SEO is about more than getting you seen online – it’s about ensuring you’re being found by the right people. That’s why local SEO is a critical part of any
digital marketing strategy.
Why focus on local SEO?
SEO, or search engine optimisation, is one of the most valuable things you can do to improve your online visibility and make sure prospective customers can find you. But this is particularly important if you’re looking to attract business that’s close to your physical location.
It’s estimated that as many as 97 per cent of local customer journeys start on a search engine, while almost half of Google queries include local intent in some form. Therefore, if your online services aren’t optimised to tap into this, you’re missing out.
Understanding the benefits of local SEO and knowing how to implement such a strategy effectively are therefore vital if businesses are to reach the customers who are most likely to make a purchase.
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What is local SEO and why is it important?
Local SEO refers to any activities you do on your website and beyond that are designed to increase visibility for local searches. This includes search queries such as ‘near me’ and those that specify a particular location.
However, it also covers activities that increase your visibility on other applications, such as map apps and social media platforms like Facebook that often have a community focus.
What is the difference between SEO and local SEO?
Traditional SEO techniques aim to increase a firm’s online presence in search results by improving a website’s quality and relevance. This includes a variety of on-page and off-page optimisation techniques to improve how your site looks to search engines’ web crawlers, as well as technical SEO elements that impact performance and usability.
Local SEO is similar, but more focused. And as is the case with standard SEO, it’s not just about keywords. As well as producing quality, locally-focused content, there are a range of behind-the-scenes and off-site efforts that must be done in order to be effective at this. These include off-site link building, engaging with review sites and social media, and ensuring that Google has a complete profile of your business.
What kind of business do you need local SEO for?
Any organisation that has a physical location or serves a particular geographic area can benefit from local SEO services. Typically, this includes brick-and-mortar high street businesses, as well as skilled traders and professional services providers, but these are far from the only companies that can take advantage of this..
However, some sectors that particularly stand to benefit include:
- Legal and financial services
- Real estate
- Trade professionals
- Health and fitness
Local SEO is often thought of as particularly beneficial to small businesses. It’s certainly the case that a good local SEO strategy can help a less-sizeable enterprise stand out from competitors that would otherwise benefit from much larger marketing budgets. But bigger enterprises – and especially those with multiple locations around the world – can also reap the benefits of local SEO just as much as a small business can.
Do businesses need to use local SEO when all of their customers are close by?
Some small businesses may think that if all their customers are already within a short distance, local SEO may not be worth the effort, but this is not the case. For starters, this strategy is about attracting new sources of revenue. While methods like word of mouth may be important for gaining local customers, being able to back this up with a strong online community – including a social presence, reviews and the sharing of links – is invaluable.
Depending on the sector you operate in, local SEO may also be essential in attracting passing trade or even getting visitors to go out of their way to patronise a local business. There’s no downside to investing in efforts to boost your local search results, and with the right partner, it need not be a complex or expensive way to boost your company and turn a potential customer into valuable repeat business.
What are the benefits of local SEO?
A good local SEO strategy offers a wide range of benefits. First and foremost, it can increase foot traffic to brick-and-mortar stores and lead directly to increased revenue. Meanwhile, for service providers who may operate online or in the field, it also helps connect them with customers who otherwise may not have been aware of them.
Beyond this, however, local SEO is beneficial for improving a brand’s reputation and credibility among customers, which in turn leads to higher conversion rates and improved competitiveness. For a small business in particular, this could be the difference between long-term success and failure.
Better online visibility for local and mobile searches
Perhaps the most obvious benefit of using a local SEO strategy is increasing your performance in search engine results pages (SERPs) for location-based queries. This can include those where the user has a definite idea of what they’re looking for (let’s say ‘estate agents in Manchester’, for example) and those that directly use an individual’s location data.
For example, mobile searches will usually include nearby results by default by taking into account a user’s GPS information, while customers can narrow their search by adding phrases such as ‘near me’ to their search strings, again telling the likes of Google to filter the results geographically.
In the US, over 60 per cent of searches today start on mobile, so if you don’t have the right information on your site to tell search engines where you are, you could be missing out on a significant portion of potential business.
Greater control of your local reputation
Local review sites are a great way to improve your reputation and gain a boost to your local SEO performance at the same time. By taking control of your presence on such services, such as by completing a full profile and always responding to any reviews (positive or negative), you can ensure you’re putting across the best impression of your brand.
While Google reviews will appear directly alongside your brand in search results – making it vitally important you interact with these – third-party sites such as Trustpilot must also not be overlooked. As well as improving your search ranking for specific locations, these can help drive traffic directly to your site, which also boosts your credibility with search engines.
Help your business rank higher in Google Maps
It’s important to remember that local SEO is about more than just traditional search. You also need to take into account efforts that take place on other applications, and map apps are a key area to focus on.
For example, did you know that 86 per cent of people look up the location of a business on Google Maps? In order to appear in these results, you’ll need to make sure your organisation is fully set up on Google, which means having a full Google business profile including details such as your address, opening hours and contact details.
Want to learn how to do local SEO successfully?
When done well, the benefits of local SEO are clear. But how you achieve these results is another matter. In order to be successful in this area, there are a range of factors you need to think about, from the content of your website itself to how you promote yourself on social media and interact online with existing and potential customers. So what are some key local SEO tips you need to keep in mind to deliver better search results for your key pages?
How does Google determine local rankings?
Search engines like Google use a wide variety of elements to determine rankings, and local factors are a significant part of this. While the exact details of its algorithm are naturally a closely-guarded secret, it’s known that among the areas it looks at are:
- Locally-focused content
- Social media profile pages
- Backlinks from other respected, locally-relevant sites
- Local citations and reviews
- Google My Business data
One of the most important aspects of this is the Google My Business setup. This needs to contain a range of information, including the full address of any premises, phone and web contact details, and business category.
However, on top of this, other highly useful information you can opt to add includes opening hours, photos (great for appearing on Google map results and helping customers locate your storefront), links to social media pages and reviews. Without this data, you’ll still fail to rank well in results, even if you have keyworded effectively.
The importance of local SEO keyword research
While keywording alone is not a silver bullet for improving your local SEO strategy, it remains an important piece of the puzzle. But in order to get this right, you need to know exactly what users are searching for. While the most obvious combinations, like [business] + [nearby] or [business type] + [city] need to be keyworded for, there may be other, less obvious local keywords you can use for quick wins or to stand out from the crowd.
This is where effective keyword research comes in. This should be an essential first step in determining a content strategy, and there are usually several options you can choose to follow.
For example, will you focus on broad industry-related keywords, or opt for more specific longtail keywords that may have lower search volumes, but have a higher chance of conversion? Will you prioritise intent-based keywords or those that indicate a user is at an earlier stage of their journey and is just looking for information?
Small businesses in particular may not have the skills or resources to conduct this research, or be able to interpret the results to identify the best strategy. This is where having the support of an expert digital marketing partner comes in, who can use this information as the basis for a strategy.
How long does it take to get results from local SEO?
There’s no definite answer as to when you’ll start to see results, as it will depend on many factors, including the base you’re starting from, the level of competition in your area and the difficulty of your keywords. However, a good strategy could start to see you rise up the rankings in a matter of weeks, and other goals such as increased conversions should follow.
It’s important to remember that, as is the case with any form of search engine optimisation, local SEO needs to be treated as a long-term strategy. Without regularly-updated content and engagement with customers, rankings can start to fall as well as rise, so you need to make sure you’re in it for the long haul for sustained success.
Finding the right local SEO partner
Many businesses may find it difficult to run an effective local SEO campaign on their own. This isn’t just limited to small enterprises with limited resources – even larger firms can struggle if they don’t have the right specialist skills in-house. Therefore, no matter how big your firm is, turning to an experienced SEO service provider can prove highly useful.
What should you look for in a local SEO agency?
A good agency should offer a wide range of skills, including technical SEO and web development capabilities, a proven track record of delivering high-quality content, and an understanding of data analytics in order to build the most effective, tailored strategy.
You should always be wary of any agency that promises guaranteed results, such as getting you to position one for a certain local keyword. Often, this is an unrealistic goal. Instead, ask to see real-world examples of what your chosen partner has achieved for similar clients and how they would provide a tailored strategy based on your unique needs.
How can you measure the results of a local SEO campaign?
The right partner will also help you analyse the results of your campaigns and provide guidance about how to improve local SEO elements for next time. This may start with a deep dive into Google Analytics to determine which or your pages are the most successful, but it will also involve identifying and keeping track of the most relevant key performance indicators for your campaigns, whether this is social media impressions or conversions.
How does local SEO tie into wider digital marketing strategies?
Optimising for local results isn’t a task that can be taken in isolation, so a good local SEO agency should also be able to explain how these efforts will support other aspects of your digital marketing. For example, locally-focused social media campaigns are a great way of boosting visibility and reputation online, but to do this, you’ll also need a partner that has a deep understanding of all the unique quirks of your chosen platform.
The same applies to all aspects of your activities. A local SEO service should offer optimised copywriting skills, the ability to create engaging visuals (both still imagery and video) for use on social, and an experienced data analytics team to identify what has worked well and where there are still gains to be made. By treating this as just one aspect of a holistic online marketing strategy and working with a talented and experienced SEO company, you can greatly increase your chances of increasing visibility in search and boosting your revenue for the long term.