The Benefits of Local SEO
When you have a physical bricks-and-mortar location, whether that’s an auto shop in Boise, Idaho, a restaurant in Jacksonville, Florida or a furniture store in Houston, Texas, local SEO plays a critical role in generating customers and conversions.
As a local business owner, you may feel there’s little point investing time and money in your Google presence when a quick search shows you competing against the likes of Walmart and Amazon for positions. That might be true when it comes to the main organic listings but, for local prominence, it’s a different matter entirely.
Both Google itself and the shopping public recognize the value of local businesses. Google has a specific set of local ranking factors that it uses as a measure to determine whether or not your business is geographically relevant to a user performing a ‘near me’ search. That means you don’t necessarily have to worry about competing against large corporations to get your local business in front of local consumers.
Recent research conducted by Access concluded that proximity matters to local consumers a great deal, with more than 92% travelling just 20 minutes or less to purchase their day-to-day essentials. For any size of business, that should be reason enough to invest in local SEO.
We’ve seen that local SEO is an appropriate investment for local businesses but before we delve into the many ways your local business can benefit, let’s quickly recap what you’ll need to do to unlock some of this potential.
What does local SEO consist of?
Much like regular SEO, local SEO is a series of actions and strategies designed to improve your visibility on Google and other search engines when people close to your physical location perform a search.
While it might sound complicated, at its core, SEO is just another name for practices that improve sales through building online visibility. You do this by appealing to consumers in the right way while playing the search engines’ games by creating content using relevant keywords. In the case of local SEO, this may be including your town or city name and zip code, building links and accruing reviews.
As the name suggests, local SEO focuses on attracting customers in smaller areas such as those in a particular town or city. It’s usually practiced by local businesses who generally aim to reach this audience to drive footfall to their physical location or develop business within a service area.
It often focuses on improving visibility on Google Maps and in the local 3-pack of SERPs—these parts of the search engine results pages give local consumers results specific to their local area, or within a certain distance from their physical location.
There are three key elements to ranking in the local pack: proximity, relevance and prominence (more info here). You can employ a local SEO consultant or agency to help you with local pack ranking or go it alone, but either way you should notice a gradual increase in local SEO conversions as you ramp up activity.
What are the benefits of local SEO?
- Local SEO activity, such as citation building, helps build online visibility
- Greater local visibility means more foot traffic, more service customers and more sales
- Optimizing your site for local search delivers more targeted traffic and more traffic for relevant search terms
- Google My Business optimization can lead to enhanced Google Maps visibility
- Content marketing and link building will improve relevance
- Reputation management builds trust in your business (prominence) which can drive increased traffic and generate more sales
These key benefits of local SEO can all make a positive impact on your bottom line—the good news is that you’ll unlock them all simply by conducting local search optimization activities.
Now we’ve established how to conduct local SEO, let’s take a closer look at the benefits of local SEO in more detail.
1. Building citations gives you more visibility online and improves local rankings, meaning more traffic and sales
When you’re researching how to learn local SEO, one of the first phrases that you’ll hear from your SEO consultant or see in online research is ‘online business citation’. An online business citation is simply any online mention of your company’s name, its physical address (ideally including zip code) and phone number. This set of data is known as your NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number).
Directory listings are a very common source of online citations but they can also be built elsewhere. When you fill in your Facebook Page profile information and add your address, for example, you’ve built a local citation.
Building citations on sites like Google, Facebook and within relevant online directories such as Yelp or TripAdvisor gives your business more online visibility. It also helps your business to be found by the right people (those interested in your specific product or service in their local area) at the right time (when they’re actively searching for a business like yours). If you’re running a B&B in Upstate New York, let’s say, a TripAdvisor NAP could help interested guests find you and make a reservation.
Citations are an important part of any local SEO campaign. In fact, the Moz Local Ranking Factors study shows they’re the fourth most important factor for local ranking success and the fifth most important to localized organic rankings.
2. On-site optimization improves traffic for the most relevant searches
In the process of optimizing your site for local SEO positions, you’ll need to consider a range of on-page and off-page factors. Much like traditional SEO, there’s a long list of on-page requirements but some are given more weight than others.
One of our most fundamental local SEO tips is not to assume that changes you make now are the be-all and end-all of your local SEO work. In order to continue to reap the benefits of local SEO, you’ll need to continually revisit your on-site optimization and adjust as needed.
The roll out of the Google mobile-first index had serious implications for local SEO and dramatically shifted the optimization landscape. The core takeaway from the change was that mobile and desktop versions of the site needed to serve the same content to visitors. This in turn has meant that the requirements for on-page and local optimization have changed recently but currently, you’ll need to:
- Ensure your site has a mobile-responsive design
- Continually work to improve page load speed as pages that are slow to load on mobile (which is the key driver of local search traffic) will be penalized with lower rankings and lead to higher bounce rates
- Provide full SEO meta data for each page
- Conduct thorough keyword research at regular intervals to ensure your content reflects consumer search habits and is targeting relevant search terms
- Use keywords naturally throughout your on-site content (including landing pages, product pages and blog posts)
- Set up rank tracking so you can accurately monitor keyword rankings and make adjustments as needed
Of course, being vigilant about your on-page content, structure and page loading times also benefits your business over and above improved search rankings. While all of these actions will help to improve your local search position and therefore grow your online visibility, they will also ensure you serve up accurate, relevant content to your site traffic.
Monitoring and working to improve page load speed also helps to ensure a positive user experience, which in turn helps to build trust and brand loyalty and can directly lead to sales, reservations and bookings.
3. Google My Business Signals make up the most important ranking factor for the local pack
The proximity of your address to the search user plays a big role in local pack rankings—this is also one of the factors outside of your control. You can’t change your physical location relevant to the searcher but there are other factors that you can positively influence. One such example is your Google My Business profile.
Google My Business is a free and easy-to-use tool for businesses and organizations to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps. By verifying and editing your business information, you can both help customers to find you and tell them the story of your business. – Google
According to Google, businesses that verify their Google My Business information are twice as likely to be considered reputable by consumers. Google My Business is a directory of sorts; when you claim your listing you’ll able to provide a host of useful information such as business category, opening hours, web address and phone number.
This information is used by Google across a number of properties, including Search and Maps. While most ranking factors are kept behind closed doors, Google states that using Google My Business will improve your local search ranking. And, if your ranking or visibility is poor, you can maximize your local search presence by improving your Google My Business information.
Choosing the right service and business category for your Google My Business profile is a good first step. This ticks off the relevance requirement for local search position—meaning you’re more likely to see local SEO ROI.
Other tasks, such as building and responding to reviews, adding images, providing accurate contact information and opening hours, using Google My Business posts to share news and offers, and using the Q&A function are also important. This information not only helps to create a rich GMB profile and position your business in the best possible light to search users, it also helps to build visibility and conversions through Google Maps and the local pack.
4. Content marketing and link building improve prominence and relevance
How well-known your business is (its prominence) and how well your listing matches a search user’s requirements (its relevance) will determine how good a local ranking your business has. You can positively influence these two factors, and unlock further local SEO benefits by performing content marketing and link building.
Local content marketing should naturally see you talking about your local area or hometown and involving your local community. Not only does this help with prominence, it can also bring your customers closer to your business, building stronger links, brand loyalty and increasing engagement.
When you take the time to create locally focused evergreen resources you’re also more likely to receive links back to your site from other local businesses. These links, whether they are from a local source such as your town newspaper or an industry-specific site (such as your local chamber of commerce) will boost your relevance and prominence signals, while also adding to your authority and credibility as a local business.
Links are the second most important ranking factor for local businesses seeking local pack rankings according to the Moz Ranking Factors study (just behind Google My Business). They’re also a sustainable way to drive relevant traffic to your site—which directly translates to more leads and more sales.
5. Reputation Management builds trust in your business and drives traffic and sales
It’s no secret that reviews are vitally important for local businesses. Online reputation is increasingly referenced by consumers and is fast becoming a make or break metric for those looking for a local business online.
The annual BrightLocal Local Consumer Review Survey is our yearly yardstick. It tells us that the number of positive reviews required by a consumer before they’ll do business with a local firm is increasing year on year. Furthermore, around half of local shoppers say they expect to see four star reviews as a minimum before they’ll spend their cash with you and 85% now trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.
Review quantity, velocity and diversity are all important factors here, with LocalSEO Guide’s research telling us that you’ll need to regularly accrue new reviews, respond quickly, generate reviews that include a keyword and location and move fast to respond to negative reviews.
It’s not just that getting more good reviews can generate more business either—the more reviews you get as part of your reputation management strategy, the more visibility you’ll earn in local search. Greater visibility, plus top rated, fresh reviews are a magic formula both for local pack prominence and consumer trust.
Why use BrightLocal for Local SEO?
BrightLocal has been helping local businesses, multi-location businesses and SEO professionals understand and improve their positions in the local search market since 2009.
Understand your rankings
Track hundreds of keywords across Google, Bing and Yahoo. See a detailed breakdown of organic, mobile and Maps rankings. Compare rankings against your competitors and create ‘roll-up reports’ to view ranking trends for multiple locations.
Find out more about BrightLocal’s Local Search Rank Checker
Manage your reputation
Monitor and grow your business’ reputation by tracking and analyzing your online reviews across 35+ sites, including Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook, Foursquare, Tripadvisor and more. Guide customers to leave reviews on the sites that matter most to you, and reply directly to Google and Facebook reviews within a single tool.
Find out more about BrightLocal’s Reputation Manager
Build accurate citations quickly and effectively
Whether you use our manual citations team or aggregator submissions, our citation-building services can push your data to thousands of online business directories, mobile apps and mapping services worldwide, ensuring NAPW consistency and higher visibility in local search.
Find out more about BrightLocal’s Citation Builder