Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is about increasing your visibility so you can target customers and drive traffic towards your business. However, many small businesses don’t have the marketing budget or the capability to compete with big brand names that may operate in the same field, and so they can’t hope to appear above them in search engine results, unless they spend some time on local SEO.

What is local SEO?

Local SEO is increasing your visibility to local customers. If you are a small, local hairdressers in Roundhay in Leeds, for example, and someone carries out a Google search for ‘hairdressers in Leeds’, you are not likely to appear high up in the search engine rankings compared to bigger hairdressers in Leeds, or big brand names who have a branch in Leeds. However, with local SEO implemented, if someone carries out a search for ‘hairdressers in Roundhay Leeds’, you are much more likely to appear high in the rankings.

So local SEO is a variety of techniques which can be employed to ensure businesses with a smaller, more local reach are more visible, and that’s not just to local customers, but to customers outside the area too. It is believed that four out of every five Google searches are for a local businesses; ie. takeaways, restaurants, tyre fitters, florists etc. And you will notice that at the top of every Google search results page there are three businesses which are known as the ‘local pack’. These are listed at the top and not surprisingly receive more clicks and more leads than the businesses further down the rankings. So how do you get your business into those top three positions? You undertake some local SEO.

What is the best local SEO technique?

If you are a small business it is possible you don’t have your own website. This is the best place to direct traffic in terms of SEO, but even if you do have a website, the first thing you need to do when you start operating as a local business is to create a ‘Google My Business’ profile. This is a free service which enables you to register on the Google business directory, and this ensures that:

  • You are seen on Google Maps
  • You are seen when someone Googles “hairdressers near me” or “hairdressers in (location)”

This is organic traffic which Google loves, however, this is just a basic step in your SEO, and you can improve your chances of appearing in the top three ‘local pack’ by listing as much detail as possible. So this directory information should include your address, location, opening times, website link and would also include some images of the business/product/service/premises and some customer reviews.

Google looks at factors such as relevance, distance and prominence in terms of what a person types into their search and how that matches to your business. More information in your directory listing optimises Google maps and your business profile, so the more chance it has of matching a search, and therefore the higher up the rankings you will sit in the search results.  

Other local SEO techniques

A great way to improve your search engine rankings is to benefit from citations. Google likes it when your business is listed or referenced by an unconnected third party business. So you might be mentioned in a blog, an article or a review, and if it includes a link back to your site, even better. Google has tools where it can pick this information up and convert it into a better ranking for your business because it shows you have credibility and respect within the marketplace.

However, citations are not something you can control yourself even if they are very good for SEO. But there are other techniques you can adopt and apply to help with local SEO:

  • Local landing pages – A landing page is a holding page on your website which you ideally want people to ‘land’ on when your site has been found in search results. You can use a landing page to explain your services and include internal links to direct the reader around your site, but you can also include local references in an organic way – ie. not forced or clumsy – so that when searchers add a location to their search Google is more likely to pick-up and include your site.
  • Blog posts – Another type of local content is to write blog posts with locally relevant topics. This should be useful and meaningful content which might engage a reader but also references local places so that your business appears higher up the rankings. This is a type of ‘thought leadership’ which helps to give your business some authority, projects you as an expert in your field and helps to build trust in your business.
  • Tags – If you can add locations in meta descriptions and title and image tags it will also help your business appear higher in search results.
  • Reviews – Reviews and testimonials help a business gain prominence, which is important to Google because it can see you have credibility and are active, and so you are more likely to be promoted up the rankings.

What are the benefits of local SEO?

Fundamentally you are creating more targeted traffic to your website with local SEO, which helps with clicks and conversion rates and ultimately leads to sales. An improved conversion rate can also mean more subscriptions, more leads and more sign-ups. Local SEO is almost completely free as well, and certainly compared to paid-for advertising can be more directly fruitful.

If four out of five searches are for local information then local SEO means you are more likely to be seen, and post-COVID it has been found that people are shopping and searching more locally and supporting more local businesses, and locally sourced products and services are more important to people. Furthermore, people are finding that online reviews are more influential in terms of decision-making, so if you follow all these local SEO tips it should make your small business as visible as possible in your local area, and direct more people to your business, then the rest is up to you.