As more and more people use the internet to search for goods and services, small and local businesses need to find ways of competing with large and national companies. One way local businesses can level the playing field and compete is through local search engine optimization (LSEO).
What is local SEO?
Local SEO focuses on the geographic component of SEO, mainly targeting users who are searching locally for goods or services. With a local search, the search generally has two components: an industry and a location. Google has gotten really good at understanding the intent behind searches, especially those for local goods or services.
Many local searches take the shape of “best bakery near me” or “local plumber.” While these terms don’t necessarily have a specific location, Google is able to pinpoint the user’s area and provides results that are close to the user. With location services available on many mobile devices, Google does an incredible job of narrowing results for local queries to within a few feet of a user. Local intent will also take the form of inquiries about the type of business, phone number, hours of operation, driving directions, coupons and special offers, and especially ratings and reviews.
With 59% of organic searches in the U.S. coming from smartphones in the first quarter of 2019 and 82% of smartphone shoppers conducting “near me” searches, there is an obvious benefit to local business owners by appearing in the local search results. With local SEO, there is an intent of finding a business close to a physical location as opposed to a general search or inquiry that may cover the entire U.S. or even the globe.
It’s Different From Organic SEO
Local SEO and organic SEO differ in specific ways, although local SEO benefits from organic SEO as a whole, especially for small businesses. Organic SEO utilizes a number of different strategies in order for a site to rank higher in search engine results pages and generally gain a higher domain score with Google. Those strategies include:
- website analysis
- client requirements
- keyword research
- content writing
- website optimization
- site submission
- link building
Local SEO, while benefitting from the strategies listed above for organic SEO, uses a number of other online strategies in order to capture local users. These include ranking in search engines (like Google and Bing); appearing in business directories like Yelp, Foursquare, Google My Business pages and Bing Places for Business; utilizing the power of online reviews, and adding localized content on websites. For local businesses, the power of local SEO is held primarily by business directories and online reviews.
Online reviews are considered one of the most important parts of local SEO. 86% of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business, and 91% of 18-34 year old consumers trust them as much as personal recommendations. Online reviews are a huge asset to small businesses, especially with websites like Yelp and Google making it extremely easy for businesses to set up their own pages for reviews and business information. According to the 2019 State of Local Marketing report by BrandMuscle, roughly 40% of Google business listings go unclaimed, meaning this extremely valuable resource is often forgotten or disregarded.
It’s Important for Local Businesses
While organic SEO is great for anyone with a website looking to attract online users, local SEO is vital for small businesses who have a limited service area, especially considering the mobile world we live in. Local SEO is highly targeted, meaning users are generally looking for a specific business or a product and/or service in a specific area. Local businesses need to be found when searched for, especially on mobile.
A recent report from the Pew Research Center found that only 16% of adults get their news from print newspapers, while 22% of adults get their news from social media. This shift in news sources reflects the greater shift in consumer behavior towards finding information online. For local businesses, this means having an online presence is essential, and with 76% of people searching for something nearby on their smartphone visiting a related business within 24 hours, the need for local SEO becomes apparent. Local businesses need to be online and they need to be found by mobile users.
Why Local SEO Should Be Part Of Your Marketing Strategy
Local SEO isn’t just for mobile searches; local businesses can be found on the web regardless of whether the search is done on a phone or a computer. One of the great benefits of local SEO for small businesses is that it’s effective and cost-efficient. A number of business directories, including Google My Business and Bing Places for Business, allow businesses to claim their listings for free (a good majority of them are free to use).
Traditional advertising, like direct mail and neighborhood leaflets, especially for small and local businesses, is expensive and more often than not fails to procure a large number of new customers or clients. Recent numbers suggest that the response rate of direct mail marketing is around 5% for house listings and only 2.9% for prospect lists. For a small business, those numbers aren’t the greatest, and they also come with a large cost to the business itself. It’s also difficult to track the effectiveness of a direct mail marketing campaign: it requires someone to manually track each customer and how many leads/sales were directly associated with each mailing. Not only is this time consuming, but it can be negatively impacted by human error.
With local SEO, potential customers are able to readily access information about the businesses they’re looking for – name, address, phone number, pictures, online reviews, and any other information that may be important in the conversion process. And the best part is that the information is free for anyone to access and doesn’t cost the business owner any money to put it on the web. There are a number of ways to track user engagement and conversions that don’t require a human element, which is an incredibly valuable tool for any business owner, and it’s much easier to determine the overall ROI.
If you’re a local business owner, investing in local SEO is an excellent way to get your business online and out to the masses. If you don’t have the time, Intuitive Digital can help with your organic SEO and local SEO strategies.
We’re a local business ourselves, and our specialty is digital marketing. Send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions you may have about your business and local SEO.