While globalization has significantly changed the marketplace, many businesses start building their success by selling to local customers. The yellow pages may have once been a business necessity, but online search engines have taken over. That is why local Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has become one of the most important keys to business success, regardless of location or company scale.
What is local SEO?
Search Engine Optimization has become an integral part of marketing for businesses that rely on website traffic. Optimizing content from search engines like Google helps your website rank high in search results, making it more likely for consumers to visit your site and interact with your brand.
Local SEO is simply a strategy of SEO aimed at improving search results in a specific geographical area. If your business relies on online and offline customers within a specific geographic area, local SEO can be the difference between your business surviving and thriving.
The value of local SEO
Google alone processes an impressive 8 billion searches every day, but more importantly, nearly 50% of all Google searches are made by people looking for local products and services. If you don’t have a local SEO strategy for your business, you’ll miss out on valuable online traffic. Local business owners simply cannot ignore an opportunity of this size.
Local SEO is important for online companies and for companies looking to attract foot traffic. A few decades ago, consumers may have looked for local businesses in the yellow pages or on the map. Today, they are using search engines to find contact information, location, hours and other details about a business.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, about one in two searches made for businesses “near me” led to a store visit. If the search was made on a mobile device, the numbers were even more compelling. Nearly 90% of those queries were followed by a call or a visit to the business within a day.
Any business relying on local customers cannot afford to lose the opportunities local SEO can provide.
Utilize local SEO and work with Google to improve rankings
Marketers and business owners have a range of options to increase their visibility through local SEO. Is your brand looking to improve rankings or improve conversions and sales?
It’s fair to argue that conversions matter more than rankings, but if the business is not listed on the first page of results, conversions will naturally be low. For most businesses, rankings and conversions are closely related.
Improving local SEO results starts with improvements in relevance, distance and prominence. These are the three criteria Google’s algorithm applies to determine local search results. Your company’s Google Business Profile should also be updated to attract more local customers.
Relevance is the measure of accuracy in the match between your business and the online search query. The search engine is trying to determine whether your business offers what the user is looking for. Providing clear and complete information on your website and business profile is critical to meeting these criteria and improving your relevancy.
Proximity is how close your business is to the searcher’s exact location. If a user does not specify a specific location in their search, Google uses their location based on their IP address to prioritize nearby listings. Adding the specification “near me” in a search leads to similar results. To be featured in those listings, your business needs to optimize the location information on its website and Google listings.
Prominence is Google’s term to describe how well-known a business is both online and offline. The search engine determines your prominence based on the offline information it has about a business as well as through online means, such as reviews and website popularity. Increasing the number of quality reviews for your business will improve ratings. Interacting and responding to online ratings also boosts your prominence.
Algorithms tend to change regularly and without notice. Like any SEO activity, successful local SEO depends on consistent effort. Many businesses benefit from expert support to manage their local SEO.
Covid-19’s impact on local SEO practices
The Covid-19 pandemic changed almost every aspect of consumers’ lives. It certainly altered shopping habits as lockdowns and movement restrictions became the norm. At this point, it is too early to determine whether long-term consumer habits were affected by the pandemic.
Throughout 2020 and 2021, online searches for products and services increased, partially out of necessity. Consumers needed online alternatives to meet their needs. Right now, evidence supports both the continued popularity of online consumerism along with a growing demand for in-person shopping experiences.
A fact that is not in dispute is the incredible hardship the pandemic caused for many small businesses. Many faced closures, staff layoffs and a loss of customers. Carefully considered and well-managed marketing is essential for a successful restart. Proper local SEO can be the difference in this restart.
Local SEO is one of the most cost-effective ways to increase visibility in a key audience within a short space of time. It may seem like a small part of SEO, but considering the sheer number of searches with local intent, business owners and marketers need to consider it a priority.
Search engines are the new yellow pages — with much more potential to transform the future of small businesses.
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