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Local Search Engine Optimization – EXPLAINED.

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local-seo-explained

Google is the dominant player in search with 67% of market share. Each percent of market share is worth close to one billion dollars in annual revenue to the company. Last year they managed to monetize their traffic to the tune of $50 billion dollars.

There’s clearly value to search when Google is able to grow such large revenue numbers year after year by an average of more than 20%.

But what about local search engine optimization? Do businesses actually benefit from search engine traffic – or is most of the traffic they receive mostly irrelevant to their business model?

To answer that we only need to take a quick look at some of the biggest brands online.

HomeAdvisor – (formerly ServiceMagic) – is an online directory that connects homeowners to local contractors in their area. More than 80% of the company’s traffic comes from search engines, bringing in more than $205 million dollars in revenue last year.

Since HomeAdvisor’s entire business model is based on connecting homeowners to contractors in their local area – we can be assured that there is massive value to local search engine optimization.

About 20% of overall searches are for local products, services, or events, accounting for more than 2.5 billion searches a month.

Why should I care?

As a small business owner local search engine optimization should be important to you because it’s still in its relative infancy. While search engines have existed since the early 90s – poor ranking algorithms often thwarted local search engine optimization efforts.

While search engines made big strides towards providing better local results in the 2000s, they still weren’t able to understand user intent without local keyword modifiers. In other words – if you typed ‘lawyer’ into Google throughout the decade, you would have been presented with results to websites that rank well nationally – NOT links to companies that were nearby.

national-seo-results

In March of last year – Google released an algorithm update called Venice. It fundamentally changed the way that Google reacts to millions of keywords.

As a result of the update Google will now show you hyper local results for a term as broad as ‘lawyer’. Google quickly determines where a user (even one with no search history) is located – often by looking at their IP address. After determining a searcher’s location they then localize the results.

Prior to Google’s Venice update all ten of the first page results shown for lawyer were for broad national companies. Afterwards only two of the top ten results are nationally targeted.

local-SEO-results

What does all of this mean?

Before Google’s Venice update came out last year it was more difficult for your ideal customers to find you. They had to type in a search term with a city or state modifier like the one shown in the example below:

Phoenix lawyers OR Arizona lawyers

Now that Google understands local intent they have begun blending local information into search engine results pages (SERPS) even when users are only doing basic research.

If a homeowner is researching different types of paints they can use on their house – some of the results may end up being from a local company who wrote great content on the topic.

Local companies are getting a bigger slice of the pie these days – bringing them more traffic and revenue than was previously possible.

More traffic is great but how does that help me with sales?

business-sales-seoNewspaper ad revenue is crumbling by about 6% a year these days. But before the Internet newspapers were one of the dominant forms of marketing for local companies.

The problem with newspaper advertising is that it’s like throwing a hook into the middle of the Pacific Ocean and praying for a giant yellowfin tuna. You might catch something but it may not even be the right fish.

You can be assured however, that when people search for something on Google they are already interested in the topic. If you search for a dentist in Google – it’s extremely likely that you are looking for one to go to.

When you market your company on search engines your customer acquisition strategy has gone from needle in a haystack to potential customers reaching out to you who are significantly more willing, able, and ready to pay.

With search engine optimization you have gone from shouting about your company at the top of your lungs to people passing by to a really well targeted, self-sustaining source of cost-free leads.

So how do I go about local search engine optimization?

Local search engine optimization is a complex process. While it would be impossible for me to cover all of the advanced tactics and strategies that go into it in this post, I can leave you with a good idea of how to get started.

Focus on High-Quality Directories

high-quality-directories-seoWhen Google is determining where to rank local companies it tries to determine how much people are talking about them. To do that it looks for the business’s name, address, and phone number across the Internet.

The more frequently credible sources mention your business online, the higher the likelihood is that you will rank.

An important source of such local citations is high-quality directories.  Google’s job is to ensure that the results that show up in its engine are the highest quality possible. Focusing on quality results is the very reason Google was able to crush giant competitors like Ask.com, GoTo, and Yahoo to oblivion.

Google values top directories because it knows that they verify that your business exists. When you signup to have your business show up on the Yellow Pages – the first thing they do is call you to make sure that you’re a real person in the first place.

The harder a directory is to get into, the more Google values the resulting citation. As a result you should only focus on getting in the top 30 or so directories. Beyond that your citation profile may begin to look spammy.

Start with these directories:

  1. Google Places
  2. Yahoo Local 
  3. Yelp
  4. Yellow Pages
  5. Insider Pages
  6. CitySearch
  7. LinkedIn Company Profile
  8. Local.com
  9. Super Pages
  10. BBB

Once you have added your company to the directories above start focusing on ones in your niche.

Practice NAP Consistency

When you’re setting up your directory listings you want to ensure that you have maximum name, address, and phone number (NAP) consistency. Everything from the spelling of your company name to the formatting of your phone number should be the same all across the Internet.

NAP consistency provides clarity to Google’s web crawlers and ensures that the bots always know when your business is being mentioned.

You should setup standard conventions to be used across your company for this purpose.

Use Proper Categorization

Another important thing to do when optimizing for local search is to ensure that your business is categorized as correctly as possible across the major directories. Categorization is one factor that search engines look at on directories to understand what your business does. 

Get Reviews from Real Customers

customer-reviews-local-seoOnline reviews of your company are extremely important from a local SEO perspective. Reviews provide Google with information on the quality of your services as well as trustworthy third party review content that it can scrape for keywords.

27% of people search for online reviews of local companies before purchasing from them – so added reviews are going to benefit you substantially in a variety of ways.

Local search engine optimization encompasses hundreds of factors. While directory citations are important – much of the algorithm is based how well your overall website is optimized. In future articles I will write more in depth about specific factors you should be looking at – so signup for the newsletter below to get notified.

Conclusion

Local search engine optimization is a promising way to gain a competitive edge in your market place. Traffic from search engines is well qualified and high converting.

Building up your local SEO profile is an arduous process but the rewards for years to come make it well worth it.

Which tactics have brought you the most success?

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by Johann Beishline

Johann Beishline is the founder of Lezal Marketing - a company focused on ROI based marketing strategies. He is a coffee addict and avid runner. Follow him on Google+ or on Twitter @Leaderswin

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