Search engine optimization (SEO) is a widely used term, but local SEO is a lesser-known concept. Local SEO is simply a geo-specific version of standard SEO. It involves the optimization of local businesses’ websites, so their web pages appear higher in search engine’s (namely Google’s) results.
Is local SEO really that important? Should local businesses engage in it? The answer to both questions is a resounding “yes.” A few important statistics back this up.
Local SEO is important for local businesses as more consumers use smartphones and geo-specific searches to find local stores. Estimates indicate that by 2021 searches from mobile devices will drive $1.4 trillion in local business sales.(1)
Last year, 76% of consumers who searched for a local store on their smartphone visited one within 24 hours. Of those who visited a store within 24 hours, 28% made a purchase.(2) With today’s rapid increase in smartphone usage, that percentage is sure to continue rising in the coming years.
That said, what is local SEO? How does it benefit your business? How can you approach it?
What exactly is local SEO?
Local SEO is simply a local approach to standard SEO. It involves using various tactics to appease Google’s ever-changing algorithm. That algorithm determines which pages appear in which order when someone conducts a search that includes your town or city’s name, zip code, or any other geographical identifier.
How it works
If someone searches Google for “bicycle repair shop,” they will receive results from various locations. But that’s only true if their smartphone’s “location services’’ function is turned off. If that’s the case and they search for “bicycle repair shop Madison Wisconsin,” it’s exponentially more likely that your bike shop in Madison will appear closer to the top of the search results.
On the other hand, if the smartphone’s Location Services feature is turned on—and this is the case for most smartphones—the phone will recognize the user’s location and automatically return results for that area.
NOTE: In this article, we exclusively refer to Google instead of mentioning other search engines. That’s because over the past year Google accounted for 72% of web searches. After Google, 13 competitors account for the remaining 28%.(3)
The greatest SEO challenge
The greatest challenge you will face once you start to engage in SEO is keeping up with Google’s algorithm. It is constantly changing. Plus, Google keeps most of its formula a secret. Even seasoned SEO experts find it difficult to stay abreast of Google’s latest algorithm changes.
It can even seem as though Google is playing a cruel game with us. But keep in mind that Google’s objective is to present the best content to its users, and they constantly shift gears to accomplish that.
Local SEO benefits
SEO provides loads of benefits to those who master it and stay up-to-date on the latest SEO trends. At the top of that list of benefits, of course, is greater brand exposure and visibility. This increases traffic to your site and results in more sales and revenue growth. In fact, all SEO tactics are undertaken with that goal in mind.
There are many additional benefits of local SEO to consider—too many to list here. But, to give you a better understanding of the importance of local SEO, let’s look at a few of the most important ones.
Forming local business alliances
You can join forces with other businesses in your area and add links to their site on your own site. They will do the same for you in return, boosting your web traffic.
Increased consumer trust
Let’s face it, very few of us scroll to the seventh page of Google results to find the page we want. We trust that the top results are the best and tend to navigate to those sites.
Reduced money spent on advertising
Local SEO, in a way, is slowly replacing local television and print advertising as the most effective way to entice consumers to visit your store.
More reviews from satisfied customers
If you set up a Google My Business account, customers can leave publicly-visible reviews of your business. More positive reviews equal a higher Google search ranking. Moreover, people place lots of stock and trust in reviews from other patrons. Learn more about Google My Business below.
Gaining a competitive edge in your locality
Odds are that most of your competitors are not engaging in local SEO tactics. Gain an immediate edge over your competition by making your business more visible online for both in-store or online shoppers.
Effective local SEO tactics
Local businesses leverage various tactics to increase business visibility and search result rankings. Here are a few of the easiest and most common SEO tactics you can start implementing today:
Set up a Google My Business account
Setting up a Google My Business account is free and does a lot more than open the door for reviews. It provides metrics around how customers interact with your business online and places your business’s name on Google Maps.
Use popular keywords in your website content
Keyword research is a key element of effective local SEO efforts. It’s easy to find the most relevant keywords for your business, as well as their search volume and the difficulty of ranking for them.
Sites like Moz offer free keyword research tools that allow you to gather this keyword data so you can start incorporating those keywords into your website content.
Incorporate those keywords into your site’s metadata
Metadata (or meta tags) refers to the information embedded in your site’s code. If you hire an SEO expert to optimize your website for local SEO, they will know all about this. If you manage your site yourself, you can learn how to make some basic improvements by checking out this beginner’s guide to meta tag usage.
Link to highly-ranked websites
An easy way to learn how high a website ranks is to find its domain authority (DA). DA is measured on a scale from one to 100. A link to any site with a DA of 60 or above will help increase your own site’s ranking.
Moz, mentioned above, also provides a free domain overview tool. That tool allows you to enter another site’s web address, and then displays that site’s DA.
When you hyperlink to another site in your site’s content, be sure to check its DA before doing so. Linking to a site with a low DA can do more harm than good.
Be strategic with external links and run periodic SEO status checks to identify and remove or fix broken links.
Measure your efforts against your competition
The free tools mentioned above allow you to enter your competitors’ web addresses and see how their SEO efforts stack up to your own. You can gain valuable insight that will help you improve your approach and the tactics you use.
For example, you can see which keywords they rank for and what their rank is for that keyword. Then you can focus on outranking them for those keywords. Constant measurement is the best way to continually improve and differentiate your business from those of your competitors.
The final word on local SEO
With an understanding of local SEO, its importance, and key tactics, you’re ready to launch your own local SEO initiative.
As mentioned above, most local businesses still haven’t jumped on the SEO bandwagon. By starting now, you can get a head start and maintain that lead well into the future.
Completing basic local SEO tactics and picking some low-hanging fruit is both easy and produces significant results. And, you don’t need to hire a contractor to carry out these basic SEO tactics.
There are a number of step-by-step tutorials and videos on local SEO best practices you can use to start implementing SEO as part of your digital marketing efforts. The only thing this will cost you is your time. That time will be an investment in the future survival and success of your business.
Read more like this:
- Step-by-step guide to launching digital marketing
- How to implement a digital marketing plan
- From personalized to humanized marketing
- Why use marketing automation?
- Mobile Will Influence $1.4 Trillion In Offline Sales By 2021, Forrester Research, 2017
- How Mobile Search Connects Consumers to Stores, Think with Google, 2016 (updated in September 2019)
- Search Engine Market Share, Netmarketshare.com, 2020