your website rank better. Local SEO pushes your brand, product or services, location, and contact information to your target market, increasing awareness. Local search marketing provides free local exposure.

Not to mention, local SEO allows for more accuracy in marketing. Newspapers and other traditional means of advertising can’t count how many users saw, shared, or engaged with the ad. Local SEO can track all that and much more, allowing for small business to refine and improve their marketing.

 

Why is it Local SEO Import? Understanding the Local Landscape

Now you know about Local SEO and can probably figure out that it’s rather important for small businesses to employ.

The web and the way people do business is changing, therefore small businesses need to be aware of the change and embrace it. Here is what you should also know:

 

Localized Online Searches are Increasing

The Yellow Pages has been digital for a while, listing their directory online, so what does that tell you? More consumers are using the web to search for services and products in a local proximity. The following are some interesting facts small business should consider:

  • 64% of local customers use online search engines and directories as their main way to find local businesses
  • In 2009 the amount of online search for local businesses increased by 58%

 

Mobile Internet usage has continued to grow

The amount of local consumers using mobile phones who search for “best local businesses” has continued to grow. Being locally optimized puts you in front of your target audience using their phone, wherever they are.

  • Local searches have led more than 50% of mobile users to stores within one day.
  • 68% of mobile consumers are using the “get directions” or “call” buttons.
  • More users are utilizing the search query “near me” in Google. This has increased 34 times since 2011.

 

Local Businesses Have Been Slow to Take Hold of Local Search

Despite the incredible growth in mobile search and local search queries, only a small percentage of businesses have activated their Google My Business listing.

In 2011, only 16% of businesses claimed their Google My Business listing. This means there is a huge opportunity and incentive to claim your listing on Google, the most powerful resource; and the best part is it’s free!

 

Online Reviews have a lot of clout!

Word of mouth is still the most powerful type of marketing there is. It can damage a brand or catapult it with great force. The web, social media, and local SEO has increased the ability for word-of-mouth to spread, especially through reviews.

It is estimated that 70% of local users trust online business reviews. Reviews allow users to inform other users. People are naturally suspicious and skeptical of business advertising because we’ve been exposed to so much of it. Therefore, reviews are important because they are the voice of the consumer, not the business. Reviews are more trustworthy and a less biased way of standing out from the competition.

In terms of rankings, reviews are frequently likened to links in organic SEO. It is a good idea to get in the habit of encouraging users who you have a good relationship with to leave a review on your local listings.

 

High conversion rates and Better ROI

Local directory marketing conversion rates are 50% greater than traditional ads, such as those in newspapers. Local marketing opens up huge opportunities for your business ads, listings, and placements to convert users into customers!

As mentioned earlier in the post, local SEO has far better exposure to engagement ratio compared to traditional mediums. Local SEO and search:

  • allows small businesses to reach target users with higher efficiency
  • allows your business to meet the needs of the user where ever they are
  • is effective and economical, allowing for a higher ROI

 

mapGetting Started with Local SEO

Now that we know Local SEO is important, let’s put it into action.

Your first local business listing should be with Google My Business. Google has a carousel where they will display local search results above the fold. This highlights local businesses, increasing click-through-rates. Google also has the highest search viewers, putting your business in front of a large audience. My suggestion is to use your company email rather than a Gmail account.

Once you have completed your local online business profile, continue adding your listing to sites such as Yelp, Foursquare, Angie’s List etc. See our suggested local listing.

 

Create Remarkable Titles

This is probably one of the most important areas of your listing that you need optimize using keywords, but make sure it is also memorable and sticks out from the local competition. The title for local SEO is a ranking factor just like it is for SEO.

 

Keep your details consistent

When creating your business listing, make sure to keep all of these areas consistent:

  • Business name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Website URL (if you use “www” in one listing, use it for all)

If your business listing is not identical it can cause confusion for users searching for your business services. This applies to your website information and the local directories you are added to. Consistency is key.

It would be a good idea to see if your business already has a listing and make sure the details are up-to-date and correlate with your other local listings.

 

Optimize Your Local Business Details

Most local listings have a section for you to share more information about your business. Some local directories may limit the number of characters used, while others give an unlimited option. Either way this section needs to include the most important and relative keywords that describe your service.

Creating copy is an art, especially if you want users to click through to your site. Create unique copy that helps showcase how your company is different.

Remember to write for the user, not search engines!

 

Associated Categories

Most of the well-known local directories allow you to add your business to certain categories to help refine searches by users. Picking the right category sounds simple, but it is often forgotten or mis-categorized.

 

List all of Your Locations

If your business has multiple locations, create a listing for each address. The focus is to help users find the closest location for the service they are searching for. This will also improve your online rankings for Geo-specific searches.

 

Don’t Forget about On-page local SEO

Plenty of attention has been given to off-page local SEO, but businesses also need to focus on optimizing their own site.

 

Copy and Meta Data

Local SEO exists for both on-page and off-page SEO. It is essential for on-page SEO that you mention the address of your business either in the footer or contact page.

Other areas to help your business rank locally are to mention your location (City, County, State etc.) in the meta title and descriptions as well as the content of your pages. This provides a better user experience. It confirms with the users that they have landed on the most appropriate page for the location and service requested.

 

Google Maps MarkerEmbed Google Maps

Google has made it freely available for websites to use their maps. Businesses should take advantage of this service and add it to their contact page. Embedding a map with your business location can improve your local rankings.

 

Add Schema Markup

Lastly, add Schema to your contact details. Applying Schema mark-up language to your contact details provides more relevancy, context, and understanding to the search engines.

Google creates rich snippet in the search results to deliver a more alluring listing to search users.

 

You Don’t Have to do it alone!

We have covered a lot, but there is much more to local SEO. Tower knows that trying to manage all this as well as your daily business activities is difficult. If you want to rank better locally, get in touch with us, we can help!

 

References and Statistics from:

 

 

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