How to Explain Local SEO to a Beginner
As a professional in local SEO, you need no introduction to its importance or its value to clients – but can your customers say the same?
In the last 12 months alone, Google has increased its commitment to local search with a raft of new features and significant updates to Google My Business. The way that service area businesses (which are inherently local enterprises) are treated by Google My Business has changed, review signals have become more important to local rankings, a ‘Follow’ button has been developed for Google Maps which allows local businesses to remain more prominent to local consumers, and the ‘near me’ search has evolved beyond recognition.
According to one delegate at the 2018 Secrets of Local Search conference at Google HQ, an official Google presentation stated that 46% of searches now have a local intent. What’s more, according to the 2016 US Census, around 90% of all purchases are made at a brick-and-mortar store, with HubSpot reporting that more than 92% of consumers will travel a maximum of just 20 minutes to purchase their day-to-day essentials.
With these statistics to hand, you’d expect local business owners to be falling over themselves to invest in local SEO, right? Unfortunately, that’s not always the case, and selling local SEO services can be an uphill struggle.
Despite the obvious value of a local search presence, it’s not always easy to explain the need for local SEO to local business owners—some of whom won’t have a working awareness of local SEO or how it differs to traditional methods. Here, we show you how to explain some of the core concepts of local SEO to potential clients who aren’t SEO-savvy, in order to win more business and grow your client portfolio.
How to explain the difference between Local and ‘Traditional’ SEO
As recently as just a couple of years ago, there wasn’t a marked difference between local SEO tactics and traditional SEO strategies. Sure, there may have been some variations but the basic principles were broadly the same. Today, local SEO is a different beast entirely and an optimization specialism in its own right.
With changes to the local pack, dedicated local search algorithms, the evolution of Google My Business, the advent of machine learning and AI, the impact of mobile, and, of course, the growing relevance of online reviews, local and traditional SEO are now wholly distinct.
This can pose a problem when you’re trying to sell local SEO services to a business owner who’s built their online profile using traditional techniques. If your potential client has an awareness of ‘traditional’ SEO but knows little of local SEO, you might find it a struggle to convey a different approach is needed because you‘re essentially asking them to forget or unlearn a lot of the SEO concepts that have served them well thus far.
- Relevant, ‘nofollow’ links to a local business have a great deal of impact, whereas for ‘traditional’ SEO, only ‘dofollow’ links carry direct ranking weight.
- It’s less likely that you’ll have a link from a major site like The New York Times to a local business, so link building tends to focus on less premium sites. Whereas these may be considered low quality in traditional SEO, they’re important for local SEO—a link from a local newspaper won’t rival a link back from NYT in quality when directly compared, but it’s considered as such in local search.
- Citations are very important for local SEO as they validate the physical location of the business—a key tenet of local search visibility.
- Reviews are most valuable when they mention the keyword and city being targeted for local SEO—but this wouldn’t be enough for traditional visibility.
So how do you package this up and explain the difference to a client stuck in their traditional SEO mindset?
The first point to make is actually counterintuitive, as you need to explain that local SEO doesn’t actually have a great deal to do with the client’s site. Our own research shows that visits to local business websites are declining.
Analyzing the results of our Local Consumer Review Survey, BrightLocal’s Head of Content, Jamie Pitman noted,
While 97% of consumers looked online for a local business last year, fewer people are following up that research with a website visit. In fact, there’s been a 17% drop in the number of people visiting a website after reading a good review—it’s becoming more likely that they’ll get in touch another way… One element that may have affected this change in 2017 is Google’s growing ability to replace the business website. With so much business information now available in SERPS and the Google environment (including opening times, location, bookings, Q&As, show times, and much more), the necessity of visiting a website is decreasing.”
Thanks to the addition of Google My Business features such as call-to-actions, clicks-to-call, offers and events via GMB Posts as well as enhanced profiles with service information and images, there are fewer reasons than ever for a local consumer to go to a website. They are more likely to get all they need from the local search results themselves.
Whereas ‘traditional SEO’ really only happens at an on-site level, local SEO requires the use of external sources such as local citations, Google My Business profiles and review sites. The factors influencing local rankings are very different to those used to determine organic search position.
For the business owner with a keen understanding of traditional SEO, it’s well worth playing up the declining role of the website from a local perspective and the increasing importance of offsite factors such as reviews, citations and local links.
How to prove the worth of local SEO
Now that you have shown the difference between traditional and local SEO, you need to clearly demonstrate the worth of local SEO.
Taking a cue from Greg Gifford’s simple math formula, let’s break it down into figures that any business owner, in any industry, will understand.
Let’s say your client runs a pizza joint. They reckon they serve up the best slice in town. The problem is, there are 20 other pizza places making that same claim in the same suburb. Everyone wants to be on page one of Google. There are only 10 positions on page one of the SERPs plus three local spots up for grabs. Eight pizza slingers are going to be disappointed.
But, of those ten spots on page one, the big chains like Pizza Hut, Dominoes, Papa John’s and California Pizza Kitchen have already staked their claim. That’s six spots left and 12 disappointed local doughs. At those odds, 10 of those pizza places might get on to page two, but two will be pushed back to page three.
Now factor in the wider metro area and an additional 20 pizza places for each big town or city. If there are four big cities in your area, that’s another 80 local pizza places you need to beat.
What if you leave the suburbs and factor in the city itself? There’s maybe another 40, 50 or 100 places that sell pizza by the slice or by the pie. Each one of those pizza places is fighting to be on page one. At least 120 (if not more) are going to be disappointed.
All of a sudden, it pays to invest in local SEO.