Can Local Search Engine Optimization Work for Your Small Business?

As an Internet Marketing agency in Sacramento that works with clients throughout Northern California, we have the opportunity to do projects for a large number of smaller businesses in many different market sectors.

These companies typically want to reach a target market that is within a 10-50 mile radius of their location.  While they all sell different products and services and have different go-to-market models, they all have one thing in common.

They all want to get in front of more people.  The majority of business owners I work with say they close 50-90% of the opportunities they have when they can be face to face with a prospect.  They’re problem is that they are not consistently getting in front of enough of these potential customers.

Most of our small business clients also have a common request.  “Every dollar is precious.  Can we stick to the basics and can you just help us be more visible on the internet”.  When we review the various different Internet Marketing tools and techniques, invariably they all want to be visible in the organic section of the search engine results pages, which requires a Search Engine Optimization project.

Historically and still today, an SEO project done the classic way will be cost prohibitive for most of them.  However, we have designed and very successfully implemented a scaled down version of SEO for small, local businesses called Local SEO.  These projects focus on optimizing a website for a business who wants to reach a local or regional target market for a set of longer tail, geo-modified keyword phrases that have lower competition and are easier to rank for.

Visit our website or contact us today to learn more about our Local Search Engine Optimization solutions.

Along these lines, I felt this blog post by Rebecca Appleton was great introduction into Local SEO and why it might be the best solution for smaller businesses wanting to have better visibility online.

Could Local SEO Work for You?

Local or regional search engine optimization (SEO) is often overlooked in the planning stages of a new website optimization campaign but in reality, is probably more appropriate for some businesses than an all-encompassing online marketing blast.

So what is local or regional SEO? While general search engine optimization will look at the position of certain keywords on the main search engines, it may lack focus on keywords that include a local or regional marker, for example ‘SEO agency’ rather than ‘SEO agency San Francisco’ or ‘electrician’ rather than ‘electrician Manhattan.’

A locally focused campaign will still include all of the same kinds of white hat search engine optimization techniques such as optimized content and inbound link building, but will focus on outlets and keywords that are attuned to the surrounding area or business catchment zone. The aim of local SEO is to increase online visibility and brand awareness not on the web as a whole, but in the localities served by the business. This niche approach will deliver a much better ROI and be more beneficial to a company that is only able to service leads within a certain radius of their physical location.

Local SEO will often take a much shorter time period to show results than a campaign including short tail keywords as competition on the terms is less intense. It’s important to keep in mind though that a good rule of thumb is the less competition per term, the lower the traffic volume. A localized or regionalized SEO campaign would work for you if you offer a service – such as building, surveying, mechanic, windows etc. – that make it non-profitable to travel too far to do a quote or job. Or, if you have a shop selling products or services and don’t want to ship nationally or simply want to encourage more foot trade, a local campaign would be the answer.

As with regular search engine optimization, optimizing your site for local search terms is useful if:

1.  You want to raise awareness of your business amongst a certain audience, within a certain region

Local SEO, done correctly, can be more effective than local newspaper, radio, or TV advertising. Not only will local SEO offer more of a sustained presence than a series of radio spots or a couple of weeks worth of newspaper advertising, but traffic will also be more specifically targeted – rather than pay to appear in front of every newspaper reader, money invested in a SEO campaign will help you catch the interest of only those people searching for your product or service in your local area. This level of targeting means resources can be deployed and implemented much more efficiently.

2. You want to see your keyword placement in the search engine results pages (SERPs) improve quickly

As geo-targeted keywords are generally much less competitive than their broader counterparts, it’s a lot easier to see improvements in search placements. If you’re not competing with every other insurance agent in the country but instead, competing only with insurance agents in your state, it’s suddenly more realistic to picture becoming a bigger fish in a smaller pond.

Of course, the only way to see keyword placement improve and have the desired impact on your business is to choose the correct keywords. It’s easier than ever to do this if you combine the Google Keyword Tool and then Google Search Insights. The trick is to pick phrases that are locally or State relevant but also show a sustainable level of search traffic on Insights. Try variations of main keywords to find ones that work – e.g., ‘car insurance Virginia’ can be tested against ‘auto insurance Virginia’ or even ‘auto insurance Richmond’ to find a bigger slice of the search volume pie.

3. You’re keen to develop a higher profile presence in your local area

Local search, including components such as a presence on Google Maps, are excellent tools for raising local awareness. To carry out a good local search engine optimization campaign, it’s wise to pursue link backs from other local businesses in complementary industries which gives rise to a style of cyber networking. Rather than building strategic relationships via face-to-face conversations, local SEO can help you cast a much wider net simply by being in all the right places at all the right times.

4. You need to generate more sales

If you’re not as interested in keyword placement as you are in actual sales figures, local SEO is an interesting solution. As the tactics and techniques (such as building links from other local businesses and having a Google Map or local business listing) force you to shout your location and promote the fact that you’re a neighborhood firm, it’s easier to attract immediate attention from residents seeking your service. It’s human nature to prefer to deal with someone within easy reach just in case something does go wrong further down the line. Word of mouth is also a powerful persuader and much more likely to spread within a smaller community and lead to sales than if you were at a geographical distance from the majority of clients served.

5. You have a limited marketing budget

If you’re struggling to collect a serious marketing budget, a local SEO campaign is the perfect middle ground between doing something and doing nothing. The fact that keywords are less competitive is a plus because campaigns are likely to be shorter lived. This makes it easier to justify the spend as you don’t necessarily need to commit to a costly, yearlong or more contract.

The author, Rebecca Appleton is the operations director at SEO agency AppleJupp.

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