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Local SEO means optimising your online presence to attract more customers from local searches on Google and other search engines. A powerful tool for small businesses, it can improve brand visibility.

A local search strategy has a significant impact on your success, as 80% of local searches lead to conversions. When you consider 46% of people conducting Google searches are looking for a local business, it’s obvious that without a local SEO strategy in place, you’re missing out on valuable traffic.

What are the benefits of a local SEO strategy?

Gain more valuable leads by investing in a local SEO plan, as 50% of users visit a store within one day of finding it on a local search. These people are closer to making a purchase, so it helps drive customers to your door by finding your business first. Figures for people who search on their smartphone are even more significant, as 76% of users who search on a mobile phone for a local business visit within a day.

It can be a case of going to a local shop, finding they don’t have what you need, sitting in your car to do a local search for the same item elsewhere and setting off right away to purchase it. A massive 72% of consumers who perform a local search visit a store within five miles of their current location.

Why are mobile devices so important in local searches?

Mobile devices have grown increasingly popular over the past few years, so making sure your website is optimised for mobile use is another must. If your site is adapted only for people who search on a computer, you’re alienating a large section of your local audience.

Being mobile and user-friendly are crucial in your digital marketing strategy. Around 50% of sales come from searches on mobile devices, according to research from Google. The priority is to produce a fast and relevant web page that works as well on a mobile device as it does on a computer.

One in three people will search on their smartphone first for a local business and having a positive mobile experience will make them 61% more inclined to convert. More than half (53%) of mobile web surfers will abandon a site that takes more than three seconds to load. Most people spend only around 30 seconds browsing before they move to another website if it takes too long to find what they’re looking for.

Why do so many people convert on local searches?

The reason for the high conversion rate is because the searchers usually know the exact product they’re looking for and need to purchase it urgently at a shop near them. They would be less likely to care about the location if they didn’t plan on purchasing the product right away. You’re attracting leads who can become regular customers for your business, so without a local SEO strategy, you’re missing out on plenty of potential conversions.

How can local businesses compete with the big brands?

Google gave local businesses a way to beat the big guys in 2014, when they rolled out version one of their Pigeon update, which gave local businesses the platform to compete for search rankings at a local level. The change gave a ranking boost to businesses close to the user when carrying out location-specific searches.

For example, searching for “pizza takeaway near me” or “builders in Cornwall” would come up with a choice of local results. Pigeon effectively introduced local businesses to the world of the search engine. Those who recognised its value took advantage of this boost as quickly as possible.

How does ranking on Google benefit businesses for “near me” searches?

In the past two years, there has been a phenomenal rise in “near me” searches, with the biggest growth being in urgent searches. Statistics compiled this year show the true extent of the boom.

The phrase “near me today” has seen a staggering 900% growth: for example, the search for “takeaways near me today” have rocketed. There has also been 150% growth in phrases like “near me now”, such as “pizza near me now”, while “stores open near me now” has seen a 200% growth.

This may be a reflection on the current climate during the Covid-19 lockdown, as people try to find out which businesses are still providing a local service. Ranking high in the “near me” searches can increase footfall and website traffic, which will hopefully lead to more conversions.

Ranking higher benefits your business because 75% of people never scroll past the first page on Google rankings. If your ranking is lower than this, you have less chance of being seen and attracting new customers.

What are the benefits of Local SERPs and Google My Business?

Customers can find your contact information quickly and ring you to book, or get more information. This optimises your business for “near me” searches.

Listing your business on Google My Business has the desired effect – yet 56% of local retailers haven’t yet claimed their Google My Business listing. This means they’re missing out on the chance to drive more local traffic their way.

When people conduct a search, it generates a box, known as the local SEO three-pack, where local businesses’ Google My Business listings are displayed. Your business name, address and telephone number will appear, plus the complete directions to reach your address using Google Maps.

Can customers use Google maps to directly find your business?

Google has spent a lot of time refining and improving Maps and the results speak for themselves. It’s a useful tool that uses GPS data to guide us seamlessly to our destination.

If you conduct a search for “DIY stores Cornwall”, for example, the top local stores will appear in a box at the top of the Google search results. The listing will display their address and contact details, a link to their website and the option to click the “directions” button and be guided by GPS on your mobile device.

In June, Google announced a number of changes coming to Maps, improving ad formats and features to ensure they will drive more foot traffic to your bricks-and-mortar business premises. The goal is to optimise the Maps experience for users.

Getting your local SEO right is vital to boost your sales. This is why 73% of companies invest in a professional SEO expert to devise the best digital marketing strategy. The current Covid-19 situation is the perfect time to improve your SEO and page rankings, as more people conduct online searches to find out who’s open – so, as they say, there’s no time like the present.

As American tech billionaire Michael Dell (founder of Dell Inc) once said: “There’s always an opportunity to make a difference.”

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