By Adrienne Erin

Reaching your local community isn’t as easy as it once was. The Internet has changed how people search and what they have access to; reaching your local community now means competing on a national level. The days of a simple local advertisement are gone; local SEO is here to stay.

The Statistics

Unsure of what it means or why local SEO is so important? The statistics below provide an in-depth look at why the practice matters for small businesses and why it’s more than just optimizing for Google.

  • 50 percent of local searches occur on directories and apps, rather than on search engines.
  • 88 percent of consumers who search for a specific kind of local business call or visit that business within 24 hours of the search.
  • 80 percent of traffic to any given website starts with an online search.
  • 2.6 billion searches for local businesses are performed every month – that is expected to grow by over 50% on a yearly basis.
  • 43 percent of all searches performed online use a local keyword – city or place name, or other applicable keyword. 86% of those lead to a phone call or actual visit.
  • 61 percent of individuals who search online believe local search results are more relevant than standard results.

Put simply: local search results are increasing on a regular basis, are becoming the standard for individuals looking for specific businesses to work with and are more targeted than ever before.

How to Reach Your Local Community

The importance of local SEO cannot be understated. With that in mind, how do you take advantage of the trend? How can you maximize your local SEO efforts today to make an impact in your community?

Local Profiles

As demonstrated in the statistics above, local profiles and directories are just as important as optimizing for search-based SEO. To enhance your efforts in this area:

  • Start with Google+. Create, verify and optimize listings for all of your locations if you have more than one. Link to your other reviews and provide a business overview. My local YMCA is a good example.
  • Look at other local directories like Yelp. Be sure your listings include accurate information and make it easy for potential customers to contact and locate your business.
  • Use social media profiles to your advantage. Create profiles and brand pages and start to build your following.

Focus on Reviews

One of the most critical aspects of a successful local SEO campaign is gathering reviews. Let your customers know you’ve created directory listings through email marketing and in-person conversations. Ask them to leave reviews. Reviews give your business credibility and should not be overlooked.

Work on Your Site

To enhance your efforts further, work on your actual website.

NAP html signals – name, address and phone number information embedded in your site’s code – help search engine crawlers find your site and boost rankings. Location pages – optimized for each individual location – also give your site an SEO advantage. Additionally, creating locally relevant content that includes local keywords and information helps in this area.

Local SEO matters. The best part is it doesn’t have to be a massive effort to increase your appeal in this area. Start with the methods listed above to get ahead today.

Adrienne Erin is a social media marketing writer who loves picking apart campaigns to see what makes them tick. To see more of her work, follow @adrienneerin on Twitter or visit her blog.