Do you depend on foot-traffic through the front door of your small business? If so, your website is more critical than ever to your success. In the past year, Google has rolled out several changes directly related to local search optimization and has spent more than half a billion dollars on local advertising enhancements. When Google spends that much money, you have to sit up and take notice.
How Local Search Works
Local search optimization is a branch of online marketing that caters to customers in a specific geographical region or community. According to Google, 97% of consumers search for local businesses online. Google, the undisputed authority in search on the web, has essentially replaced the Yellow Pages, newspaper ads, and even TV advertising as a result of the increase of consumers looking for products and services online.
The internet has made it possible for consumers to visit (virtually), evaluate, and judge a small business before they even get in their car to drive over. When someone decides to get a pizza, replace their tires, or get a haircut you can be assured, to a very high degree, that they will look online for information first.
And it makes sense! Chances are, if you’re looking up restaurants or trying to find an autoshop, there’s a certain amount of immediacy to your need. You want to find the closest places to your physical location, because if you have to drive maybe more than 10 minutes to get there, forget it! When you do an online search (whether it’s on your smart phone, tablet, or desktop) search engines are able to register it’s physical location (unless you turn that service off in your settings) to determine what your closest options are. So, if you’re on vacation looking for a good cafe or your car breaks down on the side of the road, it’s no longer the end of the world. Local search has got you covered!
However, just because a business is online does not mean it will be found. It is essential to optimize your small business for local search results if you expect your friends and neighbors to find your small business website and swing through your front door to make a purchase.
Let’s dig into that a little bit!
The Power of Local Search
Ultimately, a search engine attempts to provide search results that have the best relevance and authority. When a person searches for something on the web, they expect to get the best answers possible to their search query. And especially in a local search, searchers want to find options for exactly what they’re looking for. If you live in New York City, you don’t want to find a result from Jersey or farther. Proximity is important! The results search engines display in response to certain searches are based on these two factors: relevance and authority.
Relevance has to do with the physical address, category, keywords, area code, zip code and anything else that would place a business’ website in close proximity to the person doing the search. Relevance also has to do with SEO of your result. Make sure to include your popular keywords! Search engines know where you are when you do your search. So, if you type in a query like ” X near me”, search engines will pull up all the Google My Business’ pages that fit your localized query.
If you don’t have an optimized Googly Business page, you are missing out on tons of potential traffic to your online or physical store! As I’ve said before, Google only wants to display the best results, so if your Google Business Page is missing essential information, both search engines and potentials customers will pass over your result in hopes of finding something better. Afterall, would you trust a company with your business that doesn’t even take the time to market themselves properly? Your customers only want the best of the best.
Authority involves the quality of small business websites that appear in search results. Metrics like page rank, the numerical weighting or score of backlinks and outbound links, and the relevance and significance of the content on the site all determine where a small business website will rank a local search result. There are literally hundreds of factors that go into how local search results are determined and search engines, especially Google, are always updated their criteria.
The better optimized and more trusted your brand and business become, the higher and more steadily your result will appear at the top of SERPs. In the meantime, take the time to build your credibility online and invest in creating the best website you can.
If you depend on local customers for your small business, consider what you can do to integrate local search optimization into your marketing mix. Local search optimization is vital for any small business if you want to last for any period of time. It takes time and knowledge, but it can make your brand and products stand out above your competition, ultimately driving more traffic to your website and through your front door.