It’s a dog eat dog world out there on the internet.
As much as 50% of all businesses fail within their first year of existence, and that statistic climbs to a staggering 90% once you factor in the businesses that are solely online. This includes the teenager hawking their silk-screen shirts over Multiply, and that middle-aged housewife working a local cleaning service off her Facebook page.
While you might think that these businesses are too small to count; you have to remember that small businesses make up a majority of all businesses online. And whether you’re working from your basement or from a small boutique in your local town, everyone needs to start somewhere.
The internet has been a boon for entrepreneurs. It has given them the resources to reach out to more people and more markets without the support of deep pockets and heavy bank loans. But as more businesses migrate online, the internet has become a crowded collection of online startups that are vying for everyone’s attention.
This is where local search engine optimization (SEO) becomes particularly helpful (if not downright essential). As small businesses struggle to make it out of their first year alive, local SEO could be the key ingredient in making them not only feasible, but profitable.
LOCAL SEO VS. TRADITIONAL SEO
Search engine optimization should be pretty familiar to anyone with any stake in online business. But the main difference between traditional SEO and local SEO is that the latter focuses on hitting localized users.
Search engines have managed to adapt in a way that geo-targets search engine users. Results on cellphone repair services from a user in Massachusetts will yield cell phone repair stores in and around the Massachusetts area. The same goes if you were in Beijing or Berlin.
But just because your site is optimized for conventional SEO doesn’t mean it’s necessarily prepped for local SEO. On top of the usual social links, backlinks, inbound links, keywords and meta tags, local SEO leverages more on:
Local Business Directories
Localized On-Page Data
Contextual Geographic Data
Local Social Profiles
While traditional SEO looks at sites on a national and international level, local SEO goes into the specifics by combing businesses that are much closer, and often, much more relevant to users.
BUT WHY USE LOCAL SEO?
A lot of small business owners think that investing in SEO is an exercise in futility, especially when they believe they can’t outspend bigger nationwide businesses.
But local SEO actually gives small businesses a leg up over their bigger competitors. Just take a look at the numbers:
Over 95% of all consumers search for local businesses online.
Because of the increased reliability of search engines, consumers are no longer looking at the yellow pages for local businesses. Instead, they’re heading online for everything from hair salons to car repair shops. You actually have better chances of reaching your market, the closer you are to them.
More than 65% of all searches are influenced by geographic location.
Whether you like it or not, search engines take your business location into account. Since it’s in the interest of search engines to give more relevant information to their users, they’re more likely to overlook your website if it doesn’t know where you are.
Local business search has jumped 67% in the last three years.
Geo-targeted search hasn’t been around for very long, even if it feels that way in the context of the internet. Because of this, local business search has experienced exponential growth since 2010.
Two-thirds of search users don’t look past the second page.
Third place may get you on the podium of the Olympics, but it will get you absolutely nowhere on the internet. Only a third of users go past the second page of search results, and even then you’re not guaranteed a click.
THE ADVANTAGES OF LOCAL SEO
Local SEO works best when coupled with traditional SEO techniques. But even on its own, local SEO gives small businesses a fighting chance at being seen online. Local SEO can be far more effective than releasing a full-page ad in your local newspaper, as well as being cheaper and longer-lasting.
Even if you’re not doing it, your competitors surely are. Search engines need to fill up their search results with something, and if you’re not on top of it, your competitors sure will be. It also works the other way around. If your business is on top of the search engine rankings, then that means that your competition isn’t.
While bigger businesses fight over the national market, local SEO can give your business a piece of the pie, honing in on more targeted consumers. This is why local SEO is particularly helpful for businesses with smaller budgets. It gives you maximum impact, while targeting web users who are more likely to convert into paying customers.
Outrank Bigger Brands
One of the unique advantages of Local SEO is that it gives smaller local businesses a leg up against national competitors. Search engines like Google tend to prefer results that are localized or have “local intent”. Even when stacked up against major online retailers like Amazon or eBay, a small local business can still reach the first page ranking of local customers by simply establishing itself as a local entity.
Less Competition, Better Brand Differentiation
If you own a car rental business, your website will be competing with all car rental businesses online. But by leveraging on local SEO, you’ll be able to muscle yourself into a market with less competition and better brand differentiation. Local SEO helps small businesses stand out.
Higher and Faster ROI
Local SEO and most other online marketing techniques are significantly cheaper than conventional marketing methods. On top of that, more targeted marketing makes it more likely for visitors to turn into customers, making it easier to raise your bottom line and get you out of the red.
Search engines aren’t going away, that much is true. And as they continue to deliver more relevant results to their users, local data is going to play a bigger role than ever before. For smaller businesses, every advantage is a good advantage.