Sorry, I Didn't Know You Have A Coffee Shop Near Me (Or Local SEO: Don't Miss Business Opportunities)
Local SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is one digital marketing measure that can pay off substantially for local businesses, big or small. However, many still don't understand why local SEO is important, thereby losing out on opportunities that could have given them more revenue.
Here's my personal account relating to the benefits of local SEO and how local businesses can adopt a solid local SEO strategy.
So one day, I was walking around my neighborhood, a nice mixture of residential and commercial spaces in quite a small radius.
Pre-pandemic, it had become a habit of mine to work at a favorite coffee shop in a business district a few kilometers away from my apartment. Working from home can be pretty boring, so I looked forward to working at my favorite spot outside the house at least twice a week.
But more recently, many shops have sprung up around my immediate vicinity, so I've been exploring a bit, hoping to find my next new favorite spot within a 1-kilometer stretch from home.
So this was one of those early evenings when I was just returning from a new coffee shop that I decided to try out, walking out the few hundred meters to home. When lo and behold, just around the corner, literally just about 200 meters from my apartment, something caught my attention.
Guess what? It was a coffee shop! A quaint little rustic-themed store that was not very visible from the road as it was positioned a few feet inwards, away from the standard line of stores. I took a peek at the glass door, but that was as far as I got since I already had my one coffee shop for the day.
With my curiosity piqued, I immediately Googled "coffee shop near me" the minute I was back home at my desk. Quite expectedly, that little coffee shop was nowhere near the top of the Search and Maps results even though it was closest to my location.
So what went wrong here?
The short answer: Local SEO
Uh, what is Local SEO again, and why should I care?
Well, Local SEO or local Search Engine Optimization is the practice of improving your business's online presence to rank high in local search results.
You know how it is nowadays. People depend on their mobile phones or computers to search online whenever they need to get more information about something, like "best fried chicken recipe", or "iphone pro max 14 price", or "gift ideas for women", or like in my story above—"coffee shop near me".
Especially if you're a business with a physical storefront or you interact with or serve customers in your local area or region, you should definitely care about local SEO. Local SEO will help you attract more foot traffic, phone inquiries, appointment or event bookings, and other business from local customers.
So in the case of that little coffee shop, it should have shown on top (or at least near the top) of the search results when I Googled "coffee shop near me" since proximity is one of the core ranking factors for local SEO, along with relevance and prominence.
Clearly, that is an opportunity lost by that coffee shop on direct sales from someone like me who spends their working hours on such a spot at least two times a week. Not to mention the opportunity lost from referrals if I liked them and recommended them to my coffee shop-loving friends.
A good local SEO strategy can significantly help small businesses that depend on local customers, especially since they are more likely to have fewer resources or budgets than bigger shops.
OK, I get it now. But how do I start doing local SEO for my business?
If you have the time and energy, here are some local SEO tips you can immediately do to start creating a good local SEO strategy for your potential customers to find you in your community easily:
Claim your Google Business Profile (previously known as Google My Business) listing
Google Business Profile (GBP) is a tool by which you can manage your business's online presence across search results and Google Maps. Setting up your GBP is free, yet many businesses don't utilize it for their marketing.
Go ahead and take advantage of this free tool to jumpstart your local online presence. Just go to https://www.google.com/business/ and everything should be easy to follow from there.
Once you've claimed your GBP, optimize it by putting accurate information that can be helpful for customers to know more about your business, such as your store's location, open hours, and contact numbers. Ensure these details are consistent across all your social media platforms and websites so as not to confuse search engines and hurt your SEO efforts.
Adding photos of your products, menu, or crew and posting relevant updates can also help boost your business's credibility. Just make sure to upload engaging, high-quality pictures and not blurry or pixelated ones.
Encourage your customers to leave online reviews and respond to them
Businesses with many positive reviews online may rank higher in local search results, making them more visible to potential customers.
Giving your customers the best service will certainly pay off, especially if you encourage them to leave online reviews on your active social media profiles. Positive online reviews can increase engagement and trust, which can help in attracting new customers.
Your Google Business Profile also makes it quite easy to ask for online reviews. You can get a review link that you can send to your customers, as shown below.
Once you get customer reviews, be sure to respond to them promptly and professionally. Most customers also appreciate a personalized message, which can promote loyalty to your brand.
More positive online reviews can also serve as social proof that your business is reputable and trusted by many. Even when a review is negative, it is more important that you address it to show existing and potential customers that you handle negative feedback well and that you are listening to them.
Additionally, ranking highly in local search results because of your positive online reviews can eventually improve your clickthrough rate or CTR (the percentage of how often people who see your business in search results end up clicking it). As they say in SEO, the best place to hide a dead body is on Page 2 of Google search results, so the ultimate goal for your business is to be on Page 1 of Google to get those traffic and sales.
Use local-specific keywords in all your online profiles and content
Local-specific keywords are those that include your business's city or the region where your shop is located. Use these keywords in all your social media profiles and website content to signal to search engines that your business is relevant to local searchers.
For example, an art shop in Perth, Western Australia, could use the keyword "artwork for sale in Perth, Australia" across its website and online profiles to improve its ranking in local search results for that city.
Build local citations for your business
A local citation is when your business's name, address, and phone number (NAP) are mentioned on other websites, like your local business directories and listings. Developing a plan to build local citations can help search engines better understand your business's location and industry.
Again, make sure that your business's NAP is the same as that in your Google Business Profile, website, and other online platforms to establish professionalism and credibility with potential customers and help your SEO endeavors.
Check if your website is mobile-friendly
As most of us easily rely on our smartphones these days, it's critical that your business website is mobile-friendly; that is, it loads quickly and is easy to use on smartphones and tablets. A mobile-friendly website is one of the top ranking factors for Google, as it contributes to a better user experience for your website visitors. However, too many businesses still take this for granted.
To check whether your website is mobile-friendly, use this mobile-friendly test by Google.
Great! Anything else I can do to help boost my local SEO?
Doing the actionable steps above can essentially improve your local SEO efforts and put you on the map, so to speak. Here are a few more things worth adding to your local SEO process, depending on your budget and resources:
- Adapt an omnichannel approach to your marketing. Your business should have a presence on all channels, platforms, and devices. That is, meet and be accessible to your target audience wherever they are.
- Advertise your business on social media by encouraging customers to check in or tag it in their posts. You can also do this with promotional campaigns or contests to boost engagement.
- Have a search-optimized business website with relevant, high-quality content. Here are ten strong reasons why you need a website if you're still on the fence.
In summary, here's what you can do to immediately expand your business's online presence and improve your local SEO:
- claim your free Google Business Profile (GBP)
- encourage customers to give reviews and respond to them
- use local keywords in all your online profiles and content
- build local citations
- ensure your website is mobile-friendly
In a world where everything is now online, your business can't be left behind (like that invisible little coffee shop near me).
Now more than ever, it's more important to understand local SEO's role in your marketing efforts, especially if you're a local small business owner. A good local SEO strategy can spell the difference between surviving and thriving in a competitive online marketplace.