Nearly half of Google searches have local intent – how can your small business leverage this?

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When you need a contractor to come to fix your leaking radiator in the middle of the night, or you want to order a custom cake for a birthday party, you go online to find it. According to recent studies, Google has become the friend we refer to when we need a recommendation, and more and more people trust the information they find online about a company as if it came from friends and family. But what keywords do you use to find a local company? Would you rather use general search phrases, such as “plumbing company”, or would you use more targeted, location-specific terms, such as “plumbing company in Newcastle” or “plumber near me”? If we look at the statistics, you’re more likely to do the latter. 

According to recent data, the future of Google search is local, and brands that offer local services should take advantage of this as quickly as possible, but only because it can help them stand out from the competition, but also because this strategy can boost awareness and audience engagement. 

Here’s what the numbers tell us: 

  • 46% of Google searches have local intent. 
  • In the past two years, there has been a 900% increase in the number of Google searches containing the phrases “near me” and “close by”. 
  • 28% of local searches lead to purchases. 
  • 72% of people who look up information about a local store online end up visiting the physical location. 
  • 18% of local smartphone searches led to an offline purchase within 24 hours. 
  • 92% will choose to work with a company that’s on the first page of local search results. 

If these percentages sound impressive, you should know that they’re about to get even higher. In the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has strengthened the relationship between consumers and local brands, leading to a new age of hyper-local commerce. Whether it’s because of safety concerns or because they want to support the local economy, people are saying goodbye to the big retailers: according to the US chamber of commerce, 56% of people now prioritise neighbourhood businesses and locally sourced products. In Europe, the number is even higher. According to an official EU report, 81% of shoppers prioritised local businesses.  

This is one of the biggest search trends we’ve seen in years, and small businesses that ignore it could have a hard time building an audience. Even if you’ve had a local business for a while now, you shouldn’t take your consumer base for granted. In the past year, many well-established local businesses have gone out of business due to the pandemic, so if your customers look you up online but don’t find you, they couldn’t be blamed for assuming the company no longer exists. 

Tips for an effective local SEO strategy 

Acknowledging the importance of local SEO is the first step towards higher online exposure. But how can you make sure your website is optimised correctly, and how can you make it more attractive for local users? Here are some must-have elements in an effective local SEO strategy: 

  • Set up a Google My Business account if you don’t have one already. This is an excellent tool for verifying your business and sharing your hours of operation, photos, address, reviews, and more. Google My Business is also a great way to boost engagement: according to one study, there was a 60% increase in GMB calls between January 2020 and July 2020. 
  • Conduct an SEO audit, then optimise your website based on the findings. In order for your business website to be visible online, it needs to feature relevant keywords based on your location and your field of activity. A local SEO expert can conduct a thorough website audit and see if there is room for improvement. According to Eurisko, a company that offers SEO in Perth, your local keywords should always make an appearance in your site’s META titles and descriptions, as well as in page headings and URLs. Also, you might want to expand on your location, when relevant. For example, if you have an auto repair shop that services a wider metropolitan area, optimising the website copy for additional suburbs could help you gain more quality leads. 
  • Create relevant content based on your location. You know your local community better than anyone. You also know the market and your client’s needs and expectations. So why not combine the two and create high-quality, informative content? For example, if you have a roofing company, you can post on your blog in-depth guides about how to prepare your roof for winter, based on how the winters are in your area. You can also cover local news and events that are related to your industry and even write separate landing pages for each location you cover. This strategy isn’t so much about direct self-promotion but about delivering high-quality, valuable content that actually helps your audience. 
  • Promote your website on local news websites. Newspapers might not be that influential anymore, but most major news outlets have moved online, where they also cover local businesses. These websites still have plenty of local readers, and an article about your brand can help you gain more exposure. For example, you can reach out to editors for an interview or brand profile, or you can even take things even further and discuss the possibility of a weekly column where you discuss the local market. This works especially well for fields such as business, finance, and economics and presents fantastic thought leadership opportunities. In this case, don’t forget to focus on quality rather than quantity: your content has to be well-researched, relevant, genuine, and mindful of your audience’s needs. 

Will all these efforts work from the very first try? That depends. As is the case with all things SEO-related, success is a matter of patience, consistency, trial and error. Sometimes, what you planned may not work as efficiently as intended, which is why you need to constantly track your results and make adjustments along the way.