What is Local SEO? Breaking It Down
At its core, the concept of local SEO is about more than just website ranking. It's about increasing the search visibility for businesses within the communities they serve in an up-close-and-personal way.
If your business has a physical location in a very specific area like Cleveland, Ohio, it stands to reason that you want to maximize your organic search visibility not on a national scale, but within the people who are actually most likely to stop by your business and check out what you have to offer. Spending a lot of money and ranking highly in Nashville won't actually help you, but ranking highly in Cleveland will. In recent years, Google has made a number of changes to its search engine algorithm to help you do precisely that.
In a lot of ways local SEO shares many principles in common with larger SEO tactics, just on a much more personal scale.
- Keyword research becomes local keyword research - what terms would someone have to use to find your business in Google not necessarily on a national scale, but if they already live just a few miles away?
- It also involves factors like a website audit - keep in mind that the majority of local searches are performed on mobile devices so local SEO depends on things like on-page optimization to guarantee it offers the best experience it can on things like smartphones and tablets.
- It requires you to make sure that your business is not only listed in as many local directories as possible, but also as consistently across those channels as you can. You need to make sure that everything - from the name of your business to its hours of operation to address, contact information and more - is identical in as many places as you can get it.
- Back linking is also of critical importance to local SEO, but again from a much more intimate perspective. It will require you to make an effort to find relevant "authority" websites that are an authority both A) in the industry you're trying to serve, and B) within the geographic area that you're trying to serve.
Even the content that you create to help with search engine ranking and visibility needs to be locally driven. Contribute helpful content to local news outlets and write about your business, your products or your services. Don't just partner with any blogger - find local bloggers who are an authority in a region and get them to do product or service reviews. Encourage customers to leave reviews on hyper-local traffic sources like Yelp so that people can see not just that you're living up to your value proposition, but that real people in the area they live in have had a good relationship with you in the past.
In the 21st century marketing landscape, you may not be able to outspend your largest competitors - many of whom may operate on a national scale. But local SEO is how you out act them, attracting the attention of the people who want to support the areas they're already living in.
Why Local SEO Matters
But the real takeaway from all of this isn't just that local SEO works - it works incredibly well for small businesses in particular. According to one recent study, roughly 50% of ALL mobile visitors who perform a local search from their smartphone will visit whatever business they find within just one day. The same is true of approximately 34% of people who conduct those searches on a traditional computer or a tablet device like an iPad.
But that's far from the only benefit of a far-reaching local SEO campaign. Consider the fact that one of the core pillars of a local campaign comes down to online reviews - enthusiastic blurbs from real, satisfied customers. Another recent study revealed that 88% of consumers now trust these online reviews just as much as personal recommendations from people they actually know, if not more.
Likewise, another study revealed that a full 18% of mobile searches will typically lead to a sale within one day. To put it another way, if you're able to capture the attention of your local market, you're essentially going after a large segment of your audience that are already in the final stages of the buying cycle. They've done their research, they know their options, they're ready to make a purchase. Your local SEO campaign is therefore the best chance you have at making sure that purchase winds up with YOUR business before anybody else's.
In the End
But maybe the most important thing to understand about all of this is that the trend of local driven SEO is showing absolutely no signs of slowing down anytime soon. As smartphones and mobile devices continue to become a more ubiquitous part of our lives on a daily basis, it's certainly true that people have a wider range of options regarding how, where and why they spend their money than ever before.
But the Internet isn't necessarily making the world a bigger place - it's making it a smaller one. It's making it possible for businesses of all shapes, types and sizes to connect directly with the communities they operate in and the people they serve in a bold, personal and effective way.
Think about it from Google's perspective. The only way they'll be able to maintain their foothold on the global search engine market share is if their results are more relevant to their own users than anyone else. For people who are ready to make a purchase, that means quality, local results that help them answer questions, solve problems and address challenges. At that point, executing the right local SEO campaign through on-page optimization, quality inbound links and other means becomes a mutually beneficial situation for absolutely everyone involved.