For local businesses, being able to market themselves effectively online is key to their success. In recent years, local SEO has completely revolutionized the way businesses reach out to local customers. In the past, SEO was all about generating the maximum amount of traffic to your website. Today, local SEO is about generating quality–which means local–traffic, because that is the traffic that is most likely to translate into new customers. Below we will look at what local SEO is and how you can get your own small business started with it.
What is local SEO?
SEO simply stands for search engine optimization. Essentially this means that SEO optimizes your website so that it appears close to the top of search engine rankings, especially when somebody types in a keyword that is relevant to your business. If you sell shoes, for example, you want your website to be one of the first to appear if somebody types in “buy new shoes” into Google. Local SEO is similar to general SEO with one big difference: it is directed at increasing traffic from people who live, work or are traveling in the geographic area where your business is located. Why is this difference so important? Well, let’s return to the shore store example again. If your shoe store is located in New York City, you want people who live in New York City to find your business if they do a Google search of local shoe stores. If somebody in San Francisco is looking for shoe stores and your store pops up that likely won’t benefit you or the web user.
How does local SEO work?
There are countless different factors that go into making local SEO so effective, but probably the biggest game changer in local SEO has been mobile platforms, such as smartphones and tablets. Nowadays most web searches are done through smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices. In fact, just this year Google announced that it would switch from a desktop-first to mobile-first indexing platform, meaning that mobile searches will become more important than ever before. Mobile searches are especially important for local businesses because people who are performing searches on their mobile devices are often looking for a local business at the last minute. Somebody may be waiting for the bus, for example, and decide they want a coffee. When they search for nearby cafes on Google Maps chances are they are going to head for whichever cafe is listed as both being the closest and the most promising. In this case, local SEO can get hyperlocal, with customers needing a business that is not only located in the same city or town as them but often within a couple of blocks. Businesses need to make sure they are showing up in these search inquiries!
How to get started with local SEO
While local SEO applies to all search engines, if you are just starting out then you especially need to be optimized for Google searches. That’s because the majority of searches are conducted through Google plus Google offers a lot of useful tools for getting started with local SEO. The first thing you will need to do is set up your business with Google My Business. This ensures that your business is registered with Google so that it is at least showing up in search results. You will be asked a number of questions about your business when you sign up. Don’t skip these questions! The more information you provide, the better your page ranking will be. Selecting the right categories for your business is especially important, although don’t choose too many as that could actually hurt your ranking. Next you will need to increase the chances that your website will rank near the top of any Google search that is relevant to your business. To do this you need to learn what your potential customers are looking up in terms of keywords. You can do this with Google Keyword Planner, which allows you to research which keywords are most effective and, most importantly, allows you to zoom in on specific geographic locations so that you can really enhance your local SEO. Find out what the most effective keywords are for your local area, and use a variety of modifications on those keywords, such as “cheap shoes,” “comfortable shoes,” “New York shoes,” and so on to attract the most traffic.
Local SEO can sound intimidating, but all it really means is attracting the most local customers to your business. Unlike traditional marketing techniques, local SEO is both cheaper and more effective. If you want to survive as a business person in today’s increasingly connected world then you need to learn the basics of SEO and ensure that your website is up to speed with it.
Alice Brennan is a small business marketer who likes to stay on top of the latest trends. She also loves to share her insights with business owners and startups by posting on a number of startup and business sites.