Two weeks ago, whilst being driven home from work, my friend’s tyre went flat. Unable to unscrew one of the bolts, our first instinct was to search for the nearest auto repair service . We whipped out our internet-enabled iphones, opened up Safari and typed in “auto repair North Sydney” into the Google search bar. Five or so local results turned up at the top of the list. We pinpointed the nearest one on the Google maps feature attached to the local results and gave them a call.
This wasn’t an isolated incident of my behaviour; various statistics suggest that 74% of all online searches are local in nature and that between 40%-50% of those searchers are looking for a local merchant to buy from. With search engines like Google being so ubiquitous, it’s not uncommon that we use it as a part of our day-to-day lives to quickly look for goods and services within our vicinity. Recently, I’ve also pinpointed an Adelaide hotel conveniently located close to the Convention Centre for a tradeshow, bought movie tickets on a whim and looked for the nearest takeaway shop to satisfy a massive craving for Thai food. All up, $800 was spent on goods and services, found through 4 local searches. Picture the millions of local searches being conducted now and the transactions being made as a result of it.
It’s not surprising that the job at hand may seem daunting being a small business and trying to promote yourself online amongst millions of other websites, as well as compete with your fellow neighbours. That’s why it’s so important to take into consideration some basic local search engine marketing and optimisation principles to efficiently and effectively place yourself within search results, without spending your life savings competing with large companies. Search engines have an active interest to ensure that users find what they want; after all, if people can’t, they will move onto other competing search engines. Once they realize users are after local results, the search algorithms adjust accordingly and that’s when the ball is in your court. This is the slingshot you’re after a la David vs Goliath.
Some quick notes to improve local search:
- Continue conducting your regular SEO practices for organic search, such as building backlinks, provide meaningful content, maximising your social media presence and being mindful of the keywords that your customers will most likely use in a search and applying them within your listing or website. It may also help that your domain name contains the specific keyword for your service, e.g. plumber, accountant, etc.
- Incorporate the cities that you service into title and meta tags, and your business address into your website body. This is so that search crawlers can identify where your business is located and list you accordingly. You can take another step further and also list specialisations within your service, e.g. water heater repairs, renovations, 24/7 service, etc.
- Utilise local business centres for all the major search engines, such as Google, Bing and TrueLocal. This includes getting yourself listed and having the option to conduct any paid search to gain that extra traction.
- If you are aware that a customer has found you through local search, ask them to drop a review for you. Nothing looks sexier than being rated 4-5 stars and having over twenty positive reviews next to your name 🙂 That’s something money cannot buy.
With mobile computing convenience taking over traditional directories and geolocation platforms pinpointing visited businesses being the hottest trends in the digital space now, one can only wonder how important, yet easily overlooked, a role local search optimisation can play in making a small business stand out from the pack.