The Value of Local SEO to Small Businesses

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SEO can be challenging for small businesses. They must compete for the same market share against larger brands that often have more prestige, brand recognition, and consumer affinity.

That doesn’t mean that organic search is out of reach for small businesses as a powerful inbound marketing channel with high potential for return. In order to compete with large brands, small business owners must have an SEO strategy that offsets the often large difference in marketing budget. Because small businesses will not be able to outspend their larger counterparts on media acquisition, they must take a much more targeted and refined approach.

When it comes to short-tail SEO—general phrases with a high amount of search volume—the search engine results pages are dominated by big brands. There is little that a small business marketer with limited budget can do to change these results.

Despite various limitations, small businesses can gain meaningful search engine result real estate with a focus on areas of lowered competition. When geography is taken into account, there is often a much smaller big-brand presence in search results. That opens a window of opportunity for small businesses to gain useful organic search visibility.

Focusing on consumers looking for products and services in specific locales is a great way to limit the competition and give small businesses the ability to gain valuable real estate on search engine results pages. If the business also has an offline presence in a specific locale, there is even more opportunity in targeting these consumers. Consumers trust of a business they can visit in person, which will lead to higher conversion rates.

Geo-Modified Keyword Targeting

Part of the opportunity of location-based SEO for small businesses is to utilize geo-modified search queries. Better yet, in order to benefit from this method, the business does not necessarily have to be location-based. Geo-targeted search phrases are typically very low in competition and are often searched at the purchase stage of the buying cycle, which means they carry high-conversion rates.

Let’s use “home security” as an example. There are 22,200 Google searches for “home security” each month in the U.S.m according to Adwords. However, a small business typically would not have enough budget allocated to SEO to rank on page 1 for that query. When the geo-modifier “miami” is added to the query the monthly search volume drops to 210. This is still a decent amount of search volume and can certainly lead to home security sales.

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The interesting part of this example comes when we look at competition. Examining the number of online pages that have each of these phrases in both the title tag of the page and the anchor text of an inbound link (this metric is known as In Anchor and Title) offers a picture of the relative competition for each phrase. This data can be pulled from MajesticSEO’s Keyword Checker tool.

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The In Anchor and Title data show that the business will only be competing with approximately 51 other pages for the phrase “home security miami” as opposed to 248,328 competing pages for the more generic “home security.”

A business likely will not  be able to rest on the 210 monthly searches for “home security miami.” This strategy, however, can be implemented at scale. Building geo-targeted content on the site for multiple geographic areas that the business can service provides the opportunity for several page 1 rankings within a specific budget.

Marketers should start by optimizing for the geographic areas that have the highest demand for the specific product or service that is being sold and working down from there. This can be identified by looking at the location report in Google Analytics to see where the majority of existing customers are coming from. You can also use keyword suggestion tools, such as Google’s Keyword Tool or Wordtracker, to see the search demand of various geo-modified phrases.

Local Search

If the small business has physical locations that consumers can visit, local search is an absolute must. Local search campaigns are ideal for capturing consumers searching on mobile devices because they can get directions and call the business with a simple click. There is no excuse for any local business to not have an optimized presence in local search engines, particularly within the major ones (Google +, Yahoo Local, Bing Local).

By creating and optimizing listings in local search engines, small business can get a great deal of search engine presence with a limited budget while increasing their rankings within aspecific region.

Marc Purtell

Marc Purtell

VP of Search Marketing at Direct Focus Online
Marc Purtell is VP of Search Marketing at Direct Focus Online, a full service digital marketing agency that employs hundreds of marketing experts worldwide. He... Read Full Bio
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