how to make local search work for your small business

Think back to the last time you had a leaky faucet or a broken appliance that needed fixing right away. In those moments, what’s the first thing you do? Chances are, you’ll grab your phone and search online for “plumbers near me.”

When people need a product or service in their area, they turn to search engines. That’s why it’s imperative for small businesses to make sure they appear in those local search results. The good news is there are proven strategies you can use to improve your local visibility and attract nearby customers. This article will guide you through how to make local search work for your business.

What is Local Search and Why Does It Matter?

Local search refers to any search query with local intent, which means the user is looking for products or services within a specific geographic area. Think of searches like “coffee shops near me,” “best Italian restaurants Syracuse,” or “emergency plumber in Central New York.” Search engines like Google use a variety of factors to determine local relevance. This includes the location of the searcher (using GPS data and IP addresses), the proximity of your business to the searcher, and your business’s online presence across directories, review sites, and your own website.

Ranking well in local search results offers several key advantages for small businesses. People searching with local intent are often ready to buy or visit a business, meaning strong local SEO can lead to high conversion rates. Plus, appearing in local search results helps you get discovered by potential customers nearby and is often a more cost-effective marketing strategy compared to traditional advertising methods.

Strategies to Optimize for Local Search

Local search engine optimization (local SEO) focuses on tactics that improve your visibility when people search for businesses in your area. While it might sound complicated, there are several straightforward strategies you can implement to boost your local search rankings. Let’s take a closer look. 

Set Up Your Google Business Profile

Your Google Business Profile is a free listing that appears in Google Search results and on Google Maps. It’s one of the most important factors influencing your local search visibility. Start by claiming your business listing (or creating one if it doesn’t exist).

Once you’ve claimed your profile, you need to make sure it’s complete and accurate. Include your business name, address, phone number, hours of operation, website, and a clear description of your services. Adding photos and videos of your business can also enhance your profile. Make sure to keep your Google Business Profile updated regularly, especially if your business hours or other key information changes.

Update Your NAP Information

NAP stands for Name, Address, Phone Number, and Website. Accurate NAP information is the cornerstone of local SEO because it helps search engines understand who you are, where you’re located, and how to contact you. Consistency in this information across the web builds trust with search engines and potential customers.

Make sure your NAP information is accurate and consistent across your website, social media profiles, online directories, and anywhere else your business is listed. Even slight variations, like using “St.” versus “Street,” can cause discrepancies. Be especially diligent in ensuring your NAP matches your Google Business Profile information exactly. Take some time to audit your online listings and identify any places where you need to update your NAP information for optimal local visibility.

Encourage Customer Reviews 

Online reviews play a significant role in both local search rankings and influencing consumer decisions. Search engines like Google factor review quantity, recency, and sentiment in their algorithms. As a result, a business with a consistent stream of positive reviews is more likely to appear prominently in local search results.

Here are a few tips for encouraging customer reviews:

  • Provide Excellent Service: The best way to generate positive reviews is to deliver an exceptional customer experience.
  • Make It Easy: Include a link to your Google Business Profile on receipts, invoices, or your website’s footer.
  • Ask Directly: Don’t be afraid to ask happy customers to leave a review. A simple request after a positive interaction can go a long way.
  • Respond Promptly: Respond to all reviews, both positive and negative. This shows customers you care about their feedback and builds trust.

Focus on Local Keywords 

Just like regular SEO, local SEO relies on understanding the words and phrases people use to search online. In this case, we’re focusing on searches with a local intent – how people in your area find businesses like yours. Think about including your city, neighborhood, or region alongside your products or services. For example, “plumber near me” could be expanded to “emergency plumber [your city].”

By strategically using these local keywords throughout your website and online profiles, you send a clear signal to search engines: you’re a relevant option for local searches. This can significantly boost your visibility in local search results, attracting potential customers right when they’re looking for what you offer.

Optimize Your Website 

Your website is a powerful asset for local search visibility. While your homepage is important, some specific pages carry additional weight in conveying your local relevance to search engines. For example, your “About” page is a prime opportunity to tell the story of your business and reinforce your local connection. Describe how you serve your local community, and mention your city, region, or neighborhood naturally within the text.

Likewise, ensure your contact page clearly states your business address and includes a map. Make it easy for both potential customers and search engines to identify your location. You can further optimize your contact information by including schema markup (special code) that helps search engines better understand the content of your website.

Leverage Local Search for Business Growth

All in all, local search offers a powerful opportunity to connect with potential customers actively looking for products or services like yours. By appearing in those “near me” searches, you position your business to attract highly motivated customers within your community. This can lead to more website visits, and ultimately, increased sales.

Investing in local SEO might seem like a lot of work, but the long-term benefits far outweigh the upfront effort. A strong local search presence drives sustained visibility amongst local consumers, builds trust and credibility, and helps you stand out from your competition.