The Beginner’s Guide: Local Search for Small Businesses

Local Search for Small Businesses

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While the idea of search engine optimization (SEO) is often associated with the concept “bigger is better”, times are changing. If fact, were you aware that an impressive 46 percent of all Google searches are now associated with local queries? This is crucial if you hope to maximize your online exposure and cater to the appropriate client base.

Unfortunately, some stakeholders are still unaware of how to approach local SEO with a results-driven attitude. The good news is that this topic does not necessarily have to be complicated. Let us, therefore, examine some of the most potent practices to embrace as well as the unique advantages of each.

Local SEO Defined: Why Now?

While there are many pertinent SEO practices for 2022 and beyond, local strategies are becoming increasingly relevant. Why is this the case? Several factors have led to this paradigm shift including:

  • Consumers no longer wish to deal with massive organizations that cannot accommodate personalized tastes.
  • The wish to obtain more reliable and familiar consumer service solutions.
  • Increased loyalty to smaller businesses as opposed to larger (and often somewhat generic) franchised chains.

Simply stated, the average consumer is now more educated than ever before. Thus, they are more likely to remain loyal to a local business that is capable of providing targeted solutions for their needs. Now that we have begun to understand the importance of local SEO, how can the average business take advantage of this movement?

Google My Business

This is arguably the most common way to increase one’s presence within local search results. The Google My Business application serves several purposes. It provides a website with a greater degree of transparency since it has been vetted by Google itself. This will often lead to higher SERP (search engine results page) rankings; crucial in terms of online visibility. Some other amazing advantages of this platform include:

  • The presentation of relevant details such as location and opening hours.
  • Images of popular products and/or services.
  • Objective customer reviews.

Google My Business will provide an immense amount of online exposure and as this is a location-based service, your venture can now cater to a more discrete client base.

Social Media Marketing

Although the concept of social media advertising is certainly nothing new, this SEO approach has taken on a life of its thanks to an increased focus on local tactics. One of the main intentions of such campaigns is to develop organic relationships with customers and to obtain a real-time appreciation of how a marketing approach is performing.

Having said this, Google has begun to place an immense amount of importance on social media pages. Consumers also rely heavily upon what others have had to say about their personal experiences when dealing with a specific online vendor. Creating a strong and transparent presence will therefore provide a business with the online “clout” required to feature prominently within local search results.

Use the NAP Approach When Creating a Social Media Strategy

Anyone performing a local search should be provided with relevant and clear results within a matter of seconds. This is why fundamental business details need to be presented as clear as possible. Some refer to this as the “NAP” approach. NAP is an acronym for:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone number

However, another takeaway point must be mentioned before moving on. Some business owners choose to present these details in the form of an image. The issue here is that Google search engine crawlers cannot understand this format. Experts, therefore, recommend embedding NAP details within the website itself in the form of an HTML script. Search engine algorithms will be able to interpret this data and once again, this can lead to increased local SERP rankings.

Local Keywords for Relevant Search Results

Most of us are already aware of why keywords represent the bedrock of any well-designed SEO strategy. So, it only stands to reason that these very same phrases will have an impact on local SEO. Let us look at an example to prove this point.

Imagine for a moment that one is searching online for commercial solar panel installation services. A simple query such as “solar panel installation” will yield thousands of results; many of these being entirely irrelevant in terms of location. This is why long-tail search terms such as “commercial solar panel installation in Limerick” are becoming much more relevant.

A significant amount of research should therefore be performed so that the most relevant words and phrases are selected. While this will require a modicum of intuition, numerous free software platforms can provide even more clarity. Google Keyword Planner is an excellent utility to employ and thankfully, it is absolutely free to use.

Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions

Both of these elements are likewise vital concerning local SEO tactics. They are primarily intended to describe what the website has to offer so that it can be properly placed within a search engine results page. It is therefore prudent to include local details in these phrases so that geographic data can be understood by search engine crawlers.

Of course, the other intention of these devices is to highlight what a site has to offer. This will serve as a digital “billboard” for your business; drawing the attention of those who perform a general search. Thus, they will be more likely to click on the associated link to learn more. Meta titles and meta descriptions that contain locally-oriented words and phrases will likewise cater to a more specific audience base.

Separate Location-Based Service Pages

Let us now imagine that a business offers products and/or services to several locations. In the past, these would all be conglomerated within a single webpage. Once again, Google has become more discriminating regarding how sites are ranked based on their internal content. This is why separate pages should be created for each discrete service location.

As this article notes, separate pages are easier for search engines to interpret. They also enable visitors to find exactly what it is that they are looking for following their location. Less time will be spent navigating the website and this will ultimately lead to higher conversion rates.

Local Link-Building Techniques

It is a well-known fact that there is a direct correlation between the number of quality links associated with a website and its amount of inbound traffic. This is why including links to local businesses and directories is also crucial.

Not only will local links provide a website with a greater presence within search engine results pages, but the notion of trustworthiness is just as important. For instance, consumers are more likely to visit a website if it is associated with other local organizations. This offers a greater sense of transparency while building a positive brand image over time.

We are not only referring to other firms engaged in similar industries. Local directories can also represent powerful tools. Common examples include:

  • Yelp
  • The Better Business Bureau (BBB)
  • Bing Places for Business
  • Merchant Circle
  • Local utilities such as an official Chamber of Commerce page

Embedding solid and reputable links throughout your website will provide the business in question with an authoritative edge.

Timely Local SEO Audits

A final strategy to highlight involves local SEO audits. This arises from the fact that search engine optimization should always represent an ongoing process. Tactics that might have worked well yesterday may no longer be effective today. Furthermore, we need to remember that local search trends will naturally change over time. They may be affected by viral products, recent client reviews and even the season of the year. Here are some questions to be addressed during any audit:

  • Is all of the information contained within the Google My Business listing up to date?
  • Have SERP rankings risen or fallen in recent times?
  • Does one product seem to be enjoying the lion’s share of popularity?
  • Might it be time to employ updated keywords and phrases?
  • How is your business performing in relation to the local competition?

How often should such audits take place? Although opinions vary, most experts recommend performing an audit between two and four times a year. Note that these examinations should be carried out even if the site seems to be performing well. The chances are high that certain elements can always be improved.

Local SEO for Small Businesses: A Focused Approach

Local marketing strategies have become increasingly commonplace in recent times. In fact, studies indicate that an incredible 97 percent of all Internet users perform at least one search per month in relation to a nearby business. This is why adopting the techniques outlined above is critical if you hope to rise above the competition. As consumers become even more particular regarding their search queries, it is a foregone conclusion that local SEO will become even more relevant for small businesses.

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