Understanding why local SEO is important for small businesses can mean all the difference between your local customers finding you or finding your competitors.
If you own a small business within your local community, it’s important that you understand why local search engine optimization (SEO) is important for your business.
Local SEO is a service that can help improve the visibility of your brand and services to your local customer base. The more visibility your business has, the more likely you are to attract new customers. This can make all the difference between a thriving business and one that struggles to stay afloat.
In this article, we’re exploring why local SEO is important for small businesses interested in expanding their customer base.
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Why Local SEO is Important for Small Businesses
Search engines have become far more sophisticated over the years, to the point that they have been capable of offering personalized results for years now and are becoming better and better at matching those results with any given user’s data.
This is frightening to a degree – Google, for example, can adapt its results to your location, time, previous search history, and so on. It might know to suggest niche pages or websites to you because of your previous consistent interest in a certain topic. For advertisers and businesses, however, this is good news – personalization means more relevant results, and relevance is key in turning potential traffic into real leads.
One of the earliest and most consistent personalization factors Google and other search engines use when personalizing results is location. This has led to the growth of local SEO, an increasingly important subset of SEO tips and tricks built to boost your business’ rankings in a given subset of potential search users near your target area.
If you run a home services business, it’s critical that you claim and optimize your Google business profile. This ensures people in your community or service area will find you when they need your help. Today, customers can connect with you directly through your Google business profile, whether they’re interested in calling you, sending you a message, or finding directions.
Optimizing your Google Business Profile can dramatically boost the visibility of your brand and services to local customers.
- Chris Rice, SEO Manager
Someone making the same query 2,000 miles away, however, likely won’t find your website in any of the first page results, nor the second, third, or even fourth.
Personalized results are just one part of the greater topic of SEO, and the many thousands of individual factors affecting the search algorithms of tech giants like Microsoft and Google.
User data is precious, and leveraging it effectively gives you, the business, the opportunity to improve your return on investment on any level of search marketing by ensuring that the subset of customers referred to your website through search engines like Google are truly interested in your services or products and haven’t just stumbled upon you by chance.
How Does Local SEO Work?
Whether you’re looking something up on your phone or your home computer, websites like Google can find out roughly where you are based on the information provided to the company by your browser.
The internet itself, while virtual, is very much still a physical network existing on Earth, and things like web communication protocols, DNS, and IP addresses are used to figure out where on Earth you’re accessing a website from. This information can be spoofed, of course. But most people don’t bother to do so, which means companies like Google can reliably use these metrics as a way to personalize search results, and further improve the relevance of their suggested results. Other, more specific data is gathered and pooled through the various services Google offers.
For example, the average Internet user looking for a bike repair shop might be inconvenienced if they had to specify exactly where that bike shop has to be – and if they don’t specify anything at all, they might be annoyed to have the search engine interpret their query as a general inquiry on what a bike shop even is.
The way modern search engines solve this problem allows users to greatly simplify their search terms, and organically discover the nearest solution for their respective needs. Meanwhile, local businesses profit – if they improve their local SEO.
Can You Prioritize Local SEO?
The big question is this: can you adequately prioritize local SEO, and get Google to recognize you above other competitors? In a way, yes.
Local SEO is just like regular SEO in most ways. Google and other search engines still rely on the same metrics to score and rank relevant links: topic relevance, domain authority, content quality, and website user experience.
The main difference is that you need to ensure search engines like Google know where you are. You can improve Google’s sense of your business’ location by setting up a Google Business Profile, setting up your business on Google Maps, and making sure your website references your location – not just on your About page, but on the rest of your copy too, such as emphasizing that you are a “Birmingham, Alabama-based family business”. Using both the city and state names is important. This format is what lends itself best to the web crawlers that help gather data for local search results.
The Impact of Local SEO Optimization
If you sell shoes, you have little hope of competing with Amazon or Walmart, whether online or in physical retail. However, you can carve out a niche for your respective region by catering specifically to clients in your area and using something unique about your business – such as your generational cobbler skills, or specialization in dress shoes – as a further selling point to clarify uniqueness.
Local SEO is one way for smaller, local businesses to advertise directly to their customers without getting immediately squashed by the larger national- or international-level Big Box stores and their search engine optimization.
It’s the same way you shouldn’t try to optimize solely for the keywords with the most search engine hits – because those are the ones with the stiffest, most powerful competition – but for long-tail keyword phrases that may be less popular, but more relevant and specific to your business niche, allowing you to carve out a larger audience and customer base.
How to Get Positive Reviews
When it comes to online reviews, Google is the be-all and end-all. If you want to make your business shine, you need to have positive reviews on Google. But how do you go about getting them? Check out our tips!
1. Make it easy for your customers to leave reviews.
The first step is to make it easy for your customers to leave reviews. You can do this by sending them follow-up emails after they make a purchase, or by providing links on your website. People appreciate the convenience, so the easier you make it for them to leave a review, the more likely they are to do so. People also appreciate excellent customer service, which can mean the difference between a positive review and a negative review.
2. Provide excellent customer service.
If you provide excellent customer service, your customers will be more likely to leave positive reviews. So make sure you’re giving them the best possible experience! The key is to go above and beyond! The more people experience your service as above and beyond, the more likely they are to reciprocate with a positive review.
3. Respond to negative reviews.
If you do get a negative review, don’t ignore it – respond to it! This shows that you care about your customers and their experience. Responding to negative reviews is perhaps the most important when it comes to managing your online reputation management – listening goes a long way with consumers. As much as it hurts to receive a negative review, it’s an opportunity to show your customer – and potential customers – that you care about their experience.
4. Encourage happy customers to leave reviews.
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask your happy customers to leave reviews. If they’ve had a positive experience with your business, they’ll be more than happy to leave a review. All you have to do is ask!
Following these tips will help you get more positive reviews, which will in turn help your business shine online. So what are you waiting for? Start working on those reviews!
How to Get Rid of Bad Reviews on Google
It’s no secret that online reviews can make or break a business. A single bad review can dissuade potential customers from doing business with a company, and can even lead to the closure of a business. While it’s impossible to please everyone, it’s important to do everything possible to make sure that negative reviews don’t hurt your business. Here are a few tips for getting rid of bad reviews on Google:
1. Respond quickly and professionally.
When you see a negative review, respond quickly and professionally. Thank the customer for their feedback, and apologize for any inconvenience they may have experienced. If you can, try to resolve the issue that led to the bad review.
2. Address the issue head-on.
If you can’t resolve the issue that led to the bad review, address it head-on. Explain what happened, and how you’re going to make things right. This shows potential customers that you’re willing to take responsibility for your mistakes, and that you’re working hard to fix them.
3. Ask your satisfied customers to leave positive reviews.
One of the best ways to offset any negative reviews is by having more positive reviews. Ask your satisfied customers to leave positive reviews on Google and other review platforms. This will help bury any negative reviews, and will show potential customers that you have a good track record.
4. Keep an eye on your reviews.
Finally, it’s important to keep an eye on your reviews. This way, you can catch any negative reviews early, and address them before they cause too much damage. You can use Google Alerts to track mentions of your business online, including reviews.
By following these tips, you can minimize the damage caused by negative reviews, and protect your business from future harm.
Why the Data Matters
Whether you are focused on local SEO specifically or need an overhaul of your digital marketing plan, the most important thing is to look at the data. Free resources like Ask the People and Google Trends help you identify popular search terms and up-and-coming search phrases, as well as successful content ideas.
But it’s also important to gather and react to your own data. How well are people responding to your ad campaigns? What type of content does best for you? What pages are people sticking around on the longest, and which pages have the highest bounce rates? How can you improve your website design – and which of your most recent changes made the biggest impact in retention levels and leads?
Good SEO, whether local or otherwise, is about gathering information and acting on it, rather than a set-and-forget plan. You want an actively managed digital marketing plan, one run by professionals who know what they’re doing and are passionate about doing it. Give us a call to get started today.