If You’re Not Local, You’re Lost

The Importance of Local SEO and a Playbook for Success

Written by PACIFIC The Discovery Group
on 05.10.18

If you’re a small to medium business (SMB) or even a national retailer with brick & mortar stores, having a solid Local SEO game plan can be vital to your business’s success. Not only is it the modern equivalent of the antiquated Yellow Pages listing, but it can also serve as an upfront salesperson of sorts, helping to create urgency.

Local SEO lets small business compete with the giants in their respective industries. And Google’s Mobile-First indexing is going to put more emphasis on this entire topic.

While traditional, organic SEO puts a lot of weight on link-juice and keywords, Local SEO is more citation- (or mention-) focused. This means that comments, reviews, and the like that mention your business are incredibly valuable. The more people are talking about your business in the form of reviews, recommendations, and referrals, the more likely Google is to associate those mentions with trustworthiness. In turn, you’ll be rewarded with higher search engine results page (SERP) results.

That said, there are some other factors to consider–and a few actions that you can take–which will also help put your business on the map, so to speak.

Why is Local SEO so critical to your business?

Local searches are on the rise. 87 percent of internet users used search engines to find local products within the past month. “Near me” searches have grown 150 percent over the past two years and “open now” searches have tripled in that same period. As users become more prolific with local search, their expectations on businesses to be there–with the correct information–is increasing. Today, almost half of all Google searches are local.

We can thank mobile optimization for this growing trend for consumer convenience and power. If your business’s website is not mobile-friendly, you’ll be playing catch-up before you even get into the game. And, while a mobile-responsive site is technically mobile-friendly, a true mobile-first design approach is ideal. The playing field is no longer on your laptop; it’s your hand-held device.

In the past year, likelihood to check local inventory using a smartphone has grown by 36 percent. Currently, 60 percent of adults in the United States use devices to search for local products, services, or information. People are searching while they are out running errands, seeking specific services or products local to where they currently are.

The benefit of Local SEO is not typically online conversions. For this reason, many clients might struggle to see the value investing in yet another marketing initiative. The reality is that Local SEO attributes to serious offline conversions. 76 percent of local mobile searches resulted in a store visit within 24 hours, with that number rising to 88 percent within a week. A staggering 78 percent of local mobile searches translate to an offline purchase at a local brick & mortar store.

Local SEO is not just for SMBs. For the larger business like national retailers, their ecosystem also needs a local anchor. Having a sound optimization strategy will help you rank for branded and general industry terms, But, paying attention to local intent like “near me” and “open now” instances is equally prudent. Make sure to include directory information such as location, phone number, and business hours, too.

How does one achieve great Local SEO?

Set the right foundations

First thing’s first; don’t go into Local SEO haphazardly. If you are registering on Google My Business (GMB) to be found online, make sure you set it up correctly. Directory information is a must. You need to make sure your Name/Address/Phone number (NAP) is consistent across local listing directories. You want customers to be able to efficiently learn what your business is, where you are, and how they can contact you. When possible, use GMB to incorporate things like questions & answers, featured posts, and informative comments or reviews. The more advise, clues, and data you are able to provide, the better you’ll be able to control the message the users will receive when they interact with the search engine.

Both in-store and online, you want to encourage customer feedback and interactions. Responding to every customer review is essential and shows prospective customers that you care about your customers and their experience. It also encourages customers to share their feedback online, leading to more customers through word of mouth. Beginning to understand how important mentions are to Local SEO?

Strive for the Local 3-Pack

Google Local Pack appears in 93 percent of searches with local intent. Whenever the query tells Google that someone is looking for something nearby, the search giant shows three local businesses that hopefully match the need. To appear in the Local Pack is the ultimate win for local businesses; setting you apart from your competition.

To get into the 3-Pack, you must ensure your NAP information is consistently available to all local directories. Additionally, you should become as active as possible on these local listing sites. The more you appear online with dependable information, the more Google trusts you and feeds your business to their Local search users.

Mobile optimization

Google’s Mobile-first indexing initiative, which prioritizes web pages built with the mobile user in mind over laptop & desktop users, means you better have a great site for the prospective customer to land on once they click through on the SERP. If you don’t, your webpage will not make it in front of customers on the first page of results (and, maybe not even the second).

Voice search is also becoming increasingly more popular, particularly on mobile devices. Make sure your content is voice-optimized. Think about longtail keywords and natural language phrasing in your content to ensure it comes up in voice searches. That’s going to help the person who is screaming at the Google Assistant on their phone in between the grocery store and the dry cleaners discover your business for that final stop on their way home.

Online must translate to offline

If you search and find two businesses meeting your criteria in a close range of one another, which are you going to go to? The business with the most rave reviews. A strong online experience will get customers in your door. A strong offline experience in-store will lead to citations or mentions–word of mouth–which are going to increase the number of those online users coming through the door to become offline customers.

According to BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey 2017, 97 percent of consumers read online reviews for local businesses, with 12 percent looking for a local business online every day. It was also found that positive reviews make 73 percent of consumers trust a local business more.

Maintenance and testing

Local SEO is not a set-and-forget solution. If your business information changes and you do not update this, you will miss out on customers. If you decide to close for a weekend and fail to make that available, your customers will revolt in the comments section, which could damage an otherwise honorable reputation.

Regular A/B testing is recommended. Play with dynamic pricing from time to time. Not only might you attract more customers with new prices, but the refreshing of the content will also appease the Google algorithm.

Local optimization is the most popular SEO technique employed by SMBs. Moving forward, 85 percent of SMBs will maintain or increase their local SEO budgets, whereas traditional advertising is only in at 53 percent. For SMBs, Local SEO spending outpaces PPC by over a 3:1 margin — 75.8 percent to 22.4 percent. For businesses who require online presence while mostly operating offline, Local SEO is the best way to be found, stay competitive, and boost sales.

If you’re not yet investing in Local SEO or need a hand to improve your strategy, get in touch with our team here at PACIFIC.

*Please note: PACIFIC is not affiliated with any of the businesses appearing in this article.