Competing online with the industry big boys can seem like an impossible task. How can your modest start-up or SME wrestle customers from the huge multi-national corporations? Surely their bottomless budgets and teams of business and marketing experts give them a massive advantage when it comes to reaching their target audience and potential customers.
Or perhaps not.
We all love a David and Goliath story, and it seems as though the major search engines do as well – giving rise to local SEO, which provides local businesses with a chance to reach out to their nearby customers. If we were to extend this biblical allegory, local SEO would be the stone that David chucked into the face of Goliath, and your SME would be the future king of Israel.
Rewarding businesses which could genuinely assist with search engine enquiries, and not just those conglomerates with the deepest pockets; local SEO can go some way to levelling the playing field, and help customers find the services they’re searching for.
Benefits of Local SEO
SEO success can be hard to come by, with Google and the other major search engines rewarding long-term efforts and genuine hard work, spotting shortcuts and foul play a mile off. So for SMEs with smaller budgets, a successful SEO campaign can sometimes seem like something of a pipe dream, especially when competing against major businesses for prominence in search engine rankings.
Local SEO, however, rewards an intangible quality which SMEs can offer that many larger corporations and multinationals often cannot, locality. It may seem obvious, but the location of the business is a key aspect of success in local SEO, with results favouring businesses close to where a search enquiry was made. There are two ways in which the search engine can identify the appropriate local businesses:
- Location search: Many search engine users will directly specify where they’re on the lookout for products and services. The savvy searcher is more likely to enter ‘barber in Manchester’ than the rather ambiguous ‘barber shop’, knowing the results are more likely to be relevant to their needs.
- GPS: And even when a location isn’t entered, a search engine might be using your location to pick the top search hits. Using tools such as Google Maps, search engines can often determine your location in seconds and return the most relevant and helpful hits.
It’s fair to say that local SEO benefits both the customer and the business, helping the two parties find each other with minimal fuss.
Aims of Local SEO
The primary aim of local SEO is different to traditional SEO. Whilst larger companies with a significant focus on e-commerce will be looking to drive online sales through their traditional SEO and PPC campaigns, local SEO is largely focussed on increasing awareness and physical footfall.
By raising the awareness of local businesses, more customers may be inclined to physically visit the stores or make enquiries by email and telephone. This is a slightly less direct form of conversion for websites, but is a success nevertheless (and should still be measured as a metric).
A secondary aim of local SEO is improving brand awareness to legitimise the company and increase general awareness amongst the potential customer base. A huge percentage of customers now expect businesses of all sizes, from all industries to have a strong web presence. Failure to implement a strong presence on the web could serve to raise questions about a company’s legitimacy and their ability to meet customer expectations.
And the by-product of local SEO could well be the primary objective of many a major SEO campaign – those elusive ecommerce sales.
Starting a Local SEO Campaign – What’s First?
The first step to local SEO success is ensuring that the search engines know where you are located and exactly the kind of services you provide. With this information, the search engine folk are much more likely to send interested customers your way.
Setting up a Google My Business account is the first (and arguably the most important) step in this journey. This is essentially a lengthy, digital business card upon which you can enter all of your business’ vital information. And it is vitally important that this is filled in as thoroughly as possible, giving Google as many clues as possible that your business is the one that their users are looking for. Fill in every available field in as much detail as possible, and make sure that it matches the information provided on your website and the rest of the web (differences in details could make the Google bots dispute the existence of your business, and compromise your performance in local search results).
Adding images further legitimises the business, and a full and correct map means the business can be easily found by search engine users. High definition logos can help the company’s professional image, something the discerning search engine user is looking for, even if it is subconsciously.
However, there is one part of your Google My Business profile you can’t edit, the customer reviews, but that makes them no less important. Inviting customers to leave reviews on Google for your business can bring a number of benefits. Firstly, it legitimises the business so users searching in the future can identity that your business is real and (assuming the reviews are positive) trustworthy. Secondly, it is Google’s favourite type of content, user-generated content, and can help your ranking performance. If Google can see that your business is receiving reviews, it will confirm that the business is active and relevant to the searches.
So What’s Next?
Sadly, a local SEO campaign is not as simple as creating a profile for the search engines to ponder over. There are extra on-site and off-site steps which can be used to further improve the likelihood that your site will turn up in local searches.
Some of these are creative, including the optimisation of content on the websites. And some of these are technical, such as the implementation of structured data markup throughout the key data of the website, making it even easier for Google and the other search engines to identify what your business does, and where you do it.
And as the business evolves, so should your web presence, giving your potential customers the best possible chance of finding your business.
To chat with Banc Media’s SEO team about your business’ local SEO, send us an email on [email protected].