How Local SEO Services Can Increase Inquiries and Drive Foot Traffic to Local Businesses

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.

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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.

BigCommerce Launches e-Commerce Plugin for WordPress

WordPress is the leading content management system, powering 30% of the web. E-commerce has become one of the biggest online activities, reaching a record $2.3 trillion in global sales in 2017. So, it stands to reason that e-commerce and WordPress would go together perfectly — but the reality is complicated.

online store

Getting an online store up and running on a WordPress site isn’t too difficult. But managing and optimizing that site to drive traffic can be a challenge.

That’s why WordPress developers are intrigued by the recent announcement that the team behind BigCommerce, a major SaaS e-commerce platform, is developing a BigCommerce plugin for WordPress.

If the plugin works as intended, BigCommerce for WordPress could make establishing an e-commerce store on WordPress a lot more efficient.

What’s Required for E-Commerce on WordPress Today

WordPress does not support e-commerce by default. It is possible to set up an e-commerce site using WordPress (and many companies do, like Book Riot and Clickbank) but it requires that you install and configure:

  • A domain
  • An e-commerce-friendly WordPress theme
  • An e-commerce plugin for WordPress

There are already dozens of plugins (free and paid) designed to add e-commerce functionality to WordPress. However, picking the right one can be a challenge of its own. In choosing an e-commerce plugin for WordPress, you must think about:

  • What you are selling (some plugins lack shipping and inventory management, or only support digital products)
  • Your payment system of choice (few plugins support all the various payment options)
  • WordPress theme compatibility
  • Plugin customer support (is someone there to help if your store goes down?)

WordPress is almost endlessly customizable, and the process of building an e-commerce site using WordPress is less time-consuming than creating one from scratch. However, it isn’t the fastest way to get into e-commerce. All-in-one e-commerce platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce are faster and more user-friendly.

Shopify and WooCommerce for WordPress

The top three e-commerce platforms in 2017 were WooCommerce, Magneto, and Shopify. WooCommerce was designed for WordPress from the ground up. Shopify is a standalone platform first but has released a WordPress plugin. Magneto does not integrate easily with WordPress.

WooCommerce has notable benefits for WordPress users: the basic software is free and customizable, with no limitations on the number of products or orders it can handle. However, many features are locked behind paid add-ons, including expanded payment and checkout options.

Another downside of WooCommerce it’s only for WordPress, meaning businesses have to rebuild their online store if they ever switch content management systems.

Shopify-built e-commerce sites are robust, but not without limitations. Its terms of service limit what you can sell on the platform, and it is not possible to manage WordPress and Shopify at once. Vendors have also reported configuration issues with shipping rates, weight-based shipping, and other time-sensitive factors that get in the way of conversions.

How BigCommerce Could Make e-Commerce on WordPress Easier

BigCommerce is an up-and-coming e-commerce platform that saw rapid gains in the market last year. Recently, it launched the developer beta of a BigCommerce WordPress plugin, which shows promise as a better option for e-commerce on WordPress.

Like Shopify, BigCommerce is software-as-a-service or SaaS, meaning it takes care of hosting and maintaining the servers, databases, and code for its engine. This system frees up resources on the WordPress end and ensures the online store won’t slow down the site, which is important for search engine optimization.

BigCommerce also promises an efficient control panel that allows businesses to manage both the e-commerce elements and the rest of the site from the WordPress platform.

We also like that BigCommerce is already Gutenberg-ready, so you won’t have to switch platforms when this massive WordPress update rolls out later this year.

If you run a WordPress e-commerce site, you’ll want to check out BigCommerce’s blog post on the subject, which has more information on planned features for the plugin.

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How Often Should You Redesign Your Website?

A website redesign is much more than a visual facelift. With technology advancing at an unprecedented pace, companies must proactively respond to the changing ways customers find and consume content online. How often you redesign your website can have a significant impact on your ability to reach customers and stand out from competitors.

Webpage redesign

How Often You Should Redesign Your Website

There’s no rulebook on a website redesign, but the power of observation reveals that organizations with a strong online presence tend to change their website at least every three years.

Why three years? There are several reasons why proactive companies wait no longer than that to update or overhaul their web design.

While the timeline may vary to an extent in different industries, three years is approximately how long you can wait before it becomes necessary to adapt to changing technology, trends, and browsing habits.

Any longer than that and the site will start to fall behind.

Within a three-year period, it’s practically inevitable that:

  • Web design trends will change to the point that the website’s visual design reveals its age.
  • The ways many people use the Internet, and the devices they use to access it, will shift.
  • Companies will phase out old marketing campaigns and launch new ones.
  • Search engine algorithms will evolve, and search engine optimization strategies along with them.

Any one of these changes is enough to justify at least a minor change to a company’s website. Depending on the website’s structure, or the time that has passed since the last redesign, it may be necessary to undertake a more significant overhaul.

Below, we’ll look at how these changes can have an impact on the bottom line.

1. Keeping Up with Web Design Trends

Redesigning a website is about more than updating its appearance, but the visual design does matter.

Much like music tastes, fashion trends and more, the web industry changes daily and so do its trends.

The first impression customers have of a site is its colours, layout, graphics, photos, and other visual elements. If the site looks unappealing or outdated (especially compared to your competitors), customers are less likely to explore its contents.

The look and feel of a website is akin to a storefront. If a store looks shabby on the outside, you probably aren’t going to step inside, especially if there’s a competitor down the street.

Having an appealing, easy-to-use website show customers that a company is growing and on top of current trends. It’s important to incorporate new designs, upgrade efficiencies in code and practice new technologies that can improve the speed or overall user experience.

You may not succeed by look and feel alone, but it certainly helps.

2. Responding to Customer Browsing Habits

Ten years ago, only a small percentage of website traffic came from mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Now, mobile browsing accounts for 56% of web traffic worldwide.

This year, Google plans to begin ranking websites based on mobile versions first, making it essential to have a responsive, mobile-friendly site.

The shift to mobile browsing is just one example of how consumer trends can change drastically in a short time. Voice search is another powerful force that is changing how people find goods and services online.

It pays to be proactive in redesigning a site in response to these trends. While many businesses are rushing to bring their sites up to speed, those that implemented mobile-friendly sites years ago are reaping the benefits.

3. Aligning with Branding and Marketing

A business’s website should always be consistent with its current branding and marketing.

Many customers who learn about products, services and promotions offline go online to find more details. If there’s no trace of them on the business’s website, it could cost the company what could have been a lucrative lead.

What’s even worse is if the website has an outdated logo or tagline, leading customers to wonder if they’re even in the right place.

Even if the business doesn’t sell or offer services online, a well-designed website can reinforce and amplify its other marketing and branding initiatives. It should change and evolve with the overall marketing strategy.

4. Improving Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search engine optimization should be on the agenda at your very first redesign strategy meeting. Why?

Because even an outdated or underperforming website has SEO value. Search engines have crawled its content, indexed its pages, and given the site authority.

The last thing you want to do is hurt your current rankings through a poorly-planned redesign.

Well-intentioned web designers can inadvertently do damage through mistakes like:

  • Failing to redirect after changing page URLs
  • Removing old pages with valuable content
  • Adding visual elements that slow down page speed
  • Making web design choices that are bad for SEO (like sliders)

It’s important to keep SEO in mind to preserve a site’s SEO value during a redesign, and actively monitor keyword rankings, organic traffic, and backlinks.

As search engines evolve, so do SEO tactics. Google tweaks its algorithm 500-600 times each year, so there is always something you can do to improve your site. Proactively optimizing for SEO during a website redesign is far more time- and cost-effective than continually fixing a poorly-designed site.

5. Meeting Business Objectives

Websites exist for a reason, whether it’s to generate leads, sell products, raise brand awareness, or get customers through the door. If a site isn’t contributing to a business objective or is doing so less effectively, it’s time to examine how this could be improved through a website redesign.

A site should reflect the company’s current goals. When those goals change, so should the website.

Websites are no longer simply a data-driven, content-based items. They’re a storytelling device, and  a crucial piece of your marketing funnel. This is why UX/UI design have become the forefront for many agency websites, designed with a mind to the user journey.

6. Leveraging New Technologies

The web is constantly changing and evolving. It’s not only style and design sensibilities that shift – web standards are also moving forward, opening the door to new tools and technologies.

One addition that has made an impact over the past few years is the use of CSS Variables to create interactive elements, something we never had access to in previous renditions. We’ve also seen the rise of Progressive Web Applications, which could well be the future of any web project. We already have apps that auto automize our images, text, code and more, and as this trend moves forward, we will be capable of building websites increasingly faster, leaner ways.

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