local seo

What Is Local SEO and Does Your Small Business Really Need It?

Countless small businesses use local search engine optimization (SEO) to attract new customers and increase their market presence. This digital marketing strategy is designed to increase a business’s organic, unpaid visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs) for search queries with local intent. If you own a small business, though, you might be skeptical of local SEO and whether it’s worth the investment of your time, labor and resources.

Local SEO Explained

During the dawn of the modern-day internet in the early 1990s, search engines didn’t provide personalized results for users. Rather, they displayed the same results to all users. If two users searched for “dog training” on Yahoo, for example, they would see the same dog training websites listed in the search results. Today, however, search engines often display different results to different users. If a user has visited a specific dog training website in the past, search engines may rank that website higher in the user’s search results than for other users who haven’t visited the site.

Search engines today also display different search results depending on a user’s location, which leads us to local SEO. Google’s algorithm is designed to interpret the meaning behind a user’s search query. If the algorithm believes the user is trying to find content related to a local business, organization, community, place or event, it may display listings near the user’s location. A Dubai Google user, for instance, will see different search results for the queries”movie theater” and “dry cleaner” than an Abu Dhabi user. If Google interprets a search query as seeking content from a local business, it will display custom results based on the user’s location.

Some search queries with local intent contain a geographic modifier like a city, Emirate or post code. When a user performs a search using one of these modifiers, Google will return localized search results relevant to the geographic modifier. In other words, Google ignores the user’s location and instead displays results based on the city, Emirate or post code included in the user’s search query. If a user searches for “hotels in dubai,” Google will display listings of hotel websites related to Dubai City, regardless of the user’s location.

Local SEO is a multifaceted digital marketing strategy in which a local business optimizes its website and online listings to achieve higher search rankings for search queries with local intent. The primary objective of local SEO is to make a business’s website and other online listings appear at the top of the SERPs for search queries targeting the business’s location. These search queries may contain a geographic modifier associated with the business’s location, or they may be performed by users in or around the business’s location.

If Your Small Business Generates Revenue Locally, It Needs Local SE

Not all small businesses need local SEO. If your small business only sells its products through an e-commerce website, this digital marketing strategy won’t help you succeed. But if your small business has a brick-and-mortar store from which its products or services are primarily sold, investing in local SEO is well worth it.

With local SEO, you can promote your small business to prospective customers located in the region in which your business operates. A Google user who’s located in your business’s city may discover your business’s website or online listing when searching for a type of product or service that you offer. Because this user is located in your business’s city, he or she is more likely to make a purchase than users located in other region

There’s also an increasing number of searches with local intent being performed. Statistics show that about half of all mobile searches and one-quarter of all desktop searches have local intent. According to HubSpot, 97 percent of people have searched online for a local business. By performing local SEO, you can attract these users to your local business and turn them into lifetime customers.

What Does Local SEO Entitle?

Local SEO is a complex digital marketing strategy that’s designed to increase the local search rankings for a business’s website and its online citations. If your small business has a website, you should optimize it to rank higher in Google and Bing for relevant search queries with local intent using on-page and off-page methods.

On-page local SEO methods are performed directly on your business’s website. Creating content-rich web pages that feature your business’s address and phone number, for example, is considered an on-page method because it’s performed on your website. When Google and Bing crawls these newly published web pages, they’ll see your business’s address and phone number listed. Their respective AI-powered algorithms will then realize that your business is associated with a particular region, so they’ll increase your website’s rankings for local searches seeking content from that region.

In addition to optimizing your business’s website for higher local search rankings, you should create and optimize your business’s online citations. An online citation is a listing of your business that’s published on a third-party website. They typically include your business’s name, phone number, address, hours of operation, products or services sold, customer reviews and prices. Like your business’s own website, these citations can attract customers to your business if they appear in the search results for queries with local intent.

Google My Business is one of the most popular and valuable sources of online citations. Offered by Google, the free service allows businesses owners to create and maintain an online listing of their business, which is displayed in Google Maps as well as Google’s search results. Google My Business listings actually appear above organic website listings, making them invaluable for your local SEO strategy. Other places where you can create online citations for your business include Yelp, Facebook, TripAdvisor and Bing Places for Business.

Don’t overlook local SEO if your small business generates most or all of its revenue from locally sold products or services. This digital marketing strategy can help your business increase its market presence by reaching internet users who are located in or around your business’s location.

About Manar Sabet
Manar is Senior Account Manager at Sandstorm Digital. Her experience is wide and varied across many clients and industries. She currently works on clients including HSBC (SABB), OSN and Abdul Latif Jamil.

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