Although the last year has seen a veritable boom in the e-commerce and online shopping world, another surprising trend to have emerged is that more and more people are shopping locally.
This is a particularly interesting turn of events, as for years analysts have been predicting that the rise of online shopping would be the death knell of the local high street.
This does not appear to be the case, however, and both forms of shopping seem to be experiencing considerable growth.
What is particularly interesting about this dual growth of e-commerce and local shopping is that both types of businesses are harnessing many of the same tools to drive their growth. These include things such as having a fully functioning online shopfront in the form of a website and other tools such as social media.
One digital tool that is equally important to both online and local businesses are search engines. Regardless of whether you are searching for a new digital camera from your big-box tech retailer of choice, or are trying to find a local bakery to buy some bread at, an internet search engine will likely be your first port of call.
To improve their visibility among the endless number of results that search engines produce, businesses of all kinds use SEO techniques.
Although you might be familiar with SEO – that is, ‘search engine optimisation – and how businesses use it to gain a competitive edge in search engine rankings, local SEO is a much less familiar concept to many people out there.
This is also true of a surprising amount of digital marketing professionals, with the utility of local SEO an underappreciated resource and tool in the digital marketing world these days.
But what actually is local SEO? And, more importantly, how can it help businesses?
What is local SEO?
As you might have been able to guess from the name, ‘local’ SEO is concerned with improving the visibility of businesses that primarily serve their local communities. These are the brick-and-mortar, physical businesses that you will visit in your local communities.
This obviously contrasts with regular SEO, which is used by businesses with an online presence that are trying to reach customers anywhere that the internet reaches.
While in conventional SEO, the goal is to increase online traffic to online locations, with local SEO, the goal is to use the internet to increase physical, in-person interactions.
With this in mind, when you are trying to improve your local SEO outcomes, you are adopting strategies that will help your business to be more visible in any ‘local’ search results that Google might display.
How does local SEO work?
To understand how local SEO works, you first need a solid grasp of how search engines and general SEO work.
When you plug a search term into a search engine such as Google, the algorithms that power Google will use complex formulas and consider hundreds, if not thousands, of different data points to determine whether a particular search result – that is stored somewhere out there on the internet – should get displayed to you.
In displaying these results, it will also list them in terms of their relevance, with the most relevant link being displayed first on the page.
To do this, when you search for a term, the algorithms will trawl a website and consider a variety of different onsite and offsite factors to determine whether it contains something that is relevant to your search interests. It will then use these in conjunction with a search index that it has already compiled on you and rank the search results based on their relevance.
Improving your SEO in this context means ensuring that your website is stuffed full of relevant content that will make it easier to show the search engine algorithms why your website might be relevant to a particular search term. It also means having a well-indexed website that is connected to other websites throughout a network of onsite and offsite links.
Local SEO is essentially a similar process. However, the end goal is to connect the person conducting the search with businesses in as close geographic proximity to them as possible.
Search engines have realised that when you search for certain terms, you are generally looking for businesses near you. So, for example, if you search for ‘pizza’, they won’t just list generic articles about the history of pizza – they will also suggest local pizzerias near you. They can do this even when you don’t include search terms such as ‘near me’ or the name of the city you are in.
Local SEO is dynamic and will change depending on your location.
The need for local SEO has become even greater as mobile internet has taken off. Local SEO was much trickier to suggest when everyone was chained to their desktops when they wanted to access the internet. For this reason, local SEO presents significant opportunities for digital marketers.
What information matters for local SEO?
When Google’s search engine algorithms are ranking search results, however, what are they looking out for, and does this differ when compared to regular, non-local SEO?
The most obvious information that search engines will look for when producing ‘local’ search results is location data.
Information about your location ties your business to the area in which you operate and want to attract customers. This contrasts with SEO for fully online businesses, where the focus will be on the product or service itself, rather than on the location.
According to one statistic, over 46% of all Google searches are looking for local information, which gives you a sense of how important local SEO can be!
Improving local SEO: first steps
With this basic understanding of what local SEO is and how it works in mind, here are some simple, actionable steps you can take to improve your local SEO going forward:
• Create localised content: If you want to improve your local SEO outcomes, you need to make sure that you are creating appropriately ‘local’ content. Start tailoring any content published on your website or platform for the local area in which you want to attract customers. Build this focus into any marketing or content campaigns you have planned.
• Add location pages: To ensure that your website is fully localised, make sure that you have added location pages and have included other targeted location data. This might include creating a location page specific to your area or, if you operate in more than one location, having a dedicate page for each. Include basic information such as your opening hours, address and other contact details. Embedding a Google Maps page is also useful for location purposes.
• Set up a ‘Google My Business’ profile: Google My Business profiles are a useful tool that Google has built with local SEO in mind. It allows you to provide updated contact information that will help local users to find you. Google My Business information will get displayed above other organic search results in the listings, so it’s important to ensure that this is fully up to date.
• Optimise your website for mobile: Local businesses are uniquely reliant on mobile internet usage. This is because, generally speaking, when individuals are looking for a local business, they usually do so when they are already out and about in their local area. For this reason, you should make sure that your website is fully optimised for mobile device usage. This might involve using mobile browser-friendly fonts, using images sparingly, having intuitive UI, and having a website that loads quickly.
If you are a business hoping to build up your local customer base, local SEO is one of the most important tools at your disposal. By optimising your website and putting out content with some basic local SEO principles in mind, you can harness the power of the internet to build your local business.
With that said, if you want to make some changes to your online presence to improve your local SEO rankings, feel free to reach out to Purecontent today! Purecontent are content creation experts who know just what it takes to create impactful content that will increase traffic to your website. If you want to get started on developing a publishing strategy with some of these local SEO principles in mind, get in contact today and book an initial consultation.