What is Local SEO?

Nicole Grodesky
By Nicole Grodesky

If you have a brick and mortar business and you want customers to find you online, you need to become familiar with local SEO. As local SEO becomes one of the major rankings factors for Google, your local presence should be a main focus. The top major focus for the next year for any business should be local and mobile. Local SEO is an essential component to being found by customers in your area searching for your business products or services.

Having a strong local SEO campaign translates into foot traffic in your stores and phone calls to your business. If you’re not familiar with local SEO but want to grow your online presence, here’s a brief overview and why it is vital to the success of your business.

SEO – The Basics

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is marketing strategy that focuses on growing your company’s visibility in organic (meaning not paid) search engine results. Companies will maximize their web content for SEO to improve their search engine rankings, drive traffic to their site and increase awareness. Among the  many SEO strategies are using keywords on your pages and the way other sites link to your site on the web.

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SEO includes making your site more user-friendly for the people who visit it as well. Companies and brands need SEO because the majority of web traffic comes from web searches. This is true no matter what your site provides. Having good SEO is important because people are searching for what your company offers. It brings targeted traffic to your business. If you have good SEO, your company will be one of the first they see in their search results, which could lead to more business for you.

On the other hand, if a search engine isn’t able to find your site, you will miss out on these opportunities. Search engine traffic can make or break a company’s success.

What Is Local SEO And Why Does My Business Need It?

Local SEO has a lot of similarities with organic SEO, but it is actually quite different. Local SEO takes organic SEO a step further and helps to promote your business and services to local customers, at the exact time that these people are searching for a local business.

Every day, millions of people do a local search to find the best local business in their area for whatever it is they need. If you do a search, local SEO will provide results that are relevant to you based on your current location. For instance if you search “best happy hour” on your laptop or phone right now, Google will provide you with results that are in your immediate area.

Related: Local SEO Best Practices for Small Businesses

To get your business to pop up in these types of scenarios, you will need to implement local SEO strategies. These will get your site ranked on search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo! and listed in business directories like Yelp, Foursquare and more. Other sources, like online reviews and localized content on your website will also factor into your ranking.

In the past few years, local SEO has become more prominent because of the rise of smartphone usage and better connectivity to the web while people are on the go. In fact, mobile digital media time in the U.S. is now higher than any other source at 51 percent compared to 42 percent of digital media time coming from desktops. This means more people are relying more heavily on their smartphones to find the information they need. And using a smartphone increases the likelihood that they are looking for something while they are on the move.

 

A study showed that in 2011, over 40% of mobile searches have local intent. In 2013, Fresh Egg found that four out of five people use smartphones to look up local information. And two out of every three people make a decision based on their search, while one in three made a purchase.

Today, Google says one in every three mobile searches in the U.S. is a local search, and 87 percent of people use their phone when they are out and about. According to Google, 95 percent of mobile users search for local information with their phones with the primary goal of calling or visiting a business. Since Google and other search engines want to give their users the most relevant information, local SEO will continue to grow in importance.

According to information gathered by BrightLocal, more and more people are turning to the internet to find information about local businesses, whether via their mobile phones, laptops or desktop computers. Here are some statistics:

  • 96% of PC owners conduct local searches
  • 46% of all Google searches are local
  • 64% of local customers use search engines and directories as their main way to find local business
  • 50% of local mobile searchers look for business information (like a company’s address or phone number)
  • A whopping 78% of local mobile searches result in an offline purchase

Since local SEO covers both PC and mobile internet access, businesses will never miss out on a potential customer.

Most people use local search to find a specific business or a product or service. Some are looking for a specific business name, but many won’t know the name when they begin their search. Local businesses can use local SEO strategies to to put your business in the best position to be found by these people making the search and promote what you have to offer them. Whether they are searching specifically for your business or what your business offers, good local SEO will put your business at the top of their results while giving them relevant information on what they are looking for.

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Put Your Business in Online Directories

When a person makes a local search, online directories will typically dominate the first page of their search results. These include sites like Yelp, Foursquare and more. Online directories are great because they will display your business’ name, address, phone number and additional information like a menu for a restaurant or description of services. Most people will turn to the review section to see what other people think of your business, so as long as people are having a positive experience, the reviews should bring more customers to your door. A study from BrightLocal found that 88 percent of local consumers trust online business reviews.

Related: SEO Assessment Guide – How to Assess Your SEO Strategy

These online reviews act as your online word of mouth. Having a good reputation online can be vital to the success of your business. If your business is new, ask customers who have had a good experience to write your a review online. If they are pleased with your service, chances are they will be happy to do so, especially if you are in their local area.

Most Local SEO is FREE

Most online business directories are completely free, including Google My Business and Bing Places for Business. You need your business to be listed in these directories, especially since it brings free promotion to your business. The nature of traditional SEO also means you get the best return on your investment.

There is little to no wasted exposure with local SEO. Those searching for on the web reach your business when they need you. Traditional advertising–newspapers, radio, direct mail, etc.– is completely at random chance and will generally not reach your potential customers at the very moment they are thinking about the product you offer. If traditional media used local SEO, it would be like you somehow placed a pamphlet in their hand the second they are thinking about or need what your business provides.

Local SEO is a very targeted online marketing approach. (It’s not like dropping off brochures on front-porch steps or paying for an ad in a local newspaper that may or may not be seen by a potential customer that is actually interested in your products or services.) Local SEO allows you to position your business on search engines and other digital marketing platforms so you’re seen by potential customers — on their terms.

When people want this kind of immediacy, they typically turn to their phones. Plus, only 20 percent of adults today are getting their news from print newspapers. This makes local SEO incredibly efficient, and since it is mostly free, cost effective.

Yet despite that, according to Local Marketing Institute, only 44 percent of businesses have claimed their Google My Business local listing. This is a great free resource that is available to almost any business. Having your business on the list can help you show up higher in the local search results on Google. This can help you get a leg up on your competition since many other businesses haven’t caught on to online marketing or local SEO yet.While the local SEO trends are strong right now, there is reason to believe they aren’t going to change in the future as people are becoming more and more dependent on technology. Taking advantage of local SEO strategies can position your business to get more attention from potential customers who are specifically looking for what you provide, not just randomly browsing the web. Local SEO can be valuable to any business, so get yours set up before your competition catches on.

 

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Nicole is a Senior SEO Strategist with experience in technical SEO, SEO keyword strategy, content strategy, and Local SEO. She has experience with enterprise level Local SEO initiatives that manages multiple business locations up to over 300 stores nationwide. Her Local SEO expertise is in managing Google My Business accounts and building local citations to create an authoritative local presence for business owners.