Media, SEO

The value of local SEO (Even when your customers aren't)

by Gregory Lee, 23 Jun 2017

Despite the name, local SEO is an essential part of your business’s online presence —even if your customers never set foot in your store. That’s because local SEO is not just about making a business appear in a map it’s also about incorporating Google Knowledge Panels, images, directory listings, and reviews. It can even involve information you currently don’t own or control, but still shows up in search and on other websites.

When used effectively, local SEO tactics can help you build your brand. Let’s take a closer look.

How can local SEO build a brand?

Local SEO affects your brand image in three ways:

  1. Brand exposure

    Just as with straightforward SEO, local SEO can boost your brand visibility and help you rank higher in search results.

  2. Customer experience

    Creating a good customer experience means providing users accurate and in-depth information about your brand.

  3. Perception of authority

    Things like positive reviews and association with other trusted websites can give your brand authority. It also helps if potential customers perceive your business as responsive to their needs.

How does local SEO affect the customer journey?

It might be best to take a look at an example from a customer’s point of view. Let’s say she does a simple Google search for a hot brand of clothing. The following is a fairly typical progression from customer awareness, through consideration, to making the final purchase decision.

  1. “Google helped me become aware of a few clothing options I didn’t already know about, such as a complementary jacket or a suit from the brand I like”

    If your business has strong SEO signals, your brand will show up here. There may also be star ratings or reviews on various brands.

  2. “Now that I’m aware of those options, I search based on the ones I’m considering.”

    If your audience searches your brand, what do they see? What about your competitors – especially those they find in Google? Can they explore and get to know you without clicking through to your website? If you have a happy customer base, it will show up here in reviews.

    “Based on what I see, I make a decision””

    More often than not, she will choose a brand she knows and has positive reviews. Perception of authority counts here—it helps if she believes the brand is trustworthy and responsive to her needs.

    Google Knowledge Panels for Brands

    Some people assume using Google Knowledge Panels is a paid search tactic, when in fact it is organic SEO. And yep, you guessed it, they appear for brand searches.

    Below is a Knowledge Panel for a brand called SecureWorks, an SEO client. This B2B business provides cybersecurity to large enterprise and medium-sized business clients worldwide. Customers have little reason to visit a SecureWorks facility, so the company's SEO is almost entirely local.

    However, Google does track Android mobile users and sees when people are most commonly at the location – hence the “Popular Times” bar chart likely showing 9-5 employees and the occasional guest. Google picks up all kinds of information that may appear in a knowledge panel such as images, key personnel, client reviews, social channels, and information about the organization. A brand’s reputation shines through in an instant, whether as a major player or a major ripoff. Local “Brand Building” SEO gives you an upper hand in controlling what appears here.

    SecureWorks

    Here we have another type of knowledge panel that focuses more on information about the organization, pulling in a logo and snippet from Wikipedia.

    SecureWorks

    Business Listings

    You may be surprised how many opportunities there are to list your brand online. Consistency is key— your information should be correct everywhere customers look for you. This helps create hundreds of consistent SEO signals pointing to your brand.

    For example, with another SEO client we discovered 55 listings sources including review sites, directories, and aggregators (data providers).

    Click here to  see all business listing sources we found for this client.

    Every listing is a potential for a brand citation, mention, and/or link. Each is an SEO signal demonstrating to search engines your brand’s authenticity and “footprint” in the real world. They indicate to Google that your brand has actual buildings with staff. And if your listings cover multiple locations or a defined service area, it shows your physical reach. Furthermore, if you have good reviews from real customers, it proves you are a good choice to serve up in results.

    How much should you invest in local SEO?

    Local SEO tactics can be very powerful for a brand. The key is to utilize as many SEO tactics that guidelines will allow AND that are helpful for users and your brand. What you should utilize depends on your situation and business structure.

    Click below to download the cheat sheet that has all the Local SEO tactics your business needs.

    Remember, it doesn’t matter if your business sells ice cream or manufactures paper clips, Local SEO is critical to your digital brand. Your customers expect your business to look professional and reputable and Local SEO is key to making the right impression.

    Click here for the  Local Brand Building SEO Strategy Cheat Sheet, a one sheeter that outlines:

    • How local SEO affects brand image at each stage of the customer journey
    • Which local SEO tactics to use depending on your situation