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If you own a brick-and-mortar business, it’s safe to say that at the end of the day, your primary objective is to get people through the door. More people in the door means more eyes on your merchandise (or more opportunities to pitch your service) and a higher probability of making a sale.
Unfortunately, sometimes getting people in the door is easier said than done. Today’s consumers have almost too much information to take into account when considering a purchase, and unless you’re in a niche market or a smaller locale, it’s likely that you have a number of competitors.
The good news is that consumer access to information can help your business if you have the right system in place. According to Google, 46% of Google searches have what they call a “local intent,” meaning that users are specifically interested in finding brick and mortar spaces in their area.
Here are some other stats from Hubspot that illustrate the many ways local search can work in your favor:
- 97% of search engine users searched online to find a local business.
- 88% of users who conduct a local search on their mobile devices visit or call a store within 24 hours.
- 72% of consumers who conducted a local search visited a store within five miles.
- 28% of local searches become purchases.
The question now becomes clear—how do you capitalize on local search to bring in new customers?
The answer? A local SEO strategy.
What is local SEO?
Local SEO (search engine optimization) is a subset of the broader SEO concept. It’s the process by which you strategically increase the visibility of your web pages by capturing search queries that are relevant to your business, in this case emphasizing searches in your local area.
Local SEO is especially important for businesses with brick and mortar locations or for service-oriented businesses that serve a particular area. This makes sense when you think about it as a consumer. Last time you needed something specific in your area, like a dog groomer, for example, you probably consulted Google with a query like “dog groomer [your town]” or “dog groomer near me.”
Finding the perfect dog groomer 100 miles away wouldn’t be helpful in meeting your needs for this particular situation, so keywords like “near me” or “in my area” are instrumental in narrowing your search to a smaller radius. As a business owner, capturing those searches can be the difference between a booming business and a not-so-booming business.
On the search engine results page, or SERP, local businesses show up at the top of the screen in what’s often called the local 3-pack. The local 3-pack contains three Google My Business profiles for businesses that Google has deemed as relevant to the keyword search.
How is local SEO different from “regular” SEO?
The basic concept behind local SEO and traditional SEO are the same. In both cases, you’re optimizing elements of your website and content strategy to increase the odds that the search engine algorithm will present your site ahead of other sites.
Many of the same basic practices apply, including posting regular content, ensuring that your site is up to date and loads quickly, and generating links from other online sources to increase your authority. Practices like these give Google (and other search engines) reason to believe that your content will be accurate, relevant, and trustworthy, which are characteristics that it prioritizes when showing content to users.
However, some of the specific practices differ between local SEO and traditional SEO. In general, you can assume that anything you do to boost local SEO will also have a positive impact on traditional SEO, and vice versa. But when it comes to local SEO, certain tactics are more important—and effective—than they’d be for traditional SEO. Let’s dive into those specific tactics.
How can I optimize for local SEO?
1. Keep up your traditional SEO efforts
As we just mentioned, there’s significant overlap between optimizing for local SEO and optimizing for traditional SEO. As such, it’s in your best interest to continue any efforts you already have going for traditional SEO. And if you don’t have an overall SEO strategy, it’s a good idea to start there before specifically focusing on local intent.
2. Google My Business
Google My Business is the foundation of any strong local SEO presence. If you’re not familiar with Google My Business, it’s the profile that Google associates with your business. You can manage your profile behind the scenes, inputting information like your address, phone number, business hours, and more. Your profile will also be linked to any Google reviews about your business, and you can highlight specific posts
If you do nothing else to maximize your local SEO presence, do this. Claim your Google My Business account if you haven’t already, and make sure all the information there is accurate. Google My Business details like your phone number and business hours will be shown to searchers who come across your company, so it’s critical that you’re giving them correct information to reach you effectively.
Once your Google My Business profile is set up and full of relevant, accurate information, you can move on to the next steps. However, make sure to maintain your Google My Business profile over time. If basic elements like your address, phone number, or business hours change, you should update them in Google My Business right away. Beyond ensuring that searchers have the information they need to find you, maintaining your profile is important because if Google detects that the information there conflicts with information somewhere else (like on your website, for example), you’ll be penalized in search results.
3. Create local-specific content
Location-specific landing pages are the first type of content you’ll want to create for your business. This is especially useful if you have multiple locations and intend to target multiple locales with your SEO strategy. If that’s the case, create a unique landing page for each location. This will help Google’s algorithm connect your company to each of the locations you serve.
If your brand has a blog or social media pages (which, arguably, almost all businesses should), consider also focusing some of your content efforts on topics related to your local area. You could share content about local events, local traditions, other local businesses, or anything else that would be specifically relevant to the area around your storefront.
By incorporating this information into your blog or social posts, you’re signaling to Google that your brand is a reliable source of local information. This strengthens your tie to local search results and increases the likelihood of ranking highly.
4. Make sure your website is mobile-friendly
Whether you’re targeting traditional SEO or local SEO, ensuring that your website is mobile-friendly is critical. However, it’s even more important for local SEO because your prospective customers could be searching for your business while on the go. If they encounter slow page loading times or content that isn’t formatted correctly for mobile devices, that might be all it takes for them to move onto the next business in their search.
Given that mobile searchers may be more likely to visit your store right away than desktop searchers, optimizing your site experience for this group of people is critical.
5. Don’t ignore YouTube
Finally, don’t ignore YouTube! Video content is great for boosting SEO results, and YouTube is the second largest search engine after Google. What’s more, video content often shows at the top of the search engine results page (SERP), so a great video could rank even more highly than a great piece of content.
Check out this article for a quick walkthrough of how to make a video to boost your SEO efforts, and then post your final content on YouTube with local keyword tags.
When it’s given the proper time and attention, local SEO can be a significant source of customers for businesses with physical locations. If you haven’t put any thought into a local SEO strategy, implementing each of the tips above should give you a significant boost in search traffic over time, which is likely to lead to a boost in physical traffic, too. Get started now so you can welcome those new customers as soon as possible!