Not everyone’s after becoming the next global corporation – or at least, not yet. If your current goal is to seize a large amount of the market in your local area, there are a few key things to understand about local SEO before you proceed.
The Benefits of Local SEO
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the process of increasing your website and business’s visibility whenever search terms are entered, for example “where to buy dog collars.” Local SEO is an even more focused version of this, especially used by brick-and-mortar stores that specialize in physical goods or services. Think “where to buy dog collars in Raleigh, North Carolina.”
SEO (both local and global) is a complex and ever-evolving web of strategies that improve your chances of being favored by Google’s algorithms. Thankfully, one positive is that just by attempting to get a handle on it, you’re surpassing some of your competitors – 56% of businesses have not even bothered to claim their Google My Business listings, one of the simplest steps to take for local SEO. Now compare that statistic with the fact that 97% of people using online searches are looking for local businesses and you start to realize just how potent it is for a business to incorporate a local SEO strategy.
Local SEO Powerhouse: Google My Business
We mentioned Google My Business earlier. Consider this the simplest, yet most powerful tool a business could use for their local SEO strategy.
For most businesses, there’s only two ways to be the first result when a customer types in a query for say, “best dog collars in Raleigh North Carolina.” Either you can reach the #1 result through a powerful SEO strategy making use of guest posts, social media content, steady content generation and more – or you pay to be one of the first results via PPC (Pay Per Click) Google Ads.
But when you’re entering the local SEO game, there’s a third option that can get just as much visibility in Google’s search results for free – Google My Business.
Google My Business is the listing that shows your business, your business address & map, customer reviews, hours, and more. All this information is available at a glance, and it can be extremely potent if you manage to be one of the first few results that pops up when someone’s looking for a business in your niche.
This simple, free service is not something you want to sleep on, as it’s seeing increasingly more usage. During the pandemic, between January 2020 and July 2020 there was a 61% increase in calls made through Google My Business.
Via Google’s own guidelines, ranking for local SEO is determined by “relevance, distance, and prominence.” One way to ensure your business is ranked as highly as it should is to claim your Google My Business page, and enter complete data for your business.
Social Proof & Local SEO
Another tenant of local SEO is collecting customer reviews, something that GMB also facilitates, but is still important regardless of where and how your business is represented online.
Reviews are instant social proof, with their quantity and quality showing potential customers how you stack up compared to competitors in your area. In some cases, these reviews even influence how visible your business is on platforms such as Facebook or Google My Business.
You want to not only have a strategy to collect reviews (simply reminding customers to leave one can often be enough), but you also want to respond to these reviews in turn.
Responding to reviews shows potential customers that you’re 1. Responsive and attentive to your clients and 2. Have real people running the business.
Even negative or fraudulent reviews could potentially be turned to your advantage if you employ a smart strategy when responding to them.
One more tip for improving your Local SEO rankings is to get used to the idea of reaching out to local businesses to get backlinks and shoutouts.
Most local business owners run smaller operations, which results in them being more amenable and responsive to queries. Reach out to businesses in your area and see if you can’t offer some sort of partnership or cross promotion, anything that would be mutually beneficial for both companies.
NOTE: While temporary promotions could be great for short-term customers, make sure to secure a permanent backlink or two so you can continue getting a boost in Google’s SEO rankings over time.
Small Businesses and Local SEO
Local SEO sometimes gets called “easier” than general SEO, and some in ways it is – because your competitors are only the businesses physically located in your area. With specialized tools such as GMB and tweaked local strategies, it’s relatively easy to begin building your digital footprint.
However, that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t have a hard time trying to get visibility and reviews when a few establish competitors are absorbing most of the business through their rankings and word-of-the-mouth.
Whether you’re targeting a Local SEO strategy or a global one, you’ll need either an effective plan or an effective team to ensure that you’re working as efficiently as possible as you set the groundwork to secure your spot in your niche.