SEO Guide for Business 27/02/2021
When looking for a local product or service, most of us now pick up our smartphone to search online for what we need.
These stats show how effective search is for driving local customers to businesses:
- 97% of people find local businesses via an internet search Source: seotribunal.com
- 72% will visit the business premises if within 5 miles Source: seotribunal.com
- 18% of local searches lead to a purchase in 24 hours Source: Think with Google
This guide has been written for businesses (not SEO geeks), to cover the questions you may have when considering local search, and whether it is right for your business.
SEO Agency Tip: there can be the temptation to speak to local SEO agencies to get their view on the SEO work you need to do. The problem with this approach is that they may recommend work that requires their services and shy away from suggesting work you can do yourselves.
By reading this guide and the recommended articles, you will empower yourself with better knowledge of the work your business needs, and the work you could do yourselves.
So if you do decide to speak to a local SEO agency, you will now have the knowledge to decide the services where they could add the most value.
What is local SEO?
Local SEO is the process of optimising your business location(s) and service areas within the search engines.
So when someone searches for [Your Product or Service] in [Your Area], your business is shown in the search engines:
- Maps Listings – the listing pulled from services such as Google Maps and your Google My Business Listing, or Bing Maps.
- Natural rankings – listing in organic search.
Key Stat: for 93% of local searches the Maps listings appear in positions 1 to 3 in the search results. Source: searchenginejournal.com
What do businesses need to optimise for local search results?
Any business that has potential customers searching for their products, or services, where the customers are looking for a local location.
A business with:
- A location that people can visit.
- A service area that the business covers from a location.
Types of business may include
- Tradespeople and contractors - plumbers, electricians, building contractors…)
- Medical and healthcare - doctors, dentists, vets, osteopaths, physios…
- Food & drink - restaurants, bars, pubs, takeaways…
- Retail - supermarkets, florists, clothes, convenience, hardware…
- Entertainment & fitness - cinemas, bowling, gyms…
- and the list goes on…
Top Tip: do an online search for your own products and services to see if relevant local competitors show in the results; if yes this indicates that local SEO could be beneficial for you.
Does local SEO generate more local customer enquiries?
Potentially yes 👍
More people than ever are looking online for the local products and services they need, some stats to back this up:
28% of all local searches will result in a local purchase Source: seotribunal.com
70% of people visit a local business following information found online Source: seotribunal.com
46% of all Google searches are now local Source: seotribunal.com
People are searching for your products and services in your area?
You optimise your website and business locally.
See an increase in enquiries
Top Tip: using a keyword research tool find the number of monthly searches for your primary products or services in your area, such as the free tool: www.wordtracker.com
Is local SEO the same as normal SEO?
Local search optimisation is a type of SEO that focuses on location in the maps and natural rankings:
- Maps – good maps rankings are unique to local SEO.
- Natural – to get good rankings in the organic listings for local searches such as “accountant London” is similar to normal SEO, but with subtle differences:
- Content – unique location details in page content are helpful.
- Links – relevant local links can be very useful.
For good local search performance - you need to optimise for (1) maps and (2) organic listings.
What results should I expect from doing local SEO?
It is impossible to answer without knowing your business, website, budget, or competition.
Though not to dodge the question.
Local SEO does not typically provide instant results in the way paid search advertising can do.
You should start to see results after 3 to 6 months - a good agency/freelancer should target ‘quick wins’, such as setting up and optimising your Google My Business listing.
Typically quicker results for older established websites - if you have a well-established website with good page content, and relevant existing links, it may be possible to start seeing quicker results.
How much does optimisation cost?
This will depend on your market, website, competition, and who you get to do the work.
- Market & competition – a competitive market such as ‘plumbers london’ will require significantly more work and time than a less competitive term such as ‘plumbers Oxted’.
- Your website – if you have a well-established business and website with many professionally written pages and links from other high-quality local websites, then the SEO work will be significantly less than for a brand-new site.
- Who does the work (agency/freelancer/you) – if you do the SEO yourself, there is obviously not going to be the same outlay, compared to hiring an SEO agency? You will need to balance here the value of knowledge and experience over keeping your outlay to a minimum.
How to get top local search rankings?
There are many factors the search engines consider when deciding which businesses should be at the top of their results:
- Location – how close are you to the searcher? (See section 9.)
- Relevance – how relevant your business is relating to the search query? (See section 10.)
- Trust – how trusted is your business online? (See section 11.)
To be shown above your competitors you need
- Premises that are close to your searcher.
- To be the most relevant to the search (providing the products and services the searcher is looking for).
- To be most trusted (reviews and great links).
How to optimise for location?
Make it easy for the search engines to know your address and the service areas by including:
- Address and phone number on your website – include your full address and phone number in prominent logical locations on your website.
- Structured data – add code to your website where you specifically tell the search engines your location, type of business, and much more. More Info: Google Developers Local Business Structured Data
- Maps and directories – on maps listings such as Google My Business and Bing Maps, and directory listings such as Yell and Yelp, a consistent name, address, and phone number (NAP) help to confirm your business details.
- NAP Consistency – highly consistent name address and phone number (NAP) helps improve your location optimisation.
Not located close to your customers?
- If you are not located near to where people are making the local searches, then you are restricted to how much you can optimise for this.
- If you are targeting ‘bike shop in manchester’, but are located 25 miles from the city centre, you will have difficulty optimising for Central Manchester if there are other bike shops closer to the centre of town than you.
- You may be able to target ‘bike shop in manchester’ in the natural listings, however, in the maps results, there are likely to be other more local results appearing higher, especially for searchers located near Central Manchester.
How to make your business the most relevant?
When someone makes their local search, for example, ‘plumber london’, you need to make sure the search engine clearly knows that you provide ‘plumbing services’, and in the area of London.
Examples of how to do this:
- Keywords – target the right relevant keywords on your website, maps, and directory listings. For example, if you are a ‘plumber in London’, you will need to make sure you have this, and related keywords within professionally written relevant text.
- Website page optimisation – typically you should select a particular page on your website to target an area/location, then ensure the meta title, description, and page content with relevant information about that area.
- Great content – make sure you have particularly useful content and information about your business and the services that you cover.
- Structured data (as covered in 8.)
- Maps and directory categories – on maps listings such as Google My Business and Bing Maps, and directory listings such as Yell and Yelp, you need to make sure you select the relevant categories (plumbing, financial advisor etc.)
- Local and quality links – backlinks from other quality local businesses and organisations, plus relevant industry websites such as:
- A local football team you may have sponsored
- A local newspaper who has written an article on you
- Your clients
- Businesses who work for you
- Business contacts you have
How much optimisation will make my business most relevant?
This will depend on how much has been done by your competitors. Look at their web pages and for example, their Google My Business listing, see how much they have done, then aim to do a little more.
How to make your business the most trusted?
There are many ways to build trust online:
- Local and quality links (as covered in 9.)
- Reviews - 88% of consumers consult online reviews before they purchase local services Source brightlocal.com. Review not only help you convert more customers but help to build search engine trust.
- Social media – verified and active social media platforms.
- Mentions – online mentions by local media or government sites, plus social media.
- Directories – listings in relevant good quality local, and industry directories.
- Prominent people – if a contributor to your website is also prominent online, possibly an industry or local leader, this will also pass trust to your website.
How much trust do I need to build (number of reviews etc)?
Again, this will depend on what has been done by your competitors. For example, look at how many online reviews they have, then aim to get more.
How do I know if local SEO is right for my business?
To find this out you will need to do a little research
1. Are There Searches
If there are people searching for your services online, then that is a good indication there is an opportunity.
Tools are available to tell you how many people are searching for keywords relevant to you, such as WordStream Free Keyword Tool.
Before starting any work, you should do keyword research to determine the extent of the business opportunity available.
2. How Competitive Is Your Market?
Once you have found your target keywords, do some search engine searches to see your competitors. If the results:
- Include only small local businesses – then competing may be achievable.
- Include many national large companies – then you will have a larger job to compete.
Top Tip: Research all your products and services, even if some keywords are too competitive, there may be others that are more achievable. For example "plumber oxted" versus "plumber surrey".
What are my next steps?
- Keyword research - do your keyword research to find relevant keywords to your business with searches.
- Competitor research - do searches to find your inline competitors for all keywords, and use a bit of common sense to determine which target keywords may be achievable, and which may not.
- Find out what work exactly is going to be required - engaging a freelancer or agency to do a Local SEO Audit is a good way to get this done.
- Decide who is going to do the work - whether you are going to do the work yourself, hire a freelancer or agency, or a mix?
- Draw up a strategy or plan - so you know who is going to do what work, and when.
Take massive action - all the planning in the world will not improve your search engine results, you need to take action to be better than your competitors in your chosen keyword markets.