When you hear the term “local SEO,” you may envision a little Mom-and-Pop shop around the corner, tinkering with an amateurish SEO strategy. You may feel you’re too big, and your reach too broad, to waste your time implementing a local SEO strategy. Neglecting to implement one is to miss out on a prime opportunity. Whether you are a huge, multinational retail store; a chain of large sporting-goods stores; a cozy French restaurant; or even a Mom-and-Pop shop, local SEO can bump up your chances of being found online and in the real world. People who are searching for something in close proximity to themselves are often motivated to make a purchase. According to a study by comScore, 78% of local mobile searches resulted in offline purchases. Local SEO is too important a strategy to miss out on.
What Is Local Search?
Local search is potential customers searching online for products, services, or stores near them. They are geographically constrained searches. Sometimes they are implicit, meaning the search engine already knows the person’s location and is showing nearby results. For example, if you type in “burger joint,” the top results will likely be near you. Other times, the results are explicit: You are telling the search engine the location you want to include. Some examples of this would be “San Francisco restaurants” or “Portland hairdressers.”
Why It’s Crucial to Have a Local SEO Strategy
The explosion of mobile devices has made having a strong local search presence even more important. According to Internal Google Data, today more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries, including the United States and Japan. The majority of these mobile searches happen when people are on the move. Google reports that “near me” searches have doubled in the last year. People have immediate needs and are performing searches to find something conveniently close-by to buy, eat, do, etc. Google’s “Pigeon” update in 2014 made local search even more important. Since Google wants to include local businesses in its search results, it’s always looking to show the most relevant, not necessarily the biggest-name, products in its results. You’ve probably noticed that if you do a search for “pizza,” the largest pizza chain in the country won’t necessarily pop to the top of your search results. Local, sometimes small, pizza places will land near the top of your search. This is because search engines want to give you individualized results. Your search engine, along with your geographic location, helps determine what search results you’ll see. Local SEO enables you to target a smaller, more specific niche audience. You won’t have to compete as hard with the big boys. If you’re a restaurant in Seattle, it doesn’t make sense to show up on the results page in Honolulu. You don’t want to waste time and money trying to woo customers who will not be interested in what you have to offer. Local search helps you increase relevant visibility.
How to Get Started
Since SEO is all about getting the attention of search engines, your first step should be to claim your local listings on Google Plus, Yahoo Local, Bing Places for Business, and other business listing directories. The verification process varies by directory and your type of business. Sometimes it involves getting a postcard sent to you; other times it may be a simple phone call. Once your business is verified, you’ll begin showing up in things like Google Maps, and you can update your business information, such as your hours, and respond to reviews. Next, go through and claim your local business profiles on local directory and review sites, such as Yelp, Citysearch, Trip Advisor®, YP.com, Foursquare—any site that’s relevant to your business. You also want to make sure your business is listed accurately. This means ensuring that all of your important business information, such as name, address, and telephone number, are accurate and formatted consistently in what’s called a NAP profile. Search engines are sticklers for accuracy. Even a small discrepancy can throw them off and hurt your local SEO, so don’t write “Street” somewhere but use “St.” elsewhere. Believe it or not, something as small as this is considered a negative ranking factor and will send you hurtling down the search results.
Tips for Effective Local Search
Local SEO is no different from other inbound strategies. In order to thrive, you will need to come up with plenty of quality, relevant content. A blog is an excellent way to expand your local reach and improve SEO. The twist is that your content should be local-centric. Include your city, region, or neighborhood in blog titles. You can write about local events, such as an upcoming music festival or flower show in your area. You could also write evergreen articles that provide local information. Another way to gain local clout is to guest post on local external blogs or try promoting press releases about your business in the local news outlets. Reviews can be a goldmine for improving your local SEO. They may also be the first thing a potential customer sees when they perform a search for your business. You should encourage customers to post reviews on sites like Yelp or Trip Advisor. You should never pay for reviews, but just encourage feedback and make it easy for people to leave a review. To get started, you could try asking a loyal customer to write a review on a couple of sites, or ask a customer who just had a positive experience with your company to tell people about it online. Remember to interact and respond to reviews—even the negative ones. A simple acknowledgment to a negative review can go a long way in turning the situation around.
Is Local SEO for You?
Unless you don’t have a single physical location, most businesses can benefit from improving their local search SEO. Local SEO levels the playing field. Even large goliaths like McDonald’s® and Walmart® are still local on some levels. You can use your local SEO strategy to target potential customers that are interested in what you’re selling and motivated to make a purchase.