I was away from home and craving a good pizza. Like many of us, I pulled out my phone and did a quick search for, “Best pizza place near me.”
I hoped to find the best pizza, but frankly, it was mediocre (at best). What I really wanted was a small mom-and-pop restaurant that had the pizza made with a family recipe, the kind that lingers in your memory for years. I know a restaurant like that was out there, but I didn’t find it because their business didn’t show up during my search.
Is that a problem with the search engine? Maybe, but it’s more likely that legendary pizza shop didn’t put the time and effort into their Local SEO and digital marketing to be found. Google and other search engines can’t list your business to hungry customers if they don’t know you exist.
Your small business has worked too hard to perfect its recipe, product or service to not show up within search engines.
Getting Found in Your Community
No matter the size of your business, it’s important to have visibility in your local market. It’s an important source of new employees, your first choice for new suppliers, and a great market to tap into. But, there are challenges to local search and SEO, and challenges for businesses that rely heavily on local search SEO.
For example, many local businesses have built a reputation over several generations. Drumming up new business through organic search may not be top of mind. These businesses may struggle to get a footing in the local market if they rely heavily on friends and family for the old-fashioned word-of-mouth marketing that has worked so well in the past.
As their competitors push local SEO and search, they are finding new friends and new advocates, growing their business. The other business continues to rely on the same friends, same family, not seeing the same growth. Word of mouth marketing isn’t going away, but 46% of all Google searches have local intent and 86% of consumers turn to the internet in hopes to find a local business.
Consumers turn to a search engine to find local products and services which is why your small business has to take advantage of the benefits local SEO has to offer.
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO (search engine optimization) is the tactics intended to increase online presence, search engine visibility, and rankings, with a specific focus on local search. Inherently, it works like overall SEO, but to generate more website traffic, foot traffic, and sales or leads that are looking for local businesses.
The Benefits of Local SEO
Search engines WANT to show your business. If you offer important information, a great product, or an awesome service for your community, then you are the type of business that local search wants to show. Local SEO is how you meet them halfway.
When it comes to local search, the scale of businesses shrink when it comes to results. For national and international search, competition is fierce with the big brands. With local search and SEO, Google and other search engines rank local businesses above those brands if the search has neighborhood location and local intent. It’s a direct competitive advantage for small- and mid-sized businesses.
Your digital presence is often the first engagement a consumer has with your business. When you can target the messaging, you can develop trust between your business and the local search user. Consider this, searches including “near me” or some iteration increased 900% in a two-year period. Furthermore, 50% of those searches resulted in a store or business visit. Leveraging a local business through local search leads to increased website and foot traffic, and that means sales and revenue.
The Science of Local Search
Still confused about the difference between SEO, search and local SEO?
There’s a slight variance between SEO and local SEO in search engines. Google uses an algorithm ranking based on relevance, prominence, and proximity in local search. The geographical location of a business or the area in which they provide services is taken into consideration when it comes to search results. This has become known as the “Local Pack.” Google places a map of local businesses related to the search on the SERP (Search Engine Results Page). This information is pulled directly from the data you provide to Google My Business.
What is Google My Business?
Google owns a majority of the search engine market which is why GMB (Google My Business) is the best place to begin your local SEO efforts.
Google My Business (GMB) is a free tool that allows businesses the ability to promote their products or services on Google Search and Google Maps. Using the tool, you can provide information regarding your business (name, address, phone number) to directly connect with customers. With GMB, you can post updates, your prospects and customers can check reviews, and so much more.
It’s also the source of the data that shows up in local searches. With your GMB set up, Google knows how to add your business in search results with local intent. With a strong listing, you can start selling your product or service right there in the search results.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Setup Google My Business. Navigate to https://www.google.com/business or simply search “google my business” within the search engine. Once at the login screen, click the “Manage Now” button. From here it will ask you to input the name of your business and where it’s located. Make sure to select whether or not you have a physical location or if you deliver goods and services to consumers. It will then give you the option to select service area(s) and categorize your business. For example, if you are a mechanic, you would search for something related to Auto Body Shop. Once you have finished claiming your business, Google will then ask you to verify it.
- Verify the Listing. GMB requires all businesses to be verified before being considered in search engine results. The method of verification differs based on business type, but most often you’ll need to verify by mail. You’ll provide the address of your business and Google will send you a postcard with a verification code. Try not to change any information about your business (name, address, business type) during the verification process, as it can be difficult to update the verification, requiring several phone calls with Google Support.
- Add Business Information. While you are waiting for your verification, you can start updating the information about your business in the listing:
- Business description. This is your opportunity to briefly summarize what your business is all about. Personalize the description and try and make a human connection with potential customers. No one wants to feel they are talking to a robot.
- When your business first opened. If you have a long-standing business, but are just finding out about GMB, here’s your opportunity to showcase how long you have been serving your community.
- Add logo and photos. Showcase your work or your business. Make sure to stray away from dimly lit or poor-quality photos. People want to see what they are getting or can expect. The better the photo, the better you can showcase your awesomeness! Don’t forget to add your business logo!
- Include products and/or services. Google gives you the option to call out your products and services while providing price, description, and a CTA (call-to-action) such as a link to Buy or Learn More.
- Hours of operation. Be sure to include the hours your business is open. Google gives you the option to include special hours for holidays, happy hour, etc. This is important, as Google will give special consideration to businesses that include hours of operation.
- Website Address. If you have a website, make sure to include it in your listing. If you don’t, Google My Business can assist you within the tool to create a website based on the information you provided.
- Post about an update, event, or offer. Similar to posting on social media, GMB allows businesses to post about anything they find relevant to what their customers should know about. This could be a special offer, or an update about the business and services, or even information about an event at their location.
- Customer Interaction with Messaging and Reviews. One of the biggest benefits of GMB is the ability to directly interact with your customers. It’s an outlet for people to leave reviews or reach out if they have questions. Make sure to familiarize yourself with these features.
Getting the Most Out of Your Google My Business Listing
Your online presence, including GMB, should reflect your business goals, values, and strategies. Your GMB listing should be a representation of them while empowering you to control your business’ information and interaction on Google.
Make sure you understand your market and your customers. You need to deliver content that is relevant to them. Let them know the problems that your business solves, and how you can help them.
Search engine optimization isn’t easy. It’s a process that requires a lot of attention. It’s never-ending. It is a lot of work, but it can pay off quickly if you execute at a high level. Everything you need to know about search engine optimization can be found on our SEO checklist.
Extending Local SEO to Other Platforms
Google and Bing are the most popular search engines, but local SEO extends to other platforms online. Consider how many consumers look for business pages on social media, Apple Maps, Yelp, etc.
Local SEO ensures those platforms have the correct information regarding your business. They help the people ready to buy find you on the internet. If you keep your listing updated, then every local search is an opportunity for a new customer.
One last tip… Apple uses Siri, Amazon uses Alexa, and Microsoft uses Cortana. Outside of Apple, both Amazon and Microsoft use Bing as their search engines. As more users are moving to voice search, make sure to take advantage of the Apple Maps Connect and Bing Webmaster Tools platforms.
Local SEO Solutions and Services
Face it, not everyone can be an expert in SEO and digital marketing, and that’s okay.
Not every small- to mid-sized business has the ability to hire a Google guru or SEO expert. If you run into problems, then look to the experts. Marketing agencies can provide local SEO solutions and services. They can take the burden off your plate and deliver better results.
If you have questions, then reach out. Let us see how we can help your business reach a larger, local, audience.