Local SEO has become more important than ever. A study by GE Capital Retail Bank found that 81% shoppers first do online research before they can purchase anything big. A combined study by Google, Sterling Brands, and Ipsos MediaCT states that three out of four consumers visit local stores after locating them in local search results. This means SEO optimization at the local level is taking precedence over everything else.
So, if you are a local business, you need to come up with a unique SEO strategy that will help you appear higher in search engine results. However, this may be easier said than done, even with the right SEO tools at your disposal. With so many things to keep in mind, like SEO backlinks through high-quality citations and online business directory listing, favorable online reviews, and accurate description in Google My Business and Google+, small business search engine optimization requires different SEO strategies. Hence, being aware of the new trends in local SEO will help you with your SEO marketing efforts.
Local Search Has Become More Competitive
Just a few years ago, it was easy for local businesses that knew a little bit of SEO to rank high in local search engine results. So, even the little bit of Google search engine optimization was more than sufficient to be at the top of local search results.
Google also looked favorably at local businesses that did a little bit of SEO optimization of their Google My Business page. This would allow those businesses to feature among the top seven local businesses. However, this is no longer the case. The top seven has whittled down to top three and it is expected that it will further reduce to top two, with one position for the paid advertiser.
This clearly shows that local search has become more competitive and typical SEO marketing efforts may not reap the desired results. However, this should not stop you from optimizing your website for local SEO.
Local Search Has Transformed to Pay-to-Play
Google has gone out on a limb to help local businesses make their presence felt online through their Get Your Business Online program. This program offers step-by-step instructions on how local businesses can claim their Google My Business page. The search engine giant has also partnered with a non-profit organization called Score to assist small businesses to take off and expand their reach through Get Your Business Online.
While local businesses can focus on local search SEO, they should not forget that Google is a for-profit organization. Hence, for all the help and assistance the tech giant has offered local businesses, stakeholders are pressurizing it to monetize the local search results. As a result, Google is doing away with some of the organic search results that local businesses used to enjoy. Instead, it is introducing pay-to-play solutions where one of the top three search results will be a paid result. This gives a new twist to local SEO for small business.
It’s All About Location
When a prospective customer performs a search on Google, the search engine knows exactly the actual location of the customer. This has a profound effect on the Search Engine Results Pages. However, Google is trying to make search results more relevant to local consumers by narrowing down the search area. This means businesses that are located away from the actual location of the searcher will not be displayed in the local search results. This will give local search SEO a new meaning altogether.
Mobile Marketing Takes Precedence
If your SEO marketing has been neglecting mobile marketing, it is time to change this fact. Today, penetration of smartphones is deep and more and more people are using smartphones to search for things they need. Google realizes that it can get a precise lock on the user’s location when the run searches through their mobile devices. So, it will only display results that are relevant to the user’s location.
A report published by Hitwise (registration needed) states that 58% of all searches in the US take place through a mobile device. This means many mobile device users are looking for local businesses and your SEO efforts should be mobile-friendly as well as desktop-friendly.
Reputation is Everything
This is not something new as customers have been writing online reviews for years and prospective customers have been reading them to decide which business to opt for. Online reviews often make it search engine results and hence, you should be out there to encourage and motivate your customers to leave favorable online reviews in popular business review sites like Angie’s List and Yelp.
You should make online reviews a part of your SEO strategy, and as a small local business, you should check online reviews on a daily basis and address both positive and negative reviews. You can even add a reputation software to your arsenal of SEO tools to ensure there are more positive reviews compared to negative reviews.
The Bottom Line
SEO has evolved. Local SEO for small business is about making sure the business’ website or web page appears at the top of local search results. Getting quality SEO backlinks, handling online reviews and making your website responsive for mobile devices are the key to SEO marketing in the today’s world. That is until, local search trends change, necessitating adopt a different set of search engine optimization tips.