Competing with big-budget businesses when you’re a small, local company is challenging. However, it’s not unachievable.
Together with a focused content strategy, local SEO presents a fantastic opportunity to reach customers closer to home. It’s inexpensive, easy-to-implement and you’ll get a thrill out of watching your traffic start to grow.
In this article, we break down:
- What is local SEO?
- Content planning for local search
- An easy-to-implement local SEO strategy
- Useful search optimisation tools to find new and interesting keywords.
What is local SEO?
Local search engine optimisation (SEO) is a form of digital marketing, also referred to as local search engine optimisation. It’s similar to a standard informational search (queries that cover a broad topic) but takes into account the location of the user too.
Many businesses leverage local SEO to promote products and services to prospective customers in a specific area.
Anyone in the world with decent domain authority and an optimised website can rank for a specific term. However, if Google senses purchase intent behind the user’s query—for example, ‘SEO agencies near me’—it will typically display local results.
These types of searches usually contain trigger words, such as ‘near me.’ Google understands that the user wants to display results in the search engine results page (SERPs) based on location. However, if someone were to put in a query like ‘hair plaiting techniques,’ Google knows the location isn’t important.
Which type of business will benefit from local SEO?
A common misconception about local SEO is that it mostly concerns consumer-facing or storefront businesses—a plumber, a medical practice, restaurant owner or shop, for example. But this isn’t true.
‘[Local SEO] applies to both single-location small and medium businesses (SMBs), national enterprise brands, and chains. If a company meets with its customers directly — either through a storefront or service area — it’s termed a “local business” and a unique set of techniques and skills can be used to increase its visibility on the Internet.’
With that in mind, this type of digital marketing lends itself to B2B businesses too. It’s the first building block to gaining a competitive edge over rivals, which is especially useful for those operating in a crowded market.
How to improve your local search ranking
While SEO is pretty technical in some areas, content planning doesn’t require this level of specialised knowledge. Small businesses that want to invest in local SEO can do so by focusing on and optimising their content strategy.
‘Adding fresh, quality content on your site allows you to cast a wider net of keywords, attracting more visitors. It can also help your outreach and promotion efforts, attracting more links from other sites and leading to higher rankings.’
Below, we’ve broken down content planning for local SEO to help businesses get greater ROI on their content marketing strategy.
Step 1: Find relevant topics
As an expert in your industry, you’ll know some conversation-worthy subjects for content creation. But only writing long-form content won’t always produce the results you want.
Begin the process by considering a group of topics you want to rank locally for. If you’re already blogging, consider the top-level topics that you write about most frequently. You also can speak to your colleagues in the sales team to understand which customer conversations come up often.
At this stage, the topic groups should be very generic—we’ll dilute them into specific keywords and phrases later. For now, jot down around five to ten topics.
Here is an example of what the topic groups a content creation agency might produce:
- Content marketing
- Social media marketing
- Email marketing
- Inbound marketing
- Lead generation.
Deciding which topics are your priority should be based on business needs combined with the number of monthly searches being carried out by local customers for each category. The higher the search volume (SV), the more opportunity you have to bring relevant, location-specific users to the site.
To help you find this local data, let’s move onto step 2.
Step 2: Keyword research
Google Ads Keyword Planner is a handy tool to discover search volume data on specific keywords. Here’s a quick breakdown of how to use it:
1. Open a free Gmail account
You’ll need a Gmail account to use Google Ads Keyword Planner. If you haven’t got one already, you’ll be asked to set one up. Simply follow the prompts, but note that despite it being a PPC (pay-per-click) tool, you don’t need to have a campaign to use Keyword Planner.
2. Access the Google Ads dashboard
Once you’re in your account, click on the wrench icon (tools) in the top, right-hand corner. Then, click on ‘Keyword Planner.’
3. Discover keywords
You’ll be presented with two options: ‘Discover new keywords’ and ‘Get search volume and forecasts.’
As the name suggests, ‘Get search volume and forecasts’ is useful for finding the search volume of a list of keywords that have already been compiled—such as your keyword groups. Simply copy and paste the list into the tool to see the data.
Take note that Google defaults to show results from the United States. To view Australian data, switch the location in the secondary navigation bar by clicking on the pencil icon. You’ll then see Google’s predictions for how many clicks and impressions you’ll get from the keywords you entered if they were used within a PPC campaign.
The ‘Discover new keywords’ function offers a set of data that some may find better aligned with this task. Copy and paste the set of topic groups into the search bar, remembering to set the location to Australia again. Click ‘Get Results’.
The results will show the average monthly searches for each keyword group (which Google bases on the historical searches within Australia for an entire year), along with competitiveness.
In this case, Google Ads Keyword Planner predicts ‘SEO’ gets the greatest monthly traffic, followed by ‘social media marketing’ and ‘content marketing’. These three topics should be your biggest focus areas and you should spend the most amount of time writing about them.
Next, you’ll want to research a list of potential keywords for each topic—a method that is otherwise known as keyword clustering. Scroll further down the page to see the complete set of results. Alternatively, search for one group topic at a time.
Quick tip! You may have noticed that social media marketing has a high competition rate. High competition terms are less easy to rank for—as the name suggests, they’re very competitive. Consider creating a list of low competition keywords, to help boost authority in the topic.
Filtering the results
There are ways to narrow down the results into more useful data. At the top of the page you will see options to filter:
- Locations: Target by one country or focus on several at once.
- Language: An important tool if you are targeting non-English-speaking countries.
- Search networks: We recommend leaving this set to Google for Australia.
- Data range: We recommend leaving this set to the default of 12 months.
Using the keyword text filter, you can request to see ONLY keywords that contain a certain word or phrase. Similarly, you can request NOT to see certain words or phrases.
Most businesses also opt to exclude adult ideas (explicit words and phrases) from the keyword ideas, which is automatically applied by Google Ads.
Above the list of keyword ideas, you’ll notice an option to add filters. The two most useful filters are by the average monthly searches (you may want to filter out the results that don’t get many searches) and competition. The low competition keywords are essentially your low hanging fruit because it means fewer companies are competing for them.
While Google Ads is a fantastic source for keyword planning, it is a tool created for PPC campaigns and gives the most accurate information when there is a campaign live. Therefore, it might be worth comparing the data to free keyword trackers to get more precise information. These cater specifically to search engine optimisation.
Great alternatives to Google Ads
We selected three other platform options for keyword researching for local SEO. They were chosen on the basis that they offer a free trial and have a 4+ star rating with at least 50 reviews.
Listed in alphabetical order:
1. SE RANKING
SE Ranking tracks keywords in Google, Yahoo, YouTube, Yandex and Bing for Australia. However, it can also target other countries if you’re targeting audiences abroad. It pulls data insights from desktops as well as mobile, so businesses can adapt their plan accordingly.
SEMrush is a tool suitable for businesses that target potential customers in several locations. It offers its users access to data on more than 580 million domains and 16 billion keywords in 118 countries.
WooRank gives crucial insights into how account holders can improve their domain’s position through SEO optimisation. Subscribers can see which local keywords they already position well for and discover new ones to target.
Note: For small businesses on a budget, it’s worth compiling keyword research before you start your content strategy. Most businesses will manage this within a week if they’re able to dedicate a few days to it.
Step 3: Create a content plan
Now, you can begin to shape your blog’s content plan. It’s a good idea to set a monthly publication target as Google rewards websites that produce regular, fresh content.
A content plan doesn’t have to be complicated, and there is no set method for how you store it. Many project management software platforms offer blog content schedule templates—but a simple Google Sheet or Excel spreadsheet will work too.
As a bare minimum, you’ll want to include the:
- Keyword group
- Title of the blog
- Primary keyword (the most important keyword, which should also be the focal point of the article)
- Secondary keyword (the keyword second in importance)
- Search volume potential.
Marketers can leverage Google’s SERPs (search engine results pages) to understand the user intent behind specific keywords, as well as find content ideas.
How to carry out SERP analysis
SERP analysis refers to the process of reviewing the top ranking websites in the search engine results, to understand whether the keyword you want to target fits the search query intent.
‘It can easily happen that a keyword which seems to be super relevant will end up as a wrong option because it’s not semantically correct. It simply doesn’t reflect the intention behind the user’s search query.’
You want to assess the types of content that appear in the SERPs to see how well they resemble your own. For example, if you’re creating a blog post, but the majority of results are service or product landing pages, this is a sign that Google would categorise your target keyword as a transactional search query, rather than informational.
We know. It’s a little complicated.
To anticipate whether your keyword will satisfy what users are searching for, copy and paste your primary keyword into Google’s search engine, and then answer these questions:
- Are the top 10 results mostly competitor product or service pages?
- Do the top 10 results mostly display website pages of public sector organisations?
If you answered ‘yes’ to either of these questions, then you may want to reconsider your keyword.
The information you’ve provided suggests your target keyword won’t match the searcher’s intent. It might be that you need to be a little more specific. For example, if you are selling a poster with the Sydney Opera House on it, a user is likely to find your poster by searching for ‘Sydney Opera House poster’ rather than ‘Sydney Opera House’.
You could try applying prefixes or suffixes to your keyword to get a more precise meaning, such as adding an ‘ing’ to the word. An intent modifier can also better match search intent. For example, instead of targeting ‘CRM software’, target ‘best CRM software’.
How to find content ideas
When you search on Google, the SERPs show a box called ‘People also ask.’ This is known as rich snippets. These are the queries that users most often research alongside your focus keyword. This feature has the potential to offer boundless content ideas—either as an entire article or as a sub-section.
At the bottom of the SERP, you’ll also see some keyword ideas under ‘Searches related to’. These keywords are good to jot down as a way to enrich your text when you start writing.
Quick tip! Google changes the results it displays to a user based on their location. To view the local search results you’d see for your target audience, you can use VPN software. A VPN allows you to access sites, such as Google, in different geographic locations. Therefore, you’re able to see the most relevant local results.
5. Write local content
‘Google loves fresh content and it favours mobile-friendly sites, so make sure you keep creating, publishing, and updating content with local keywords and optimising your site for mobile search to improve your site ranking in SERPs. Create content that’s helpful, unique, and specific to each location.’
Consider the spelling used within your content creation too. Australian English, for example, has a lot in common with British English. Whereas American English has some different spelling.
Anthony Mellick from Stardust Digital Media suggests working a local business listing target into content creation strategy too. He says:
‘Get your business onto reputable Aussie directories with your name, address and phone number. This is not only great for SEO; it makes good business sense.’
When we think of local SEO, we often think of the basics, such as creating a Google My Business listing. However, there is a great deal more than marketers can tap into.
Creating a content plan should be your first port-of-call. It will act as a sturdy base for the rest of your local SEO marketing strategy.
As you continue growing an online presence with potential customers, you should consider tactics such as targeting local media publications, carrying out a link building strategy and creating local partnerships. However, without the crucial steps mentioned in this article, many marketers will only scratch the surface of search marketing.