SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is a term that is commonly heard and used in the worlds of digital marketing and advertising. If you’re a small local business owner, however, you may never heard of SEO, local or otherwise. Search Engine Optimization is essentially optimizing your website and strategy to gain higher rankings in organic search engine results. For example you may want to rank for Toronto SEO.
Local SEO, however, is more focused on targeting an audience geographically close to your business, instead of ranking globally in search results. This is what makes SEO and local SEO different. Local SEO is merely another branch of the larger SEO tree.
Recognizing the difference between SEO and local SEO will ultimately help your business more easily reach qualified leads. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn and utilize generalized SEO as well. Rather, understanding the basics of SEO is an excellent start for any small business owner seeking to learn more about targeting their community. You don’t need to become an SEO expert, but you’ll have to extend your SEO efforts beyond general SEO to reach your ideal market as a local business owner.
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO is essentially SEO for location-based searches. The results that appear in local search results typically answer a “near me” question, meaning that a searcher is searching for something in a specific location or the search engine has understood there are geographic constraints to the search. Because of this, a physical address or location is a prerequisite for a business to show up on local search results so visitors can click on your listing.
Before you even consider starting a local SEO campaign, you have to ensure that your business’ address is updated in your Google My Business listing and other online directories. When submitting your business information, ensure that your business name, address, and phone number information is accurate and consistent across all local listings and online directories. Google will likely avoid listing your business if there are any discrepancies.
Your business will not rank when a local search is conducted until your business has a geographical location listed online. Without this, your business won’t even show up when someone nearby conducts a “Near Me” search. Avoid Google’s penalties and make sure your information is consistent and accurate. Local SEO will only be successful if your business populates on Google Maps and other online location-based directories when searched for.
Local SEO utilizes a combination of keyword research, backlinks, and link building. Before a local SEO company gets started with your SEO services, they will complete a SEO audit of your online presence and a website audit (if applicable). This allows an SEO professional to build a custom SEO plan in order to help you rank and get more traffic. If you’d like to learn more about the specific processes that professionals conduct when working on your local SEO campaign, read more here.
The Coveted Local 3-Pack
As a small business trying to generate more customers or more traffic into your brick-and-mortar store, visibility matters.
Google’s Search Engine Results Pages (commonly referred to as SERP) first reacted to local searches by showing the seven most popular businesses related to that search. This was shown in a snippet called the local 7-pack, featuring the addresses, phone numbers and map links to each of those businesses.
With the evolution of mobile devices and the rise in smartphone browsing, Google decided to change this 7-pack to fit a mobile screen. The result was today’s local 3-pack, an evolution designed for a better user experience.
Today, if you were to search for “plumbers Toronto”, you will see the local 3-pack appear in a snippet with a map squarely at the top of the first page. This snippet will include the contact information for three different businesses that relate to your search and their Google Maps results populated within the map.
According to a study by Moz, 44% of people who performed a local search clicked on a local 3-pack listing, while only 8% chose to load more results. Clearly a spot in the local 3-pack is highly coveted for a reason.
Getting one of those 3 spots in a local 3-pack for your target keyword could drive tons of traffic and potential revenue in your direction. Humans as a species love instant gratification and prefer answers to their questions instantly.
When someone in your local community searches for your industry in your neighborhood, you want your business to rank in the 3-pack, or at least on the first page of Google results, every time. With the rise in mobile browsing and shopping, the likelihood of someone clicking a top-ranking link is even higher.
With these recent changes in search habits, it’s essential to optimize your online presence to fit your audience’s search behaviors.
Local SEO Matters
Working with a consultant with local SEO expertise is crucial, especially if you have a business with a brick-and-mortar store or provide a service in a specific service area. Local SEO drives traffic to your physical location by making your business information visible to searchers in your local area.
According to a Forbes study, 95% of smartphone users have used their device to perform mobile searches for local businesses. 61% of these users called the business and 59% visited following their search. 78% of location-based mobile searches result in an offline purchase. Clearly, leads from location-based searches are a major source of potential customers and those numbers will only keep growing.
Since these leads are from people who are specifically searching for products or services your business offers, it is safe to assume that these are qualified leads that will definitely have a higher conversion rate. This is why focusing on ranking factors that allow local customers to find your business on results pages is vital, especially for a small business.
What Can A Local SEO Consultant Do For Your Small Business?
As a small business owner, optimizing your business’ local SEO can pay off in dividends. There are many benefits to utilizing local SEO. Here we list only a few:
Local SEO helps potential customers find your business.
Awareness and visibility are just some many benefits to using local SEO to market your business. Many local searches are completed by non-locals who are searching for a business like yours in an area they are planning to visit. By utilizing local SEO correctly, your business can capture that audience and even rank above your competitors.
Local SEO gives potential customers the information they want and when they want it.
If your coffee shop has free Wi-Fi or is pet-friendly, including that information as part of your local SEO will attract customers who are looking for those things. Even if your business does not have a website, local SEO helps your business stand out when potential customers are searching for key information. With the prevalence of online listings and Google My Business, you don’t even need a website to rank. Including key information in your local SEO strategy that targets specific needs can ultimately help drive more traffic through online leads.
Local SEO allows for potential customers to make decisions easily, quickly, and in your favor.
As mentioned earlier, 61% of people who performed a local search eventually called the business. This then provides businesses with qualified leads that they hopefully can convert. Having optimized listings that make searching more convenient for your audience is always advantageous. When you make it easier for your potential customers to take action by providing map directions or including a menu online, you are encouraging them to make a purchase.
Studies show a significantly high percentage of local searches that are performed on mobile devices convert into sales. The reason for this is that local SEO presents your business to the customer at the exact moment they search for a product or service. With local SEO, customers are much more likely to purchase or at least inquire for more information after finding your business from their local search efforts.
Local SEO firms can help reduce or eliminate searchers who aren’t likely to contact your business. This is because search engines want to provide relevant local results based on proximity and intent. If you’re searching for a dog walking company in Dallas, you won’t find dog walking companies in Philadelphia. Local search makes it easier for someone using a search engine to find the results they want.
At the end of the day, local SEO may just be what you need if you want to make your local business more visible and competitive in the online market. Introducing a local SEO consultant into your marketing team will not only increase your organic search engine rankings, but will also increase your local visibility and customer base. Utilizing local SEO services is a key step in developing your small business into a well-known and sustainable local brand.