The Incredible Value of Local SEO for Small Business
Local businesses face unique marketing challenges. Despite targeting a small area’s worth of customers, many local companies still struggle to reach all the customers available in their market. They get overly reliant on referral programs and fail to establish any inbound marketing channels.
This is where SEO can transform customer acquisition for a local business. Specifically, local SEO.
With local SEO, businesses can harness the power of organic search to drive more in-person leads to their storefront or get more customers calling for their services.
72% of consumers that perform a local search end up visiting the store when it’s within 5 miles of their home. So if you’re not showing up on page 1, you’re missing out on valuable traffic to your business.
Fine tuning your small business SEO campaign requires a fair bit of work, depending on your location and industry, but the results can be long lasting. Local SEO rankings can stick you on page 1 for long periods of time, especially if you don’t have a ton of local competition.
What is Local SEO
Local SEO is the process of ranking a website in Google for terms within a local search market. These terms usually include a combination of “service name” + “city name,” like “plumbers in Dallas” or “sporting good stores in Cape Canaveral.”
Local SEO pertains to any business that operates from a set location or delivers services within a specific geographic area. Simply put, if you target customers within a specific area you should be running a local SEO campaign.
What local searches lack in search volume, they gain in audience targeting. You’re reaching a smaller pool, but one that’s very hyper targeted. Your potential customers are much more likely to click on your website since it closely aligns with their objective.
A search that has a local intent means that customers are looking to shop within the vicinity of their location. In many cases these searches require an expedited delivery of services. When customers are in need of a solution fast and can’t waste any time, local businesses who successfully market themselves are at a distinct advantage. Their website will appear at the top of search results, meaning that customers will contact them first for a solution.
Take the term “emergency plumbing” as an example. Customers who type this keyword into Google demand an immediate response. There’s no time to research several companies or sift through multiple search results pages hunting for an answer.
Local businesses can leverage this type of scarcity in their local SEO campaigns. By targeting and ranking for keywords that have immediate value, businesses can capitalize on these most time-sensitive needs. Eventually, these businesses will cultivate reputations as being go-to resources in their geographic area for emergency fulfillment services. It can all be possible just by ranking for a few urgent localized terms.
SEO vs. Local SEO
Search engine optimization doesn’t change a lot between a traditional SEO campaign and a local SEO campaign. The primary difference is audience targeting.
Traditional SEO aims to boost search visibility across a broader scale, usually nationally or globally. A local SEO campaign also wants to boost search visibility, but within a much smaller geographic area.
Local SEO campaigns place an enormous emphasis on Google Maps rankings since these appear above the standard organic results. Organic search results are still important for local campaigns, but they are the chief concern for most local SEO strategists.
Ranking a business in the coveted Google Map Pack is a big indicator of a brand’s local success. The “map pack” consists of the first 3 Google Map listing results that appear in search, making it a hot commodity.
Local maps SEO requires a well-optimized Google My Business profile in addition to a well-optimized website.
Most traditional and local SEO campaigns require link building, but local campaigns focus more on locally targeted links like business citations. Building citations on search engines such as Google and Facebook, as well as in relevant online directories such as TripAdvisor or Yelp, can increase your company’s online exposure exponentially.
These citation links display important information like name, address, phone number, and services provided by the company. For local SEO, these are signals that help Google determine the legitimacy of the brand within its local market.
Small Business SEO
There’s often a misconception that small businesses can’t compete with bigger budget brands. While yes, it’s more difficult for small companies to compete on an international scale, it’s reasonable to think a small business can take on big names in a local setting.
Google rewards brands that have upstanding reputations and have attained positive reviews within their local communities. Brands that display their years of experience on their website are demonstrating a sense of history and loyalty to community members that can’t be matched by most big name brands.
Just because a larger brand swoops into the area, it doesn’t mean the small business will get deprived of rankings. If they can exhibit these strong local trust signals, Google will favor them over the big brands.
Successful Local SEO campaigns know how to leverage reputation, regardless of business size. This includes collecting, and responding to, as many positive reviews as you can across online platforms (especially on a Google Maps listing). Businesses should also list their founding date on their Google My Business profile so they can get the profile to display their total years in business. It adds a nice reputational touch to your listing when people see “10+ years in business.”
Budget wise, small business SEO campaigns typically cost less than a national or enterprise level campaign. This isn’t because these small business campaigns are in any way cutting corners, it’s because it usually requires a smaller budget to rank for local terms. Plus there’s usually a smaller quantity of terms to rank for overall.
This can be industry dependent though. Local law firms or certain types of emergency service providers might pursue keywords that demand a more complex local SEO strategy to rank successfully.
Benefits of Local SEO
The chief benefit of running a local SEO campaign is that you can establish a successful inbound marketing channel without a ton of leg work. There is a smaller customer base to reach compared to national or international brands, which means you can narrow down your marketing efforts without a bloated budget.
Local SEO helps you maintain a regular pipeline of leads without needing to rely solely on referrals and word of mouth. You can let your website, business citations, and social media properties provide a digital storefront for your business that helps get people in the door.
Here are some additional local SEO benefits:
Evergreen Content Creation
Traditional SEO and local SEO both will utilize evergreen content to rank for valuable keywords and cement their digital footprint.
Evergreen content is content for all seasons. It could be a post relaying “tips for cleaning your bathroom,” or “how to hire a roofing contractor.” This type of content can be referenced at any point in time, so it’s always being searched for.
Local businesses can create successful evergreen content that ties into their specific location, like “how to hire a roofing contractor in Dallas,” which will get them ranking in their home market and driving more qualified traffic.
Increased Website Traffic
The more content you have, the more pages you could rank in Google search. More pages ranking equals more website traffic. It also means there’s a higher likelihood that your content gets shared by users.
The challenge lies in determining what types of website content you need to create. Most local businesses want to create pages that target specific areas around them. If you are a roofer who targets multiple towns within a 50 mile radius, you’ll need to create content targeting each of those localities.
Local pages are usually structured with the name of the service and the name of the location in the page title. This is how you tell Google what your page is about and who should be seeing it.
If your business targets a number of localities across a county or state, you’ll need to consider this when building out your site structure. A business that serves the entire state of Arizona will likely need to build separate county pages which then link down to the individual city pages within each county.
This silo structure is a useful tactic for building traffic within a number of target areas. By linking down from state to county to city, you are making it easy for users to see what territories your business covers, while also helping the Googlebot better crawl your site.
If you have multiple GMBs, you can reference these addresses on each individual city page. You should make sure that each GMB links out to the corresponding city page as well.
With more website traffic comes more leads. You can increase the amount of qualified leads to your website simply by capturing a larger local market share of the search traffic. From there, you need to have contact points readily available to help the visitor become a qualified lead.
On-page elements like sign up forms, clickable phone numbers and email addresses are essential components to encourage more traffic to enter your sales funnel. Local SEO should always be thought of in the same context as lead generation.
Increased Conversion Rate
Creating an organic strategy is about more than just ranking for keywords. It’s also about turning your visitors into paid customers. A good local SEO strategy will get you more traffic, but it will also have a conversion optimization plan in mind.
Optimizing your webpages for CRO means keeping your calls to action clear, and placing them above the fold. It’s especially critical that CTAs are visible on mobile devices since Google uses a mobile-first indexing for all webpages.
A better user experience (UX) will earn you a higher conversion rate. This ultimately helps you maintain the top rankings and receive a steadier flow of customers.
Increased Exposure Using Social Media Marketing
Gaining more exposure in local searches doesn’t just come from optimizing a website. A successful local SEO strategy should also include Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media channels that are appropriate for the product or service.
Make sure your business is actively sharing content in local Facebook groups within your service area. Comment, like and share other local content to demonstrate an authentic interest in your community.
A local flower shop should prioritize a visual platform like Instagram to share their creations with potential customers. If they build a large enough following, this could open the door for influencer marketing as well.
Many small businesses are intimidated by the thought of making videos. They either think it’s too expensive or they just don’t want to be seen on camera. Luckily, there are solutions to both of these concerns.
You can even make slideshow videos that include images of your products or services, while exhibiting a professional commercial feel. If you care to go next level with it, you can hire a freelance animator to create fun, engaging cartoon-like videos that will get widely shared across social media platforms in your location.
One of the chief benefits of local marketing is that you can literally have your Facebook friends in the area share your content.
Increased Exposure in Local Searches
Appearing in local searches is different from appearing in national searches. In local searches you have the map pack as well as aggregator sites like Yelp, Trip Advisor, or UpCity. Each of these aggregators is an additional placement for your brand. That’s why it’s so important to make sure your accounts are optimized across the board.
If you’re unsure which aggregator site to focus on, just perform a Google search for your top keyword. If you see Yelp ranking near the top, that’s a profile spot you want to focus on. If Trip Advisor is there, focus on it. You should prioritize review generation on each of these platforms that are ranking for your target terms, since it’s basically a free ranking spot for your brand.
Let’s say you’re ranking atop the map pack while your website is ranking atop the organic results, AND your brand is featured in the Yelp result highlighting “top plumbers in your area.” That’s 3 potential search placements on the first page of Google! Talk about exposure.
Increase Customer Reach
Local SEO will help you reach many more customers than word of mouth ever could, but it can also help you cultivate a much larger digital presence. One that transcends your local community.
This is especially important for local stores who are looking to expand into e-commerce. If you can create content that is evergreen and targets many different search intents, you are well on your way to becoming a thought leader in your space.
Of course the first priority is to rank in your local market, but a secondary effect of quality content marketing is the ability to reach many more potential customers across the internet. Even if these customers don’t live down the street, the fact that they are visiting your website and consuming your content will bode well for you as a brand.
Google prioritizes businesses that display positive metrics in the areas of expertise, authority, and trust. This is true for local businesses as well. If you can show how valuable you are to your local consumer base as well as your value from a broader content creation standpoint, the results will be massive.
Flexible Marketing Strategy
Local SEO is malleable. It can be adapted to function alongside other marketing efforts like paid ads or social media marketing.
In fact, we mentioned the possibility of ranking your site in 3 spots on Google’s page 1, but you could actually snag a fourth spot if you’re running Google Ads in the background.
A/B testing these various marketing strategies helps businesses achieve synergy, which is the positive outcome of multiple channels working in cohesion.
Easier to Sell Your Business
One of the least talked about benefits of local SEO is the ability to increase your value should you decide to sell. If you decide someday to sell your business, you will have created a nice variety of digital assets that will increase the value of your company.
A website that’s well-positioned for search rankings is a hot commodity. These domains can go for several thousands of dollars on domain exchanges, especially if the brand has a solid track record and positive reviews on their various digital properties.
If one day you decide to close up shop, you can definitely sell a successful aged domain for a pretty penny.
Should I Invest in Local SEO?
Any business that targets clients within a specific locality, whether it’s city wide, county wide, or state wide, should consider investing in local SEO.
Unfortunately, if you decide to simply optimize your Google My Business profile and perform some basic on-page opts, you probably won’t see the full results that are possible.
Local SEO requires more than just setting and forgetting, but it’s usually less resource intensive than running a national or global campaign.
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