|EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a guide to local SEO for small to medium-sized business owners. We have created this local search optimization guide to prove the worth of local SEO and why you should start implementing local SEO strategies as soon as possible.
The internet is crowded with businesses.
Business owners in every industry and niche are discovering the importance of having a web presence as we travel further into the 21st century.
Here is some information on the transformation of the internet.
In 2005, WordPress added the “pages” functionality to WordPress sites, making them capable of acting as real websites instead of just blogging resources. The majority of well-known (then) brands had an active website at this time.
In 2011, WordPress started competing with Shopify with the addition of e-Commerce plugins. During this time, more franchises, business chains, and even some restaurants were creating content online with the hopes of reaching new customers.
February 27th, 2012, Google released an update to include search results that were based on the position or IP address of a user.
In December 2012, Google released the most commonly used GPS app, Google Maps.
On July 24th, 2014, Google released one of the most important local SEO updates that took into consideration traditional website ‘signals’ to rank websites locally.
Now, in 2020, it’s almost a guarantee that your local locksmith is using WordPress, Wix, Drupal, or another website builder to build an online foundation to reach their customers.
The most relevant business locations are on the first page of the search results aka the search engine results pages (SERPs). Users will also be provided with a list of local locations based on their proximity, with map directions.
Today, in order to be found online and noticed, you need to be the tallest tree in the forest.
If you don’t already have a website or an online presence, you should seriously consider spreading your business’s information online.
Why? Your customer is searching online. If you aren’t online, your competitor is!
There are over 63,000 searches requested per second on Google alone! That’s a lot of information requests.
However, just having a website or social media account doesn’t mean you’re going to finally get those customers that are funneling to your competitors. That’s not good enough.
I’m going to introduce you to the strategy that’s being used by businesses of all sizes to rank on Google and other search engines. This strategy is long-term, which means it lasts and has a snowball effect of growing your business after implementation.
Not all businesses are using this strategy nor are they using it appropriately, which means you can easily weed out your competition and find that sunlight your strong, growing roots need.
What is Local SEO?
Local search engine optimization (SEO) can be used by businesses of any size, no matter how many locations you may have, to rank on search engines like Google for relevant key terms that attract customers to YOU.
Local search engine optimization strategies send signals to Google and other search engines for where your business is located or services.
If you’ve ever searched for a key term like “gas station near me” or “locksmith near me”, then you’ve already seen some local SEO in the works. The whole point of local SEO is to increase online visibility for your business by communicating what your business services or sells and WHERE it services or sells. You communicate this information to search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc) via local signals.
Many businesses use local SEO to rank in districts, provinces, cities, neighborhoods, and even regions of a state or country. Your number one strategy to come out on top of your competitors and place your business in front of your customers is to implement local SEO.
Keep reading to find out how local SEO can benefit your business no matter if you have a physical storefront or only service a particular part of town.
How is Local SEO Used in 2020?
Search engine optimization has been used since the dawn of search engines. Twenty years ago, it used to be simple to implement SEO strategies. You could spam keywords all over your website and be #1 on the SERPs within a day. Nowadays, we have to get creative with how we go about SEO strategies.
Search engines have guidelines that prevent you from implementing some of the “easier” strategies from the olden days. Let’s just say that keyword spamming isn’t in practice by SEO agencies and contractors that care about your well-being and profitability.
As we enter an exciting new decade, everything changes, and new updates are made to keep ahead of the competition.
Local SEO is now used to direct customers to your storefront, call for your services, promote business offers, and lead potential customers to events.
Search engines and businesses not only gather online user data, but also geolocation data. If a customer comes into your store, there are now ways you can send them a notification with an offer they can use in-store.
For those looking to start or continue local SEO strategies in 2020, you should be looking out for industry trends that gather more personalized customer data to increase your conversions.
What is the Importance of NAP?
The strongest signal and most important factor of local SEO is the accuracy of your business’s name, address, and phone number online. This is also referred to as your business’s NAP.
Online directories like Yelp and search engines like Google use your NAP for ranking and directing customers to your business. If you have a business located in Fort Collins, Colorado but your website says your location is in Denver, then you’ll confuse these business directories and your customers.
If you have a website, adding the business name, address (or area serviced), and a phone number for direct contact to that business location will help Google and online directories verify your business.
You can take this one step further by including a map of your location, which essentially increases your NAP credibility and verification. This same NAP should be universal across the entire web.
This means that whenever your business is cited on any online directory, map, or search engine, the NAP should stay consistent. Without consistency, there is confusion for the customer and they won’t know how to find or contact you. This decreases your chances of ranking better, locally.
Local SEO for Service Area Businesses vs Physical Locations
If you’re a locksmith that doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar storefront for customers to walk in, never fear. Local SEO is for businesses with or without a location!
For a service area business (SAB), delivering or servicing select local areas, local SEO is still an important strategy you can use to increase online visibility. You can still outrank your competitors even if they have a physical storefront location!
While physical locations tend to be easier to rank in a select city, SABs are also able to rank in multiple cities at the same time. You’ll choose the main city that you want to service or deliver to, then choose the surrounding cities where you can make a profit.
For physical locations, you can also rank in other cities where you don’t have a direct storefront. This is more challenging but entirely possible. However, the city in which your physical location resides is where you’ll have the most foot traffic, and customers who are in that city find you online.
This goes to say, that you should be very careful where you place your business location.
Why Does the Geolocation of a User Matter?
Proximity is everything on search engines. Recently, the search engine giant Google went through a massive update on Google Maps which correlates to a user’s proximity. The latitude and longitude of a user when they perform a search on Google will provide them with different results as they move throughout a city, province, or even neighborhood.
To further explain, you might be ranking in position #1 on Google’s Map-Pack search results on one side of the block, but ranking in position #5 on the other side. A user’s proximity is now vital more than ever for their local search results.
The Difference Between Mobile vs Desktop Searches
Online searches can be completely different on mobile devices versus desktop devices, especially when it comes to local searches.
If you’re in your house searching on your computer for a restaurant to eat at tonight, you’ll still be provided with a list of local restaurants that are close to your proximity, but might be further away from your current address. Use your phone instead and you will be provided with some of the closest restaurants to your exact location.
Let’s look for some “restaurants near me”.
These are vastly different results!
On my desktop search, we have Cafe Athens as the first result in the Google Map Pack. On mobile, it’s Chick-Fil-A, but Cafe Athens is in position #2. Chick-Fil-A and Domino’s aren’t even listed as part of the first three results on the desktop Google Map-Pack!
My desktop results are further away from my location than two-thirds of my mobile results. Why is this? Why didn’t my computer provide me with closer results? It could be that Google believes that I’m taking more time to make my decisions by searching on my computer.
On my mobile device, I’m already on the move and need something that’s closer to me. Maybe I’m walking or in a car. Google’s algorithm is trying its best to provide you with the results that it believes you’d be most interested in.
Google also uses time data to provide you with the most appropriate restaurants for that time of day. For instance, you may see results for dinner-focused restaurants if you’re searching for a restaurant in the evening. But if it’s 12 PM, you might be provided with fast-food restaurants.
When it comes to local SEO, you’re trying to be aware of what devices your customers are most likely to use and target them.
What Can Boost Local SEO Efforts?
One of the quickest and most valuable ways to start and continue to increase your local SEO rankings is by accurately listing your NAP and other business information on local business directories.
Adding your business information to local directories is called citation building. Some SEO agencies (like Beyond Blue Media) implement citation building with your local SEO package, along with other strategies.
There are tons of local directories to add your business to and you should be careful about which ones you use since some are more valuable than others.
Here are our six recommended business citations to build to get the highest value for your time. All of which are free.
Top 6 FREE Local Directories for Boosting Local SEO
Google is at the forefront of the web, so it’s no wonder they are the go-to for local SEO efforts. The first step in local SEO is to claim and verify your Google Business Profile (GBP) account. The Map-Pack results you saw earlier in this article were GBP listings. These listings outrank other organic search results for local searches, so make sure you claim your GBP and include accurate business information.
Yelp has been used in recent years to create a reputation online from customer reviews. You can secure an account by using the same information you used for your GBP listing.
While YellowPages has been known as the giant yellow book you receive on your doorstep, they’ve gone digital and you should get verified! The website is very similar to Yelp but isn’t as commonly used for reviews.
4. Apple Maps
Not everyone uses Google Maps to find locations. With over 100 million Apple phone users in the United States alone, many will be using Apple Maps. Verify your business listing to ensure you don’t miss out on customers!
5. Bing Maps
One of the most common search engines used today (aside from Google) is Bing. Bing has its own mapping system that customers use on a regular basis. Help your customers find you at every point so you don’t lose any opportunities.
A very popular business directory for sourcing location data is Foursquare. Foursquare is partnered with other location data services, so you’ll actually be acquiring more than one listing on the web.
7. BONUS: Yext
As a bonus, acquire an account with Yext and let it do all of the work for you. This is, of course, a paid service that can be quite spendy. If you want to save yourself time and hassle to find 50+ directories online and don’t care about what it costs, then use Yext. All you have to do is add your business information and Yext will add your business to a variety of trusted directories.
EDITOR’S TIP: Don’t forget to add your website URL (if you have one) to each business directory!
Do Social Media Channels Improve Local SEO?
Unfortunately, Google and other search engines haven’t released information as to whether or not social media channels actually affect your local SEO.
Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn are some of the few social mediums that allow you to add your business’s NAP and website URL. Even though there isn’t proof as to social media channels are factors to local SEO, it doesn’t hurt to add your business information to them.
Facebook and LinkedIn still rank for some searches in the top positions, so you might acquire some leads via these mediums. You can also network with others and create groups to spread brand awareness on these mediums.
Do yourself a favor and make sure you’re being discovered by your customers everywhere you know they are.
Localize Your Website
The process of ‘localizing’ your website means focusing on optimizing your website for local searches. Many local businesses with websites are missing valuable information that communicates to Google and customers where they are located.
To localize your website, include the city or area your business is located or services on your website’s pages. Put the city name in the header, the content, and even the title of any videos you use. Be careful not to overdo keyword optimization by keyword spamming.
Local SEO DIY or SEO Agency?
Now that you are knowledgeable in the basics of local SEO, it’s time to decide how you’re officially going to get started. Do you perform the strategies yourself or hire a marketing agency to do them for you?
You’re a business owner, which means you already have a lot of responsibilities. Whether it’s physical labor, accounting, or training new employees, you already have enough on your plate. If you feel comfortable spending the time it takes to learn all you possibly can about local SEO to beat your competitors, then implementing the strategies yourself isn’t such a bad idea.
On the flip side, it takes hours of reading, concentration, patience, and testing to learn local SEO and make ROI from it. If you don’t have the time to spend on this, then contact a marketing agency that knows and understands the struggles of being a small to a medium-sized business owner.
With this article and other resources on the Beyond Blue Media blog, you can choose an SEO agency that you can trust, because you now know what goes into local SEO strategies.
At Beyond Blue Media, we have years of experience in delivering conversion-focused results for clients of all sizes by use of local SEO strategies. We have experimented and tested to find the best strategies for each business industry across the nation. We don’t promise what we can’t deliver. Contact our Fort Collins, Colorado SEO agency today to get started on your local SEO strategies.