Local SEO for Small Business
Local SEO for Small Business: A Practical Guide for 2023
Everybody knows about the “always online” world we live in today, and the biggest driver of this is the mainstream adoption of smartphones. You can’t go outside without seeing a person on the sidewalk hunched over, staring at their phone.
But when people think of an online world they normally think of huge global companies like Amazon and Airbnb. What people often overlook is how this change has affected the landscape for local businesses. The truth is that the customer journey for local businesses has had a major shakeup in the last few years.
When we look at the various touch points, we can see exactly how today’s customer is in far more control than they used to be.
The old approach for local businesses would be to invest in traditional advertising like print and telemarketing, but these mediums no longer work for them. People looking for a local business today will simply Google what they’re looking for when they want it – when it’s most convenient for them, not anyone else.
Personal recommendations are no longer required. Today’s customer can now get the opinions of hundreds of people in seconds through online reviews, rather than getting just one person’s opinion.
The truth is customers today have access to more information than ever before. All of this is good for the customer as it makes their life far easier: most people these days don’t want a pushy salesperson, right? They want to do their own research online to learn as much as they can, then they’ll buy when they’re ready and fully educated.
Today, once a customer has reached out to you, they’re far further down the sales funnel then they would have been 15 years ago. Not only that, but if a business has a great online reputation then customers will be far easier to sell to and they’ll happily spend more with you.
What’s interesting now is how online is actually driving offline sales. Even if a local business is recommended by a friend, today’s customer will still check out the business online before they contact them. One stat I find fascinating is that 78% of mobile local searches result in offline purchases. So not investing in your online visibility is no longer an option for any businesses looking to grow their revenue.
High-performing local businesses have figured out just how important investing in local search marketing actually is: a recent study by Google found that SMBs that are making the most use of online are 2.8 times more likely to enjoy revenue growth than those who do not.
On the other hand, over half a million businesses in the US close every year. One of the biggest reasons companies struggle is because they simply fail to adapt their businesses to succeed in this new online-first landscape.
So what we do is we help companies make that transition. Our ultimate goal is to help you generate more leads online, whether that’s by getting more phone calls, emails or walk-ins.
What is Local SEO for Small Businesses?
We help our clients through a practice called local search optimization or “local SEO”. This helps their businesses rank higher on Google when people are searching for their services.
These are the kinds of leads that everybody wants because they’re self-qualified and have a genuine need for your services.
Any business that serves customers in a specific location needs local SEO.
Google makes up 90% of all search engine traffic so we focus on Google’s algorithm.
Google has a different algorithm to rank local searches vs non local searches.
An example of a local search is “lawyers in Manhattan”
An example of a non-local search might be “Sony 43 inch TV” because this a product that’s not tied to a physical location.
So when we look to improve rankings on Google we first need to understand what Google wants. Quite simply, all Google wants to do is give the searcher the best possible result for their query.
How Does Google Decide Which Business to Rank Highest?
If we dig a little deeper into this, Google uses a local algorithm to work out which results they think are best, and it’s broken up into three simple elements:
Proximity, relevance, and prominence.
Local SEO Ranking Factors: Proximity
This is how far away the business’ location is from the person making the search. As an example, if you’re a lawyer based in Chicago and somebody searches for “lawyers in Manhattan,” you’re never going to appear in the results. Proximity is a metric that you can’t control or influence; you can’t decide where somebody searches from or what city they search for.
Local SEO Ranking Factors: Relevance
This is how well your business’ online presence matches what the searcher has searched for. A simple example of this is that if you’re a lawyer and someone searches for a plumber you’re never going to appear in the results.
Now this is obviously an extreme example but it’s layered: as another example, if you’re an employment lawyer and a person searches for an immigration lawyer, it’s unlikely that your business will be returned ahead of businesses that purely specialize in immigration law.
Local SEO Ranking Factors: Prominence
And the final element Google uses is Prominence. This is how Google determines which business has the most trust through a variety of elements such as reviews, links, content, etc.
Google uses different algorithms for the two types of results you see when you make a local search.
The first is for the local pack results, which is this section here. This is the three Google listings that sit at the top of the SERP, below the paid ads.
Every year the SEO company Moz surveys some of the most recognized local SEO practitioners to learn what they think are the key factors that affect local rankings.
What this survey gives us is a useful breakdown to help visualize the factors Google uses to rank businesses. We incorporate this into the work we complete for our clients to help drive more leads for their businesses.
Google has a separate algorithm for the organic results, which are the blue links you see below the local pack. These organic results are still based on the location of the searcher or query, so we call them localized organic results. We focus on both algorithms to help our clients drive more leads from Google.
We believe in full transparency with our clients. I want to show you each factor and the actual work we do to build authority for our clients in Google.
How to Rank Local SEO: Optimized Profile
We can see that your Google Business Profile makes up 25% of the signals. This is a free listing that Google gives you to control. If somebody searches for your business on Google, this is what will appear on the right-hand side of the page so it’s normally the first thing prospects will see when they look for you online. If your Google Business profile hasn’t been properly optimized, then you’ll never succeed in local search, period.
There’s a lot of room for error when setting up and managing a My Google Business listing, especially for business owners who are too busy actually running their business to read through the research on best practices. This is why when we start working with a client this is one of the first things we review.
So in terms of what work we complete for our clients’ listings, it all starts by uncovering which search terms people are actually searching for. We use Google’s tools to pull back the total number of local searches on Google every month for each of your services. This helps us identify which search terms we need to optimize for.
As an example, if there are 300 people a month searching for “Nissan dealerships” but there’s 700 people a month searching for “Nissan car dealers”, we want to make sure we’re optimizing the client’s profile for the search term with the higher volume.
From there we’ll run research on your top-performing competitor’s profile and build on this for your profile.
We’ll also audit the data in your profile and make sure we add compelling descriptions and images to drive conversion for anyone looking at your business.
Another key area we’ll work on is the Q&A section on your Google Business listing. These questions and answers are prominent on your profile and are like community-sourced FAQs that live on your listing. We can post brand-friendly FAQs for you to help convert users that see them on your profile. We’ll also monitor these to make sure they give the best impression of your business.
We’ll also continuously create Google Posts. These are like social media updates that live on your Google profile. These help drive conversions from your listing and are a good signal to Google that your business is active and relevant.
How to Rank Local SEO: High Value Link Building
Links are a crucial ranking factor for Google. Links are like votes or endorsements of your business’ competence, quality, and character.
For example, if a respected university or industry publication links to your website, they are endorsing your business and putting their own reputation at risk should you prove unworthy of their recommendation. It’s the same with peers and partners. Vouching for you in the form of a link puts their own at reputation risk.
Links are costly because they are not a commodity to be bought and sold. They have to be earned. You have to give people a reason to link to you. You have to consistently provide clearly differentiated, high-quality goods and services including, in many instances, blog content that is sought-after, unique, and valuable.
As a local business it’s difficult to acquire links for your business’ website without the right knowledge.
The first stage of our link strategy for our clients is completing a link audit to understand what your current link profile is like and to identify and remove any potentially harmful links. We also need to assess how your link profile compares to your competition in order to fully understand exactly what is required from a link building campaign.
Link building is similar to relationship building in many ways and needs to be earned. Other websites don’t like linking out to websites for the fun of it. So we’ll look to leverage any existing relationships you have. This could be with any local organizations you already have relationships with. This helps your site get some quick wins through relationships you’ve already built.
We’ll also seek out new sponsorship opportunities with local schools and charities that can link back to you,
We’ll also look to target business directories which can provide links to your site to grow your authority.
Lastly, we’ll approach bloggers and relevant sites to write content for them in exchange for a link. All of these approaches help grow your link profile and authority within Google.
How to Rank Local SEO: Review Signals
We’ve seen a huge change over the past 5 years in the power that the customer voice has on every business. Online reviews have been growing in importance since smartphone adoption.
Online reviews don’t just affect your rankings; they impact every stage of the customer’s buying journey.
We can break the journey down into three sections: discover, evaluate, and trust.
So the first stage is discovery. Having more positive online reviews, you have a better chance of ranking higher in local searches on Google and other sites. This means new potential customers are more likely to find your business when they’re searching.
The next stage in the journey is evaluation. Your customers might be evaluating you on Google. As a potential customer evaluates your listing and star ratings, they’re also evaluating your competitors as well.
More often than not, they will reach out to the business with the best reputation. The benefit of having great online reviews are that they make you rank higher, then they’re getting you more clicks and calls than your competitors.
Finally, online reviews build trust in abundance. A business with a great online reputation will establish great trust with a prospect before they’ve even spoken to them.
So not only will you rank higher and get more clicks and calls, but customers will be easier to sell to and more likely to buy more from you because of your online reviews.
The first thing we complete for our clients is an audit of their reviews and benchmark them against their top-performing competitors.
We’ll always look to introduce a review generation strategy as well.
The big challenge with online reviews is that an unhappy customer is far more likely to leave a review than a happy customer.
We use sophisticated software for our clients that works by asking your customers to leave reviews on the most important sites, helping to drive your online reputation.
Through the reporting we do, we’ll also make sure that customers get quick responses to reviews to improve trust signals.
How to Rank Local SEO: On-Page Signals
The next factor is on-page signals, which is basically everything that lives on your website; everything that Google sees when they crawl it.
There’s a vast range of metrics to consider when optimizing on-page signals. When we engage with a client we’ll always run a full site audit in the first month to make sure their site is sending all the right signals to Google.
Here are some of the areas we assess:
- Title tag + Header tag review
- Is there enough content, and is it locally relevant?
- Are there call to actions on your site to drive conversions?
- Is it easy for a user to navigate and get in contact?
How to Rank Local SEO: Citation Signals
A local citation (also known as a business listing or online directory listing) is any place online that displays your business’ name, address and phone number. Google goes to sites like Yelp and Yellow Pages to validate the data they have for your business. If Google finds data that doesn’t match or is missing altogether this can really hurt your ability to appear in search results.
We’ll run a full audit of the citations for your business, making sure that we build out and clean up citations on the most powerful directories to ensure your business data is listed and 100% correct.
This ensures optimal visibility in Google for your business.
How We Work With Local SEO Clients
Before we start implementing work for a new client we need to first understand their current performance and the size of the gap between their business and their top competitors.
Until we’ve completed this audit, it’s impossible to understand exactly what work is needed and subsequently what level of investment is required to see results. What the audit gives us is a roadmap of our Local SEO strategy, determining exactly what we need to work on to increase the amount of leads you generate online.
Once we’ve completed the audit we’ll walk you through our report, step by step, to make sure everything makes sense and that we’re both confident in how we’ll proceed.
Next, we’ll begin executing the strategy outlined in the report, implementing the most important tasks first to try and deliver as many quick wins as possible.
Curious if your small business could benefit from a boost in rankings on local search? Submit your information below for a FREE Local SEO Audit!
Our Services Include:
- Title Tags
- Internal Linking
- Google Analytics
- GBP Optimizations
- GBP Posts
- Backlink Audits
- Link Building
- Data Aggregators
- Press Releases
- Content Distribution
- Keyword Research
- Meta Descriptions
- Schema Markup
- Search Console
- GBP Management
- On-page Audits
- Technical Audits
- Local Listings
- Guest Posts (Nat’l Only)
- Content Creation
- Media Rooms
- Reporting Dashboard
As Seen In
“Within 10 minutes, Heather had zeroed in on root-cause problems I’d been oblivious to for months. The marketing angle of my business has shifted to something far more intuitive and effective, and it’s all because of my work with Heather.”
CEO, Climb Write
“I had the pleasure of working with Heather to create a new sales funnel for my business, and was struck by how immediately she was able to dial in on what changes I needed to make in order to achieve my goals. Working with her was fun, insightful and extremely helpful. I now feel very clear on what direction I need to take to optimize my lead generation.”
Founder, Instant Impact
“Honest feedback that gives you laser focused strategy; narrowing down who is the target audience and how you can serve them and not everyone else; shifted my mindset from feeling like an imposter to ‘you actually know a WHOLE lot!!!'”
Owner, The I Do Experience
Common questions we get:
We require a three month minimum to start. After that, it’s just a 30-day cancellation notice to end your campaign.
We offer a la carte pricing for all our services and create packages custom-tailored to your business goals. Our monthly minimums for Local SEO services start at just $750 per month and scale up depending on which campaign add-ons you’d like to include.