Kickstart Your Local SEO: A Practical Guide for SMBs and Startups
Many businesses leave the value of local SEO untapped due to thinking it’s a complex process.
5 mins to read
Nearly half of all Google searches are looking for local information. That means if your small or midsize business (SMB) doesn’t come up in local searches, you could be losing up to 46% of your potential customers to your competitors.
In a world where nearly 60% of all shoppers turn to Google to research a product before making a purchase, the power of the internet has never been in question. However, many businesses leave the value of local SEO untapped due to thinking it’s a complex process.
By the end of this article, you’ll know exactly what local SEO is, why it’s critical to your business’s success, and practical ways you can start to improve your local SEO rankings today.
Local search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing your business’s online presence so that it appears in more local searches by the right customers. It’s an organic marketing strategy to increase your brand’s visibility and traffic, typically for brick-and-mortar businesses.
Think of the last time you turned to Google to find a new restaurant. You probably searched for something like “Italian food near me” or “dessert close by.” Google uses business addresses, online reviews, and keywords to present the best options based on your location data and what you’re searching for.
Local SEO can put your business on the map – literally. The statistics speak for themselves:
Any business with a physical location or serving a specific region can benefit from boosting its local SEO efforts. This is true across many industries and services beyond retail shops, including:
Local SEO increases your brand awareness and helps prevent your hard-earned customers from visiting your competitor down the road.
The three pillars of local SEO are relevance, proximity, and prominence. Together, these factors indicate to search engines that your business is relevant to the user’s search, near the user’s location, and popular among locals offline, which could make it a top choice for your query.
Relevance refers to how well Google feels your business matches users' search terms and intent based on your online presence.
For example, if someone searches “burritos close by,” the search engine results page (SERP) will not only return local Mexican restaurants but prioritize those with burritos listed point-blank on their online menus. The results may even prioritize businesses that are further away but seem more relevant to the user’s search, so they’re more likely to find what they’re looking for.
If your Mexican restaurant serves burritos but doesn’t mention them on its site (or doesn’t have a site at all), it’s much less likely to appear in local search results.
Proximity in local SEO refers to how close a business is to the searcher’s current location. Google pulls location information from business addresses that have either been submitted to Google via the business’s Google profile (more on that later) or on a contact page of the website.
If you don’t have an exact address listed online – or if it’s not easy to find – your business may not make the list at all.
Prominence refers to the popularity of your business with local audiences. Google determines popularity via online reviews, ratings, mentions, links, and information that makes it seem more trustworthy, such as having a legitimate address and phone number on its website.
Examples of prominent businesses include famous hotels, popular museums, and well-known brands. Small businesses can improve their local SEO by encouraging online ratings, leveraging social media, and collaborating with other local businesses.
SEO may sound complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. There are a lot of simple ways to boost your online presence, and every action you take helps. Best of all – these actions don’t cost a dime!
Google owns more than 92% of the global search engine market, which means making sure your business pops up in Google searches and on Google Maps is pivotal for attracting local business.
Previously called Google My Business, a Google Business Profile is your only means of claiming your business and managing how it appears in Google products such as Search and Google Maps. Your profile is free to claim, and you can immediately boost your rankings by adding essential information to Google’s products, such as:
You can also personalize your Google Business Profile by adding:
Some business types have additional ways to personalize their profiles. For example, restaurants that take online orders, reservations, or waitlists can add buttons to their profile that make it easy to order takeout or reserve a table.
The important thing is to include as many relevant keywords as possible that relate to how your audience may search for your products or services. Law offices, for example, may list the different types of laws they practice by using terms such as “divorce attorney,” “personal injury lawyer,” and “worker’s compensation.”
When it comes to your website, the way your site is structured and how the information flows is important for how easily Google can scan the information. It helps to use heading tags (Heading 1, Heading 2, etc., that you may find in your website’s text editor) to organize information and show Google which topics or services are linked in a hierarchy.
Simplifying your website also provides a better user experience for your customers since they’ll be able to quickly find the information they came there for.
Aside from using headings properly, SEO best practices for easy site navigation include:
To highlight your business’s local presence, be sure to add a location(s) page or “contact us” page that clearly spells out your name, address, and phone number so both humans and search engines can find it.
For brick-and-mortar businesses with multiple locations, be sure to clearly label each location by its city or neighborhood and include the address and phone number for each. If you have locations across multiple states, it can be helpful to categorize them by state using header tags.
Regularly publishing content to your website is a tip you’ll find in any SEO how-to guide, even beyond local audiences. Adding or updating content consistently shows Google that your business is still active and that your website is up to date.
When it comes to local SEO, consider putting together some local content that could be helpful to your audience, even if it’s not directly related to your business. Publish a guide to local events, or use case studies, customer testimonials, and service pages to mention local places.
The more often your location appears on your website, the better.
If all of this still sounds confusing or overwhelming, consider enlisting the help of a boutique marketing agency that specializes in small business and startup marketing. Ongoing SEO efforts can be very affordable, and you can build your business without piling additional work onto your plate.
Some agencies will put together individualized packages to meet your specific needs and budget. And you’ll have someone who is adept at keeping tabs on your local SEO efforts and online performance to continue refining your plan.
Alan and Co. Marketing is a digital marketing agency in the U.S. that specializes in local SEO for small and midsize businesses. We have special expertise in marketing for drug rehabs and improving drug rehab SEO.
Schedule a free consultation now to get the local traffic you need.