One of the most important strategies a small business has in its marketing toolkit is local search engine optimization — or local SEO.
Local SEO is what helps your business get found when people pick up their smartphone (63% of the time) to search for products or services “near me” or “nearby” or “open now.” It’s distinct from traditional SEO but also has a lot in common; it’s still for search results, but only local results.
Local search makes up nearly half (46%) of all Google search traffic. That number’s been growing for years, and the way the pandemic has changed our shopping habits, there’s no sign that local search is losing steam. On the contrary, it’s becoming more important all the time.
This post is an introduction to local search engine optimization and why it’s so important for local neighborhood and service area businesses to make it part of their game plan.
In short, local SEO is one of your greatest marketing advantages. It can help your business not only reach more potential customers, but find more of the qualified customers who are looking for you too.
Why Local SEO is Important
Here are seven of the most important reasons your small business should be investing in local SEO:
1. It’s Accessible
Among the more practical benefits of local SEO is that it’s easier to implement than many other types of marketing — and more accessible and affordable. You can implement most local SEO for free without it overwhelming your time; you can focus on running your business.
2. It’s for Locals Only
You won’t be competing against big online-only retailers, who don’t get counted. Google’s local search algorithm considers proximity (physical nearness to the searcher) one of the three most important ranking factors. (Proximity is irrelevant in traditional SEO, one reason that local SEO requires different strategies.)
Proximity is among the most important reasons to maintain a free Google Business Profile. The process of claiming your profile requires you to verify your business exists with a mailed postcard, a video of your location, or other means. Your profile is then the first place Google looks for your address to display on search engine results pages (SERP).
3. Less Direct Competition Too
Like they say, showing up is half the battle. A recent study reported that less than half (44%) of eligible small businesses have claimed a Google Business Profile — the most critical part of a local SEO strategy. Nearly two-thirds haven’t claimed a Yelp listing, reviews being the second most critical.
So just by starting with local SEO, you’re already ahead by half. Continuing to build out your local online presence can give you a clear and long-term competitive advantage.
4. More Engagement and Sales
Most people search for local products and services on mobile devices. A good local SEO strategy is effective in reaching mobile users, opening great opportunities for small- and medium-sized businesses to turn mobile searches into sales. Local SEO increases foot traffic as well as website traffic.
According to various studies:
- 3 out of 5 American adults search for local products and services on tablets and smartphones.
- Half of those doing a local search on their phone went to a store within one day; one-third if they were on a tablet or desktop.
- 78 percent of mobile local searches result in purchases made in-store.
- Half of smartphone users conducting local searches are looking for things like a local business address; 71 percent said they search to confirm that a business actually exists before wasting a trip there.
5. SEO Impacts the Buying Cycle
Those bullet points lead to this point: Real-time research is becoming more important. People do their research at home or work, find what they want, then head out the door.
According to recent research from Google, global searches for:
- “open now near me” have grown more than 200% year over year
- “open 24 hours near me” — 80%
- “shop near me open now” — 40%
A Google Business Profile is the primary source for the local search algorithm to get this information. Other search engines may too, but with Google holding 92 percent of the global search market, updating your GBP address and hours is critical for reaching these searchers.
6. SEO Builds Trust and Credibility
Local SEO can help you establish a local following. Engaging with your local audience — and community — can earn your website backlinks from other local businesses, strengthening your local standing in both real life and online.
A local SEO strategy builds trust and credibility with both search engines and searching humans. In machine terms, it creates a consistent, useful, enjoyable user experience. In human-speak, it helps people find what they need quickly and easily, so they learn they can rely on you to provide it.
7. SEO Provides a Lasting Foundation
Because it’s a process of trust-building, a local or traditional SEO strategy can take time to gain traction and show results. But when it does, you have a strong relationship that’s there for you in good times and bad.
Search engine optimization is a long-term relationship. It’s a foundation that will always be there — and always necessary. The Covid-19 pandemic has devastated local businesses but at the same time highlighted just how much we need them, especially in times of crisis.
The local search algorithm is always improving, connecting searchers with more relevant results. Local search is always adapting to new technologies and consumer habits — like mobile, click-to-call, and voice search.
Local SEO will always be relevant, its benefits enduring. It’s a strategy your business can deploy easily to survive bad times — and prosper all the more in good times.
Read the whole series introducing local SEO to small business owners:
- 7 Reasons Why Local SEO is Important for Your Small Business (this post)
- How to Do Local SEO: The 4 Building Blocks of Success
- How to Optimize Google Business Profile to Engage More Customers
- How to Boost Local SEO with Local Blog Content
- It’s Your Reputation: How to Manage Reviews (coming soon)
- Citations: Should You Get Listed in Online Directories? (coming soon)
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