Go to Google and do a quick search for ‘best locksmith’ or ‘car mechanic’ and you’ll notice the first three results are local, located in Google’s Snack Pack (the boxed-in area that has local business listings). The traffic generated by the Snack Pack is substantially higher than outside of it. In short, this is why local SEO is important – it increases your visibility to people in the area.
You may have noticed that your query didn’t include any location-based search words, and your top results were still local businesses. Adding ‘near me’ or ‘in town/city’ (which are the two most common phrases people use when searching locally) makes the rest of the organic results (those outside of the Snack Pack) even more localized.
Local SEO refers to optimization that focuses on improving visibility and driving traffic in local search results, both when Google automatically understands that the search needs to be geographically constrained (such as when you typed ‘best locksmith’) or when a locational constraint is manually added (such as ‘best locksmith near me/in city, etc.). These are the two things your optimization should be targeting.
Exact numbers are hard to come by, but most studies find that a bit less than half of all searches end up being local searches, and for years there has been an upward trend in queries including words like near me/tonight. And yes, time constraints are included in local searches, as Google interprets it as if someone is searching for a local business. Which is probably true. Basically, you can’t have a strong business profile without working on your local SEO.
If we sum up the goal of any local marketing campaign as increasing the visibility of a business (we understand it’s much more complicated than that, but for our purposes, this simple definition will do), local SEO has several distinct advantages over other types of marketing.
For one, optimization is cheap compared to other marketing strategies and has long-lasting effects, requiring only simple tweaks and updates over time. The other advantage is that most people who search for local business are ready to buy. So, you’re not only driving traffic to your website but gaining actual customers, which is generally a much more complex process.
Finally, you are not competing with large businesses (unless they are also local). Normally, it’s extremely hard, if not impossible, to compete for visibility with large business chains when you are running a small or medium business – it often comes down to providing a unique service and word-of-mouth. But, local SEO automatically weeds them out and allows you to compete on fair terms only with the establishments in the vicinity.
If you are familiar with SEO strategies in general, local SEO will come as no big surprise. Even if you are not, the steps you can take are simpler than it might seem. Here are the 3 primary steps to a successful local SEO campaign.
Make sure that your website is mobile-friendly. Google values user experience, so your ratings will drop if your website does not accomplish this. Many things factor into the user experience of your website, but the first and foremost is that it is mobile-friendly. Besides being important to rankings, how many people are actually going to engage with your website if they can’t open it properly on their phone?
The other thing is providing accurate information. There is something Google calls E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness). If you are interested, we have an in-depth guide on what it is and how it affects search rankings, but for our current purposes, we only need to focus on the T. In plain terms, Trustworthiness is Google’s attempt to prevent users from being scammed.
You need to show that you are who you say you are and do what you say you do. In its basic form, this means that all of your information should be accurate and up to date (so the name, address, contact number, and website of your business should be the same across all platforms). These are the basics and quite easy to accomplish, and the T leads us to our next step for local SEO.
This step is also simple. List your business in any and all directories you believe are relevant, but make sure that your information is accurate and consistent across all platforms. This will help Google (and other search engines for that matter) trust you and allow you to rank in local SERPs.
The first step is paramount – start by making a Google My Business account. This allows you to directly feed information to Google Search and Google Maps and gives you a shot at being listed in the Snack Pack we mentioned earlier and other organic results. Making an account is free and self-explanatory – simply follow the steps on the website.
Similarly, claim your Apple Maps listings here. Most people use Google Maps, but Apple’s share of the market is not insignificant. Then, do the same with Bing Places. It’s Bing’s equivalent to Google My Business. While much less important, it’s free and only takes a few minutes, so there’s no reason not to do it. Repeating the same process in Yelp, on Facebook, etc. will (besides directly increasing your visibility) help search engines verify your information and eventually raise your rankings.
This step is also rather self-explanatory. The aim is to have your business be included in Google’s Snack Pack and top local search results, so your keywords should always contain a hyper-local element. Thus, if you are a plumber, make sure the keywords on your website contain ‘plumber in city’, ‘plumbing in city’, etc. Whatever services you offer, add the location – ‘heater repair in city’.
Always include these keywords in your homepage, about page, service descriptions, and contact page. Writing high-quality blogs and other type of content which includes these local keywords is beneficial to your rankings, but with this, we would be getting into standard SEO territory, instead of local SEO, which is not the goal of this blog.
It’s quite obvious why local SEO is important and that it’s all about – unsurprisingly – location, location, location and advertising it properly. Besides improving your website and creating topical content, all of the steps are rather intuitive if you know where to go and don’t require much effort. Don’t miss out on potential customers and grow your business by investing a bit of time to improve your local SEO.
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