Small businesses have a greater need to focus on local search rankings than established, nationwide brands for several reasons. Because small businesses have limited resources (financing, staff, commercial space, etc.), they typically can’t accommodate masses and masses of people outside their local community.
There are exceptions to the rule, though, like ecommerce sites and digital services. But a lot of small businesses have brick and mortar stores. Just take a walk downtown (or the center of your city if you don’t have a downtown area), and take notice of all the hole-in-the-wall local eateries, boutiques, specialty shops, and similar businesses. They’re everywhere, but unless you frequent that area, chances are you haven’t heard of them before.
Too often small business owners’ eyes turn into cartoon dollar signs when they see the upper threshold of search traffic they could be getting if they ranked #1 for any given term. And to be fair, you can drill down into demographic information within keyword research data using a large number of filters.
But think about it: how would ranking #1 for a term help your business if the majority of leads it rustles up are outside your immediate geographic location?
There are many ways businesses can reach out to customers in other areas of the country for order fulfillment, but for some small and medium sized businesses, it isn’t even an option. For instance, let’s say you own a local bar-b-Que restaurant that’s been picking up steam, and now you have three locations throughout your current city. After performing a Google search for you desired keywords, you find that the top ranking results are Wikipedia, a national bar-b-Que franchise, and an ecommerce page selling grilling utensils.
In this case, ranking in the #1 slot is going to be next to impossible. It might be a viable long term strategy to try to rank for those keywords. But in the short term, you should focus on local search traffic.
Believe it or not, mobile searches have overtaken Google queries made from laptops and desktops. People are using their mobile devices more than ever, and frequently use them to find businesses in their area. If you’re ignoring local mobile searches, you’re ignoring the best potential customers (e.g. warm leads) in your local area.
But how do you know what factors influence your local rankings? Well, to be completely honest, we don’t know every detail regarding how Google calculates ranking factors. But we can look for smoking barrels – even though correlation doesn’t equal causation, so let’s take a look at a few factors that influence your local rankings.
Naturally, you’re going to want to target location specific keywords that include the name of your area, city, and geographic region. However, you don’t want to overdo it. Some websites try to target every suburb and subdivision within their city with pages that are only 300-500 words of content. But the content doesn’t really provide any value other than showing users where they are located.
The rule of thumb with Google is to use keywords sparingly and to provide a good user experience with content that solves real world problems. Instead of throwing together weak geo-specific pages, try to lightly use location keywords in conjunction with your regular content.