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SEO was once exclusive to big-money players who had the means to outgun everyone in the competition. But thanks to increasingly user-centric search engine updates, local SEO gives smaller businesses a greater opportunity to woo organic searchers.
Unfortunately, many small business owners have already ruled themselves out of the SEO game. In doing so, they miss out on many potential customers and use more expensive customer acquisition channels like PPC and paid social media ads.
News flash: there isn’t a better time for small businesses to hop on the SEO bandwagon than today. Four out of every five customers now use search engines to find local businesses. Mastering local SEO helps you put your business in front of people who’re actively looking for you and are ready to call you up immediately.
In this guide, we’ll walk through the anatomy of local search, explaining the dynamics between the factors that influence results. We’ll also provide you with a 9-step local SEO crash course to help you convince search engines that you deserve a spot in the coveted Local-3 Pack.
Ready? Let’s jump right in!
Part 1: What is Local SEO for Small Businesses?
Chances are you’ve used local search once or twice before to find a spa, dentist, or restaurant. If so, you must have noticed how incredibly easy and convenient it is to find an ideal local vendor or service provider with a local search.
Local SEO is all about positioning yourself as the go-to business for potential customers in your area. Rather than target your customers using generic search terms, local SEO allows you to capture searchers looking up geo-specific terms relating to your local business.
For instance, using the examples above, the search term you probably used were:
- “The best spas near me” or “The best spas in Wichita” rather than just “the best spas”
- “Professional teeth whitening services near me” instead of “professional teeth whitening services.”
So, how does Google present savory pictures of sumptuous recipes from restaurants nearby to someone who’s feeling famished? Simple. When a searcher enters a local search term (main keyword + “near me” or “location name”), Google matches the searcher’s IP address with the best business suggestions within their area.
As a small business owner, your local SEO strategy should aim to get search engines recommending you as the authority in your industry to searchers within your locality.
“Easier said”, right?
Search engine optimization is a labyrinth on its own, and local SEO could as well be a bit of a maze if you don’t know where to start.
Depending on who you ask, the journey to local SEO success contains 4 factors dubbed the 4 “R’s”:
- Receiving qualified traffic: One of the benefits of local SEO is when it’s done right, you’ll see an increase in the quality of your traffic, which in turn maximizes the engagement and conversion rates of your website.
- Reducing “PPC” customer acquisition cost: A successful local SEO strategy will help reduce your reliance on PPC as a means for customer acquisition and with less money spent on monthly ad costs, you’ll have a significantly higher ROI.
- Reviews convincing potential buyers: Your strategy should include a way to generate reviews to expand your persuasion toolbox.
- Relevance through content: Establish authority in your industry with geo-specific content targeted towards your local audience.
The Importance of the Local 3-Pack
Have you ever wondered what that fancy little map is at the top of Google or Bing when you search for something in your area?
Well, it’s their way of showing users looking for a product or service precisely what it feels are the three most relevant businesses in a given location. There are many different factors that we’ll go into when in reference to *how* you land in the Local 3-Pack, but the moral of the story is that you want your business to be there.
We often hear from business owners, “is this the way people are finding me now?” The answer is always a resounding YES! The Local 3-Pack is prime real estate that most businesses are missing out on.
The Local 3-Pack gets 44% of the clicks from all local searches, and local search makes up 46% of all Google searches. With over 1.2 TRILLION searches per year, we’re talking hundreds of billions of clicks every year generated from local search. Think about that.
The Local 3-Pack appears in the #1 spot for 93% of local searches. Why does that matter? Well, over 80% of local searches lead to a purchase, amounting to massive sales potentials for the Local 3-Pack.
But that’s not all there is to it. Local SEO can be a real boost to your business in other ways, too:
- Business credibility: When your business appears at the top of the search results or shows up on Google Maps, it gives your business credibility. Your potential customers are more likely to consider your business as a legitimate, trustworthy company. The credibility means they’ll also be more likely to get in touch and use your business.
- ROI: Local SEO for small businesses offers a high return on investment. Whether you decide to go the DIY route or pay a local SEO agency, your long-term ROI is higher than Google AdWords, Facebook Ads, etc. Imagine doubling or tripling your revenue while spending a fraction of that on your SEO budget!
7 Crucial Keys to SEO Growth for Your Business
Local SEO is the secret to unlocking a vast amount of potential growth for your company. But you don’t have to take our word for it as proof. Take a look at the five keys below, which outline precisely how local search will drive explosive growth for your business in the future.
- In the last two years, mobile searches with ‘Where to buy’ and ‘near me’ have grown by over 200%.
- Reports show 76% of local searches on mobile devices result in a visit to a physical location/company within one day.
- Online searchers visit over 1.5 billion locations related to their Google searches every month.
- Over 45 % of all Google searches have local intent.
- Nearly one-third of Americans search online for a local business on a daily basis.
- Local search makes up over one-fifth of all website traffic, and that share is increasing at an incredible rate.
- Between 2017 and 2019, Google saw traffic from local searches jump by an astounding 900%.
Part 2: How to Implement Local SEO for Your Business
Now that you know why local SEO is such a beneficial digital marketing strategy for your business let’s look at how you can implement it to be as successful as possible.
This section looks at the most effective ways of ensuring your small business has positioned itself best for online growth in your local area.
We’ll focus mainly on optimizing for Google for the simple reason that Google has a 92% market share of all search engine inquiries. Google uses three main local ranking factors to determine where your business will appear in local search results:
- Distance: to determine proximity, search engines such as Google use geo-coordinates and zip codes. The data help to work out where the searcher is relative to your business location.
- Relevance: Google looks at how well your small business matches up with what the searcher is seeking.
- Prominence: Search engines examine sources on the web, such as links, citations, and reviews. The data help to determine how well-known your business is.
These three local ranking factors need your focus if you want to set your business apart from the competition.
Step 1: Claim Your Google My Business Listing
Your Google My Business page influences all three local ranking factors and positions you in multiple areas of Google search, including the Google Local 3-Pack, the Knowledge panel, and Google Maps results.
Creating your Google My Business page can be quite straightforward. Provide as much information as possible about your local business and make sure it’s all accurate, including your type of business or service, contact details, opening times, service areas, etc.
For franchises or businesses with several branches, you need a different Google My Business listing for each branch – one GMB page doesn’t cover all your locations.
Use Google Posts to share updates, special offers, and other important content on your page.
Step 2: Use a Consistent NAP (Name, Address, and Phone Number)
NAP is another crucial ranking factor that helps a search engine match your local business listing with local search queries. You just need to ensure that this information is mentioned accurately across the internet. If there are mix-ups in your NAP in different business mentions, that sends a bad signal that reduces your chances of getting recommended by Google.
Tools like Yext can help ensure your NAP remains the same whenever it pops up on the web.
Step 3: Focus on Gaining Reviews
Google also uses online reviews to determine whether it’s appropriate to recommend your local business or services to local searchers. The more positive reviews you can garner the more likely it is that you’ll be featured on local search results. Negative reviews aren’t necessarily bad news – they can help prove you’re a legitimate company, so long as there aren’t too many of them.
Google displays your reviews on your Google My Business profile. Google’s most trusted sources of authentic customer reviews include:
- GMB/Google Search
- Google Maps
- Apple Maps
- Bing Places
Encourage your customers to drop reviews in these places. You can incentivize them with promos, special offers, and discounts.
Step 4: Grow Your Local Citations + Social Media Presence
The main goal here is to expand your web presence and convince Google that your business is a prominent brand in the space. Try getting as many local citations (business mentions) as possible, especially on popular sites like:
- Yahoo Local
Social media activities, especially on the main platforms Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/LinkedIn – can also help you maximize your web presence and engage prospects and customers.
Maximize your impact on these channels by posting regularly, running promos and special offers, and sharing relevant content.
Step 5: Optimize Your Website For Local Search
You also need to optimize your web content by refocusing it toward local searchers.
Try these tips:
Headers and Title Tags:
Check that your homepage H1 and title tags include your business, city’s name, and primary local keywords. These heading tags add weight to your local SEO rankings.
Include photos of the locations you serve. Also, be sure to optimize the file names and alt images with the city/area’s name to rank more highly for images.
Include local keywords in your meta descriptions to drive traffic to your site.
Embed a Google map of your location/locations. This sends direct signals back to Google that you are relevant and prominent for specific local searches. And don’t forget to use an intuitive web design that offers a good user experience to maximize conversions.
Step 6: Optimize for Mobile
Did you know that 9 out of 10 smartphone users regularly use their mobile devices to do a local search? Mobile queries are why you must optimize your website for cross-device functionality. Websites built with mobile users in mind often perform significantly better than their static counterparts.
Not only that, but Google has implemented its mobile-first search index, which takes website speed and user experience into consideration.
Step 7: Research Local Keywords
Keyword research is an absolute must when it comes to Local SEO. The goal here is to identify the keywords that potential local searchers might use to find you and then apply them strategically across your website. Tools like Ahrefs and Ubersuggest are great for discovering these local keywords.
You can also find plenty of local keyword suggestions manually with Google’s autocompleting feature and related search terms.
Use these terms on your homepage, service pages, blog, and location-based landing pages.
Step 8: Build Authority with Inbound Links
Acquiring links from other prominent sites further strengthens your backlink profile and builds your domain authority. The difference between traditional SEO and local SEO, in this case, is that your aim should be to build local backlinks to further emphasize your local relevance to search engines.
Your link-building campaign can revolve around strategies like guest blog posting, special offers, partnerships with local bloggers, etc.
Step 9: Leverage Local Content
Your local SEO strategy is incomplete without geo-specific content. Try emphasizing issues specifically unique to your locality, capitalizing on local industry news, local events, and more.
The Bottom Line
Establish yourself as the go-to business for people in your service area using the local search optimization strategies we outlined up above. With the right Local SEO strategy, you’ll put your small business right in front of people who’re already prepared to snap up your offers. That’s tantamount to enjoying laser-targeted organic traffic with high engagement and conversion rates.
At BCC interactive, we’ll help you assemble all the pieces of your local SEO puzzle to take your business to the next level with our multi-phase SEO framework. Reach out to us today to start conquering the competition!