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What is local SEO for small businesses?
Why do small businesses need Local SEO?
Does my business need local SEO?
What is local SEO for small businesses?
As a business owner you’ve likely heard of search engine optimization (SEO) and thought that there was only one way to do SEO. However, that’s not the case. Just like with anything in life, the devil is in the details, and details keep on adding up in our modern complex world. There are different ways to do search engine optimization, the right one for you depends on the type of business that you operate and the scale that you operate at.
In this guide, we will cover local SEO marketing in-depth, as well as share some practical tips for you to get started. A quick sneak peek of the next section — Local SEO is building a reputation in your local area for providing a quality product or service, both online and offline! Please read on in this local SEO guide to get a better idea of what Local SEO is, and how it differs from other types of SEO.
What is Local SEO and how is it different from other types of traditional SEO?
Here are some common SEO methods that are practiced in the real world, and some examples of applicable businesses (not covered below is eCommerce SEO, which will be covered in a separate guide):
Local SEO: This method of search engine optimization focuses on ranking your web pages for local search result pages (SERPs). This could take the form of showing up in local map-based listing searches (via your Google My Business listing), or even in the regular search results. The key distinction with Local SEO is that search engines recognize that your business operates within a given geographical area (or set of areas), and your business has a history of providing a quality product or service to local customers.
- An example Local SEO search would be: “Bakery in Toronto” or “Mechanic Near Me”
- You would want to implement Local SEO marketing for your business if you provide products, or services within set geography, or local area (or set of geographies/areas). We will cover the kind of businesses that need local SEO later on in this guide.
National SEO: This is a graduated version of Local SEO (and usually what is considered traditional SEO), with the difference being that your business is now able to service an entire country, or you offer a product/service that doesn’t have any geographical restrictions. In local SEO, search engine result pages serve results based on the searchers’ local area. In national SEO, searchers don’t make any indication of their local area and are looking for reputable companies that can help them, irrespective of location.
- An example of National SEO search would be: ‘Pet Supplies’ or ‘eCommerce Software’
- As you can tell from the above examples, the searcher is not providing their location, because they don’t want to restrict their search to local businesses. Webpages that show up for National SEO are ranking for broader terms, and therefore it is more difficult. We will cover National SEO in-depth in a future blog, stay tuned!
International SEO: This method of search engine optimization is the next level of National SEO. Your business is still ranking for broader search terms, but the difference is that you are now able to let search engines know which countries you want to target, and which languages to display your webpages in. Search engine crawlers will pick up on this technical SEO implementation, and be able to start showcasing your webpages in search results for countries that you are interested in targeting.
- Some examples of International SEO search would be:
- ‘Pomme Distributeur’ (Apple Distributor, in French)
- Casa precios (House prices, in Spanish)
- Being able to rank for International SEO terms is more difficult than National SEO, as it is a fairly technical endeavor, and your business needs to have a certain reputation for quality (in terms of offerings, and your online search engine reputation) to be able to rank effectively. We will cover International SEO in-depth in a future blog as well!
What is SEO and how does it work for small businesses?
Awesome, you’ve gotten a crash course on the 3 broad types of search engine optimization that apply to businesses of different natures, and scales, but you may be left wondering what the heck is SEO, and how could my small business possibly implement it? Don’t worry, we’ll break it down for you!
SEO aka search engine optimization is the technical work that goes behind having your website show up in free, organic search results in search engines. When you rank in search result pages, you gain traffic from people that would be interested in learning more about the topic that you are covering on your webpage (just like how you found this article). If you are able to cover the right topics (or keywords) that are relevant to your business, you will generate web traffic (visitors) that may be good potential customers of your business. So the end goal of search engine optimization is to structure your web pages in a manner that you are able to attract visitors that are interested in what you have to say, and maybe good potential customers — because they are actively seeking out the information that you are sharing with the world!
As a business owner, you may be worried that SEO is inaccessible for your business, but that is definitely not the case! As mentioned in the section above, search engines have helped out small business owners by targeting local search queries to web pages/businesses that operate within that area. The best way to look at SEO would be to consider it as a part of your business journey, that works hand-in-hand with the growth of your business. You may start off as a small local business, and implement Local SEO in order to build a sustainable business. Once you’ve crossed that stepping stone, if you’ve still got the ambition, the next part of the journey may be to grow your business nationally (and implement National SEO in the process).
Accordingly, search engine optimization follows the system of the most powerful marketing technique that humans have ever invented; word of mouth. As you grow your business, word of mouth begins spreading, and business growth becomes easier (if you’re still offering a quality product/service). In the same vein, SEO grows with your business growth, it’s one of the most powerful forms of online word of mouth! If you are curious, check out this ultimate guide to SEO for small businesses that we recently published!
Local SEO is a form of modern, online, word-of-mouth marketing.
In case you’re still not convinced of the efficacy of the SEO journey, and the beginning phase through Local SEO, we will share more evidence of its importance in the next section.
Why do small businesses need Local SEO?
There are still lots of business owners who choose to neglect to have a digital presence, but they are now a part of the shrinking minority. According to Purdue University, Millennials and Generation Z make up more than 40% of the workforce in the U.S. With similar generational breakdowns throughout the globe, digitally native generations are beginning to take the forefront, and will become the primary consumers within the next decade or so. These digitally native generations are in-tune with technology, and often find products and services they would be interested in, through online platforms.
This type of young, potential customer is also cognizant of digital marketing techniques, so they like to do a lot more research than previous generations. In fact, a recent study found that 46% of all Google searches are looking for local information. There are countless benefits of local SEO that will help your business, and we will break those down in the upcoming section!
7 benefits of local SEO
Here are some benefits for local SEO, and how they will help your small business in the long run:
- Build your online authority, and show local customers why your business is the local leader
- Increase your brand trust, and improve your brand loyalty
- Get in front of potential local customers without even talking to them, and often while you are sleeping!
- Understand your customers better by seeing what they search for, and how they search for it
- Reduce your customer acquisition costs
- Compound your efforts, as SEO results might take some time, but they are compounding in nature (as long as your content marketing is high quality)
- Start building your search presence, as SEO will always be here in one form or another
16 Statistics that show why a small business should invest in Local SEO
- 46% of all searches on Google include local intent (meaning people are looking for local results)
- Every single month, searchers visit 1.5 billion locations related to their Google searches
- 88% of potential customers look for online reviews before choosing local products or services
- 29% of people search for local businesses, at least once a week
- 56% of local businesses have not yet created or claimed their Google My Business listings
- 72% of consumers that did a local search, visited a store within five miles
- 97% of people learn more about a local company online than anywhere else
- 88% of local searches for local businesses on a mobile device either call or visit the business within 24 hours
- As of 2021, mobile devices influenced more than $1.4 trillion in local sales
- 18% of local smartphone searches led to a purchase within a day, whereas only 7% of non-local searches led to sales (more than double!)
- “Near me” or “close by” type searches grew by more than 900% over two years
- By using location-based coupons on mobile, it can lead to a 9916% increase in incremental revenue attributed to mobile traffic
- Local searchers end up making purchases 28% of the time
- 92% of searchers will pick businesses on the first page of local search results
- 4 in 5 consumers use search engines to find local information
- Mobile searches for “store open near me” (ex., “grocery store open near me”) have grown by over 250% from 2017 to 2019.
Local SEO leads to quick purchases (source).
Lastly, we’ll leave off with the fact that most local SEO clients see ROI positive results within 3 months on average, which is significantly quicker than the 6-18 month time frame that other SEO strategies would take. Next up we will cover how SEO will work for your business.
Does SEO work for small businesses?
A proper local SEO strategy that is handled by a search engine optimization expert will produce results for your business. However, as a business owner, you should expect that this growth channel will take longer than other channels. It is not a flip-switch solution. Here are some tips to make SEO work for your business, and how to keep your cool in the process:
- Set realistic expectations about SEO, and how long it will take
- Don’t give up too soon
- At the start, you will want to set a high-level strategy, but think tactically, as that will have the greatest impact
- Think through your audience demand before beginning to work on SEO. Meaning you would want to see if there is a sufficient amount of search audience looking for products or services that you offer
One of the questions that we’ve left unanswered so far is, does my business specifically need local SEO? In this next section, we will share the types of businesses that implement local SEO, as well as more helpful background information.
Does my business need local SEO?
Every business needs local SEO, however, the degree of investment and degree of need depends on a few variables:
- Search volume for your type of business
- The population of the local area that your business operates in
- Capacity to invest in search engine optimization efforts
This is a fairly subjective assessment, but we will be sharing a tool in the next sub-section that will make your evaluation a bit easier.
What kind of businesses need local SEO?
Generally, if your business falls closer to a need versus a want, you will want to invest in local SEO. So for example, if you operate a dentist’s office or barbershop, you are a key part of peoples’ everyday lives. Therefore, there are always going to be a lot of people searching for your type of business in search engines, and local SEO should definitely be one of your marketing investments. This is true even if you operate a B2B business, you need to invest in building out a good B2B buying journey!
On the contrary, if you operate closer to want, you would want to consider the size of the local population that you can service, as well as the potential demand for your product or service. You can gauge the demand by of course looking at how much foot traffic you get as-is, but in the online realm, you would want to consider how many people search for the product or service that you offer. Some popular examples of ‘want’ based businesses that should invest in local SEO would be:
- movie theatres
- nail salons
- bubble tea shops
The list above can go on forever, as wants will always exceed the needs of human beings. So to local SEO investment assessment (that rhymed) easier for you, we have put together a list of 1,000+ business categories that are used in Google my business listings, along with the number of searches per month and the difficulty to rank in search result pages for these types of businesses. You can access our list here of business categories, along with search volume and keyword difficulty here.
Why is local search and local SEO important in the future?
Local SEO is extremely important as of now and will continue to be important for the years to come. There are a few reasons for this, but one way to look at it would be to consider the nature of small businesses. According to the National Retail Federation, approximately 25.8% of the total US labor market consists of retail employees, with a similar percentage for other developed nations as well. Keeping that statistic in mind, let’s consider the fact that the global eCommerce growth rate is forecast at 12.7% for 2022 alone. Also, 81% of retail shoppers do some sort of online research before buying anything. So as consumers increasingly opt to make purchases online, physical retailers have no option but to create an online presence as well, in order to stay up to date with consumer buying habits.
Even if you don’t operate a retail store, most consumers begin their buying journey online. Recent studies show that 55% of consumers do research online when planning a major purchase. So as more of the world shifts towards doing their research online, if they are not able to find an online presence for your business, you won’t even enter the consideration for purchase.
However, SEO doesn’t only have to be about keeping up with consumer buying and researching habits. You can also use SEO to create powerful customer acquisition and customer loyalty channels that will reap rewards for the years to come. In the next section, we will share the potential ROI of implementing local SEO for small businesses.
What is the potential ROI of Local SEO?
To look at the potential ROI of local SEO, it’s important to understand what to gauge it against. Just like any investment you would want to set a benchmark and judge your investment return against that. So in the context of Local SEO or SEO in general for that matter, it’s important to understand how organic search results contrast with paid ads on search result pages.
Paid Ads vs Organic Results in Google search engine result pages
Paid ads are usually shown at the top of search result pages, and organic results follow after that. So the benchmark that you would want to set for your SEO efforts would be the cost of a click (CPC) for paid ads. CPC can vary greatly based on the target keyword, potential revenue from customers, conversion rates, and local search volume. However, here are some examples of keywords that cover businesses, their CPC values, national search volumes, and the number of clicks per month (using the USA as an example).
Cost per Click
Searches per Month
Clicks per Month
Personal Injury Attorney
Next up you should consider the click-through rates (percentage of clicks) based on the ranking position on organic search result pages:
- Position 1: 43.32% of all Clicks
- Position 2: 37.36% of all Clicks
- Position 3: 29.90% of all Clicks
Now looking at the big picture, let’s look at the potential traffic value/ROI if you rank for the ‘dentist’ term in New York City:
- Search Volume for ‘dentist’ in New York City (estimated): 12,275
- Number of Clicks for ‘dentist’ in New York City (estimated): 5,021
- Number of Clicks for Position 1: 2,175
- CPC for ‘dentist’ (estimated for New York City): $9
- Traffic Value of Ranking in Position 1 for ‘dentist’ in New York City: $19,576 per Month
The above example showcases an example scenario of ROI based on traffic value. When you work with an experienced search engine optimization expert, they will walk you through the potential ROI of ranking for appropriate keywords (after doing keyword research). Curious to see how much your traffic would be worth? Schedule a call with our team of experts, and we will walk you through it with a free strategy call.
Now that you’ve got a good idea about what local SEO is, and why it would be important for your business, let’s talk about how to actually do local SEO for your business!
How can a small local business do SEO?
Small business owners often don’t have a lot of time to invest in activities like SEO, even if they have the technical skills to do so. That being said, you don’t need to roll out a full-on local SEO strategy in order to move the needle for your business. Read on to see 10 practical SEO tips that you can use to improve your SEO (feel free to use any SEO tip).
10 Tips to improve your local SEO?
Here are some practical local SEO tips that will move your business in the right direction. Keep in mind that you will want to set up a local SEO strategy, or for that matter an SEO strategy in general, in order to make the search engine optimization game to the next level.
- Create and Verify your Google My Business / Google Business Profile. Or if your business is already showing up on search result pages, you definitely want to claim it.
- Set up Google Search Console, and Google Analytics with your website
- Make sure your Google My Business / Google Business Profile has your accurate Business Name, Business Address, and Business Phone Number (NAP). This is important because your Google references your NAP across local citation/local citations websites (ex., Yelp) to gauge accuracy, and authority for your business. See the image below from Moz Local to see how the local search ecosystem works (Google checks your NAP on these local citations websites to ensure accuracy/authority):
- Actively list your business in other Business Directories, local directories, local listing(s) (ex., Yelp, FourSquare, etc.,) and on social media. This is also called building local citation/local citations.
- Highlight the areas that you service on your website. This may take the form of creating different web pages for each city that you operate within. Please make sure your NAP is also correct, and up to date on these pages.
- Ask your customers to leave reviews on your Google My Business / Google Business Profile! You might notice that the top results in Google Maps search are often businesses that have high ratings and many reviews.
- Ensure that you have chosen the right business category for your Google My Business / Google Business Profile.
- Implement on-page SEO for your website by choosing the right local keyword for each page (after doing keyword research), while keeping in mind your local audience. One thing you definitely want to avoid though is keyword stuffing!
- Use your Google My Business / Google Business Profile to create google post(s). Google added this feature for a reason! They want you to publish google post(s), and spread awareness of your business. This feature is used in tandem with your website, and overall Google My Business / Google Business Profile to showcase your business for relevant local keyword(s).
- If it makes sense, you would want to start creating content on your website. Speak to a search engine optimization expert before doing this, as you definitely want to go after low-hanging fruit at the start. An integral part of this process is also link building, and that is also a very time-consuming effort.
From number 3 above, Google references all of these local citation websites to confirm NAP accuracy.
If you’ve done all of the above, and are starting to see a good ROI for your efforts, it may be time to work with a local SEO service to take your efforts to the next level. Or, if you don’t have enough time to implement the tips above, you definitely want to work with a local SEO service as well. In the next section, we will share more information about what a local SEO service is, and how it would be helpful for you.
What is a local SEO service?
There are professional local search engine optimization services that help you quickly, and effectively tackle low-hanging fruit for SEO, and improve your local ranking for local keyword(s) that are relevant to your business. On top of that, high-quality local search engine optimization services will create a full local SEO strategy / SEO strategy in general by implementing:
- On-Page SEO
- Off-Page SEO
- Technical SEO
- Semantic SEO (cutting-edge local search engine optimization services will include this in their services)
They will create a professional presence for your business through organic SEO that will continue to produce profitable organic search traffic for the years to come. That being said, you should expect these things from your search engine optimization service:
- SEO Audit to start with
- Competitor analysis to see how much traffic your competition is bringing in
- Conducting keyword research to scope out opportunities
- Creating a local SEO strategy / SEO strategy
- Off-Page Optimization
- On-Page Optimization
- Monthly Reporting
- Constant Optimization to keep up with best practices
You might be left wondering, this is awesome, but how much would it cost? This next section will go over that briefly.
How much should I pay for local SEO?
The first thing you should consider is to ignore any local SEO service that offers a first-page SEO guarantee, as you will likely end up with some short-term success but you will be penalized by Google in the long run.
There are some key factors that will impact the price of local SEO for your business:
- Location: Larger cities tend to be more expensive, as they are more competitive
- Competition: If there is more competition, you are up against more players. Accordingly, it will be more difficult to break out of the pack and start ranking at the top
- Your business needs, and requirements: Your ambition with SEO will also affect pricing. As a business owner, you will have to decide on how quickly you want to improve your SEO, and what scale you would like to end up at
If you are quoted at anything less than $500, you are likely to receive a shady service and may end up being penalized by Google due to the activities that this type of service will implement. Generally, you want to consider local SEO services that charge between $500 to $2,500 per month. If you have multiple locations, you may receive a discount per additional location as well!
If you are curious about local SEO and would like a free consultation call, please feel free to schedule some time with our expert team.