Many small businesses today are being told that they cannot survive going forward without investing in local SEO. For many, though, this advice raises certain basic questions about what local SEO is — and why it matters.

What is Local SEO?

Let’s first start with the phrase “SEO,” or search engine optimization. This is a marketing strategy used for online campaigns, and its goal is to get a business’ website listed as high as possible in a search engine results list. The algorithms used by search engines (i.e. Google, Bing, Yahoo) looks at factors like popular keywords and links from legitimate websites, as well as how much traffic the webpage gets. This “ranking” is very fluid, and it changes constantly.

Local search optimization is a little bit different from general search engine optimization strategies because it creates the biggest impact in the most important targeted regions. For example, if someone goes to Google and types in “NYC pizzerias,” Google is going to display (ranked) results for pizzerias only in the NYC region.

How Does a Local SEO Campaign Work?

It’s very similar to a national SEO campaign; local search optimization still incorporates legitimate links and important keywords into onsite page content. But unlike national SEO strategies, local SEO focuses on making a business’ website as “Google-able” as possible.

Claiming local listings in certain searches is very important, and making the business’ contact information visible (and consistent) on every one of its webpages will help boost the business’ ranking. It also helps to have customer reviews (ideally, good reviews), because those tell Google that yes, the business is real.

It’s important to realize that most local SEO strategies are created in conjunction with the search engine’s ranking algorithm — this is probably particularly important for anyone wondering why “Google” can’t just take a drive down and see the real-life business for itself. The algorithm is pretty complex, but it doesn’t have the intelligence of a human brain and it can’t use ambiguous deductive reasoning to determine a business’ realness.

How Effective is Local SEO?

It’s very effective, actually. In fact,

34% of all marketers say that SEO strategies are more effective than anything else for generating leads;
58% of all consumers have researched a product or service online before deciding to make a purchase;
And, 75% of all Googlers won’t click past the first page of results when they search for a certain keyword — they’ll just pick a new keyword if they didn’t find what they were looking for.

Quite simply, local search optimization is essential for businesses — particularly small, “mainstreet” businesses — that depend on local consumers more than anyone else. It doesn’t matter what products or services a business sells; as we become more attached to digital devices each day, local SEO success becomes more and more important.