Many small business owners are bombarded by search engine optimization (SEO) “experts” via phone, email, or advertisement, but they have yet to hear of local SEO. Local SEO may not appear to be as flashy on the service as national or international SEO as people have come to know it, but it pays the bills for local business owners. In this article, we discuss local search engine optimization and how it benefits small business owners worldwide. We also delve into some best practices that you can use for your small business to improve your search visibility in your community. Lastly, we delve into how much local SEO should cost so you have a better idea as to when SEO can be affordable while effective.
If you have ever searched Google or Bing for a local business, the chances are that you have stumbled upon business listings showing you nearby companies that offer the product or service you are searching for. Search for “doctor” or “handyman,” and you will find listings along with a map toward the right side of Google usually. How those listings appeared ahead of other local businesses on that search page is local search engine optimization.
FACTORS OF LOCAL SEARCH RESULTS
Google is the most used search engine by a large margin. Since this is most likely what your potential customers are using to search for your services, we will talk about Google Local search factors.
Have you ever noticed that when you search, the local results are often close by? That is because Google takes into account the distance of the searcher to the business. After all, it would not make sense to show you results for Thai Food Restaurants that are an hour’s drive away. Well, if I were craving good Thai food, I might be willing to drive that far for it, but that doesn’t happen often. With that said, Google takes into account proximity because it values convenience to the searcher.
Proximity is a hard factor to control or influence. You cannot just up and move your physical office to accommodate every searcher. DO NOT try to “game” or outsmart Google when it comes to your business proximity. There are tactics that some search consultants use to try to game the system, but the results are not long-lasting, and the methods could actually HURT your search ranking or even earn you a spot on Google’s Blacklist.
When it comes to SEO, relevance is HUGE. Google will try only to show you search results featuring local businesses that are relevant to your search term. This one is a no-brainer. Google is not (usually) going to show you a local business that provides HVAC services when you are searching for a doctor or lawyer nearby.
How do you, as a business owner, influence the relevance of your business to what the searcher is looking for? The most natural and most effective manner of proving your relevancy to Google is by including content on your website and Google My Business (GMB) listing and posts that is relevant to the audience or potential customers you want to attract.
You own a business in Mesa, Arizona, selling widgets to customers from your store and want to attract more customers to your store location and/or your website where online orders for said widgets can be placed. To improve your relevance, you would include content about widgets on your site as well as content about Mesa because that is where you are located.
Is your website/business listing considered authoritative on the keywords you search locally? Okay, this once is VERY dumbed down as there is a lot that goes into the authority of a web page, but let’s save that for another day. You have enough going on right now, and the last thing you need is a detailed explanation regarding ALL of the factors that go into the scoring/grading of this factor. Just know that the most common way for a site to show that it is an authority on the subject is the quality of backlinks (links from another website to yours) it has. Usually referred to as a backlink graph, your backlinks are your votes of confidence to the search engines that you know what you are doing. After all, no one is going to link to a website that has inadequate information on the subject.
In local SEO, you will see the term “business citations” thrown around consistently. Business Citations are listings on local and national business directories found on the internet that refer back to the proper Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP) of your small business, as seen on your GMB profile and website. An authoritative website/business would have consistent information across all directories they are found in.
Link building for local results is slightly different than that of “regular” SEO because you want to look for local link building opportunities. For the previous example, an effective link outreach campaign may seek opportunities with local chambers of commerce, local bloggers, local event sponsorship opportunities, etc. Other link building opportunities can be niche specific to show that you are an authority in your line of work. Attorneys would list their businesses in prominent legal directories, plumbers in directories featuring home improvement service providers, and so on. Some business directories require payment for the business listing while others do not.
How much should Local SEO Cost?
Local SEO costs vary based upon numerous factors, but the most significant factor is the profit margin desired by the local SEO expert. The same is said for all SEO. There is extensive time that goes into optimizing your business listing, link outreach campaigns, optimization, and drafting of content, etc. Does that mean that you should be paying a crazy amount of money per month on your search optimization campaign? No. The truth of the matter is that the overhead (or lack thereof) maintained by the SEO expert or agency plays a significant role in the pricing of their services. After all, they have to have the capital to pay for those expenses. (psst- that’s why we charge less than many other agencies- we don’t need to flaunt a shiny office
Many SEO agencies follow a pricing model that looks at how competitive your area of business is, the amount of time and resources needed to compete with your competitors in the search rankings, etc. Others follow an ROI model wherein they charge based upon how much money your business can make with the extra clients they bring in for you. I do not agree with this model, and I am often criticized in the SEO community for it. Search optimization is a method of increasing website visitors and business contacts. Just because an attorney makes more money from a client than say a plumber, it does not mean that the EXACT SAME SERVICES should cost more. The amount of profit you make from a client should have no bearing on the prices of SEO services but instead should serve as a deciding factor for you as to whether you might see a positive return on investment. With that said, an attorney may need more work as it is a hyper-competitive market place, but that pricing would consider that as a prominent factor and not how much a business can