4 Benefits of Local SEO for Small Businesses

Shelby Jordan
4/20/2021

Consumers are increasingly dependent on digital devices to access information. Small businesses that prioritize local SEO strategies can connect with mobile users, build a local following, increase foot traffic, and boost sales.

How far out of your reach is your phone at this very moment?

The overwhelming majority of adults keep their mobile devices within arm’s reach at all times. Some may even be reading this report from a smartphone.

Consumers are becoming increasingly dependent on digital devices and internet access to find general information.

The recent shift to remote and hybrid working models further intensifies that dependency — digital devices are now integral to both work life and personal life.

Think about your activity on your smartphone: How often are you searching for information about businesses, restaurants, or events in a specific location? Search phrases such as “restaurants near me,” “new york hotels,” or “car repair dc” are considered local searches.

Nearly half of Google searches have local intent, highlighting the value of appearing at the top of search results pages for SEO agencies and businesses targeting a local audience. 

Businesses can use local SEO strategies to increase their chances of appearing on search results pages in their target locations and connect with the people in their communities who are most likely to convert to paying customers.

There are dozens of ways small businesses can optimize their digital presence for local SEO, each offering unique benefits. 

Visual Objects surveyed 500 U.S. consumers to understand their local search behavior and help small businesses realize the benefits of a targeted local SEO strategy:

  • Local SEO strategies are extremely effective in reaching mobile users
  • Investing in local SEO can help businesses establish a local following
  • Local SEO strategies can increase foot traffic to local businesses
  • Effective local SEO, paired with a positive in-store experience, can generate sales

Our Findings:

  • Sixty-one percent (61%) of consumers say that at least one quarter of their internet searches are from a mobile device, revealing the opportunities for businesses to reach potential customers through search.
  • Younger consumers are more likely to search for information from mobile devices than older generations — 57% of people under age thirty-five say that at least half of their internet searches are from a mobile device compared to 53% of consumers ages 35–54 and only 31% of consumers over age 55.
  • Nearly half of consumers (44%) say they frequently use search engines to find information about businesses and services in a specific location.
  • More than three-quarters of consumers (76%) will search for a company website before visiting their physical location.
  • After finding a strong online presence, 45% of consumers are likely to visit a company’s physical location.    

Small Businesses Can Reach Mobile Users with Local SEO Strategies

Smartphones follow their owners around the house, to the grocery store, on a run, on vacation, and everywhere in between. Consumers look to their mobile devices to find any information they may need as they go about their days.

In fact, 61% of consumers say that one quarter of their internet searches are from a mobile device, highlighting the increasing dependence on smart devices.

61% of consumer make one quarter of their internet searches from a mobile device.

These mobile users are likely out and about, using their smartphones to search for specific information, products, or services that meet their needs within their immediate location.

Younger consumer groups are more likely to search for information from mobile devices than older generations. Fifty-seven percent (57%) of people under age thirty-five say that at least half of their internet searches are from a mobile device compared to 53% of consumers ages 35–54 and only 31% of consumers over age 55.

“Mobile searches are perfect for quick and casual research,” said Stephen Light, CMO of mattress company Nolah Mattress. “I use mobile devices to find answers I can get within ten minutes of searching.”

In comparison, Light prefers desktop devices for in-depth research because the interface is more conducive to working with multiple tabs and webpages at once. 

Consumers like Light appreciate the accessibility that mobile devices offer — searching for quick answers with highly relevant and targeted information.

Google is gradually adding more information to search results pages in hopes of answering users' search queries without requiring them to click through to a website. These include:

  • Featured snippets
  • Top stories carousel 
  • People Also Ask (PPA) boxes
  • Knowledge panels

The rise in “no-click searches” further highlights the need to appear on search results pages.

Small businesses should use local SEO strategies to improve their search ranking — especially for mobile searches.

Before building a local SEO strategy, small businesses should understand their audience’s search behavior.

Younger consumer groups are more likely to search for information from mobile devices than older generations. Fifty-seven percent (57%) of people under age thirty-five say that at least half of their internet searches are from a mobile device compared to 53% of consumers ages 35–54 and only 31% of consumers over age 55.

Younger generations are more likely that older generations to use their mobile devices for internet searches.

Because younger consumers are more likely to use their phone for quick on-the-go searches, businesses that target a younger audience have the most to gain from a strong local SEO presence. 

All businesses, however, can benefit from appearing at the top of search results pages through local SEO strategies, especially as people seek additional health and safety information around COVID-19.

Andriy Bogdanov, CEO of document processing agency Online Divorce, uses his mobile phone to search for current news, entertainment, and other specific information that he needs quickly.

“I search for information specific to my location probably daily — if not hourly — especially during the context of this pandemic,” Bogdanov said. “I’d look to see the latest news and if any regulation had changed in my area.”

Local searches are common among smartphone users looking for quick answers or information specific to their location.

Small businesses should use local SEO strategies to improve their visibility on search results pages get their name and website in front of users, and funnel potential customers to their mobile site.

Local SEO Helps Businesses Build a Community Following

Imagine you’re taking a road trip from Washington, DC down to Florida. You’re passing through South Carolina around lunch time and you are in the mood for pizza. 

You use your smartphone and type “pizza charleston south carolina” in your search engine to find a list of local restaurants open for you to consider.

Most consumers can probably relate to this scenario. In fact, nearly half of consumers (44%) frequently search for information about  businesses or services in a specific location.

44% of consumer frequently use search engines to find information about local businesses.

Companies that mainly operate out of a physical location likely rely on their local communities for business.

People that live in close proximity to a company's location will make up a large percentage of total business, but it’s also important for small businesses to reach people that are new to the area or even people that are just passing through. 

Local SEO is important for small businesses looking to establish themselves within their community. 

There are dozens of ways to optimize web content for local visibility online. A few basic steps include:

  • Featuring what your company does and where it is located visibly on your homepage
  • Optimizing you site’s title tags and meta descriptions to include target locations
  • Creating separate webpages for products or services focused in specific areas
  • Adding your business to local directory listings and resources

These best practices help ensure that local communities and people just passing through can easily access information about businesses that meet their needs. 

Matt Calik, Head of SEO at search marketing agency Delante, agrees that it is important for small businesses to start with the basics when planning their local SEO strategy.

“An absolute must-have is including basic information like business name, address, hours, website, contact information, social media platforms, and even a brief FAQ section,” Calik said.

Making this information readily available can help establish a local presence and increase word-of-mouth referrals among community members.

“The businesses that perform best in local SEO are commonly the ones that are most integrated with their community both offline and online,” said Chris Wilks, digital marketing director at BrandExtract, a brand consulting agency. 

Small businesses with a strong local SEO presence will benefit from support from their community. They are in a better position to appear in consumers searches and word-of-mouth referrals within the community will generate more business.

Increase Foot Traffic by Reaching Local Customers

With smartphones at an arm’s reach, consumers are accustomed to having all the information they could possibly need at their fingertips to help them make decisions.

About three in four consumers (76%) will search for a company website before deciding to visit their physical location. 

76% f consumers search for companies before deciding to visit their physical location.

While there is a difference in mobile usage among younger and older generations, Visual Objects found that consumers of all age groups are likely to search for a company’s online presence before making an in-person visit; 77% of consumers under 35, 90% of consumers ages 35–54, and 87% of consumers over 54.

This emphasizes how easily accessible and visible information online can drive foot traffic to local businesses no matter their target market.

For example, a consumer is likely to look for a restaurant's menu before deciding if they want to eat there, find store hours before going to the grocery store, or see what movies are playing before buying tickets.

“I frequently search online before visiting a store in person,” said Bogdanov of Online Divorce. “I’d like to get a sense of what I’m about to venture into — especially with restaurants so that I know what food they serve, the ambiance, and get an idea of the experience past customers have had while dining there.”

Roy Morejon, president of marketing and development firm Enventys Partners, agrees: “Convenience is king, and so a little bit of research can save the consumer disappointment or the inconvenience of going to a company’s physical location and not getting what they wanted or expected.”

The more useful information a business can provide to their consumers at a glance on a search results page or on their website, the better chance it will convert to an in-store visit.

Businesses should prioritize basic information like name, address, and phone number — often referred to as NAP.

“Consistency of NAP information across sites, all citations, and all listings is the most effective local SEO strategy — it’s as simple as that.” said Cary Haun, technical SEO specialist at Twelve Three Media, a digital marketing agency. 

In addition to basic content optimization, experts recommend several other search-based strategies for small businesses:

  • Focus on Google Map Packs: “Map Packs are most common in local search and are often most prominent in search results pages, so earring the top spot should be a priority for local businesses.” Chris Wilks, BrandExtract
  • Optimize your Google My Business listing: “This is a very basic way to make yourself visible in the eyes of customers. Provide accurate, updated information and details about your company to increase your chances of appearing in search results when users search for relevant information within your city.” Dave Nilsson, ConvertedClick
  • Collect client reviews: “If you’re a small business and you’re ignoring Google Reviews, you will fall behind. Local businesses are sorted in Google listings by relevance, prominence, and distance. Reviews help with prominence and relevance — which makes up 15% of Google’s Map Pack ranking.” Product Marketing Copywriter, Best Company

Small businesses that optimize their site content and leverage important Google features to share useful information about their business can increase foot traffic to physical locations.

Local SEO Strategies Can Generate Sales

When a business has a strong presence on local search results pages, many consumers will actually use that as motivation to visit its in-person locations.

After finding a strong online presence for a local business, 45% of consumers are likely to visit its physical location. 

45% of consumers are likely to visit a company's physical location after finding them through a local search.

Small businesses that optimize their website content and Google ranking will have a better chance of converting casual users searching for their service to in-store visits. 

With more customers in the door, businesses have more opportunities to close sales. Once small businesses are ranking for their location, they should consider strategies that drive in-store sales. 

First, businesses can boost their digital presence by including video testimonials that provide potential customers with preview of what they can expect from their in-store visit.

Morejon, of Enventys Partners, believes videos can help establish a human connection.

“I always tell my clients to have video testimonials if they can,” Morejon said. “Make the customer feel like the testimonial is authentic and real by featuring a clean, open space and a color scheme that matches the tone you want to set for your customer experience in physical locations.

Morejon also recommends small businesses share information about their team, helping users feel connected to the people behind the business before seeing them in person. 

Video testimonials can be valuable tools for businesses looking to drive in-store sales, but they require significant investment. Small businesses can realize the same benefits by featuring basic reviews.

As a consumer, Stephen Light relies heavily on reviews before deciding to visit a business and make a purchase.

“I use online reviews to determine whether an establishment is worth my time and money,” Light said. “If they have a lot of bad reviews, I save myself from wasting my hard-earned money in buying their products or services.”

Small businesses can use testimonials and reviews to illustrate their value to their customers, but getting these customers in the door is just the first step to generating sales. It’s also important for businesses to live up to that positive picture in-person.

“Once you’ve earned the top spot in local search pages and built enough of a case for the user to give your business a shot, reward that decision by giving them a similar experience to the one you shared online,” said Wilks of BrandExtract.

Special offerings like incentives, loyalty programs, and discounts help customers realize the value they receive when visiting a small business in-person.

Based on his experience with ConvertedClick, Nilsson said: “Customers love offers — they’re more likely to visit your store if you offer something.”

Local SEO strategies aimed at getting customers in the door, paired with a positive in-store experience help small businesses generate sales. 

Local SEO is Important for Small Businesses

As dependency on smart devices increases, it’s becoming increasingly important for small businesses to increase their digital visibility.

Consumers rely heavily on search engines like Google to get information as they go about their daily routines.

Businesses should prioritize local SEO strategies to increase their chances of appearing on their target location search results pages.

A focus on local online visibility can help small businesses:

  • Reach mobile users who are looking for quick information specific to their location
  • Establish a following within their community
  • Generate foot traffic by optimizing website content and Google ranking
  • Drive sales with a positive in-store experience and additional special offers

Companies with a strong local SEO strategy are in a good position to grow their business and attract new customers. 

About the Survey

Visual Objects' 2021 Search Engine Marketing survey included 500 U.S. consumers.

Thirty-four percent (34%) of respondents are female; 44% are male, and 22% chose not to disclose this information.

Respondents are located in the Midwest (32%), South (31%), West (22%), and Northeast (14%).

Fifteen percent (15%) of respondents are under age 35; 25% are between ages 35–55; 37% are over age 55; 23% chose not to disclose this information.

Shelby Jordan