In recent years, more and more small business owners have become aware of the importance of local SEO, thanks to its ability to place you at the top of local search rankings and drive traffic to your website – and ultimately your retail establishment. If you’re a restaurant owner, you aren’t worried about doing business outside of your area, or selling products in an online store. Your real focus should be ranking high in local search listings to make it easy for customers to find you.
There are a number of ways to accomplish this, including building local citations, optimizing your website for geo-centric appeal, having your business placed on local maps, and listings in third-party referral sites such as Yelp and Foursquare. The point of all these marketing strategies is increasing your local visibility and appeal to make the most of the local market and grow your business.
You may be surprised to learn some of the facts and figures related to the effectiveness of local SEO, which we present later in this discussion. However, to show you just how effectively local SEO can work for your small business, we first present the following case history.
Jessie’s Coffee Shop Struggling
Jessie L. had a small coffee shop in an upstate NY township, which she opened following the unexpected death of her spouse. With the children grown up and gone, the entire venture rested squarely on her shoulders. It took a big chunk of her savings plus a small business loan to get started with the business, but because she had lived in the town her whole life and had made a lot of friends, the business did well at first. Then one of the big franchise coffee stores moved in at the edge of town, and all of a sudden, Jessie’s revenue experienced a marked decline.
She was in danger of having to fold the business, until a college friend who’d opened a hardware store in the same town told her how his business went through the roof after consulting with a marketing firm that recommended that he implement local SEO strategies. Alan’s Hardware had gone from being a retail afterthought locally to being one of the most popular hardware stores in the region, and it was largely attributable to having implemented some of the recommended strategies.
Jessie’s Coffee Shop Turns Around
Alan put Jessie in touch with the same consultants who revived his failing hardware business. They came in to assess Jessie’s business before doing anything else. Then they sat down with her and devised a plan for recovering some of the patronage she’d lost to her competitor, and for reaching out beyond the borders of the town to even more clientele. Here’s what they did for Jessie’s Coffee Shop:
Research – First, they researched what competitors were doing in terms of advertising and marketing in the area. Over a period of one month, they determined which keywords on Jessie’s website had the most appeal and got her the most notice. They also determined which keywords competitor websites used the least.
Setup anchor pages – The coffee shop was setup with business anchor pages on Facebook Business Page and on Google+ Profile Page, so that search engines would be aware of the business and serve to legitimize it.
Established directory citations – Online listings were created to describe Jessie’s business and her unique home-baked donuts and pastries. Jessie’s Coffee Shop was listed on Yelp and Foursquare for broader visibility.
Optimized website – Jessie’s website was locally optimized by adding references to numerous locations in the area, so that anyone searching for ‘coffee shop’ with one of those nearby town names appended would find Jessie.
Active seeking of reviews – Patrons past and present were actively sought out to provide reviews of Jessie’s Coffee Shop and the wonderful service and refreshments they’d enjoyed there. Knowing how instrumental reviews can be in swaying others to act, these were posted on the website to let visitors know the quality and the service they could expect.
The Startling Statistics Behind Local SEO
The success experienced by Jessie’s Cafe is not uncommon in the least. In fact, it is statistically to be expected, thanks to numerous surveys and research campaigns conducted to verify the effectiveness of utilizing local SEO strategies to fuel business growth. In the spring of 2016, a web development firm named Go-Globe published an infographic that it compiled from various sources, making it clear that local SEO should be a major component of every small business’ strategy.
First, it was discovered that 71% of all people surveyed said that they looked up a local business online before visiting it for the first time. This helped them find out a little about the business beforehand, so an actual visit would be less likely to be a waste of time. Almost 90% of survey participants revealed that they searched for a local business at least once per week, and 58% of these indicated that they did so daily. To take it a step further, after having searched for a local business, 76% of participants confided that they called a local business directly after finding it in a search.
A major theme of all the information gathered, relative to consumers and their local search habits, centered around their usage of smartphones in finding the business they were looking for. It was found that 60% of all American adults use smartphones to search for local products, and 87% of all smartphone owners use a search engine at least once a day. Of all consumers who conducted a local business search, 50% visited a store within one day of the search, and 34% of PC users did the same.
At least half of all smartphone searches for local businesses were seeking basic company information, such as an address, phone number, or operating hours. And here’s what all that boils down to in terms of benefit to a small business: approximately 33% of local smartphone lookups were made directly before an actual visit, so there is a clear connection between the search for information and follow-up on the part of the searcher. In 18% of all those cases, the visit to a local business resulted in a sale within one day of the online lookup, and in 78% of local smartphone lookups, it resulted in offline purchases.
Conclusion – Local SEO Can be a Make-or-Break Difference
In the case history described above, Jessie’s Coffee Shop rebounded in a major way, despite the presence of a huge franchise establishment only a few blocks from her location. She emphasized the homemade appeal of her baked goods, and highlighted the great experiences that other patrons had enjoyed at her establishment.
In addition, she quickly began to attract business from nearly a dozen nearby townships, and because many of these patrons called ahead, she could have their orders waiting for them. Jessie had to take on two additional employees to help her with the increased volume of business, and she began considering plans for future growth, possibly to include a second location.
For a retail business like Jessie’s Coffee Shop, it’s not much of an exaggeration to say that local SEO can literally have a make-or-break impact on the survival of a small business.