Search-engine optimization (SEO) is so ubiquitous and unanimously useful that almost every major business or organization with an online presence has, by now, incorporated it into their marketing strategy. For most entrepreneurs, that means writing lots of content and attracting inbound links to build authority, visibility and rank higher for keywords that are relevant to their businesses.
But there’s a different side of SEO that only a minority of businesses are currently focusing on. Local SEO, the process of optimizing a business for a specific geographic location in addition to a specific category or range of service offerings, isn’t as prioritized as it should be. Local SEO is a highly targeted, niche strategy that every entrepreneur can -- and should -- be thinking about.
Local SEO is becoming more valuable and therefore, more popular. The landscape of search is changing due to the onset of new technologies and the massive influx of brands and businesses looking to get a slice of that first search-engine-results page (SERP). If you’re looking to position yourself for the greatest possible flow of traffic, it’s important to understand why local SEO is so increasingly important, and how to take advantage of it.
The mobile experience
Mobile technology is finding its way into pockets everywhere, and people are becoming more comfortable with it as a means of searching. Forty six percent of searchers now use mobile exclusively to do product research, and the majority of mobile searches are local specific. Since users can search on the fly, they’re far more likely to make local searches.
Plus, Google and other search engines are doing more to respond to this trend. They’re collecting more information about their users’ locations and search histories, and doing everything they can to give them local-specific results. That means, even if you have a huge national authority, you could easily get outranked by a similar company simply because of their proximity to the searcher.
Driving local SEO also means dealing with less competition. When you try to compete for a keyword family related to your products on a national scale, you’ll be fighting every similar company in the country.
For example, there are far fewer gear manufacturers in Atlanta, Ga., than there are in the entirety of the U.S. Narrowing your focus might lead you to fewer potential searchers, but it’s better to have 200 real searchers than 2,000 theoretical “someday” searchers. Optimizing your site for local searches will make you far more valuable to a slightly smaller population.
More opportunities for positive PR
Getting involved in the local scene will also give you more opportunities for local visibility. If you frequently publish interesting, valuable content about your city, neighborhood or region, your fellow entrepreneurs and local news reporters will be more likely to notice. It’s an easy way to get the citizens of your region on your side, and get more public visibility at the same time.
If you attend local events as a way of generating a local-optimized press release, you’ll get ground-level local exposure. Couple that with a strong and engaged social-media presence, and you’ll be in a prime position to build a highly loyal local audience.
Why even national brands need local SEO
For companies with an exclusive online presence or other businesses who believe there’s no advantage in doing anything on a scale smaller than “national,” local SEO might seem like it’s not worth it. Their potential audience is huge, so reducing the target size sometimes seems like an unwise move.
However, local SEO is valuable because it gives you a targeted, relevant focus on a nearby audience -- and that makes it valuable to any company, even national ones. You can still go after a national audience by maintaining your previous strategies, but incorporating local techniques will give you the best of both worlds.
Optimizing for local SEO is simpler than most business owners and marketers think. First, make sure all your local profiles are claimed -- get on every social-media platform you can find as well as local directories like Google My Business, Yelp and TripAdvisor. Make sure your name, address and phone number are all consistent and on every medium.
Then follow up with a long-term strategy that focuses on your local position. Attend local events and get involved with your local community to write blog posts and press releases that celebrate your company’s attendance. Acquire inbound links from local news sites or community sites, and mention your region or city’s name whenever you get a chance online. A strong social presence never hurts, either.
Whether you’re a small local shop or a major national player, you need to start thinking about your local SEO strategy. Local is already huge, and it’s only getting bigger.