Following the challenges that COVID has thrown at small businesses, there is a real awareness of their plight and a growing desire to buy local. While consumers want to support local businesses, they still demand the convenience of online shopping and research.
So how, as a local business owner, do you make sure that potential customers find your products and services when they search Google?
Local SEO is important as it will help make your business more visible online to your local customers. A Google My Business listing is also vital to appear in local search results, as is optimising your site for your location and service area, using location keywords and creating valuable content.
As a local retailer or service provider, your budget is no doubt tight following the horror show that was 2020. But with such pressure to survive, it is risky to fall behind in the local SEO stakes. It may turn out to be the wisest business investment you make all year.
Please read on to find out how a good SEO expert can make the most of your hard-earned promotional budget and help you to reap the benefits of local SEO.
Let’s back up – what is local SEO exactly?
As a local business, it may seem like an impossible goal to appear alongside big brands in Google searches, but 46% of all Google searches are for local products and services. It’s a huge percentage, so every local business should aim to have a good online presence if they want to succeed by more than offline marketing alone.
A local SEO strategy is designed to make your business appear as high as possible within local search results, with the objective of generating more website clicks, more phone enquiries, and ultimately more sales.
It’s as simple as that really. If you want to compete online with the tens, hundreds or thousands of similar businesses in your area, then it’s essential to understand local SEO.
What is a SERP?
Let’s cut through some jargon and understand exactly what a Google search engine results page (SERP) is comprised of and what local SEO is trying to achieve.
For every Google search, Google will present a SERP based on numerous factors. The results are displayed in several different categories, including:
- Paid search results – paid for advertisements identifiable by the word ‘Ad’ alongside them
- Organic search results – not in any way sponsored, these results appear because Google deems them to be a useful and relevant source of information
- Snippets – when a user phrases their search as a question, then Google often displays a concise answer from a relevant website
- People also ask – in response to a specific question, Google will often display similar questions that are commonly searched
- Local map pack – in response to searches for local goods and services, Google will display three local websites with a Google Maps excerpt showing pinned locations
In local SEO, the ultimate goal is to get a local business into the coveted top three within the local map pack, or at the very least, on the first page once the user clicks ‘View All’. Users rarely venture beyond the first page, so you risk going unnoticed if you don’t make the most of your online presence.
If Google knows the user’s location, it may display a local pack even without a specific “near me” request. So potentially, a fairly generic search could direct customers your way. It really is all to play for.
What is Google My Business?
Have you ever Googled a business by name only to see a result with the line ‘to claim this business…’? It means that the business owner hasn’t taken advantage of the FREE Google My Business (GMB) tool, created specifically to help promote local goods and services.
Considering it is a free tool, it’s really very surprising how many businesses overlook it.
From a consumer’s point of view, it could be construed as unprofessional if a company doesn’t have a listing. Consider that around 1/3 of local searches are made on the go, for example, “restaurants near me”. If your details are incorrect or incomplete, customers will move on to the next search result or simply won’t find you at all.
To appear near the top of Google’s local map pack, it is essential to complete your free GMB listing. To do so, you need to verify your ownership and ensure that your contact details are complete. You can also list other important information about your business, such as opening hours, current offers, and brand information.
Every business person understands the importance of recommendations, and GMB also provides a valuable opportunity to collect Google Reviews.
If you haven’t claimed your GMB page and optimised it, then do so as soon as possible to avoid being overshadowed by your competitors and missing out on valuable enquiries.
How an expert can achieve local SEO success
Completing your Google My Business listing is a good start in becoming more visible online, allowing Google to match your business to local searches including ‘geo qualifiers’, eg. ‘near me’ or ‘in Southampton’. But it really is just entry-level compared to the services that an SEO expert, such as Targeted SEO, can provide.
We have numerous tools and techniques at our disposal to improve your chances of ranking high in Google. Here is a taster of what we can do to enhance your online presence and boost enquiries and sales.
An SEO pro will start by conducting a thorough audit to find out how your business is performing online, by investigating your existing organic search ranking, website traffic and backlinks, ie. links to your site from others. They will also look to optimise your Google My Business listing. Crucially, they will review your company website and other online pages to ensure that they are optimised for search engines.
Search analysis and keywords
In order to rank high in searches, you must find out exactly what customers are searching for. Search engine results are consumer driven based on the keywords that are most commonly searched.
An SEO expert will use various online tools to dig down and discover what the most profitable keywords are. They will then weave them into your overall campaign in various ways including in website content and onsite optimisation.
As consumers, our patience can match that of a toddler when websites are slow and unresponsive. We’ve come to expect results displayed intuitively, attractively, and now!
This is especially true of websites that haven’t been properly optimised for mobile use, which is where 58% of online activity currently takes place.
Google quite agrees and uses mobile-first indexing in its ranking criteria, simply meaning that it looks at mobile rather than desktop versions of websites as a mark of quality. If your website doesn’t make the grade, you will find your company relegated down the list. This is why mobile optimisation is also key to any local SEO strategy.
Rich content creation
Is your website full of engaging content, or is it more of a bare-bones affair? Does it have multiple pages detailing your products or services? Do you update it regularly with news, media, blog posts? If not, it is very hard to rank in Google against content-rich competitor sites.
A good SEO campaign will include plans to introduce rich content to your website, which aside from pleasing Google, will present your company as an industry expert and invite online visitors to dwell longer.
Reviews and citations
For local businesses, online reviews are everything. The opinions of other people in the neighbourhood carry a lot of weight when researching local services. Good online reviews will help to strengthen your reputation and create valuable word of mouth recommendations. There are plenty of websites such as Trustpilot that can be used to collect reviews, along with your GMB listing.
In a similar vein, links to your site from other trusted websites act as a valuable endorsement that Google will recognise, so your SEO partner will seek to increase the number of citations you have online.
Even using every trick in the local SEO book, success will be limited if your website is poorly designed. Google bots are very discerning, and measure quality and usability in their rankings. A lot of SEO companies, Targeted SEO included, can also provide web design services to establish the cornerstone of local SEO success.
How do I know if local SEO is working?
The reassuring and encouraging thing about a local SEO campaign is that the results are transparent, evident, and tangible. A reliable search engine specialist will provide real-time access to performance measures such as keyword ranking and website traffic, to show how your investment is paying off.
The real results of local SEO of course will be experienced first hand. It won’t happen overnight, but your patience, as you watch your performance rating steadily grow, will eventually be rewarded by an increase in enquiries and sales.
Local SEO services from Targeted SEO
We hope this guide gives a good insight into how local SEO can dramatically boost your business. We know that times are tough, which is why Targeted SEO is offering a free website audit to businesses directly impacted by the COVID crisis.
Our monthly retainers start at just £250 + VAT (depending on competition and niche), and our local clients can testify to a valuable return on investment.
To talk to our friendly and approachable SEO experts, please contact us and take the first step towards local SEO success today.