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Why is Local SEO Important and How to Optimise It (2024)

why is local seo important for businesses

The internet is your 21st-century yellow pages, your billboard, and your business card rolled into one. 

When people are hungry for sushi or desperate for a plumber, their fingers don’t walk; they swipe or type. 

Gone are the days of scanning through directories.

Now, Google has the answer to every “near me” query. 

A study by GoGulf found that 46% of all Google searches are seeking local information. 

So yes, the internet is pretty darn important for finding local businesses.

But let’s not kid ourselves into thinking SEO is just for the Googles and Amazons of the world. 

If you’re running Joe’s Coffee Shop on the corner or Sarah’s Chic Boutique downtown, listen up. 

SEO isn’t a ‘big business only’ game.

It’s a field where the small players can not only compete but thrive. I’m talking about Local SEO.

It’s the reason why your café can show up next to Starbucks when someone’s craving a cappuccino.

By the end of this post, you’ll not only understand why Local SEO is important for businesses.

You’ll walk away with actionable insights to get your business to attract that potential customer who’s just a block away, smartphone in hand, ready to make a choice. 

So, pour yourself another cup of whatever gets you going, and let’s get down to business.

Why is Local SEO important for different businesses? 

According to a study by Google, 76% of people who search for something nearby visit a business within a day. 

Hence, whether you’re a boutique or a local service, there’s a Local SEO strategy for you.

Here are the most common use cases:

Shops and boutiques

You’ve got amazing products and an Instagram-worthy store layout, but you’re missing one piece of the puzzle: foot traffic. 

Local SEO can get people off their couches and into your store. 

By optimising your business listing, showcasing in-store promotions, and keeping your inventory updated online, you’re telling potential customers, “Hey, I’ve got what you’re looking for — and it’s just around the corner.”

Eat, drink, be local

Got a pasta recipe or a cocktail that’s the toast of the town? 

Local SEO helps restaurants and bars like yours make mouths water before customers even step in. 

Updating your online menu, sharing daily specials, and encouraging satisfied customers to leave positive reviews can transform web browsers into diners. 

how to optimise a local restaurant using google my business
How to optimise a local restaurant using Google My Business

Think of it as your digital chalkboard right on the sidewalk of the internet.

Home services

Whether it’s a leaky pipe or a flickering light bulb, people want their problems fixed ASAP. 

Local SEO ensures your plumbing, electrician, or repair service shows up when frantic fingers type “urgent help near me.” 

Optimising your website for these location-based queries can make you the go-to emergency contact in your community.

Healthcare

Nobody wants to drive 50 miles for a check-up. 

Medical practices can leverage local SEO to not only show up in search results but also to display critical information like services offered, appointment availability, and patient reviews. 

The easier you make it for someone to book an appointment, the more likely they’ll choose you over the competition.

Professional services

Looking for a trustworthy lawyer or accountant can feel like dating: it’s all about compatibility and location. 

By using local SEO strategies, professional services can position themselves as the go-to local option. 

Showcase your expertise, client testimonials, and convenient location to turn searches into consultations.

Local outposts of bigger chains

You may be part of a national brand, but people are looking for a convenient location, not a cross-country trip. 

Local SEO helps big brands act small, focusing on location-specific promotions, store inventory, and local customer reviews to drive neighbourhood traffic.

For the tourists and adventurers

Event venues, museums, and local attractions can all capitalise on the curious and the wanderlust-driven. 

Local SEO can help you capture this market by optimising for “things to do in [your city]” or “best [type of venue] near me.” 

example of a local hotel using google my business properly
Example of a local hotel using Google My Business properly

Get people excited about their next local adventure with you.

Get fit close to home

For many, the gym is a second home. 

Make sure it’s close to the first one. Local SEO can help gyms tap into community-centric marketing. 

Use social proof, class schedules, and promotional offers to draw in locals looking for a convenient place to break a sweat.

Places to stay

From boutique hotels to bed-and-breakfasts, local SEO can capture searches for local accommodations. 

Show off your amenities, nearby attractions, and guest reviews to make the choice a no-brainer for travellers.

Education

Schools, both big and small, can use local SEO to promote courses, workshops, and admissions. 

Optimising for “best [type of school] in [your area]” or “[course name] near me” can put you on the academic map. 

Because who says education can’t be just a stone’s throw away?

Perks of Local SEO

We’ve broken down how Local SEO works for different types of businesses. But what’s in it for you? 

It helps get you noticed

The first rule of business is to get noticed. 

Local SEO is your spotlight, shining on you when someone searches for what you offer.

Think of it as the difference between a flyer pinned to a community bulletin board and a well-placed ad in a local newspaper. 

One gets lost in the clutter; the other grabs eyeballs. With Local SEO, you’re going for maximum visibility where it counts.

It helps you get actual visitors, not just clicks

It’s one thing to get clicks; it’s another to get footfalls. 

Local SEO isn’t just about bringing people to your website; it’s about bringing them through your front door. 

When your business pops up in local searches, it’s like handing out a personalised invitation to every smartphone in your vicinity.

It helps people arrive on time

Local SEO is like a GPS for your business. It guides potential customers to your doorstep precisely when they’re most interested. 

This means better targeting, fewer tire-kickers, and higher conversion rates. Essentially, Local SEO ensures you’re not just in the right place but also there at the right time.

It builds better trust in your brand

What’s one thing that all businesses crave but can’t buy? Trust. 

Having a consistent presence on local search results screams reliability. 

Add to that a slew of positive reviews, and you’ve built yourself a brand reputation that even your competitors will envy.

It’s relatively affordable to implement

Compared to traditional advertising mediums, Local SEO is cost-effective. 

You don’t need a big budget; you need a smart strategy. Even small changes, like optimising your Google My Business listing or improving website speed, can yield significant results.

In short, Local SEO is not just an add-on; it’s a necessity. It can do everything from increasing your visibility to building community relations, all without burning a hole in your pocket.

How to optimise your local SEO (Plus ChatGPT templates)

Alright, enough talk. Let’s get our hands dirty and actually dive into how to optimise those local listings of yours. 

Tell them when you’re open

Plug in your business hours and make them consistent across all platforms. GMB allows you to specify holiday hours as well — don’t overlook that. It’s annoying for a customer to show up and find a closed sign.

Add every service and category that applies

Google My Business lets you specify your services and categories. 

Don’t go generic here; the more specific you are, the better your chances of showing up in relevant searches. 

If you own a Mexican restaurant, “Mexican Restaurant” and “Taco Restaurant” are better than just “Restaurant.”

If you’re a restaurant offering vegan options, you’ll want to list that explicitly in your Google My Business profile. 

For example, “Vegan-Friendly Restaurant,” “Organic Restaurant,” or “Farm-to-Table Restaurant.”

Use Airbnb-style photos

According to Google’s own statistics, businesses with photos receive 42% more requests for driving directions to their location from users on Google.

how airbnb forces people into getting photos for their listings. it's a good standard to have.
How Airbnb forces people into getting photos for their listings. It’s a good standard to have.

Google My Business lets you add different types of photos like interior photos, exterior photos, product photos, and even a 360-degree view. 

Make sure these images are professional, crisp, and relevant — just like you’d expect from Airbnb.

Incentivise to grow your reviews

A lot of business owners feel a little awkward about asking customers to leave reviews. 

But here’s the thing: people love to share their opinions; you just have to give them an excuse to do it. 

You could offer a small incentive, like a free coffee or a 10% discount on their next purchase.

Imagine you run a local bakery. 

A customer comes in and raves about your new raspberry tart. That’s your cue. 

You could say something like, “I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed it! We’re actually trying to spread the word. Would you mind leaving us a review on Google? As a thank you, here’s a coupon for a free coffee the next time you visit.”

What about negative reviews?

We all know the internet can be a harsh place. 

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, negative reviews happen. 

The key here is not to ignore them but to address them professionally. According to BrightLocal, 98% of people read businesses’ responses to reviews.

Here’s a helpful ChatGPT prompt you can use to respond to negative reviews in an easy way:

ChatGPT Prompt: 

“I need your help to respond to this negative review the same way a world-class customer service representative would in a 5-star hotel. 

My business is X and we help people with X. Recently, this person stayed/tried our services, and left this review that we need to respond to.

[Insert Review Here]”

Use the advanced GMB features

GMB offers features like Posts, Q&A, and even Booking options for certain business types. Use these features to enhance your profile.

For instance, for Hotels and Restaurants, you get access to special features to display you menus, room rates and more.

Do the FAQs yourself — ask and answer questions

The Q&A section in Google My Business is often overlooked. Use it to your advantage. 

how to answer faqs on google my business
How to answer FAQs on Google My Business

For example, if you’re a pet supply store, include FAQs like:

  • “Do you offer same-day delivery?”
  • “What brands of dog food do you carry?”

ChatGPT Prompt: “Help me list some detailed frequently asked questions for my pet supply store. Please ask me questions that you have to better help you with my request.”

By following these steps and consistently monitoring your Google My Business profile, you’re not just saying you’re open for business. 

You’re rolling out a welcome mat that’s visible from every smartphone in town.

Your local SEO is more important than you think

Now’s the time to roll up those sleeves and dig in. 

Sure, it takes effort, but it’s the type of work that gets results. 

Your customers are already looking for you; your job is to make sure they find you. 

A fine-tuned Google My Business profile is your gateway to them.

But remember, SEO is like a garden; it needs regular care. 

Search engine algorithms are always changing, and consumer behaviour is continually evolving. 

What works today might be yesterday’s news tomorrow. 

So keep your finger on the pulse, continually update your listings, and don’t be a stranger to your own Google My Business dashboard. 

Your local customers, whether they know it or not, are counting on it.

Josiah is a multi-award-winning digital marketing consultant and former journalist for the Australia Times. He now helps 6-7-figure brands as a Fractional CMO to generate predictable leads and sales growth.​

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