What You Need To Know Before Hiring an SEO Company

What is Local SEO and Why is it Important for My Small Business?

As a small business owner, you understand the importance of reaching your target audience and attracting new customers. In today's digital age, one of the most effective ways to do this is through online marketing, specifically search engine optimization (SEO). While traditional SEO is essential for any business with an online presence, local SEO is becoming increasingly crucial for small businesses that rely on foot traffic and local customers.

Local SEO is a specialized form of SEO that focuses on optimizing your website and online presence for local search results for a specific area, which could be a region of a country, a state, city or a neighborhood in a city. It's all about ensuring that your business appears at the top of search results in Google or Bing when potential customers search for products or services in your local area.

With more and more people turning to the internet to find local businesses, local SEO can be a game-changer for small business owners looking to attract new customers and increase sales. By implementing a strong local SEO strategy, you can improve your online visibility, reach your target audience, and ultimately drive more foot traffic to your physical location.

Let's discuss what local SEO is and why it is so important for small businesses. We will cover the benefits of local SEO, how it works, and provide practical tips and advice for optimizing your online presence for local search. So whether you're a small business owner looking to expand your reach online or just curious about local SEO, read on to learn more.

Before we jump in, here are some statistics on Local SEO and why it's so important for a small business:

  1. 46% of all Google searches are seeking local information (Source: GoGulf)
  2. 72% of consumers who perform a local search visit a store within 5 miles (Source: HubSpot)
  3. 78% of local mobile searches result in offline purchases (Source: Search Engine Land)
  4. 61% of local searches result in a purchase (Source: HubSpot)
  5. 97% of people learn more about a local company online than anywhere else (Source: SEO Tribunal)
  6. The top 3 local search ranking factors are Google My Business listing signals, backlinks, and on-page optimization (Source: Moz)
  7. 92% of searchers will pick businesses on the first page of local search results (Source: SEO Expert)
  8. Local businesses that have claimed their Google My Business listing are 2.7x more likely to be viewed as reputable (Source: Google)
  9. 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations (Source: BrightLocal)
  10. Businesses that have photos on their Google My Business listing receive 42% more requests for driving directions on Google Maps and 35% more clicks through to their website (Source: Google)

1. What is SEO?

Before diving into local SEO, it is important to understand what SEO is and the basics of SEO.

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, which is the practice of optimizing a website and its content to increase its visibility and ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs). The goal of SEO is to improve the quantity and quality of website traffic by driving organic (non-paid) traffic from search engines to a website.

SEO involves a variety of techniques, including optimizing website content for relevant keywords and phrases, improving website speed and mobile responsiveness, building high-quality backlinks to the website so your website pages show up higher in the search engines, and ensuring the website is technically optimized for search engines.

SEO is important for businesses and websites of all sizes because it can help improve online visibility, increase website traffic, and ultimately drive more leads and sales. With the majority of online experiences beginning with a search engine like Google or Bing, having a strong SEO strategy can be critical to the success of a business or website.

2. What is Local SEO?

Local SEO is a subset of SEO that focuses on optimizing your website to rank better in local search results. Local search results are search results that are specific to a particular geographic location. For example, if you search for “pizza delivery” on Google, the search results you see will be based on the location of the user and will show relevant pizza options for that immediate area.

Local SEO is important for small businesses that have a physical location and want to attract customers in their local area. By optimizing your website for local search, you can increase your visibility to potential customers who are searching for your products or services in your area.  It's also important for service businesses as most people searching for a business start their journey online and will look for businesses that are local to them. So if you're a plumber, contractor, dentist, lawyer or similar service business, getting found online when people search for a business like yours is critical to the success of that business. To learn more, check out my Udemy course on Local SEO.

3. Why is Local SEO Important for My Small Business?

Local SEO is important for small businesses for several reasons:

Increased visibility in local search results: By optimizing your website and online presence via third party websites like Google Business Profiles ( Google My Business), Yelp, Angie's List and similar review and directory platforms for local search, you can appear in search results for users searching for businesses or services in your local area. This can increase your visibility and make it easier for potential customers to find and contact your business.

Improved online reputation: Local SEO can help you manage and respond to customer reviews on various online platforms, which can improve your online reputation and credibility. Positive reviews can also attract more local customers to your business as it is usually the starting point for most people when looking for a quality business or service online. A business with poor or no reviews will receive little attention while a business with many positive online reviews will it relatively easy to generate new leads and business online.

Increased website traffic and conversions: By appearing in local search results and attracting more local customers to your website, you can increase your website traffic and conversions. This can lead to more sales and revenue for your small business.  It's just simple math, the more relevant traffic you can send to your website, the more likely a portion of them will become customers for your business.  So if you conversion rate is typically 2%, adding another 1,000 quality visitors to your website each month will translate into another 20 customers for your business each month.

Cost-effective marketing: Local SEO can be a cost-effective marketing strategy for small businesses, as it focuses on attracting local customers who are more likely to convert. This can help you save money on marketing and advertising costs while still reaching your target audience.  While paid advertising is a faster way to generate traffic and customers for your business, Local SEO takes longer to start working but once it does, it will generate traffic and customers for you month after month, often year after year, from your initial efforts.  When you add in the compounding effect of Local SEO, it produces a much better long term ROI than paid advertising.

Competitive advantage: By optimizing your online presence for local search, you can gain a competitive advantage over other small businesses in your area. This can help you stand out from the competition and attract more customers to your business. Just think of your own search habits when looking for a local business, would you choose the dentist with 150 5-star reviews or the dentist with 15 reviews with an average rating of only 3-stars?

Increased Customer Engagement: By optimizing your website for local search, you can increase customer engagement with your business, which can lead to increased loyalty and repeat business. A solid online reputation by the way of great visibility, great online reviews and a beautiful website goes a long way in convincing people you are a good choice as a company to work with.

Good online reputation example

4. How Does Local SEO Work?

By optimizing these local search signals, you can improve your website's visibility and ranking in local search results.

Local SEO works by optimizing your website and online presence to appear in search results for users searching for businesses or services in your local area. This involves several strategies and tactics that help search engines understand the relevance and authority of your business in a particular geographic location.

One important aspect of local SEO is the use of local keywords and phrases that help search engines understand the location of your business. For example, if you own a pizza restaurant in Raleigh, North Carolina, you would want to use keywords such as “pizza restaurant in Raleigh” or “best pizza in Raleigh” throughout your website and online presence. This helps search engines associate your business with these keywords and show it to users searching for them in that location. You want to take time to learn the language (not your industry speak) that your cusotmers use to find a business like yours and use those keywords and search terms to attract them to your website.

Another key factor in local SEO is the use of Google Business Profile (Google My Business), a free tool provided by Google that allows businesses to manage their online presence and appear in local search results. By creating and optimizing your Google Business Profile listing, you can provide important information such as your address, phone number, hours of operation, and reviews, which helps Google understand the relevance and authority of your business in a particular location. Bing search also has a similar listing called Bing Places for Business, though the Google version is much more popular.

Some of the most important local search signals include:

Google Business Profile. For most businesses, their Google Business Profile listing will generate more views and inquiries than their actual website. This is due to the high visibility Google gives Google Business Profile listings in the local search results (often called the 3-pack listing). You will notice this 3-pack by the local Google Map that displays i the search results along with the top 3 Google Business Profile listings for that search term.  Users need to click on the map in order to see more listings, which is why it's so important to be one of the top 3 Google Business Profile listings for your most important keywords and search terms. Check out my course of mastering Google Business Profiles (Google My Business) here.

Google Local 3-Pack Map Results Example

Local Keywords. Using local keywords for your website is important for local SEO because it helps search engines understand the geographical context of your business and connect it to relevant local search queries. Using local keywords also helps to establish the relevance and authority of your business within your local area. This can lead to improved search rankings, increased website traffic, and ultimately, more customers for your business.

Online Directories. Online directories are websites that list businesses by category, industry, or location. They often include important information such as business name, address, phone number, website URL, and customer reviews. When you list your business in these directories, you create additional opportunities for potential customers to find you online and it also increases the trust level for people searching for a business like yours. Online directories are important for local SEO because they help to increase your business's visibility and improve your local search rankings.

Not only do online directories provide additional channels for customers to discover your business, but they also play an important role in local search engine algorithms. Search engines like Google and Bing use information from online directories to verify the accuracy and consistency of your business information across the web. This helps to establish your business as a trusted and authoritative source of information, which can improve your search rankings for relevant local queries.

Local Citations. Citations are mentions of your business online, they can be in the form of structured citations (like a listing on a directory site) or unstructured citations (like mention of your business in a blog post or news article). When search engines see consistent business information, often called “NAP” (Name, Address, Phone Number), information across multiple websites, they view your business as a trusted and authoritative source of information, which can lead to improved search rankings for relevant local queries.

Citations can also provide valuable backlinks to your website, which can further improve your search engine rankings. Backlinks are links from other websites that point to your site, and search engines view them as a signal of authority and relevance. The value of the backlink depends on the quality of the website giving the link as well as the relevancy of the website providing the backlink to your website.  If you are new to backlinks, a backlink is simply a hyperlink text or image a user can click on to take them from the web page they are on to another location on that website or to another website entirely. Search engines use backlinks as a way for one website to pass some credibility to another website, sort of like an online recommendation.

Customer Reviews. Online reviews provide valuable social proof for your business, as they reflect the experiences and opinions of your customers. Positive reviews can help to build trust and credibility with potential customers, while negative reviews can damage your reputation and discourage potential customers from doing business with you. Online reviews are also an important ranking factor for local search engines. Google and other search engines like Bing consider the quantity, quality, and diversity of your online reviews when determining your local search rankings. Businesses with more positive reviews and higher ratings are more likely to appear at the top of the search results for relevant local queries.  Google will not only use your Google Business Profile reviews to determine your rankings, they will also search 3rd party review sites like Yelp, Houzz and Angie's List in order to determine how popular your business is and how to rank it in the local search results.

By optimizing these local search signals, you can improve your website's visibility and ranking in local search results.  If you are a business owner that does not have the resources to hire a Local SEO company to help with your online marketing, concentrate on generating a lot of positive reviews online for your business, this strategy alone will have a big impact on your business.

Google Business Profile Reviews Example

5. How to Optimize Your Website for Local SEO

Here are some tips to help you optimize your website for local SEO:

Claim Your Google Business Profile Listing. Your Google Business Profile is a valuable free tool that allows you to manage your business's online presence across Google, including search and maps. Just by claiming your Google Business Profile listing, you can improve your visibility in local search results and provide potential customers with important information about your business. Be sure to fill out everything Google asks for with as much information as possible, including adding a lot of relevant images of your business. You can link your website to your Business Profile listing to drive traffic from your listing to your website.  Your website and Google Business Profile listing work hand in had, the strength of one property will help to boost the other property in the local search results.

Using local keywords in content Using local keywords (Localizing your website) in content can improve a small business's visibility in local search results. Keywords should be relevant to the business, the location, and the products or services offered. Including the city or town name in the keywords can increase the chances of appearing in local search results. You can add these local keywords in the body of the text of your website, in your blog titles, as well as incorporating it in the meta data for your web pages. A great content strategy can increase your website visibility and traffic by leaps and bounds, learn more about creating an amazing content strategy for your business here.

Ensure your website is mobile-friendly. With more and more people using their mobile devices to search for local businesses, having a mobile-friendly website is essential for local SEO success, almost all of our small business clients receive more mobile traffic than computer traffic each month. Make sure your website is optimized for mobile devices, with a responsive design and fast loading times, a good Local Marketing expert and/or web designer can help with this.

Building local citations and backlinks for your website. Building backlinks from reputable local sources can improve a small business's visibility and credibility. Backlinks from local directories, industry associations, and local media can provide relevant information to potential customers and increase the business's ranking in local search results. Building backlinks is essential for local SEO because it helps search engines determine the relevance and authority of your website. When other websites link to your site, it signals to search engines that your content is valuable and trustworthy, and therefore worthy of ranking higher in search results.

Building links and citations is a whole other topic to cover, but to get a quick overview on getting backlinks and citation for your small business, watch these videos on getting backlinks and getting citations for your business.

Engaging with local community Engaging with the local community can help small businesses gain visibility and build relationships with potential customers. This can be achieved by participating in local events, supporting local charities, and collaborating with other local businesses. Engaging with the local community is important for local SEO because it can help establish your business as a trusted and respected member of the community, which can ultimately lead to increased visibility, traffic, and sales.

Another way to engage with the local community is by creating content that is relevant and helpful to local residents. This can include creating blog posts, videos, or social media content that provides information about local events, news, or other topics of interest to the community. By providing value to the local community, you can build trust and credibility, which can ultimately lead to more website traffic and higher search engine rankings.

Tracking local SEO progress Tracking local SEO progress is essential to measure the effectiveness of SEO strategies and make necessary adjustments. Using tools like Google Analytics and Google Business Profile Insights can provide valuable insights into a business's online performance and help refine the SEO strategy.

Tracking progress for local SEO is so important because it allows you to measure the effectiveness of your optimization efforts and make informed decisions about how to improve your online presence. Without tracking your progress, it's difficult to know whether your local SEO strategy is working or not, and you may miss opportunities to optimize your website and improve your rankings. Simply, you can't improve what you can't measure.

You can learn some basic but important metrics to track in Google Analytics here.

You should also track the effectiveness of your local SEO efforts by monitoring your online reviews, social media engagement, and other metrics that are important for your business. By tracking these metrics over time, you can see how your online reputation is improving, how customers are engaging with your brand, and how your overall online presence is evolving.

Hiring a local SEO expert. Hiring a local SEO expert can be a beneficial investment for small businesses looking to improve their online visibility and attract more customers. An expert can help develop a customized SEO strategy, optimize a business's website and Google My Business listing, and monitor and analyze SEO progress.

A Local SEO expert can help you navigate the complexities of optimizing your website for local search. Local SEO involves a range of strategies and techniques, including keyword research, on-page optimization, link building, and citation management. A local SEO expert has the knowledge and expertise to help you implement these strategies effectively, and can save you time and resources in the process.

Search engines are constantly updating their algorithms and local search results are becoming more sophisticated. A local SEO expert can help you stay on top of these changes and adjust your strategy accordingly, ensuring that your business stays visible and competitive in local search results. They can also help you build and manage your online reputation. Online reviews and social media engagement are important factors in local search rankings, and a local SEO expert can help you monitor and manage your online presence, respond to customer reviews, and engage with your local community to build a positive online reputation.

So how much does hiring a Local SEO expert cost?  It really depends on your business category and how competitive it is as well as what geographic area your are competing in. A lawyer (very competitive category) in a major city like Charlotte, NC will pay a lot more each month for Local SEO than a hairdresser (less competitive category)in a much smaller town like Southern Pines, NC.

Local SEO is vital for small businesses wanting to compete online

Local SEO is an essential aspect of digital marketing for small businesses. It can help increase visibility, attract more customers, and improve online reputation. Implementing local SEO strategies like GMB verification, using local keywords, optimizing websites, building backlinks, engaging with the local community, encouraging online reviews, monitoring online presence, and tracking progress can be effective in achieving a successful local SEO campaign.

Local search drives foot traffic and sales for small business, and having a strong online presence is crucial for success. Optimizing for Google My Business, building backlinks, and focusing on on-page optimization are key strategies for improving local search rankings. It's also important for businesses to actively manage their online reputation by encouraging customer reviews and responding to feedback.

Want to learn more about Local SEO and how it can change your business?  Contact 3Bug Media to learn more, or visit our Youtube Channel or Udemy Channel.

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CEO at 3Bug Media
Gary Shouldis is the founder of 3Bug Media, a web marketing company that helps businesses create 360 Marketing Strategies to dominate their market. His blog is read by over 20 thousand small business owners a month and has been featured in the N.Y. Times Small Business, Business Insider and Yahoo Small Business.