A while back, we published an article titled Why Marketing is a Waste of Money. Why did we, a marketing agency, create a piece of content with a “clickbaity” title implying that the very services we offer don’t work? Admittedly, we wanted to draw readers in with intrigue. But that’s not all. We had another important reason for framing the article the way we did.
Readers learned that we were actually highlighting Wanamaker’s dilemma of not being able to identify which half of his advertising spend was wasted. We explained that we are fortunate today to have a seemingly endless selection of digital marketing and analytics tools at our disposal. It’s now easier than ever to separate the marketing content and channels that work from the ones that don’t.
Our company has been in business since 1999, and our two in-house marketing strategists have been here since 2002 and 2003, respectively. Based on their experience and our company-wide commitment to staying informed on the ever-changing marketing landscape by researching and testing new technologies, tactics and channels, we feel confident that we have identified the key to maximizing marketing spend.
Local businesses should focus on these three core areas of marketing that will produce the biggest ROI:
- Local search engine optimization (SEO)
- Google Business Profile (GBP) Content & Review Generation
- Website Design & Development
This is the first of a three-part series we’re publishing to highlight each of them, which are the only local marketing services that should really matter to business owners. This article will cover what local SEO is, why it’s critical to rank on page 1 of Google and what the various Google services are that you can rank in.
What is Local SEO?
Search engine optimization, or SEO, refers to the actions taken to make a website more easily located by search engines and ranked higher on the search engine results page (SERP). When actions are taken specifically to reach people in your immediate area, it’s called local SEO.
Local SEO is important because it opens the door for your business to grab the attention of potential buyers when they have peak interest in purchasing a product and/or service you offer. When they’re ready to buy, there you are!
Think about how most people today get information. They pull out their phones and search for answers because it’s quick and easy. Consider the scenario of one of your ideal customers looking to buy. Their most likely move is to go to Google and search for “[product/service your company sells] near me” or “[product/service your company sells] in [city, state].” Hopefully, when the results display, they’ll notice your company and consider you as a potential solution provider.
How important is local SEO? These statistics should demonstrate:
- 88% of consumers who performed a local search on their smartphone visited a store within 24 hours
- 78% of local mobile searches result in offline purchases
- 49% of businesses receive more than 1,000 views on Search per month
Local SEO consists of two areas: On-page and off-page.
On-page SEO tactics are the actions applied to the pages of your website to influence its search ranking. They include:
- Keywords– Your site should contain words and phrases that are relevant to your company, products and services that people are likely to search
- Meta tags – These snippets of text embedded within the HTML code of your web pages should help search engines identify the information the pages contain
- URL structure – The structures of your pages’ URLs should contain a relevant keyword for the page
- Content – Your site should contain quality, original and relevant content that searchers will find helpful
- User experience– It’s important for pages to load quickly, link to other pages on the site and be mobile-friendly
Off-page SEO tactics are the actions applied away from your website to influence its search ranking. They include:
- Backlinks – Accumulating links from other websites with good domain authority (aka rankability) back to your own are like a stamp of approval for your site
- Citations – Building citations, which are mentions of your business name, address and phone number (NAP), on other websites helps improve your search ranking
- Social media – Linking to your website from social media sites, especially the big ones like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and LinkedIn, is another way to build links on high-authority sources
People have multiple search engines they could use to find information. Google, Bing, Yahoo and DuckDuckGo are the most notable. However, when it comes to monitoring the data and analytics and continuing to optimize over time, Google is the only one you should really care about for local SEO.
Why? It’s simple. Because Google has a stranglehold over search market share. At the time of writing, according to StatCounter, Google’s global share of the market is:
- 92.42% across all devices
- 96.26% on mobile
- 84.82% on desktop
The lion’s share of people who search the web use Google, so it’s a no-brainer to invest your money and effort to rank on Google and not worry about other search engines. In addition, Google also provides many ways for your company to get discovered beside the standard organic search listing. You’ll learn about them later in this article.
Why is It Important to Rank on Page 1 of Google?
As you know from your own experience of searching Google, the list of search results can cover hundreds of pages. However, for your business to reap the benefits of ranking, it’s not enough to simply appear somewhere in the results. It must rank on page 1, and preferably near the top of page 1.
There’s a reason for the saying, “The best place to hide a body is on page 2 of Google.” Most people never look on page 2!
A Backlinkto study found that only 0.63% of Google searchers clicked on something from the second page. Over half of organic web traffic — 54.4% to be exact — came from the top three results, with the #1 result being 10x more likely to be clicked than the #10 result.
The goal with local SEO is to be as competitive as possible and work toward achieving a top ranking to maximize traffic to your website.
What Google Services Can Your Business Be Found On?
In addition to organic search, which we’ve covered already, Google offers a few other services that local businesses can utilize to get in front of information-seekers.
Google Business Profile (GBP)
Google Business Profile, or GBP, is the account on which you manage your business’s online presence on Google properties. It’s an online listing you can use to tell your business’s story.
One of the areas where it’s important to rank is on the Google Map Pack, which is a location-based part of the SERP. By default, it lists three local businesses and shows their locations with pins on a map, along with key items pulled from the businesses’ GBP listings, such as business hours, ratings and reviews.
Here’s an example of how it looks:
As you can see, this is an opportunity for viewers to quickly identify and learn a little about your company before even visiting your website. And because only three businesses are listed, if yours is one of them, you have a good chance of generating web traffic, phone inquiries or foot traffic.
We discuss GBP in much greater detail in the second part of this article series. Check it out!
Most people utilize Maps for its navigational functions. They use it to find directions to a destination from their home or current location. However, its value for businesses comes from the business suggestions that appear when someone performs a “near me” type of search.
Local SEO efforts are important to ensure Google literally puts your business on the map when someone in your area searches for the product or service you offer.
Pay Per Click (PPC)
While organic search, Google Business Profile and Maps are all things that you can gain visibility from without paying any money to Google, there is a paid option to consider. Pay per click, or PPC, is a form of digital advertising where you pay a fee each time your ad is clicked.
Paid advertising is the only way to guarantee exposure to your company on the SERP, although it could be pricey. With PPC, there are pros and cons to consider.
- Fast results – Organic SEO takes time to start working, but PPC starts generating results immediately
- Prime real estate – PPC ads appear at the top of the SERP where they’re easily seen by searchers
- Highly targeted – Ad targeting tools help you put your messaging in front of your ideal customers
- Easy to A/B test – Fine-tune your ad campaign(s) to maximize conversions
- Expensive – Your ads go away if you stop paying for them, and bidding for popular keywords can cause costs to be high
- Lower ROI – You’re paying to get web traffic without a guarantee that all of the visitors who get to your site from PPC will ever purchase from you
- Diminishing returns – PPC ads may work well initially, but if targets keep seeing the same ads over and over, they’ll be less likely to click
- Aversion to ads – Some people are so turned off by ads that they have trained themselves to instinctively scroll past PPC ads and straight to the organic listings
So, what’s the verdict on PPC ads? Consider these statistics before you decide:
- 15% of all website traffic comes from paid search — BrightEdge
- The average clickthrough rate (CTR) for PPC ads across all industries is 3.17% — WordStream
- 23% of revenue is generated from paid search — BrightEdge
- PPC visitors are 50% more likely to purchase something than organic visitors — Unbounce
What Other Areas of Marketing are Important for Local Businesses?
Local SEO is a key component of a successful marketing strategy for local businesses. However, there are some other areas that demand attention to maximize your marketing ROI. In another article, we take a more in-depth look at Google Business Profile, specifically content and review generation. And a third article provides insight into the importance of website design and development. Give them a read!