Why Local SEO Is Important

Nicole Grodesky
By Nicole Grodesky

No digital marketing strategy would be complete without the effective implementation of a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. There are two primary methods of SEO strategy: global and local. For most businesses, local SEO provides a bigger bump in their bottom line. Local SEO helps align all the factors needed for consumers to make a purchase: time, convenience, and motivation. It puts your business right in front of customers’ eyes in the moment they are in the market for your product or service.

Understanding the various facets of SEO can help business owners make their marketing dollars go further and convert more leads.

Regular SEO vs. Local SEO

As the name suggests, local SEO is responsive to the current location of the user. Search results on sites such as Google or Bing are adjusted accordingly. This is especially important for businesses that have a geographical region they can service or supply, such as a local bank or restaurant. Though catering to a smaller group, those within the pool have a significantly higher likelihood to follow through with the purchase. In fact, 18% of local mobile searches result in a sale. You’ve probably experienced this yourself while on a road trip or while in a new city: your search results are specific to where you are. If you look up a gas station or the nearest restaurant while on a road trip, the results will be tailored to where you are, use your GPS location as a benchmark.

For smaller businesses, it is usually less important to rank in national SEO results. It does not help a local grocery store if someone in a different state sees their website. Odds are that person won’t end up spending money in their store anyways. But if someone is in the area on the prowl to find a grocery store, whoever they see come up in the coveted top slot of their search results is a high predictor of where that customer will end up.

Related: What is Local SEO?

National (or even global) SEO corresponds with search result rankings on search engines overall, regardless of location. It is not without its place in the business world. Regular SEO can be important for companies who operate on an international scale, companies for which the product or service is not dependent on proximity to the customer (such as a technology company), or companies whose business model is reliant on getting wide customer reach. For example, a media company would probably focus on global SEO, as they want their content to be read by as many people as possible to improve their market viability.

Three fundamental things determine SEO rankings: backlinks, content, and computer algorithms that determine how the results are ranked. While there is overlap, there are also differences between how global and local ranking is determined. For local SEO, the first order of business is to list your business in My Business Location with Google. Fill this information out as thoroughly as possible.  Including links within your content also gives your business clout with the algorithms, so include links that are relevant to your content and prospective readers.

Additionally, you want to input your business into local internet directories. For this, it is essential that the name, address, and phone number (also known as NAP) are consistent across various platforms. The purpose of this is twofold: firstly, you want people to be able to access the business information no matter which directory they use. Secondly, and perhaps even more importantly, the more occurrences there are of a consistent NAP, the more legitimate your business will seem to the computational algorithms that determine search result page listings. Surprisingly, this is a common stumbling block for many business’ SEO—even minor inconsistencies can hurt results. You can further up the number of occurrences that your business appears on the web by creating business social media accounts, thereby giving your business a more robust online presence that will register in the ranking algorithms. Additionally, followers and activity on social media accounts also appear to boost search result rankings.

Luckily, this extra effort feeds two birds with one scone: That which improves local SEO will also often improve national SEO. A key difference between the local and global rankings is the keywords they target—global SEO must compete for more generic terms such as “car insurance” or “headline news” as opposed to the more dialed in terms local SEO uses such as “car insurance in Boise.” Global SEO keywords have more competition than its local counterpart, and often requires more manpower and bigger budgets.

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Google’s Shift to Mobile-First Indexing

In March 2018, Google announced that it was changing the rankings algorithm to use websites designed for mobile devices as the primary source for indexing—what Google calls mobile-first indexing. Google announced their intention was to better accommodate users, the majority of which are accessing websites through mobile devices (which has reportedly been the case since 2015). This means that Google will be listing companies with more mobile-friendly sites higher on their search results pages than those primarily designed for desktop use. Google also reported that sites with slow speeds that took too long to load were not user friendly and therefore in order to make their users happy, they give sites with faster load times better rankings.

Related: What is Mobile First? A Look at Mobile Speed, UX and The Impact on Performance

Hyper Localized Marketing

You’ve probably seen it before—a prompt asking to “Turn on location services to allow XXX to determine your location.” When accepted, the application requesting location services creates a small radius around the phone’s GPS location. Search result rankings are based on businesses that fall within this radius. This change has ushered in the era of hyper localized marketing, where the user is only seeing results within close proximity to where they are.

The Rise of Voice Command Searches

Between 2008 and 2016, Google reported that searches using voice command had increased by 3,500%. That’s over 20% of overall searches—an increase that has been sustained year over year and continues to show sizeable growth. As voice recognition software improves, more people are using this search method as opposed to typing something into their browser. When using voice search, users commonly add the tag “near me” (e.g. “Alexa, find a dry cleaner near me.”)  The byproduct of this shift is that rather than just typing relevant keywords, the search may be based around a longer and more conversational question. For example, a user who might otherwise type in “taco shop Los Angeles” might instead say “Suri, where is a taco shop near me?” Some strategies to ensure your business’s page still ranks, even when the user is using voice command:

  • Incorporate (naturally) the verbiage of the likely search questions around your product into your landing pages and website copy
  • Determine what queries would be commonplace for your product and industry, and raise your bids on those search terms
  • Add the most likely questions into the keywords section of any pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns

That way, your business won’t miss out on potential opportunities due to not properly considering the varying approaches users now take to find what they are looking for.

The Role of Geo Modifiers in National and Local Rankings

A geo modifier is adding a location to the keywords; but there is a tradeoff to consider in doing so. This is where local and national SEO do not complement each other. For example, rather than just bidding on generic keywords such as “Thai restaurant” which is likely to have a lot of competition, a business might specify their location to improve local SEO: “Thai Restaurant San Jose.” While the inclusion of San Jose will helps local SEO, it also hurts the national rankings by reducing the likelihood that someone who is not within the region will see the results. For businesses that rely on proximity to their customers, it’s a worthy trade off. Those in the hyper localized area (especially considering the shift from desktop websites to mobile versions being the primary source for indexing) are the critical customers—not someone in New York City who is unlikely to make a purchase anyways. In this example, the local SEO results are much more pertinent to the success of the business.

That holds true for most small businesses, but some businesses benefit more from foregoing geo modifiers and prioritizing their national rank. For example, a web-based company has little to gain by include a geo modifier in their keywords as it could potentially restrict their pool of prospects. Most businesses whose good or services are not dependent on their proximity to customers will likely benefit more from prioritizing national rankings and possibly foregoing geo modifiers in their keyword bidding and PPC campaigns.

The landscape of SEO is constantly moving and changing. Businesses need to be able to identify which SEO strategy best serves their business model. Consider not only the needs of the user, but also how the user might go about finding what they are looking for, and that can change over time. Hiring a SEO expert to evaluate your marketing channels and determine which course of action is best for your business ensures that precious marketing dollars are producing results.

 

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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.