If you sell a product or service to your local area, local search engine optimisation could be the most profitable, consistent source of leads you’ll ever discover.
Here’s how it works:
Every month, anywhere from 100 to several thousand people search for your product or service using Google. Of those thousands of searchers, a large percentage find what they’re looking for in the search results and become warm, active leads and loyal customers.
If your website is well positioned at the top of the search results, you’re the business that gets called. You get the lead and the chance to earn a new customer. If you’re not well positioned in the search results, the leads will go to your competitors.
In many industries, being at the top of the local search results is all it takes for your business to generate several hundred new leads every month. Better yet, the leads are generated passively, without the need for you to do any outbound marketing or direct sales.
How would your business change if you had 100 or more leads contacting you every month, all without any outbound marketing?
In this guide, we’re going to do two things. First, we’re going to show you how many people are already searching for your business online, and explain how this search volume can turn into a lucrative source of leads for your business.
Second, we’re going to show you how you can start ranking your website for local search terms using a simple three-step strategy. By the end of this guide, you’ll know exactly which steps you need to take to grow your business from zero to 100 leads per month using local SEO.
Ready to start? Let’s jump right in by looking at the growth that strong local search rankings can provide for your business.
Over the last two decades, Google has developed from a Silicon Valley science project into the world’s largest, most widely used search engine. Every day, Google processes more than 3.5 billion searches, or an astonishing 40,000 searches per second.
Today, when someone needs to find information about a local business, they don’t reach for the phone book — they visit Google.com and search for it online.
Just like phone book advertising could drive hundreds of leads per month until the 2000s, local search can be an incredibly lucrative source of leads for your business. Beat your competitors when it comes to search visibility and you’ll attract more customers and earn more money.
To give you an idea of the sales potential of local SEO, we’ve pulled the search volume data for the keyword “end of lease cleaning Sydney” using the AdWords Keyword Planner.
Let’s start with the primary keyword:
The primary keyword for this industry, “end of lease cleaning sydney”, gets searched for 1,600 times every month. If we dig into the monthly search volume, we can see that this keyword gets a slight seasonal increase in July and August, when it’s searched for 1,900 times per month.
We can also see that Google provides a suggested bid of $4.85 for the keyword. This refers to the amount we would have to bid using Google Adwords to advertise on this search term. If we received a 25% clickthrough rate for this term on Adwords, we’d spend $1,940 every per month.
With the right amount of optimisation, we can generate that traffic without spending anything on advertising using local SEO.
Let’s look down the list of keywords that Google provides to see if there are any other keywords that could generate leads.
In the keyword tool, we can spot several related keywords. “Bond cleaning Sydney” is searched for 210 times every month, while variations of our original keyword all get 10-40 searches every month.
Collectively, there are several thousand people searching for this service in Sydney each month using similar, closely related keywords. A top ranking for these keywords could easily generate 100+ leads per month from interested customers.
Assuming a 25% conversion rate for leads and a price of $250 for the cleaning service, an end of lease cleaning company in Sydney could generate $6,250 in revenue from local SEO alone.
To show the broad potential of local SEO, let’s look at a very different industry: plastic surgery.
Below, we’ve searched for eight search terms directly related to plastic/cosmetic surgery in the Sydney area:
The most popular search term, “plastic surgery Sydney” is searched for 880 times per month. In total, there are more than 2,600 searches for the eight keywords listed above, excluding search volume for similar variations.
That’s a significant number of potential customers. We can also expand this by looking at similar search keywords related to the services a plastic surgery clinic in Sydney would offer:
As you can see, there are thousands of searches for related services. In total, the nine search keywords listed above receive more than 7,700 searches every month. This means that there are more than 10,000 searches related to plastic surgery in Sydney, excluding variations.
Given that the cost of many of these procedures can reach well above $10,000, it’s easy to see how a great ranking in local search can drive hundreds of thousands of dollars in monthly sales to a plastic surgery clinic or similar business in Sydney or another major city.
Not all keywords are the same, and some are significantly more valuable to your local business than others. The majority of local search keywords can be sorted into four groups:
All of these keywords are valuable for your business, and you’ll get the best results by targeting a broad range of local keywords. However, most businesses generate the highest return on their investment by focusing on local business, product/service and comparison keywords.
If you’re new to local SEO, you face an uphill battle. Your competitors that currently rank for your target keywords are more established, with older websites and a greater range of links, citations and other local ranking factors.
Beating them offers you a great reward, but it’s tough. Luckily, it’s not impossible. With the right combination of on-page and off-page optimisation, you can eventually outrank your competitors for local search terms and start to generate leads.
How long will it take? That depends on several factors, ranging from your industry’s competition to the age and quality of your website.
In most cases, for a moderately competitive local search keyword, you can expect to see some results from local SEO in six months. With a strong enough optimisation effort, most businesses can see measurable, profitable results from local SEO within one year.
Let’s begin with the first step in the local SEO process: on-page optimisation.
On-page optimisation is the foundation of any SEO campaign, whether it’s built around local or international keywords. Moz provides an excellent breakdown of on-page ranking factors here, noting the four factors that play the largest role in on-page optimisation:
All of the on-page ranking factors that affect non-local search also affect local search. If you’ve just started to optimise your website for search, your first step should be to make sure it has all of the relevant on-page ranking factors covered.
On average, you’ll get the best results by having 1,000 to 2,500 words of relevant content that uses your target keyword naturally on each page.
There’s also an extra on-page ranking factor that’s important for local search: your business’s name, address and phone number (NAP). Google uses this information to locate your website on Google Maps and in Google My Business.
Whenever Google crawls your website, it will check for a name, address and phone number in the footer and page content. To make finding your NAP as simple as possible for Google, use this format:
Your Business Name
Your Street Address
Your City, Area and Postcode
Your Phone Number
Your Contact Email Address (Optional)
Since Google’s goal is to deliver the most relevant possible results for searchers, anything that signals that your business is local helps to increase relevance:
One simple way to give Google’s spider as much information as possible in a readable format is to use Schema LocalBusiness markup. This also helps local directories scrape useful data from your website for inclusion in profiles and listings.
On-page optimisation is the fastest step in the local SEO process, and it’s also one of the most important. Before you start optimising off-site, make sure that each page of your website targets a specific keyword, meets the on-page factors listed above and has a properly formatted NAP.
You’ve built your website with SEO in mind, optimised each page for a specific set of keywords and standardised your NAP across every page. Now what?
The next step in the local SEO process is the biggest of all: off-page optimisation. Off-page local SEO involves a variety of steps, from optimising your local business listings to earning citations, getting reviews and building links.
Before we dig into the specifics of off-page optimisation for local search, let’s look at how search result formats can differ between some local keywords and others.
When you search for a local keyword on Google, you’ll see a results page with a different format to the typical 1-10 search results page. For example, searching for “Dentists in Sydney” gives us the following results page, complete with a Local Pack and Google Maps section:
Feel free to modify this if it doesn’t match your average time to generate results for clients.
This format indicates that Google views “Dentists in Sydney” as a local keyword. Local searches return a results page with a Google Maps box and a Local Pack containing the three top-ranked local businesses.
In contrast, some keywords that seem local don’t return the Google Maps box or Three Pack. A great example of this is “Bond cleaning Sydney”, which returns search results in a standard 1-10 format without the Three Pack or Google Maps box:
Since Google views these keywords as different search types, each requires a different strategy from an off-page SEO perspective:
The vast majority of local business keywords fit into the first category and are best optimised for using reviews and citations. However, the five to 10% of keywords that don’t trigger Local Pack or Google Maps listings can be optimised for using traditional off-page link building.
Let’s quickly go back to our search results “Dentists in Sydney.” Do you notice anything unusual about the quantity of reviews and the rankings of each local business?
The first business, Smile Concepts, has 148 reviews and a 4.8 average rating. The second has the same user rating, but 76 reviews. The third business has an equal score but only 18 reviews from users.
Google’s local SEO algorithm strongly rewards businesses that have lots of reviews, especially positive reviews. As the above example shows, businesses with lots of positive reviews usually rank near the top of the Local Pack for their target keywords.
Here’s another local search results page, this time for “Massage therapist in Sydney”, showing a similar pattern:
Once again, the business with the most reviews is listed first, with less frequently reviewed local businesses in lower positions. Interestingly, this keyword has a low amount of reviews (seven for the top Local Pack results), indicating that it’s a relatively uncompetitive keyword.
Remember that Google’s goal is to show the most relevant, high quality result for every search term. Reviews are a major component of this, since they signal that a local business is trusted by real people.
If your business isn’t currently on Google, you can list it using Google My Business.
If you have a Google My Business profile, one of the most effective ways to improve your local search visibility is by earning more reviews from your customers.
Google doesn’t allow you to buy reviews or offer discounts in exchange for reviews, but you can still use a variety of strategies to generate real feedback from customers:
It takes time to get lots of great reviews from customers, and no business receives hundreds of reviews in a day. Using the techniques above, focus on earning five to 10 new ratings from your customers every month, giving you 60-120 reviews over the course of every year
Reviews are one element of local search visibility — citations are another. Citations are mentions of your local business on other websites. An example of a citation is a mention of your company name and address on a website like YellowPages.com.au or Tripadvisor.
Google uses citations to verify your business’s name, location and contact information. When a large number of websites list the same NAP for your website, Google’s algorithm becomes more confident that the information is correct and uses it to place your business in local search.
As well as improving your search visibility, citations have an additional benefit: they drive traffic directly to your website. Every month, thousands of people use websites like Yellow Pages and TripAdvisor to search for businesses. With citations, they’re much more likely to find yours.
There are several ways you can earn more citations for your business. One way is to use local search software like Yext, which helps you track down citation opportunities. Yext is built for US businesses first, but it also lists a variety of citation opportunities for Australian businesses.
A far more effective way to find citations is to track them down manually. A search for “Sydney business directory” brings up hundreds of results for businesses located in the Sydney area:
Most of these directories offer free inclusion for local businesses. Some also offer paid upgrades for extra visibility. If the directory receives a lot of traffic that matches your target customers, this extra visibility can be a great source of leads and sales.
Another great way to find citation opportunities is to search for keywords related to your product or service. Here are the search results for “Sydney medical directory”:
A nice secondary benefit of these websites is that they provide a link as well as a citation. Links from local business directories rarely make or break your website’s organic rankings, but they’re a useful asset for improving your visibility for “non-local local” keywords.
Finally, links are an important component of local search visibility. While citations and reviews are the primary ranking factors for Google’s Local Pack results, links help drive your business website up the organic search results that appear at the bottom of the page:
Although the organic results are quite far down the page, they still receive a large share of local search traffic. Organic results also have two benefits for your business, from a search marketing perspective:
Organic rankings are largely powered by on-page content and off-page links. The more links you can earn or build to your website and the higher the quality of these links, the greater the amount of search visibility you’ll receive for local keywords.
Link building is a massive topic, and every search marketer has a different approach to earning links for their clients. As a local business, here are some of the most effective ways to build links to your content:
Just like earning reviews from your customers, building links takes time. Set a monthly target for new links acquired and you’ll see your website steadily move up the organic search results over the course of the year, earning more traffic every month in the process.
Since every industry is different, there’s hard and fast rule for how long it will take to see results from local SEO.
In a competitive industry, progress can be relatively slow. In an industry with limited competition, it’s possible to see leads and sales from your local SEO efforts in as little as three months.
One of the biggest benefits of local SEO is that progress can be exponential. Instead of a linear increase in sales every month, an improvement in your website’s local search visibility can result in a 2x, 5x or 10x increase in online revenue as traffic increases every month.
The best way to view local SEO is as a long-term investment in your business’s growth. Results aren’t immediate, but they grow progressively over time, ending with a continual flow of leads for your business each and every month.
We specialise in helping Australian businesses reach new customers, generate leads and close deals using search engine marketing. If you’re interested in learning more about how local SEO can help your business grow, contact us today.