You have probably been hearing a lot about local SEO and how you need it to succeed in the digital marketplace. This can sometimes be confusing since, as a small business owner, you have no idea what SEO or the digital marketplace is. You’ve been seeing ads each time you get online, people on social media are talking about it but exactly what is local SEO and why your local business needs it?
That’s exactly what we’re going to talk about in today’s post. We’ll have a look at what local SEO is, and the kind of impact it can have on your business. This is important because local SEO is an incredibly powerful way to market your business online. Regular, on-page and off-page SEO brings in great results for your business, but local SEO takes it a step even further.
What is Local SEO?
Local Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is your business’s promotion based on local area online searches. It is a version of regular Search Engine Optimization (SEO) that helps businesses promote their sales to potential local customers. Quite simply, local SEO makes sure that customers looking for goods and services online in your area see your products or business on the first page.
Anyone searching for a product or service in a certain locality provides Google or any other search engine with geographical data, such as the exact locality, area, city and country they are searching from. This combined with the search phrase ‘near me’ results in Google providing location-based data.
So how are these ‘local searches’ different? According to Google’s data, 46% of all Google searches have ‘local intent’. This means that Google recognizes that the user wants recommendations and location-based data and Google provides these in it’s local search engine results pages (SERPs).
Why is Local SEO Important for Your Business?
Why is this a big deal? Almost 71% of Canada’s population is smartphone users. 2018 saw more and more people using search engines such as Google to look for the products or services they wanted.
Most of these potential customers call, buy from, or hire one of the first three businesses that turn up on the search results! These first three are called Google’s 3-pack and this is the most coveted spot for a local business. We will talk more about this later on, but what you need to know is that the marketplace has evolved. If you are a small business owner, then going digital is the best step to take in 2019 and local SEO is the way to the top.
Local SERPs show exactly the data users want to see regarding the services they require. Local SEO helps ensure that your business’s details, such as your top services, timings, location and contact information are displayed so that potential customers are driven towards your business, boosting your sales.
Local SEO and Google’s 3-Pack
As mentioned earlier, the Google 3-Pack is the most sought after spot in the digital marketplace. What exactly is the 3-pack? Let’s suppose you’re a resident in a certain area in Vancouver. You need a plumber. Like most people these days, you will simply pull out your smartphone and Google: “Plumber near me”. Google already knows where exactly you live, and it will return a local SERP like this.
You might have noticed that this is a very different version of the normal Google search result. Not only does Google give you a map showing where each business is, it lists 3 business along with all their relevant information, such as hours, services, contact information and even pictures! If you didn’t know better (and you should have some idea by now), Google does not get this information by itself from the business websites, rather a great local SEO strategy is required to get your business the coveted spot among the top 3.
Why is this important? Studies have shown that a huge majority of users will contact one of the top 3 for the services they require while only a small percentage will choose to ‘load more results’. This means that the majority of traffic is directed towards your business, translating into a large chunk of the market, that results in a huge boost in sales and revenue for your business.
This is why getting into the 3-pack should be your ultimate priority and that’s exactly why you need local SEO. To help your business achieve the most it can in the search engine results.
How does Local SEO Work?
Local SEO is a lot of work. Since search engines keep changing their algorithm (the math equations that take in data and select the best results to display), your local SEO strategy must also be constantly evolving to keep up. Like we mentioned earlier, Google needs to data to interpret and display in the 3-pack and this data plays a big part in deciding whether or not your business makes it to the top spot. Providing this data to Google is the art of local SEO. How does this happen? Keep reading below to find out.
Google My Business
Google My Business is your free business listing courtesy of Google. As the name suggests, it is your business profile where you can add as much information as you like which then links up to a variety of Google services, such as search, Google Maps and more. What’s best is, it makes important information about your business easily available to users (your potential customers!) generating precious traffic towards you.
As you can see, your Google My Business profile includes a large variety of information that you can provide. It also includes important features such as your online reviews, attributes and questions and answers from previous customers. All of this is meant to provide Google’s users with as much important information about your business as possible.
The best local SEO strategies involve keeping your Google My Business profile as updated, accurate and informative as possible. This increases your chances of appearing in the 3-pack as well as confirming your authenticity and trustworthiness with Google, making your business important and appealing enough for its users. While a most powerful tool, Google My Business is a single example of something called a ‘citation’.
What are Citations and How do they Help?
A citation is just what it’s name suggests, any time you are mentioned online. The difference is that in the digital marketplace, a citation is every time your business information, also known as NAPW (Name, Address, Phone, Website) is appears online, most likely in online business listings and directories. Having such listings is extremely important because you need to present where customers are looking for the products or services that you provide. Google relies on this data to judge how legitimate a business is, and this directly affects their score in it’s algorithm, resulting in a better or lower ranking.
There are two different kinds of citations, structured and unstructured. Structured citations are often in the form of business listings, often on online business directories and have a fixed structure.
Unstructured citations involve media such as print and social media where your business information might not be mentioned in a structured way, but might be linked to your website or other online resource.
Citations are not just an important aspect of local SEO, they are THE most important aspect. Without solid legitimate citations, you might as well not even have a business website. Not only do you need to build up citations, you need to update and prune them up regularly. Citations are like a constant game of chinese whispers. If you fail to update and correct your data regularly, the consequences can be very serious. No search engine, Google or otherwise wants to mislead their users with data that is incorrect, and on your business’s part, this can reflect very poorly on your integrity, especially as a local business.
What makes a great local SEO strategy?
Now that you know how local SEO works, you might be wondering what tactics the best local SEO strategies employ. You see, like we mentioned earlier, local SEO is ever evolving along with Google’s algorithms. However, we can give you an overview of some key aspects of a great SEO strategy and how it helps your business.
You can think of your website and social media as your online ‘store’. Just as your business is located in an area or locality in the real world, you need to mention it and include it in your online pages. You can also attend or host local events engaging the community and mention these online, strengthening your business’s ‘local’ reputation.
The best SEO strategies make sure that your business has solid citations. This helps your customers access important information about your business, such as your name, address, contact information and website and also helps increase your search results ranking, getting you closer to the top 3.
Google My Business
Google My Business is the first and most important step towards getting the top spot in the search results as it makes you available through a variety of services and apps such as Google Maps and Google Assistant. The best part? It is absolutely free!
Reviews and Ratings
Your reviews and ratings decide how legitimate and trustworthy your business is. It is important that the reviews be genuine, honest and good quality, because all these factors including the quantity of your reviews influence your search engine performance.
Backlinks are the digital ‘word-of-mouth’. In order for your website to be a trustworthy source of information, you must have genuine, legitimate backlinks with reliable websites. This means that your website must be prominent and active online, engaging your customers and other websites alike.
Advantages of local SEO
Now that you understand what local SEO is all about, and have some idea of how local SEO can help your business, let’s conclude with top 5 advantages that a good SEO strategy can provide your business with.
- More Customers = More Sales
The Yellow Pages are over. With more and more people turning to smartphones and Google to look for products and services, digital marketing and SEO is your best bet to drive in more customers. And of all these customers, 78% result in offline sales!
- Highly Targeted
Instead of you marketing to your customers, it is they who are specifically looking for certain services. If your local SEO strategy is good, you will have identified online your top products and services. This way your potential customers identify the exact services they require, generating customer traffic and increasing your online reputation.
- Efficient and Cost-effective
Unlike traditional forms of advertising such as newspaper or television ads, you do not waste a ton of money and time on a large quantity of people who do not need the service you’re offering. This way you reach your customers exactly when they need you, resulting in the most efficient and cost-effective form of marketing ever.
- Most businesses have not claimed Google My Business
Many local businesses have not yet realized the importance and impact of digital marketing. This is good news because it means you can get a a head-start over the competition, giving you an advantage where search engine results and your online reputation is concerned.
- Consumers trust online reviews
The online community is a powerful factor in deciding which businesses succeed and which do not. Potential customers trust what the internet has to say about you, and this is an opportunity to make the best impression for future customers. These reviews not only decide how much traffic your website receives, they also strengthen your position and legitimacy in the online marketplace, resulting in Google recognizing you as a prominent and important local business.