Did you know that out of the approximately 5.4 billion Google searches per day, 46% are for local information? Local SEO for small business owners is a cornerstone digital marketing strategy to get more people to discover you.
Unlike other digital marketing fads, local SEO has stood the test of time for being a reliable and long-term SEO strategy to get more people to find your small business.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- What is local SEO and how does it work for small businesses
- Steps to implement local SEO into your small business
- Frequently asked questions about local SEO
So if you want to boost your business’s visibility in your local service area, this is the guide for you. Let’s get started.
What is local SEO and how does it work for small businesses?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the art and science of getting your website to show up higher in search engine results. Local SEO is about how to get your business found within your local service area.
Local in an SEO sense means within your city or town that your business is based. For niche small businesses, local may mean getting found in your regional area.
At the least, your local business information should come to the top of the search engine results when searching for your local business by name.
However, this may not be the case if there are many businesses of the same name in your local area. Also, having your local business show up when people type in relevant terms within your area can be considered a part of local SEO.
Let’s say you own a cafe. If someone in your area types in “cafe near me”, you’d want your cafe to show up at the top. Now, search engines do not explicitly state how they rank websites.
But, they do give guidance on what they consider when ranking websites in the order of the pages SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).
Additionally, local SEO is a well-documented, tried and tested marketing strategy. Below are the steps that I’ve implemented for hundreds of local small businesses which have improved their local SEO.
What are the benefits of local SEO for small businesses?
The benefits of local SEO for small businesses are plentiful. Not only is organic traffic a free source of potential customers, it typically converts better than other forms of traffic.
Many businesses need local SEO to ensure they can be found by potential customers in their areas of service. Unlike social media, local SEO is all about promoting your website and to a lesser extent, your Google My Business listing.
In particular, local SEO can be a huge boost for businesses that want to be found on mobile devices. Did you know that 88% of people who search for a local business on their smartphone end up visiting a related business within a week? That’s why it is important that your website and landing pages are mobile-friendly so you can gain maximum benefits from local mobile searches.
Step One: Install Google Analytics & Search Console into your website
For you to see if your local SEO efforts are moving in the right direction, you need to have the right tracking and measurement tools for local SEO in place to begin with.
Google Analytics will give you website behaviour data. It will also tell you how much organic traffic to your website is coming from searches.
Google Search Console will give you more in-depth information about how your website is performing in search. It will also tell you if your website has any issues that are hurting its performance in search.
If you are not sure if you have Google Analytics installed, you can follow this guide to find out. If you don’t have it installed, you can follow the steps.
To install Google Search Console, follow these steps. I’ll discuss how to read and understand the data from these tools in a later step.
Step Two: Conduct keyword & competitor research
Keyword research is the process of identifying which search keyword phrases are relevant to your business.
Competitor research helps you understand who you are competing for rankings with relevant keywords. Both keyword research and competitor research form the basis of your local SEO strategy.
To do keyword and competitor research properly, you’ll need to invest in an SEO tool such as Ahrefs or SEMRush. I recommend reading up on how to do keyword research with Ahrefs of SEMRush first, then signing up for a 7-day trial.
If you are on a limited budget, you should be able to complete your keyword research within the trial period. However, both tools offer excellent tracking and reporting that makes the investment worthwhile.
Step Three: Audit your website & fix technical issues
Moving onto your website, you’ll want to do a technical audit of the site you’re wanting to improve. A technical SEO audit will point out what issues exist with your current website that could be holding it back from ranking in search.
If you are technical, you can do the audit manually. However, I find it’s more time-efficient to use either SEMRush orAhrefs to automate the technical auditing.
Step Four: Complete onsite SEO
Continuing from the technical audit, you’ll want to complete onsite SEO. If you have used Ahrefs or SEMRush, both tools will provide you with recommendations to improve your onsite SEO.
If you are getting started with SEO for the first time, it’s best to follow what the tools tell you to do. As you get more advanced with SEO, you can go beyond the scope of what the tools tell you to do.
At the very least, ensure all pages that you want to rank in search have unique meta descriptions and titles. Meta descriptions are the text that shows up on the search results pages. Ensuring that your page meta descriptions contain the keyword that you want to rank for, are relevant and well-written can help improve your website’s performance in local search.
Step Five: Setup and optimize your Google My Business Listing
Your Google My Business listing is central to your local SEO strategy. Here you can manually list your business, claim your location and provide your business name, address and phone number.
It helps to show searchers that you are a legitimate business. Most importantly, a well-optimized profile can help you appear more in relevant local searches and map searches.
You can create a Google My Business listing here. Depending on your type of business and where you live, you may have a postcard from Google mailed to your business address. This helps Google verify if you are a real business or not.
It’s best to follow Google’s guidelines on how to correctly set up your Google My Business listing. You should aim for 100% profile competition. Listings that are fully complete tend to perform better than ones that are not. You should list your product and service and include multiple images and videos (if possible).
Step Six: Complete local citations & online directory building
You can help boost your local search presence by spending a little bit of time building up local citations.
Citation building such as setting up profiles on online directories is a fundamental part of local SEO. What it means is the number of websites that provide information about your business. Search engines see this as contextual information that helps to prove that you are a real business.
Although online directory link building isn’t as powerful as it used to be, it can still help establish your business’s online presence in your local area.
For local SEO, setting up free online profiles and linking your website to them is often enough to help out with your search ranking. Online profiles such as Apple Maps, Facebook & Tripadvisor are fast and free ways to build links to your website.
However, make sure that you only set up online profiles on websites that are relevant to your business. For example, it’s irrelevant and a waste of time for a dentist to set up a Tripadvisor web page.
SEMRush has built-in local citation features that suggest websites for you to create profiles on. I’ve also found Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder a great tool for discovering relevant local citations.
Leave an annotation note on your Google Analytics profile on the date that you complete all six steps.
What about link building?
In most cases, I’ve found that link building for local businesses does not economically make sense. That’s not to say that it does not work and it isn’t important to prioritise, however.
Local small businesses typically do not have the budget to embark on a link-building campaign. Even still, ranking for local search keywords does not require extensive link building for most phrases that I’ve come across.
The exception to this is for ‘local’ businesses that can service clients all over their state of operation. A good example would be law firms, financial companies and accounting firms. Although these businesses have local offices, they tend to serve clients beyond their local area.
In these cases, link-building campaigns can make sense as the potential for achieving a positive ROI is much higher than doing it for a small local-only business.
Step Seven: Assess results & plan the next steps
With all that work done, I recommend leaving everything alone for a good three months. That way, you can allow the search engines to fully crawl and realize your changes. It will give them enough time to adjust your search engine rankings accordingly.
Once three months have passed, log into Google Search Console and navigate to the performance view. Checkbox total clicks, total impressions, average CTR and average position.
Next, change the date range to the last three months. You should be able to see the search queries that your website is ranking for below.
You can also assess the organic traffic impact on your website from Google Analytics. Navigate to the Acquisitions > Overview tab. Set the date from the current day back to the day you finished implementing the six steps above.
Click on the Organic Search to see growth in Users to your website over this period.
Local SEO Frequently Asked Questions
Is SEO worth it for small businesses?
Yes, you can rank a website for your business’s local searches with the right time and effort. Local SEO is a good way to find potential customers. It allows you to rank for keywords you are interested in and also provides links from other web pages that are related. This helps your business connect with people near it.
Does your business need local SEO?
More than you think. Most small local businesses can benefit greatly from local SEO. It will help your business rank for keywords that you want to be found.
In addition, it will help bring you more potential customers from your local community. You may even find yourself ranked at the top of search engines (like Google) for many common terms people look up when looking for products or services you sell.
How do I start local SEO?
The steps outlined in this article serve as a good starting point. You can implement all the steps without spending any money and they require no prior knowledge of SEO.
If you want to outsource these steps then try searching for a local SEO specialist in your area.
How can I improve my local SEO?
Firstly, make sure you have fully implemented all of the steps in this article.
The competitor analysis will point out gaps in your SEO strategy versus the websites that are outranking yours.
If you have done everything right and you are getting outranked, usually this is a result of:
- A lack of highly authoritative and relevant backlinks
- Lack of overall website content, especially local content and quality
Investing in a long-term SEO local content marketing & link-building strategy can help overcome these two points. However, it does require a considerable amount more time and money compared to the steps outlined in this post.
Does SEO Increase Sales?
SEO can increase sales if you can rank on the first page for relevant keywords with strong purchase intent.
Not every keyword phrase ranking is equal. For example, the key phrase “buy red women’s shoes near me” has strong purchase intent compared to “different red shoe designs”.
The former phrase would be someone in the market wanting to buy now. The latter phrase has the intent of generating ideas that may lead to purchase eventually.
Ranking for keywords with strong purchase intent helps to increase the conversion rate of search clicks to sales.
Can I Learn Local SEO?
Local SEO is a great place to start learning SEO. It’s one of the more straightforward areas of SEO and there’s lots of evidence-based information out there.
I’ve been doing local SEO for small businesses for over a decade, so I know what works and what doesn’t. If you haven’t done so already, subscribe to this blog as I’ll continue to release more SEO educational content.
Whitespark also hosts an annual virtual local search summit which you can get your free ticket for here.
So there you have it, that’s the complete beginner’s guide to local SEO.
Now, I want to hear what you have to say.
Especially if you are a business owner running a local small business.
Are you being found when you search for your business online?
Are you going to give local SEO a try?
Or, will you find someone to help you out with it?
Let me know how what you think of local SEO by leaving a comment below.