There are two types of small businesses that thrive in today’s economy: e-commerce online stores and local businesses with a strong online presence.
In a world where we research everything online before making a decision, your online presence literally puts you “on the map” or out of it.
Plus, in a post-COVID world where window displays and in-person shop visits are at an all-time low, your online presence has become essential even for local customers just a few miles from your store.
That said, there are essential questions and answers about local SEO.
As a local business, how can you make sure your listing appears in local service searches? How do you ensure that customers within your local service area know about your business so they can visit or order same-day delivery?
The answer is Local SEO, the art of refining your search engine optimization tactics specifically to appear in local searches.
Our top local SEO questions and answers.
Let’s explore the 6 most frequently asked questions and answers on local SEO that we meet daily in our agency with current and potential clients:
1. What is local SEO and how is it different from regular website SEO?
Most brands and business people today understand the basics of normal website SEO.
Optimize your site content (and structure and metadata) for certain keywords and keyword groups related to your business.
This allows your website and specific pages on your website to “rank” and appear when users search for those phrases.
However, normal SEO is global.
Any user anywhere could see your website as a search result. This is potentially great, but not necessarily useful if your services are only available within a 5-50 mile radius around your physical location.
Regular SEO is for dropshipping brands, sharing useful content, and building site authority.
Local SEO is about attracting local customers.
Ranking for Local SEO means appearing as a relevant search result within that limited range of miles of local customers.
It’s how Google and other search engines identify your business as having a position that local customers should be aware of and what services you have to offer those customers.
About 1 out of 3 searches concern localities, businesses and services in the vicinity.
If you want to put yourself on the map as a local business, you will need to create your Google My Business listing and optimize your website for SEO for your service area.
This will make that little dot appear as a search tip when a customer searches for a nearby business like yours to visit or to order same-day delivery.
2. How does Google force it to display business results?
Ideally, when a user searches for a local business like yours (ex: “hardware store near me”), Google will show one or more top business profiles on the main search page, usually under a local map snippet to show the locations of the shops.
However, not always.
Google decides which presentation format is most likely relevant to a user’s search, and to be honest, there’s nothing a company can do to force their profile to appear in immediate search results.
The best thing you can do is put yourself on the map and gain authority.
Users who want to view business profiles and don’t often will click right on the map, a real-time series of any nearby business that fits their search.
If your GMB profile is complete, you will be on that map. If there is local competition, we also recommend that you create authority with ratings and reviews so that your point of view appears at the top of the list.
3. What types of businesses can local SEO use?
Local SEO works for a wide variety of businesses. The only limitation is that you must be available locally.
Local SEO is for any business that has a storefront, operates a local office, provides local same day delivery, or offers local field service.
In fact, you can still rank for local searches even if your business has moved to completely contactless and online services.
The only type of business that local SEO isn’t aimed at is purely online businesses. Google is known for penalizing companies for creating fake or borrowed local addresses to get more rankings.
If your business can’t be visited and doesn’t offer services from a local location, don’t worry about local SEO as you can gather customers from anywhere in your state, country or around the world.
4. How do you compete in cities and towns outside of your physical location?
What if your service area is wider than the range shown in local searches?
An HVAC company, for example, can serve their local city and all surrounding cities for maintenance and installation.
But GMB tends to show results only within a few miles of the researcher’s home or current location. How do you compete in outlying cities and within your service area, but far from your business location?
This is another time when you are working against GMB algorithms.
Normally, local searches prioritize a 3-10 mile radius around the user because people are assumed to want to visit a very close location.
Your best bet is to actually use localized SEO tactics to rank your pages instead of your GMB profile itself.
For example, you can create individual service pages for each of the cities and neighborhoods you serve.
Adding positive reviews from customers in those neighborhoods provides the necessary social proof that increases relevance and credibility.
You can show your service area map on your home page. You can post a picture of your service area map on your GMB profile and you can list the cities within your service area in your GMB description.
5. Do you really need a website to be successful in local SEO?
Yes and no.
Depending on your local competition (the density of similar local businesses nearby) and how interested you are in focusing your efforts on Google alone, you can go the minimum way.
For example, if you’re the only donut shop in town, you might get all the search results you could ask for just by having a GMB profile.
However, the foundation of your digital presence is your website, and today most customers want to browse your selection and check out your company’s style online before they drop by or call.
So while you can appear and even rank for local SEO without a website, you’re also going through a major stage in customer conversion and a customer relationship platform.
Additionally, you are at the mercy of Google’s choice to feature your business and may even see a drop in ranking after the next Google algorithm update that is constantly spinning.
6. With my tight budget, which area of Local SEO should I focus on first?
Finally, we come to the strategies for local SEO on which to focus your efforts and your investments, initially.
Optimize your GMB profile
First, you need to create and optimize your Google My Business profile. Request your pin if you haven’t already. Then fill out your profile completely.
Write a useful and detailed description, mentioning your service area, product categories and services.
Include some photos of the place and products. Be sure to indicate whether you provide in-store, delivery, or pickup services.
Activate any widget such as online booking or ordering that is relevant to your business. This will provide Google with the best possible set of information to match user searches.
Create top quotes
Next, be sure to claim all of the major business listings for your business, especially those that allow for a solid profile and reviews.
These are called quotes, and while they don’t have the same impact they once did, they are basic and simple to take care of.
Sites like Bing, Facebook, Yelp, Apple Maps, BBB, Angie’s List, and some of the directory sites specific to your industry.
Get more reviews
From there, focus on improving your online reputation by devising and implementing a review generation strategy.
Focus on getting Google reviews initially, but diversifying across multiple review sites will help you establish your credibility on the web.
Finally, build your website’s authority on your topic. This means building connections.
Companies with a strongly linked website are more likely to be ranked.
You also have a much higher chance of appearing in unmapped searches where Google chooses not to immediately present company profiles.
Instead, your ranking website pages will appear to represent your business and attract local customers.
Is your business ready to compete in local searches?
While we’ve covered the six most frequently asked questions and answers about local SEO we get, this is just the beginning.
If you have more questions about how to use local SEO tactics to your advantage, let us help you refine your local SEO strategy.
Conduct a free local SEO audit and get your free report here. With it, you will have a better picture of where you are in regards to your local visibility.
We can then schedule a call for advice on your local business SEO strategy and how to get to the top of local rankings.