Does Your Business Need Local SEO? Yeah, Probably.

an overlapping collection of paper maps open on a flat surface

There’s just two flavors of SEO, right? On-page SEO and the oh-so inscrutable technical SEO. But wait, local SEO? What’s local SEO?

Local SEO is the discipline of optimizing your website so that it is more likely to be found locally. Now that nearly everyone has a tiny, internet enabled computer in their pocket, people are using search to find businesses that are close to them more and more. In fact:

  • 93% of consumers have used the internet to find a business in their local area in the previous year, according to a survey by Brightlocal. (2020)
  • 34% of consumers searched for local businesses every day, according to the same survey.
  • During those searches, 82% of consumers read online reviews of local businesses.
  • Businesses that claimed their Google My Business profile enjoyed a 61% increase in calls from January 2020 to July 2020, according to Small Business Trends.

So how can you benefit from Local SEO?

What Businesses Benefit From Local SEO?

The short answer is that businesses with brick-and-mortar storefronts benefit. Specifically, restaurants, retail stores, and local services such as lawyers, doctors, plumbers and contractors. These are business types that rely on local business at least in part. For these businesses, optimizing their web presence for local search increases their visibility on the web for searches with local intent substantially.

But, there are some local SEO strategies that even majority online (or wholly online) businesses can benefit from, simply because they increase the likelihood of appearing on the first page for relevant searches. Local SEO is less important for these businesses for sure, but shouldn’t be ignored.

What is Local SEO, Exactly?

So, one of the slow, iterative improvements that Google has made over its lifetime is to improve search for local businesses. This happened in tandem with a rise in local searches. As businesses increasingly adopted websites and ecommerce, searches for local businesses became the norm, and Google adapted.

Local SEO is a lot more off-page focused than some other kinds of SEO, though there are some on-page optimizations that help. Here are some of the most basic elements of local SEO optimizations:

Google My Business

Google My Business is probably the first step you should take in optimizing for local SEO. It’s also free, and probably one of the easiest things you can do. Google My Business (GMB) is a profile offered to business owners with brick-and-mortar locations that makes your business more findable across Google, including on Search and Maps. Completing and optimizing your Google business profile is vital to local SEO. Your GMB profile is free; all you need to do is claim it and start filling it out.

Here are some tips for optimizing your GMB profile:

  • Fill the profile fields out completely.
  • Always follow Google’s Guidelines.
  • Represent your business completely honestly and truthfully.
  • Be absolutely meticulous with your business contact information.
  • Use keywords in your business description.
  • Use the business description to tell your business’s story, mission, and vision.
  • Include any services that your business offers.
  • Include photos of your business, staff, and products.
  • Solicit reviews on Google from your customers.
  • Respond to all reviews on Google, whether positive or negative.
  • Answer any questions posted to your GMB profile.

If you fail to fill out a section on GMB, you’re reducing your ability to rank in local searches, and you’re not providing your customers with the best possible pre-purchase experience. Having a complete profile also makes your business look more professional and credible, increasing trust among users.

NAP

NAP is a simple concept, but it’s been a bit of a bugaboo for every client I’ve done local SEO for. NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone number, and it refers to the practice of making absolutely sure that your business’s name, address, and phone number are exactly the same on all online sources. There are a few reasons why this is very important.

  • It helps Google rank your business properly
  • It prevents Google from seeing your business as multiple different businesses
  • It makes sure that users have up-to-date contact information for your business

Though website URL and email contact information aren’t included in the acronym, they’re still really important to check.

NAP audits are easy to do on your own, and usually free. Just Google your business name and take note of all the listings. You’re probably going to be on some directories that you didn’t know you were on! Also check out other linking sites, like websites that have profiles or articles about your business.

I like to put these websites, including the name and URL, in a spreadsheet. Include columns with the listed name, address, phone number, URL, and email address. This makes them easier to review and to see what needs to be corrected. Then embark on the long process of correcting that information. A lot of this you’ll be able to edit on your own; others you may need to contact the website owner to have changed. 

Trust me, though. It’s worth it.

Local SEO Citations

Local SEO citations refer to any link back to your local business, but they’re generally thought of as specifically directories that list your business. There are a variety of citation sources to look at.

  • National directories, like Yelp
  • Local business directories
  • Government business directories, like chambers of commerce

National directories aren’t local sites, but they usually include your phone and address and may categorize your business geographically. 

Local directories and government directories are great. Government directories are also great, because they carry a lot of authority.

Some directories will ask you to pay for listings, and this is a choice you’ll have to make on your own. Consider the quality and reputation of the directory and the cost.

Local Backlinks

Local backlinks are technically citations, but I separate them out because they’re a little different in nature. Local backlinks that aren’t from simple directory listings are often blog posts about your business and business profiles from local organizations. These include news articles about your businesses.

You can solicit articles, profiles, and blog posts from websites that specialize in your industry. Take a multi-pronged approach to this; if you’re a contractor specializing in green building, you might contact local news sites (geographical fit), general contractor sites (industry fit), and green living sites (specialty/interest fit). Links from unrelated sites will drive low-converting traffic, so relevance is important!

When you solicit backlinks, it’s always nice to have a solid and relevant piece of high-quality content to send to them. They may want to use your article as a guest blog, or it may give some information about your business that piques their interest.

You can also earn backlinks by writing profiles on other local businesses and organizations. Make sure these are positive in tone, and send a link to the content to the organization in question. They’ll probably want to link back to it so their users get to see it! For example, a green building contractor might write a profile on a local environmental advocacy organization, or a related business that also works in green building.

Local Optimized Content

We mentioned content when discussing local backlinks, but there’s more to local optimized content. That’s right, local content is good for more than just collecting backlinks!

Local content also sends additional location signals to the Google algorithm, provides useful information (in other words, value!) to local search users, and cements you as a part of the community you serve!

Here are some kinds of local content you might consider:

  • Profiles on other local businesses! Coffee shops, diners, flower shops, etc.
  • Information about local parks.
  • Articles about local events.
  • Blogs about local nonprofits that your business supports.
  • And more! Get creative, and get involved!

Having local content on your website will generate positive feelings toward your business from local users.

So as you can see, there are a lot of ways that you can optimize your business’s online presence for Local SEO, and though they require a bit of work, they can usually be done for free. If your business has a brick-and-mortar location, Local SEO is one of the most vital and easiest ways to improve your visibility on the web. If you don’t have the time to do this work, or don’t feel confident that you can do it well, it’s totally okay to outsource it to a professional. You can contact me if you want to have a talk about it. 

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