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All Media Insights March 4, 2024

Local SEO and AI: A Winning Formula for Small Businesses

Writen by Lawrence Peter

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Unlock Steady Growth: Local SEO & AI for Small Businesses

Today, whether you’re a startup, brick and mortar, e-commerce, or any other form of business, provided you serve a physical location or a specific geographical area, you need a local SEO strategy. Businesses should capitalize on the trend of “near me” and location-based searches. They should also leverage the convenience of AI. This is an opportunity that every business should not miss out on in the digital world.

Research has shown:

  • 98% of consumers used the internet to get information leading to local businesses in 2022
  • 87% of consumers used Google to evaluate local businesses in 2022
  • 76% of consumers read online reviews when browsing for local businesses
  • 69% of the overall digital traffic comes from a combination of local and organic searches
  • 42% of local searches involve clicks on the Local 3 pack.

Most businesses have websites, but some small businesses have not started using location marketing (local SEO or GMB marketing) yet. This is important for successful online marketing, as more people are searching based on location.

Local SEO helps small businesses target specific areas and strengthen their online presence. Small businesses need to enhance their websites and online presence. This will help them be more visible to potential customers in local searches.

Customers are searching for products and services online. Businesses can reach these customers by improving their online visibility.

AI technology has transformed how businesses do digital marketing. AI algorithms can analyze data, predict trends, and automate tasks like creating content and supporting customers.

By using AI tools in local SEO, you can learn about customer behavior, keyword trends, and competitors for better results. AI can assist in finding important keywords, improving local search rankings, and monitoring SEO progress instantly.

Why Local SEO Matters for Small Businesses

Nearly half of all Google inquiries today are local in nature. Even when people conduct everyday searches, Google is highly likely to show them nearby businesses.

Why is this crucial for small businesses? Well, from 2017 to 2019, Google reported a massive surge (900%) in searches involving “near me today/tonight.” To best serve its users, Google started prioritizing geographically relevant results based on three factors:

  • Proximity: How close your business is to the searcher.
  • Relevance: whether your offerings match their search intent.
  • Prominence: Your online reputation and visibility.

Imagine this: A person is looking for a business like yours online and finds your website. Local SEO can help with this, especially if your business is nearby, meets their needs, and has a good online image.

So, why should you, as a small business owner, care about local SEO? Here are seven compelling reasons to jump on board:

Benefits of Local SEO to SMBs

Unleash Local Growth: Local SEO & AI for Small Businesses

Improve your local online presence by being active on social media and engaging with your community. This will help you attract more customers and increase your visibility in local searches.

Create posts on your blog or social media that are tailored to your location. This will demonstrate your ties to the community and enhance customer loyalty to your brand.

Local SEO is a cheap way to market to local customers and track your progress. It’s a budget-friendly marketing strategy. Tools like Google Analytics help you track website traffic and see which keywords are bringing in visitors.

Build Trust and Authority: Showing up in local search results makes you look more trustworthy to potential customers. Local SEO means getting links from nearby businesses and websites to drive traffic to your site.

Get more customers and sales by using local SEO tactics to bring more people to your business.

Stay Ahead of the Competition: Effective local SEO tactics give small businesses a competitive edge. Optimizing your online presence for local searches means more visibility and helps you stand out from the competition.

Get more local customers with SEO. Increase website traffic, sales, and brand recognition.

SEO helps attract more people to your online business. Local SEO focuses on attracting nearby visitors, increasing the chances of them interacting with your content.

Long-lasting Results: The impact of SEO results lasts longer compared to traditional marketing methods. Keeping information current and improving local SEO is crucial.

Google customizes search results based on user searches. Targeting a local audience with local SEO can improve search engine rankings.

Running a small business means you need to reach your target market, and local SEO can help you do exactly that. It’s a powerful tool that can help you connect with more customers in your community and grow your business.

Mapping the Customer Journey to Success

Imagine a customer as a traveler on a journey, and your brand is their destination. A customer journey map is a detailed map that shows all the times customers interact with your brand. It includes interactions from when they first hear about you to after they buy something.

This map shows the steps of their buying process and explores their feelings and reasons for buying. It’s a detailed plan that shows each step of their experience. This gives a clearer picture of their complex connection with your brand and products.

SEO and the Customer Journey: A Winning Combination

To succeed, it’s important to align your marketing with each step of the customer journey for the best results. This holistic approach, considering all aspects, involves:

  • Understanding the phases: Don’t just focus on marketing messages. Consider the entire customer experience, from awareness to after they buy something, where SEO plays a crucial role.
  • Use data on how many people search for specific terms to make decisions at each stage of marketing.
  • Customize your approach by adjusting the customer journey map and SEO strategy to fit your business model. This can be done whether you are targeting other businesses (B2B), consumers (B2C), or selling products directly to customers.

The Local Customer Journey: A Step-by-Step Guide

Businesses with multiple locations need a strong online presence in today’s high-tech world. They should also take advantage of the digital opportunities available to them. From online search to in-store experience, understanding each step of the journey and implementing effective strategies can impact your brand’s visibility, customer traffic, and overall performance.

This guide will help you understand how local customers find your business online. It will also provide you with tips on how to increase your brand’s visibility. Additionally, it will help you attract more customers to your physical stores.

Navigating the Modern Local Customer Journey

Knowing the steps of the customer journey, from online search to in-store visit, is important for getting better. This guide provides tips to help improve your multi-location brand’s online presence. It can also attract more customers to your stores.

Additionally, it can help create positive experiences that encourage loyalty and word-of-mouth recommendations. To attract and keep customers, focus on finding, studying, and comparing products. Interact with customers and make decisions to provide a good in-store experience. Encourage customers to recommend your products to increase success and revenue.

The Power of SEO in the Customer Journey

In the changing digital world, it’s crucial for businesses to understand and impact the customer journey to succeed online. While traditional marketing methods still hold value, integrating search engine optimization (SEO) into the customer journey mapping process is now a vital strategic approach.

The Retail Customer Journey: Unveiling Buyer Behavior

While no two customer paths are identical, there are a few defining steps on the retail customer journey that, when identified, can help illuminate buyer behavior in today’s digital business economy.

Searching for a Store Nearby: Imagine being on a business trip and realizing you forgot essential items. What do most people do? They likely look up the nearest store on their phone.

This is because the percentage of shoppers who begin product searches online has been steadily rising. For the modern retail customer, their journey begins when they search for a store nearby and discover options listed on platforms like Google Maps or Google Ads.

Checking Data on Website: Before choosing a store, a potential customer might gather information online to decide where to make their purchase. This may involve exploring the store’s website or checking online reviews to learn more about their experience. In fact, positive online reviews can significantly impact foot traffic.

Requesting Directions or Calling: Once they’ve chosen a store, the customer will typically request directions through a map app or call the store directly. By keeping your business data updated on relevant platforms, you ensure potential customers can find all the information they need.

Making Their Presence Known: When a customer enters your store, their presence can be recorded through WiFi, a personal counter, or other mechanisms. At this point, they are fully engaged in the buying decision. Having this data helps you understand what percentage of browsers convert to buyers.

Local SEO Foundation**

Local businesses that are looking to secure success over their local and national competitors need to ensure all their local SEO signals are correct, consistent, and optimized for local search

Local SEO necessitates a strategic, well-conceived, and targeted approach to attract the ideal customers and appear in the SERPs (search engine results pages) at the most crucial times.

This chapter will delve into establishing a solid base for local SEO triumph. We will combine both keyword research, the appropriate tools used, and the on-page optimization efforts that are designed to distinguish your business from the competition.

Keywords: The Root of SEO

Keywords are the essence of all SEO efforts and represent the terms and phrases directly connected to a company’s products or services.

Keywords are search queries you want your website to rank highly for and can be either broad terms in nature or long-tail keywords. Broad-term keywords are concise, general phrases, whereas long-tail keywords are typically several words long and are often phrases, questions, or sentences.

To increase the likelihood of ranking for a specific search query, a relevant keyword needs to be incorporated within the page’s content, title, and headings. This signals to Google that your webpage is relevant to the search being conducted and increases your chances of appearing in the results.

But be cautious! Keyword stuffing is not the answer.

It’s tempting to think that simply plugging a keyword into a webpage as many times as possible would improve your chances of ranking. And you’d be right—if you’re doing SEO in the bygone era of 2003. That technique may have worked in the early days of SEO, but it certainly doesn’t anymore.

Strive to find the balance between naturally incorporating keywords into your page content (where appropriate, of course) and not disrupting the user experience by saying the same word or phrase over and over again.

Keyword Research: Understanding How People Search

Familiarize yourself with how users are searching for products or services related to your business. Which phrases are your customers likely to search for? Which keywords will provide the highest return on investment (ROI)? What key phrases do you want to find?

Start your local SEO campaigns on the right foot with appropriate keyword research. Don’t make the mistake of guessing at terms, phrases, and keywords based on how you might think your customers are searching.

Your list of keywords will influence every SEO-related optimization effort you implement. From site architecture to page structure to content creation, it’s critical to invest time in getting this right.

When selecting localized keywords, try to find keywords that:

  • Have a decent volume of searches per month
  • Are likely to convert
  • Have minimal competition
  • Are products or services focused?
  • Are considered ‘buying’ phrases?
  • You have a high ability to rank for

We are looking for winning phrases that check as many of the above criteria as possible.

Our keywords should have a high volume of searches per month, paired with a high potential to convert customers. These terms will be product- or service-focused ‘buying’ phrases, which are keywords that a user searches for when they are further along in the decision-making process.

Ideally (fingers crossed), your competitors will not be pursuing the same keywords as you.

Lastly, we need phrases that you have a chance to rank competitively for. If the keyword is dominated by big-name companies, you may want to consider moving on to something more worthwhile.

Keyword Research Tools:

With a multitude of tools to find keywords, getting started can be rather overwhelming.

We’ll take a look at a few free tools to help you find profitable keywords for your local business:

  • Google Keyword Planner: A traditional favorite, the Google Keyword Planner is a free tool to generate baseline keyword data. Keyword Planner provides close variations of root keyword metrics based on average monthly search volume and competition for keywords, making it a great starting tool for keyword research. Keyword Planner can be found on the Google Ads platform. Just sign up for a free Google Ads account to access the tool.
  • Keywords Everywhere: Quickly becoming a popular choice, Keywords Everywhere combines the convenience of a Google search with keyword data from several popular sources. Once you add the Chrome extension, simply conduct a Google search, and the keyword, competition, and cost-per-click data will populate right in the SERPs. Additionally, the extension will provide related keywords, making it easy to find the right terms.

Answer the Public

This visual keyword research tool presents search queries in the form of questions.

By collating data from Google Autosuggest, Answer the Public facilitates the swift generation of numerous key terms while furnishing insights into the search behavior of potential customers. While lacking search volume or competition data, this tool excels at visually presenting popular search queries.

This tool proves invaluable for generating content concepts and discerning the types of questions your audience seeks answers to.

Google Trends

Curious about a keyword’s popularity? Google Trends provides a chronological overview of search phrase interest dating back to 2004. This tool ensures your keywords are trending favorably, preempting investment in outdated key phrases and conserving both time and resources.

Google Trends serves as an apt resource for gauging a keyword’s popularity over time, juxtaposing keyword interest, uncovering related queries, and gaining insights into keyword interest within your locale.

On-Page Optimization

Unleash Local Growth: Local SEO & AI for Small Businesses

Title Tag

The title tag, an HTML element, serves as the webpage’s title.

Displayed on SERPs as the clickable headline link, the title tag serves as a concise descriptor of the page’s content and plays a pivotal role in SEO, social sharing, and the user experience.

For local SEO, title tags should incorporate relevant keywords representing the optimized page, along location information.

Ideally, titles should be crafted to resonate with both users and search engines, enticing clicks.

You have approximately 600 pixels in SERPs to showcase your title tag, translating to roughly 60 characters.

Meta Description

The meta description, another HTML element, offers a succinct overview of the webpage’s content.

Frequently displayed in SERPs beneath the title tag and URL, an optimized meta description can bolster click-through rates (CTR), indirectly impacting performance, as CTR informs search engines about a page’s usefulness.

Heading Tags

Heading tags (h1–h6) are HTML elements used to demarcate content based on significance.

While h1 denotes the primary heading, h6 signifies the least important. These tags aid in organizing and elucidating page structure, enabling users to swiftly grasp the page’s essence and navigate to pertinent sections.

Online readers typically scan content rather than reading it exhaustively. Therefore, it’s advisable to focus on h1-h3 headings, as h4-h6 are seldom utilized.

The use of heading tags enhances search engine and user comprehension of your content, fostering readability.

Internal Links

Internal links connect one webpage to another within the same domain.

When judiciously employed, internal links facilitate user and search engine navigation across interconnected pages, enhancing the user experience.

While beneficial, it’s imperative not to overindulge in internal linking. Only incorporate links that add value to the user experience and site navigation.

A well-structured internal linking system streamlines website navigation, communicates information hierarchy, and distributes link equity (authority) across the site.

Anchor Text

Anchor text denotes the clickable, highlighted text linked within webpage content.

Various types of anchor text exist:

  • Exact Match: Anchor text mirrors the linked page.
  • Partial Match: Anchor text bears a close resemblance to the linked page.
  • Branded: Anchor text incorporates a brand name.
  • Generic: Anchor text employs a generic phrase.
  • Naked: Anchor text comprises solely the URL.
  • Images: Image-linked anchor text corresponds to the image’s alt attribute.

Utilize internal links judiciously, ensuring the anchor text provides relevant contextual information to users.

Navigation Structure

A user-friendly navigation structure is instrumental in local SEO success.

A convoluted navigation or page design can undermine positive SEO efforts. An intuitive design enhances user interaction, yielding enduring benefits in conversions and profitability.

Why is navigation crucial for SEO?

  • Navigation informs users (and search engines) about the site’s important pages.
  • It provides users with an overview of the site’s offerings and expedites navigation.
  • It establishes an information hierarchy for search engine crawlers.

Employ descriptive navigation labels incorporating relevant keywords that accurately portray the page’s content. Opt for terms that offer value to users.

A guiding principle is to prioritize user experience, as what benefits users typically benefits SEO. Simplify navigation to facilitate users in locating desired content effortlessly.

Summary

Local SEO necessitates a strategic, deliberate approach. By leveraging these foundational local SEO components, you lay the groundwork for success in search engine results.

For brick-and-mortar businesses, sustained focus on these factors differentiates them from competitors. In the subsequent section, we’ll delve into content creation for local enterprises.

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