Gone are the days when large scale marketing was limited to big businesses with deep pockets. Today, it’s all about who can smartly leverage the many digital channels to outpace the competition using local search engine marketing.
The truth is, the marketing “playing field” is no longer uneven. Many small businesses are taking advantage of the Internet to promote their products and services in the best possible way. And they are actually succeeding in it.
The digital age is giving businesses of all sizes the opportunity to tap into the power of the technology and grow their presence. The online marketing trend is growing stronger with time as more and more companies try to get found via Google and other major search engines.
And why not? With a whopping 97% of consumers using online search to look for local businesses, it only makes sense to use local search engine marketing in order to get found by your target audience.
If you look around, you’ll find that numerous small businesses depend on selling products and services that are suited to a particular geographical location. For any local business that wants to get found by people who are in dire need of their product or service, local search engine marketing is heaven sent.
People who are searching for your type of local business will discover it’s easy to find and connect with you when you have taken care of the on-page and off-page optimization factors.
In short, local search engine marketing or local SEO as it is commonly called, is here to stay. It’s slowly yet steadily turning out to be a crucial part of a successful small business online marketing strategy.
Any and every brand that wants to tap into their local market and achieve long-term success should take advantage of local search engine marketing.
Still not convinced? Check out the following eye-opening stats that prove the importance of local search engine marketing.
- 88% consumers who search for a local business on their mobile device call or visit its physical location on the same day.
- 46% of all Google searches include a query looking for local information.
- 86% of Internet users head over to Google Maps when looking up the location of a local business.
- 72% of consumers who use online search to look for local businesses visit stores within an eight km or five mile radius.
If you are a small business that wants to tap into the huge opportunity of connecting with local searchers, then optimizing your local search listing is the way to go. Because these listings help you stand out from the rest in the local result pages of Google, Bing and other search engines.
Understand that local search engine marketing is an apt way to not only attract prospects for your business, but also improve your brand’s presence in your state, city or country.
What is Local Search Engine Marketing?
Local search engine marketing, or local search service, is a method of search engine optimization that makes your business site more visible to local search users. Google processes billions of search queries per day, out of which a large percentage of them are location-based.
For example, let’s say someone logs on to Google from New Haven, Connecticut and does a search for the following query: ‘thai food near me’.
Upon doing so, the search engine giant instantly displays restaurants located in New Haven that are nearest to him.
Local search engine marketing is not a new subject. It has been explored and experimented with over the years, which is why it has grown significantly. With the increasing usage of mobile devices and availability of better Internet connectivity, this was bound to happen.
Google and other major search engines such as Bing are refining their search technology with each passing day. Obviously because they want to serve users with highly relevant information.
These search engines have complex algorithms that utilize the extensive data they have about users to give them the most precise results. Which means targeted location-based results will be given even more priority in the near future.
But what’s the difference between SEO and local search marketing?
Local search engine marketing is an extension of search engine optimization, but the two aren’t quite interchangeable. Organic SEO focuses on greater visibility as a whole, while local search services makes finding local businesses, specifically, much more feasible.
Local search engine marketing is about…
- Publishing localized content of high quality on your website
- Creating or claiming Google My Business listing
- Optimizing your Bing Places or GMB listing
- Creating online citations on business directories
- Attracting and building positive online reviews
Working on your website’s local SEO will take your small business far, given that you live up to the expectations of your visitors, and manage to convert them into leads or sales.
Why Does Local Search Engine Marketing Matter?
Organic SEO is great. In fact, it’s what you should be focusing on if you’re not a local business. However, if you do run a local business and want clients/customers in your geographical location, you need to look beyond organic SEO.
Local search engine marketing is what you need to be using if you want your local business to gain visibility. Because ranking for geographically-targeted search keywords is the only way to get local search users to notice your business.
Getting found on the Internet should be a topmost priority for local businesses, especially the ones that have a physical store. Whether you are a plumber or a dentist or shop owner selling a large variety of flowers, you can use your business location to stand out from “online only” ecommerce businesses.
If you look at the search engine result pages, you’ll find that the “above the fold” section includes sponsored ads from advertisers and local search listings or the local pack. When you apply local search engine marketing the right way, you can hit the top position in the local pack. Which can help you get the highest click through rate and targeted traffic to your site.
Given below is an example to help you understand better…
Local-Intent Searches Are More About the People
Local search engine marketing is turning out to be one of the most effective ways to generate traffic. Why? Because it works to give people what they want. When someone performs a local search, they get results that are customized to him and here. Which means Google and other search engines are focused on making local searches more “people centric”. It’s all about giving users the kind of experience that they deserve.
The attention span of Internet users is narrow. So if they are not going to get the right local results for their query, they won’t hesitate to move on. Search engines understand this and try to cater to their local audience in the best possible way.
Local search engine marketing happens in real time, which makes it a lot more valuable. It’s not just super-targeted, but is also timely in nature. Which gives search engines the opportunity to give users an extremely personalized experience.
Search Engines Take Local “Near Me” Searches Seriously
Local “near me”searches are on the rise as more and more people whip out their mobile phones to find businesses nearby. Google knows this and had started to display “local business information” in the search engine results long back. It was in the year 2012 that Google made its first big local search engine optimization update. This particular update was all about delivering relevant results based on their geographical location.
Over the years, this update has helped local businesses get discovered by their target audience. Its importance has not been diminished, which is evident from the fact that NAP citations are still crucial for local SEO. NAP, an abbreviation for name, address, and phone number is a citation that Google wants you to focus on. It has to be consistent in all directories your company is listed on.
Any conflicting information about NAP, will confuse the search engines. You need to be clear about your business and its location. According to Google, if you are a reputable company in your niche, you will take the time to pay attention to details and keep them consistent. It’s a mark of trust. Correct and consistent NAP citations will give Google a reason to rank you above your competitors.
More Consumers Depend on their Mobile Devices
There’s no doubt about the fact that people today are almost always connected to the world wide web. Some are dependent on their mobile devices to access the Internet, while others are addicted to it. This is partly due to the rise in social networking, and partly due to sheer necessity.
Whether it’s via their smartphone, tablet or laptop, many people are using the web on the go. Given the numbers, we know that this trend is only going to grow with time. Internet users know this, and so do the major search engines. Because the mobile local search market in the U.S. is booming.
Search engines like Google have access to your IP address when you log on to it. Using this information along with the help of GPS and satellites, search engines can and do keep a track of your mobile search activity.
Since Google can see where you’re physically located, it tries to match your search query with local businesses close to your geographical location. This is done to give you a personalized user experience and to help you find the most relevant result possible.
As a business, you can and should take advantage of local search engine marketing. As it can help you connect to your target audience, gain more targeted leads and build your customer base.
8 Fundamental Tips for Better Local Search Engine Marketing
If your business website is new or if you haven’t actively done any SEO activities on it, it’ll take you a considerable amount of time before you see it ranking for your target keywords. Until then, you can focus on improving your brand’s local SEO with the right tactics.
Here are a few tips to help you improve your local search engine marketing without burning a hole in your wallet.
Tip #1: Get a Real Physical Address
One of the many mistakes that companies make when trying to do local search engine marketing is not having a real physical location in their target geographical area.
Keep in mind that your marketing goals should be in sync with Google’s company goals. Google wants to serve its users by displaying authentic information about a business in its search results, including its location.
Without a real physical address for your business, your website won’t show up in Google’s high-traffic local pack — unless you go the unethical route. Remember, local SEO shortcuts don’t work in the long run. So avoid them at all costs.
Tip #2: Claim Your Google My Business Profile
Google My Business is an important online directory that no localized business can afford to ignore. So make sure you claim and optimize your free Google My Business page as it can help you get targeted exposure from your local audience. If you do it right, your website may even end up showing in Google’s local three pack:
In order to claim your Google My Business page, head over to Google.com/Business and go through the mandatory verification process. This is where you’ll need a physical location to verify your business because a P.O. box won’t work. The next step is to optimize your Google My Business Listing with:
- Clear business description
- Business categories
- Working/Business hours
- Modes of payments accepted
- Logo of your company
- Photos related to your business
As we’ve mentioned above, Business Categories is also a part Google My Business optimization. So that being said, choose the most appropriate category for your business. As much as possible, be specific. If you are running a family restaurant, instead of just “restaurant”, use family restaurant.
Specifying the nature of your business will help search engines to know exactly what you offer. This will allow you to show up in the right searches thus increasing your chances of conversion.
See to it that you fill out all the necessary fields to complete your listing. Because the more they know about your business (search engines and search users), the better results you will see.
Tip #3: Get Listed With Other Online Directories
Besides claiming your local business listing on Google My Business, you should correctly get listed with other top online directories such as Merchant Circle, Yelp, Citysearch, etc.
Here are three proven ways to find reputed and respectable local directories:
- See if your local newspaper’s website is running one.
- Check if your Chamber of Commerce has one.
- Google “[your location] directory” type keywords to find directories in your area.
With four out of five consumers using Google to find local businesses, not claiming your local listing on relevant local directories is a mistake your business should not make.
Tip #4: Use Local Structured Data Markup
Adding structured data markup (also known as schema markup) to your site’s code can help the search engines understand and learn more about your business, the products/services you sell, the reviews/ratings you received, price range, etc.
Even though using the markup is important and gives you an edge, one third of the websites aren’t using it. When you add structured data markup to your website, you get the opportunity to differentiate yourself from your local business competitors. Also, by taking this simple step you may rank higher than other companies in your area.
Google wants your business to properly implement data markup where appropriate because it helps the search spiders understand your website’s content and theme.
Tip #5: Take Online Reviews Seriously
Do people trust online reviews? If you go by a recent survey, a staggering 84% of people trust online reviews just like they would trust a recommendation from a friend. In fact, the same survey found that if you ask your customers to leave a review for your business, 7 out of 10 would oblige.
As a local business, tracking, managing and working on getting reviews is extremely important for getting new customers and retaining the existing ones. Also, when you respond to each and every review, you’ll position yourself as a business that cares for its prospects and customers.
For starters, focus on getting reviews on your Google My Business page and your business’s Facebook page. Because most people will stumble upon your business’s reviews in these two places. Whether they find you on Facebook or through Google search, your website should show up with a bunch of positive reviews.
Do business reviews play a role in SEO? According to Google, “high-quality, positive reviews from your customers will improve your business’s visibility”. So yes, good reviews might just help you improve your local search engine marketing game.
Tip #6: Don’t Ignore the Title and Meta Tags
Contrary to popular belief, title and meta description tags still hold value. These HTML elements are more than just tags to fill in. They contain crucial information about your website when it shows up in the search results.
When you spend time crafting your title and description, it can help you increase your site’s click through rate. Which in turn can help you improve your local search engine marketing efforts.
In order to improve the ranking of specific and important local pages of your site, make sure to optimize the title tag with your target local keyword.
For example, if you are divorce lawyer from New York City, your title tag could be “the #1 divorce lawyer in New York City”. This sends a clear signal to Google and other search engines that this page linked to New York City, which improves your chances of getting found by search users from this geographical area.
When writing the title tag, keep it to 60 characters or less. And limit the description to 200 characters. Adding additional words or characters can truncate your text, replacing it with ellipses. Which not only looks unprofessional, but also lowers your chance of getting local audience to click on your link.
Tip #7: Improve Internal Linking Structure
Strategic internal linking is a powerful SEO technique that local businesses need to take advantage of. If you look around, you’ll find that most of the local business websites don’t have a proper architecture in place. You’ll only find them internally linking to the homepage to other pages of the site from the navigation menu and/or the footer.
As a local business website, you have an advantage over the majority of local sites that aren’t taking internal linking seriously. You can add internal links wherever it’s relevant and possible — especially from within your content. Content such as product descriptions, sales copy, service pages, blog posts, etc.
Whether it is improving your organic ranking or your local maps ranking, improving your internal linking structure will make a difference.
Here are some rules to follow when you’re building or improving your site’s internal linking structure:
- Create as many internal pages as you can.
- Focus on deep linking instead of only linking to homepage.
- Have a user-first or user-focus approach.
- Focus more on linking to relevant pages.
- Stay away from “rel=nofollow” and let “link juice” flow through.
Last but not the least, forget stuffing a bunch of keyword-targeted links in your site’s footer with hope to impress Google. This spammy tactic no longer works. It only hurts. Make your users happy and the search engines will follow.
Tip #8: Build High Quality External Links
Your local search engine marketing will get better results when you focus your efforts on building high quality external links to your business site. Just publishing great, localized content is not enough. You need to work on the backlinks that let search engines know how relevant and trustworthy your website is.
When Google sees that other local websites are linking to yours, it gives you a vote of confidence. The more reputable backlinks a site has, the more professional it looks. Link building for local search engine marketing doesn’t have to be complicated as long as you take the right steps.
You can work on attracting local backlinks from:
- The local press
- Relevant local sponsorships
- Online business directories
- Local universities
- Regional business organizations
Gaining targeted backlinks to your local site boils down to value. When you offer real value to your local audience, which gets recognized by other local authorities, you automatically attract worthy backlinks.
Take Pride in Being Small and Local
It’s obvious that people are continuously looking for local places that offer the services they need whether it be shopping, eating, working out, or getting their taxes done. Many things have moved to mobile, digital, and ecommerce, but the need for local businesses is not gone. The need to find them is definitely not gone. It is very much needed, so get started helping your customers find you easily by contacting us about local search engine marketing today.