We think globally, but we live locally. The places and the people near us are important. And that’s why if you have a business that people physically come to or which provides a service to the local community, you need to get to grips with local SEO. Examples of businesses that benefit from local SEO are shops, restaurants, plumbing and electrical contractors, hair and beauty salons, tradespeople and legal and medical practices.
If you trade locally, you need to put a strategy in place which ensures that your business features prominently when people are doing online searches for businesses in your area.
Just think how often you use a local search. Whether you’re searching for ‘best pizza near me’ and ‘garden maintenance in (your suburb) ’ or ‘doctor in (your city)’, there’s clear evidence that local search is on the rise and that it plays a key role in increasing customer visits to the actual business as well as sales conversions.
- 50% of people who did a local search using a mobile phone visited a bricks and mortar business within a day
- 18% of local searches made on mobiles led to a sale being made within a day
What is local SEO?
Local SEO is when you optimise your website in a way that boosts your online visibility to help people in your area find your business when they’re searching online. It’s like putting in place little flags which tell Google to consider displaying your website in response to a search query for certain keywords or phrases which relate to your geographical location/area of operation.
Local SEO is a component of organic SEO which aims to build online visibility and drive sales, just with a local focus. It uses many of the same elements such as keyword research, link-building, content and on-page optimisations.
It generally focuses on improving visibility in Google Maps and in the local three-pack of the search engine results pages (SERPs) which provide searchers with results that are relevant to their geographical location. This pack has three key elements, namely proximity, relevance and prominence and the nature of the industry you’re in will largely dictate how you should best manage these elements.
Who should be focusing on local SEO?
Local SEO is important for any business which engages a local audience. When local search results are displayed, people can immediately get in contact with a featured business, read reviews, see videos, make comparisons, get directions via map apps etc. If your business isn’t there, you’ll be losing out on potential customers and potential revenue.
- Retailers with a bricks-and-mortar shop front
- Service providers such as doctors, lawyers, childcare centres
What’s involved in local SEO?
One of the most important drivers of local SEO success is a Google My Business (GMB) listing.
GMB is Google’s free and easy-to-use tool which manages how a business looks and performs in the search engine. It basically lets you tell your business story.
It’s really useful for any business that has a bricks-and-mortar premise or which provides a physical service to people, but it’s not available to businesses which only operate online.
By verifying your information and optimising your GMB listing, you can enhance your business’s visibility on Google Maps and appeal directly to your local audience.
Remember, with a GMB listing, it’s really, really important to ensure that all your business details are consistent throughout all the content (such as your opening hours, physical address, contact details etc). It’s essential they appear in EXACTLY the same format everywhere so that Google sees the business as reputable, genuine and trustworthy.
Your GMB listing also allows you plenty of opportunities to boost your local SEO with photos, regular posts and updates, videos, customer reviews etc. All of these help local people find YOU and that’s good for business!
Keep in mind that GMB isn’t the only driver of SEO, but it’s a good start. It should be co-ordinated in tandem with other site optimisation tactics such as keyword research, customised local content creation, local SEO links, partnering with industry bodies and appearance in local directories. Keeping up-to-date with the ever-changing search engine landscape is also crucial to ensure you’re not wasting any resources.
The increasing use of voice-activated personal assistants like Alexa, SiRi and Google Home should also be taken into consideration when you’re doing your keyword research and planning. The subtle difference between ‘find an Italian restaurant near me’ as opposed to simply ‘Italian restaurant near me’ becomes evident when you start thinking about conversational speech-related search queries as opposed to typed ones.
As an aside, keyword research isn’t something that you do in the early stages of your SEO strategy and then forget about. It’s important to keep your eye on the ball in terms of your keyword rankings on an ongoing basis so that you can be sure you’re on the right track.
Quality content is another important aspect of building a business’ reputation and improving local SEO. Take the time to create content that is relevant to your local area, which involves the community or which adds value to local readers (for example, a garden maintenance business could have an informative, engaging blog on which plants thrive in their local area of operation) to help build your online presence, improve your credibility and strengthen customer relations.
It’s a smart world out there, so you do need to optimise your local SEO for mobile. For example, in response to a search for a certain keyword, an optimised listing could appear with a convenient ‘call now’ button or an instant ‘directions’ link to a maps app. Bingo…that customer will come straight to your business.
Page loading speed is another important consideration, because nothing kills user interest than s…l…o…w speeds!
Link-building and online business citations are two other key elements of local SEO. The more links you have from other local businesses and organisations, the more credible your business and the greater your chances of driving traffic to your site.
You should consider adding your details to social media channels such as Facebook, TripAdvisor, local directory websites (list of our favourites are here- https://theseoschool.com/top-ten-sites-for-local-citations-in-australia/ ), local partner websites and other sites such as local government associations, your local council, community newspaper or chamber of commerce wherever relevant. But remember, any online mentions of your NAP (name, address, phone number) have to be IDENTICAL across all listings to demonstrate to Google that your business is genuine.
Collecting reviews is another important string to your SEO bow. More and more consumers are basing their decisions on reviews so you want your business to reach for the stars! Your aim should be to accrue reviews on a continuous basis so that feedback is current and relevant. Remember to respond to all reviews even if they’re negative – and respond quickly. A good tip when replying to a negative or even inaccurate review is not to let your emotions get in the way. Be soft on the people and hard on the facts.
There may be millions of searches happening on Google every day, but it’s the small number of local searches that you’re interested in. By concentrating your efforts on local SEO, you will build prominence and improve your online visibility and hopefully that will translate into more conversions and ultimately, business success and improved revenues.
Karen Dauncey has over 17 years of experience as an SEO & Google Ads Specialist. She is the director and founder of Blue Cherry Online Marketing and specialises in helping businesses get found online using Google using Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Google Ads. She is launching The SEO School, an online course to help businesses get found online using Google using SEO in February 2021.