By OLIVER ANDREWS
The importance of Local SEO for local businesses in 2021
What is Local SEO and whats its importance?
You have probably searched for a business before or put in a search term such as “coffee shop near me” and had results come up beneath a map – this is due to local SEO. While you may have seen it in action, you may not have realised just what it was or its importance for local busineses. Put simply, local SEO is a way of improving your search engine optimisation so that you can be found on Google by those who are looking locally. It helps your business to be more visible in local search results on search engines. Local SEO can be used to help those looking for local products or services, to show results that are nearby to that particular person. It is an imperative thing for brands to think about alongside their more generic SEO strategy. In a time such as now when we are having to stick to a much smaller radius to do our shopping or find services, it has never been more vital that you are available to those customers that are searching for you. The importance of local SEO should not be underestimated and is something you need to look at adding to your marketing strategy as soon as possible.
What we will cover in this article
What is the difference between SEO and local SEO?
SEO and local SEO tend to go hand in hand, yet they are not to be confused with each other. While both focus on improving your rankings on search engines, their emphasis is on different audiences. SEO, also known as national or organic SEO consists of many on and off-page strategies to get your website seen when anyone is using a search engine such as Google. You can improve your SEO through many different ways, such as keyword research, outreach campaigns and optimising your website. Local SEO works to a similar outcome – getting you seen by those who were to interact with and purchase for your business, but on a much smaller search radius. Instead of targeting anyone from around the world, it allows you to capture local search territory to find those that are nearby.
Who needs local SEO?
Any business that sells products or services in local search areas can benefit from local SEO. It can help to drive more traffic to your website and put you in front of local customers and clients who are specifically looking for businesses like yours. Be sure not to underestimate the importance of local SEO for your company.
What are the main benefits of local SEO?
There are many benefits of using local SEO to improve your business. One of the first is that it has a higher conversion rate. This is due to the results being much more focused and relevant to your base of local customers. If your result is showing up, it is because someone nearby is searching for the service that you are providing. They aren’t looking to trawl through thousands of other similar companies which are all thousands of miles away, they are finding a business that is near to them and offers what they want, so are highly likely to use you. According to Search Engine Watch, 80% of local searches convert, meaning that the most important thing you need to focus on, is helping them to find you – through local SEO. When people search through Google, it has been found that 86% of people rely on the internet to find a local business and 46% of all internet searches are for a local business, so if this is something you aren’t doing, you are missing out on a lot of searches.
With COVID meaning that many businesses are having to shut their doors, or preventing people from being able to travel to anywhere outside their local area, local SEO has never been so important. No longer are people relying on finding businesses when they are walking out and about, they are having to turn to Google to find the service or product they are looking for. Statistics have found that 97% of consumers check a company’s online presence before deciding to visit them, further proving just how important being able to be found online really is. As Well as changing the way that many businesses operate, COVID has also changed the way that people think and shop. Whether it was from seeing the treatment from larger conglomerates to both their employees and to loyal customers or having the time to learn more about local businesses, COVID has had a huge shift in the way we shop. More and more people are now shunning large companies in favour of smaller businesses. If it is your industry that people are looking for in these times, you want to show that you are a local business worth their support and be able to be found easily when they are searching on Google.
The two ways to be found in local search results
Google determines local rankings through three main features – how relevant your business is to what someone is searching for, the physical distance of the business from the searcher’s own location and how well known the site is. There are two ways that you can be found in local search results. The first is through Google Maps. A potential customer or client simply needs to be on the maps page and search for something such as “hardware store near me” and if you have done your local SEO correctly, you will show up. The other way is through organic listings which is where your business will show up beneath Google maps.
Google My Business – Google Maps
A Google My Business, Google maps account listing ensures that when someone searches for you on Google maps, you will come up – helping your local SEO. It will have a pinpoint where you are on the map and inform them of local details such as your address, website and phone number as well as any other relevant details so they can get in touch with you or find your store. With Google maps you can only rank in specific locations that you are already both registered and verified in – this is to ensure that businesses who are based elsewhere don’t try and rank in random locations. Google maps works based on the location of where the person searching is located at the time of the search, or they can input a location where they want to find the business. For example, they could be out but search for a supermarket near to their home that they can visit when they get back. Your business can easily be found by those that are both nearby and that are searching for a specific service in a specific location.
Getting to the top of the map pack
There are a few different factors that can impact your ranking on local SEO, and a few were listed above. In order to have the best chance at ranking highly, it is important that you pay attention to your ordinary SEO to try and increase your site’s traffic, as well as some more specific things. You must ensure that you fill out as much information as possible on your Google My Business listing. Not only does this make you seem the most legitimate both to customers and to Google, but it also means there are more ways for potential customers to get in touch with you if you require your services. You also need to get as many Google reviews as you can and ensure that you respond to them all, both good and bad. It’s always good to acknowledge a good review but ensure that you don’t ignore it if you get any bad ones. If you do happen to get a bad review, it is important for your local SEO to be benefitted to show that you both acknowledge it and have done everything you can to resolve whatever the query or discrepancy might be. It can also be tempting to copy and paste your answers to all your good or bad reviews, but it is best to give individual and unique responses.
A local citation is any mention of your business and its details and it’s important you don’t underestimate the importance of local SEO citations. If your business name, phone number and address is mentioned somewhere, this counts as a citation and can help you to rank higher on Google maps and improve your local SEO strategy. Citations can be anywhere from social media platforms such as Facebook or Instagram, on apps or on local business directory websites. A citation is important as it helps search engines to determine the legitimacy, accuracy and relevance of your business location. It is important that they are consistent with your Google My Business page and are from high-quality sources. If you are seen to be spamming low-quality websites with your details just to up the quantity, it could end up having negative effects on your ranking. It is much more important to have fewer links and citations, but those that are of a higher quality. One way you can source for the best ones you should be using is to research the citations that your competitors use and also get yourself listed on these. The main elements of a citation are nicknamed NAP which means your company’s name, address and phone number, although a website link is also very common. Other elements that a citation could be the hours of operation, the business categories, images, videos, a business description, email addresses, social media links, Google forms and driving directions alongside others. This can all help your local SEO.
When you list on a search engine you can either do so as a paid or organic listing for your local SEO. Paid ads, as the name suggests, listings that have been put up through paid marketing techniques and are considered an ad. An organic listing is a natural and unpair listing in a search result page. These appear due to Google having crawled the page and determined it a valuable result to show for a given search term. The more value Google considers the page to be, the higher it is ranked.
It is important to work on your organic SEO (as well as your local) as this will mean you can be found anywhere in the country and will also benefit your local SEO at the same time. Organic enables you to rank for any given topic that you are aiming to rank for, anywhere in the country. You can work on your SEO with both on and off-page SEO. On-page SEO looks at what your site is all about and focuses on what is within your power to control. Off-page SEO looks at the authority your website holds and how powerful it is. This is determined by you increasing your domain authority through generating backlinks off of other sites and creating valuable content. Off-page tends to determine how highly you rank in the search results for a given term, while on-page SEO determines what it is that you rank for.
Choosing the right keywords for local search
Finding the best keywords for you to rank for local SEO is an important step in getting your listing ranked as highly as possible. It is not as simple as just trying to aim for one phrase such as “party planner in London.” You will need to find other related phrases to target too. There are many keyword research tools out there which can create a list of relevant terms that you can search for and try to rank. For example, it could suggest “party planners London”, “London party planners” “Best London party planners” and so on. One of the most important things you will need to do is specify your location where you are based and the areas that you want to target for the search. If you are based in London for example, you can target “London” as well as more niche areas such as “Central London” “East London” or even more specific such as “Hackney.” This will enable you to reach all of the people you offer the service to, in the areas that you offer it. You will also want to include keyword modifiers which can make the search more specific. These words help to expand your reach and are more niche. The most common keyword modifiers include quality words, such as the “best” or “top,” occasion modifiers such as “birthday” or “anniversary” and special offering words. This could include things such as “retro” “fancy dress” (if you are a party planner) or “all-inclusive” if you are a travel agent for example.
Creating the right content with the right search intent
When it comes to creating the right content with the right search intent for local SEO, you need to keep your target audience in mind at all times. Your content will need to be aimed at local people who are looking for a local product or service and therefore should be location-specific. One of the first things you should do is look at the current result for your target search term that comes up as number one on the search results. Take a look at their content and think of what you can do to your own that will be better than this. Ensure that you don’t copy their content as this can harm both of your SEO, but think of anything that might be missing or incomplete in your eyes. Think of how you can improve on what they have done and come up with a detailed plan of how you can achieve this.
A critical look at your own website
It is also important that you take a critical look at your own website when focusing on the importance of local SEO and how you can improve on your on-page SEO. This is a very important factor in ranking and it could be that you are missing out on a top search result due to something that you could very easily rectify in the back end of your website. The first of these is to sort out your meta descriptions for your pages. Meta descriptions are a couple of lines that come under a search result in Google and should be between 90-150 characters long. You will need to include any keywords you are trying to target in this too. You will also need to optimise your title tags – the title of your piece. HTML element which is the title of your page or post. It needs to be unique for every page and should be between 30 to 60 characters for optimum length.
It is also vital that your website is mobile-friendly. In a time where more people than ever use mobiles for searching and browsing the web if yours is not optimised for mobiles, you will face losing a large chunk of potential customers and clients, as well as harming your own ranking chances. As well as being mobile-friendly, your site needs to be responsive, so able to adapt to any screen size; whether it be a laptop, computer, tablet or mobile.
In order to rank well for local SEO, your website should provide a good user experience. You want users to come to the site and feel they are browsing something of value. The longer they spend on your site, engaging with your content and reading your pages, the higher value search engines will place on your site. The same goes for website speed. If your site is slow, most people will leave straight away and you will receive a high bounce rate which means that Google thinks your site is not useful or valuable. The ideal web page loads in less than 3 seconds.
If you don’t have a blog, ensure that you create one to help with your SEO and local SEO. Not only is this a great way to show search engines that you are a relevant and up-to-date source, but it also shows you as a source of inspiration and influence. It shows that you are an expert in your field and if you target keywords, it can help your site to rank. The final thing you need to ensure that you have set up is a Google Map which you embed into your site.
Link building with a local focus
Link building works alongside your SEO strategy and is as relevant as the importance of local SEO as it shows Google that you are an authoritative site. To help improve your local SEO rank, be sure that you get links from local businesses, other businesses in your industry and from authoritative and relevant sites. Some good ways to do this include podcasts and guest blogs. You will want to write great quality content for this.
Use social media
Social media is another important way to gain authority and help you to rank. Use it to create engagement and encourage others to share your articles as well as create brand awareness. You can also optimise your social media pages to be found on Google.
Consistency always wins
Local SEO and SEO in general can be a long game, but as long as you are patient and consistent, your hard work will pay off. Aim to stand out from the crowd while also following guidelines of what can help you to rank on Google. Always update old content and ensure you keep your Google My Business profile up to date at all times.
When it comes to the importance of local SEO, it is vital it is not overlooked. It is easy enough to implement and can have a great impact on your company. With more and more people relying on Google due to COVID and being stuck at home or in their local areas, it is vital you get your local SEO strategy sorted sooner rather than later so you don’t miss out on many potential customers and sales. The shift to supporting local businesses since COVID is not going anywhere and you want to put yourself out there and show that you are a great option for this. If you want to find out more about how much local SEO in the UK should cost read this article.
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