Local search engine optimization refers to tactics that increase a website’s visibility in local search queries. Search engines have become the primary directory people use to shop local (64% of customers use search engines as their main way to find local businesses), and Local SEO services are meant to ensure a business ranks in the search engine results for localized inquiries.
The bare basics of local SEO are things most business owner can do on their own: creating a complete and current Google My Business profile, encouraging customers to write positive reviews, and writing timely Google My Business posts. However, outranking competitors in a crowded local market requires a deeper optimization strategy.
How Google Determines Local Rankings
Search engine algorithm are built to recognize when a user is searching for results specific to a certain geographical location. These queries often include the name of a city or town (“donuts in Guelph”) or another geographical marker (“donuts near me”).
When someone makes a local query in Google, the search engine algorithm tailors its results to the specified location. In 93% of local queries, the top of the results page includes a box called the Local Pack, which highlights three local results for the query.
The Local Pack is a coveted spot in the rankings. It’s the first thing people see on the page, placing above even the top-ranking search result, which bolsters the business’s visibility and credibility.
Whether the query produces a local pack or not, local SEO is essential for businesses that want to reach new potential customers through search. On average, only the top three search results have a clickthrough rate above 10%.
Local search results are based primarily on relevance, distance, and prominence. Distance is just as it sounds how far away the potential results are from the location specified in the search. Relevance refers to how well: a local listing matches the search query, drawing from information the business provides in its Google My Business profile. Prominence is more complex.
Although Google has not released the full details on how its algorithm determines prominence in local results, we know it includes:
- How well-known the business is in the “real world” (famous landmarks or well-known store brands are likely to be prominent)
- Backlinks to the business’ website
- Number of Google Reviews
- Overall star-rating in Google Reviews
- Business’s ranking in web results (Google states that, “SEO best practices also apply to local search optimization”)
Return on Investment of Local SEO Services
Local SEO services provide a high return on investment for businesses focused on dominating a specific geographical market. No other advertising channel is as successful in targeting the most people who are currently looking for your product or service.
Local SEO is:
- Highly Targeted
Local SEO tactics are designed to increase exposure to people who are already searching for the business’s products or services and thus more likely to convert. Unlike traditional advertising channels, there is little exposure wasted on people who aren’t interested.
- Able to Reach Massive Potential Audience
Google says that 46% of the 3.5 billion searches it processes each day are local queries. Local SEO is increasingly important as more and more people embrace search engines as their primary business directories.
- In the Moment
Local search tactics position a business to reaching local customers who are looking for that product or service right now. Half of all local queries from mobile devices are searching for basic information like a company’s hours, address or phone number; 78% of those result in an offline purchase. No other advertising channel is as effective at capturing customers at the exact moment they’re ready to make a purchase.
Local search tactics and strategies are particularly effective in reaching prospective customers in the middle of the marketing funnel. They have already decided they want a certain product or service; all businesses have to do is help them choose between local options.