Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of properly building and maintaining a website so that it earns the trust of Google and other search engines, leading to high rankings in search results when consumers are looking for information, products or services. Local Search Engine Optimization (Local SEO) is the process of implementing SEO for small businesses in a localized area.
Understanding the Importance of Local Search for Small Businesses
Imagine being able to connect with a consumer at the exact moment they are trying to spend money on the product or service that your business offers. Could this benefit your business? If the answer is yes, then consider investing in search engine optimization (SEO). Local SEO is SEO for small businesses, and it puts your business in front of willing consumers at their very moment of need.
For years, businesses have paid endless amounts of money for local television advertisements and radio spots because of the potential reach that they offer. But there is a tremendous downfall to this strategy: A clear majority of the people that these advertisements reach fall into one of two categories – 1. They have zero interest in your product or service, or 2. They are not paying any attention to the advertisement. These strategies attempt to connect with consumers at ineffective times, and money is wasted. Luckily, local search engine optimization solves this problem for small businesses.
As technology evolves, so do marketing strategies. In a world where word of mouth has always been the most effective form of marketing, people now trust Google search results and reviews just as much they trust their friends and family. But don’t just take our word for it, check out these numbers –
- 88% of people who search for local business services online call or visit a business within 24 hours. (Source: SEO Expert Brad)
- 60% of smartphone owners contact businesses directly through information provided in Google search results, such as “click to call” or “get directions” buttons. (Source: Hubspot)
- 97% of consumers use the internet to find more information about a business. (Source: SEO Tribunal)
Just having a website is no longer enough; you also need to make sure people can find it. You wouldn’t spend money on a beautiful billboard just to place it in the middle of the desert, so why do that with your website? Correctly implementing Local SEO strategies is how to get your small business’s website to show up in Google search results.
How Does Local SEO Work?
To understand how Local SEO works, we first need to understand how Google (and other search engines) works. Take this simple analogy to start –
Let’s say a friend asks you for advice on where to get their haircut. It’s probably safe to say that you would recommend a salon or barbershop you trust to do a good job. You wouldn’t recommend a place you don’t trust because that reflects poorly on you for making a bad recommendation. On top of that, the friend you referred to a poor service isn’t likely to ask you for a recommendation in the future.
This is exactly how Google works. Google is a referral business, and it only recommends other businesses that it trusts to provide a good experience for the user. If Google recommends businesses that provide poor experiences, then users become less likely to ask Google for future recommendations.
To earn Google’s trust, you must build your website and present your online business information in a way that correctly and properly conveys what your business does. This helps Google to recognize you as an expert in your field, and the experts are who get recommended.
There are three key pillars of Local SEO to properly optimize your business for local search:
- Build out a website with well-written, in-depth content optimized around strategic keywords.
- Fully build out a Google My Business listing.
- Ensure accuracy of business information in relevant online business directories.
The First Pillar of Local SEO: The Website
Your website is the groundwork of your online presence. It houses all your information and tells your story to everyone: what you do, who you are, and where you have grown from. Your website is your online store front, and if your current website is hard on the eye and difficult to navigate, then you’re leaving a poor impression. Not to mention, you’re limiting any SEO efforts that have been implemented. And for businesses that don’t have a website, your online presence is nothing more than minimal. A website is a necessity today. As technology becomes increasingly prevalent in our everyday life, businesses that do not have a website are falling further and further behind their competition.
When it comes to a Local SEO campaign, it all begins with your website. For on-page SEO – meaning SEO efforts put forth on your website – well-written content is essential. The saying “content is king” is widely accepted as fact by experts across the industry, and it can be summed up very simply: if it is not on your website, then you cannot expect to rank for it. This means that if you offer a service or product and you want people to be able to find your business when they are searching for it, then you need to have content on your website that is specifically built around keywords for that service or product.
Keywords are the foundation of any SEO campaign. A keyword is a word or phrase that is searched when looking for the service or product that you are trying to rank for. All SEO campaigns begin with keyword research. Through keyword research, you can determine specific keywords to target based on search volume, keyword competition and other metrics. There are several tools available to help with keyword research, but two of the most popular tools are Google Ads Keyword Planner and SEMrush. For keyword research made simple, check out our guide on how to perform effective keyword research.
Once you have your keywords selected, you are ready to write your content. Additionally, you need to ensure the technical aspects of your website are optimized around your selected keywords, and that your website is up to par with Google’s core web vital suggestions.
The Second Pillar of Local SEO: Google Business Profile
You’ve probably seen local business listings appearing at the top of Google search results for local services. These are known as the “local map pack” and there are usually three business listings appearing underneath a map in the search results. These listings are called Google Business Profiles (GBPs), and they are essential to every Local SEO campaign.
If you don’t have a Google Business Profile, go to business.google.com right now and create one. You will need to verify your Google Business Profile for it to become live, and to do so you will need to request that Google mails you a postcard containing a verification code on it. When setting up your Google Business Profile, be sure you are using a valid physical address associated with your business. Google does not accept PO boxes, UPS boxes, or any other mailbox-type addresses. But don’t worry, this does not mean you have to show your physical address publicly if you don’t wish to do so. Many service businesses utilize their home address as their business address and choose to hide the street address on their GBPs.
Once you have verified your Google Business Profile, fill out as much information in your listing as you can. Write a detailed business description optimized around your keywords; choose the most accurate category and subcategories; add images of your business, employees, projects and more; add your services or products; and much more. Ensure everything is as accurate and up to date as possible, and then begin generating reviews.
Google reviews are among the most important pieces of your online business reputation. Ask happy customers or clients to leave you reviews and be sure to respond to both the positive and negative reviews that you receive. Not all reviews are going to be positive – it wouldn’t look natural if they were – and a couple negative reviews aren’t the end of the world. But always take the time to respond to your negative reviews, and do your best to resolve any issues or complaints. Possible future customers will read these reviews and appreciate seeing that you took the time to address a previous customers’ concerns.
The Third Pillar of Local SEO: Directory Listings
Directory listings are like online phone books: they provide listings with a business name, address, and phone number. Together, the business name, address and phone number are referred to as “NAP” info. Many directories also allow you to provide descriptions, photos, and other information about your business. For each directory listing you decide to create, fill out as much information as you can. Some well-known directories include Facebook, Yelp, Yellow Pages, Trip Advisor and HomeAdvisor. These are just a few of the numerous directories out there, and you should also consider local directories such as your local chamber of commerce. The more directory listings you create, the better. Just ensure your information is accurate and up to date.
When creating directory listings, it is essential that you ensure accuracy and consistency of your NAP info across the entire web. This applies to your website, your Google My Business listing, and every single directory listing. Each time your name, address and phone number are displayed online, this creates a citation. Inconsistent citations create confusing information for users, which in turn hurts your rankings. If it is confusing to a user, consider it confusing to Google as well.
It is important to understand that when Google crawls the internet when searching for local businesses, it does not just crawl your website… it crawls everything. Google reads everywhere that your NAP info is posted and a citation has been created. If half of your citations show one phone number and another half show a different phone number, Google is not going to understand which phone number is correct. To prevent from returning incorrect information to the searcher, Google may choose to not show your information altogether. This is a scary thought, but easily preventable. All you must do is be consistent!
How Long Does It Take to See Local SEO Results?
Exactly how long Local SEO takes varies based on industry and location. Every Local SEO campaign is different because every industry and every location differs in competition. A typical rule of thumb is between three and six months to begin seeing legitimate results. Less competitive industries and markets can see results quicker, and the opposite can be said for more competitive areas. The timeline is relative to your specific industry and location.
Google, on average, crawls a website every few days to every few weeks. For brand-new websites, it can take Google up to four weeks to recognize that the website now exists. The good news is that the process can be sped up utilizing Google Search Console’s URL Inspection tool. Learn more here: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/advanced/crawling/ask-google-to-recrawl
How Can I Implement Local SEO for My Business?
Properly implementing Local SEO and achieving monetary results for your business involves optimizing the three core pillars mentioned above – your website, GMB and directory listings – to the best possible ability. While it is a lot, it is also a lucrative business initiative for millions of all small businesses across the country. And the ones who are doing it right are dominating their local markets.
If you find yourself confused, or you simply don’t have the time to implement Local SEO – don’t worry. Send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to answer any questions you have. We also offer a complete suite of Local SEO services for small business owners that prefer to have an expert handle their SEO needs while they focus on running the rest of their business.
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