What is local search?
You have already heard of SEO and know why it is important. But do you know how important local search is for your business? Local search refers to certain techniques used to increase visibility within a geographic area. More than just SEO, it is especially vital for small to medium business who rely on local clientele.
Searches containing the phrase “near me” have risen more than 500% in recent years as local search becomes an important aspect of a business’s success. In fact, 97% of people go online to look for businesses in their area. Being able to reach all these people is key to staying competitive. And you can do that by investing in a local SEO strategy that will bring your business closer to your target audience.
Local search vs. SEO
So what is the difference between local search and traditional SEO? Essentially, it comes down to geography. SEO has more to do with whether your website is relevant to certain searches. Local search focuses on the relevancy of location in localized searches. It is most important for single location businesses that have a specific service area.
SEO uses keywords related to products, services, and industries. Local search features terms related to location, such as city, neighborhood, etc.
Let’s take an example to illustrate the difference here. A therapist in Newark, Ohio wants to reach more customers in his area. While adding more keywords related to his industry (PTSD, depression, etc.) might help his site perform better across the country, they are not the most efficient option for reaching prospective clients. Getting more specific with his keywords and including location will help Google understand how his website is relevant to searchers. For example, the key phrase “PTSD treatment in Newark,” will show search engines that his site isn’t just about PTSD, it is about PTSD treatment in Newark, Ohio.
Using this key phrase will help him rank higher for those looking for PTSD treatment in his area. Ranking on general searches typically isn’t very profitable for small businesses. On the other hand, people using specific, local searches intend to purchase a product or service more often than not. Similar strategies can be used to localize other aspects of SEO.
What does local search entail?
Google My Business
Claiming your business listing on Google is key. Also called Google My Business, this is the main location where customers will find your information from across the web. It’s that profile listing that comes up to the right of the search results when someone searches for your business. You can also claim your business and claim a profile on other sites like Yelp, Facebook, and Bing.
Once you claim the listing you can populate the different categories with information about your business. A description of what you do, your business hours, pictures, products and services, etc. You want your listings to be concise but contain all the information a customer would need to know.
There are many directories online that help inform customers about your business. It is important to have your business listed in these directories but the most important aspect is that all these sites have consistent information.
NAP stands for name, address, phone number. This information is the most important for your customers and search engines to know. Your NAP should be accurate on every page of your website and every directory applicable to your business. If Google finds several different addresses or phone numbers for the same business, it will not trust the information it found. Trustworthy businesses rank higher.
This may seem like common sense but a quality website will help your business perform better. Not only does it communicate your brand to the customer but it proves to search engines that you are a legitimate organization.
A website with high quality pages and without broken links performs much better in rankings. Local businesses tend to do most of their business face-to-face but that doesn’t mean a website isn’t important. Many consumers research businesses online beforehand and your website can make-or-break this interaction.
The bread and butter of local businesses is reviews. Whether word of mouth or online, reviews from satisfied customers drive more traffic to a business. 88% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. They look to see what people say about a business before they decide to visit in person.
You want people to talk about your business, but it’s impossible to track word of mouth recommendations. However, business owners have a unique opportunity to engage with customers through online reviews. You should try to reply to the reviews customers leave you online, whether good or bad. When potential customers read those reviews, they will see your responses and know that you care about the customer’s experience.
Content is a way to add key search terms throughout your website while also engaging your consumer. Be sure to publish blogs, articles, videos, and other forms of content that appeal to your customer. Show them why your business answers the questions or solves the problems they have. By sharing high-quality content you expose more people to your brand. And search engine algorithms monitor content too. They measure your content in quality and how users interact with it.
If you have relevant and high-quality content, others might share it. What you create could take on a life of its own and promote your business to an even larger consumer base.
The future of local search
Many SEO trends translate over to local search as well. For example, voice search is a growing trend as smart home devices enter more homes. Consumers often use these devices to search for businesses. They search for places close to them versus generic searches on their phone. This has huge implications on local economies as it represents a new channel customers are using to find businesses. As a result of this trend, queries are changing to become more conversational in content. You can take this information and shape the content on your website to reflect the same conversational tone.
Search engines will continue to refine and improve their algorithms to facilitate voice searches.
What can you do?
Like traditional SEO, optimizing local search is an ongoing effort. Your competition is always working and so should you in order to stay ahead. Boostability offers expert help to small businesses looking to improve their local search.