Small and medium-sized businesses had a tough time in 2020 and 2021. As this year progresses it is clear that many companies are still struggling to get back to pre-pandemic times.
Indeed, one report from PNAS shows the fragility of small businesses during Covid. Businesses had to learn how to pivot and adjust their strategies during that period in order to survive.
One sector that did well during those years was ecommerce. However, businesses didn't need to actively be involved in ecommerce to thrive, but they did need an effective web presence. As reliance on the web became more important for consumers, companies had to improve their visibility and their search rankings.
It became clear that SEO for local businesses was just as important as it was to larger companies with clients further afield. But, what is SEO for local businesses, and why does it matter so much?
What is meant by local SEO?
SEO in itself is a way to improve the rankings on search results for a site. This means when appropriate search terms are entered into Google, appropriate results will be returned.
For example, if an individual searched for 'Asus gaming laptop' then they could expect to see results that are relevant to those words. Local SEO is the same except it is based very much on the locality of businesses to the person who is performing the search.
Very often individuals will search for locations near me, or they will type in a town or city name. Many businesses rely solely on a small radius and demographic. This means that their local SEO must be fine-tuned so that they appear high in the search results.
Do you need an SEO agency to improve your local business's visibility online?
SEO covers many areas which all help a site to perform better, and ultimately appear higher in SERPs. There are different types of SEO, and these cover what happens on a webpage, off of it, and there is also technical SEO.
Depending on how technically capable you are, and confident in your coding and knowledge of SEO, you can certainly fine-tune parts of your website yourself. However, many companies will choose to use an SEO agency to help them with their digital marketing strategy.
The reason for this is that SEO is an ever-changing area, and Google often alters its metrics. This can make it tough to know what changes are most likely to improve your rankings. Plus, most business owners would prefer to concentrate on their sales and services than spend days adjusting and optimizing their website.
An agency such as https://www.oregonwebsolutions.com/portland-seo-company/ would deal with local SEO and produce a strategy to improve the client's website rankings. As you can see in the URL, they have adopted some principles of local SEO quite visibly.
The place names, Oregon, and Portland are included in the address. This is an example of local SEO and helps them to be returned in the SERPs when someone searches for similar services in those areas.
Why is local SEO vital today?
The pandemic was an extreme example of why local businesses need to adopt SEO as well as global companies. Anyone involved in ecommerce will know the importance of showing up on page 1 of search results, and ideally as high up the list as possible. But, it is also about relevance.
Your business should be returned on search results only when relevant. A company that conducts all of its business in a small area will have no desire to keep showing up on searches made in other regions or countries. They want local consumers to find them online. It may be that they don't conduct much business on the net, but they want to be visible to improve visitors to their brick-and-mortar establishment.
Companies such as pizza delivery, or plumbers, are good examples of those who need to adopt local SEO. They rely on a small area of customers and they need to be at the top of the search results to get business.
When a company is solely reliant on local consumers they need to make itself as visible as possible. This is why SEO is used in digital marketing campaigns. To improve traffic and help with conversions.
How can you improve your rankings as a local business?
Reports have shown that more people are searching for businesses near them than ever before, and out of these search results the way purchases happen is also changing.
When a local search is made online, especially on mobile devices, around 3/4 of those users will make a purchase offline. So, optimizing websites for local searches is critical for companies that are trading from brick-and-mortar establishments. But, how do you improve your local SEO?
You may wonder why you should hire an SEO agency for your business. They will look at all aspects of your website from the keywords to the links, to more technical areas involving servers. However, there are some improvements to local SEO that you can perform by yourself.
Google My Business
One such area is Google My Business. You may find that you already have one of these listings as Google carries them out automatically as it discovers new websites. Nevertheless, it is worth taking an active role in handling this listing yourself.
Because they are automatically created they can also be inaccurate. The first step is to create a Google My Business listing if it hasn't been done, or claim the existing listing if it has.
Check the profile and make sure all the information is accurate. Add in any relevant images or videos for your business, and then publish.
But, this isn't the end. These listings allow consumers to add reviews and make comments about your business. Taking an active role is vital in these reviews. If you respond to your reviews you will help to improve your reputation in the local area, and this also helps with SEO.
Local audit and keywords
You will also need to look at local keywords, and carry out a local audit on your business. An SEO expert can come in useful here. They will carry out an audit of your website and then implement a strategy to improve your local SEO.
There are effective ways to use keywords and phrases, and keyword stuffing should be avoided. Content and backlinks are also important areas for local SEO.
Create local content
If you are primarily trying to attract an audience locally, then your content should be relevant to that demographic. Blog posts surrounding local news or events that are appropriate to your business can help. As long as the content is natural and informative it can help to improve your SEO and draw more traffic organically.
To give you an idea of how important SEO is to any business today you only need to look at the size of the industry behind it. SEO services worldwide were worth $46 billion in 2020. While much of that revenue would have come from larger ecommerce businesses, local companies need to focus on SEO too.
A plumber who is reliant on a 25-mile radius of customers must appear high on SERPs or risk losing out to competitors. Local SEO cannot be ignored or your business will be left behind.