- Google launches new features to assist local search queries
- Importance of local SEO for small and medium-sized businesses
- 5 local SEO benefits for small businesses
Google has updated and released new features for local SEO, including an array of new tools to support journalists producing locally-relevant content.
It comes in response to the increase in searches for “news near me”, which Google said has tripled in the last five years, reaching an all-time high in May 2020 – no doubt spurred by uncertainty stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.
To meet the rising demand for local news, Google introduced new local search features to help people find locally-relevant news stories and make it easier for journalists to publish content tailored to those queries.
Here are the features that Google has launched for local news search queries.
What New Features Has Google Launched For Local Search?
The new features introduced by Google will help local publishers create a macro view of current events in real-time and make it easier for users to find that content.
The new features that the tech giant launched are:
Local News Carousel
Google will display a carousel in search dedicated to local news stories, available globally and in all languages.
Top Stories Carousel
Google upgraded its systems to allow authoritative local news to appear more frequently in the Top Stories carousel, alongside national publications, allowing local publishers to strengthen their relevance and visibility.
The tech giant has refined its ability to understand broad topics and connect them with local stories. For example, “tennis” search queries may now narrow results relevant to the searcher’s local teams.
Social media can provide users with additional information about news in their local area. To help people find important information about recent events, Google launched a new feature to allow tweets from local and authoritative publishers to surface in search results if relevant to initial user queries.
Google Introduces New Data Tools For Local Reporters
Besides the new product news features, Google also launched tools to help journalists cover stories and embed this data on their websites.
The tech giant has developed two new tools: a Census Mapper Project and a Common Knowledge Project.
What is the Census Mapper Project?
The Census Mapper Project will provide reporters with the tools to dig through Census data at a national, state and county level, then embed visualisations of that data as maps on websites to help them deliver stories in a more engaging way.
The Associated Press (AP), a Census Co-op partner, pulls and processes the Census data.
What is the Common Knowledge Project?
Google has improved its Common Knowledge Project by integrating journalist feedback and launching new features such as:
- Geographic comparisons
Google hopes that the new publishing tools will help local journalists find, collect and publish data to support audience engagement levels.
If you’re already familiar with digital marketing, you’ll be well aware of the benefits of local SEO, especially for small businesses.
In this highly competitive space, it can be easy for local business owners to see little value in investing time and money into building a Google presence when competing against the likes of Amazon, JD.com, Walmart and Alibaba.
However, the status quo that is often seen for organic listings can be entirely different for local search. Google itself has recognised the importance of local businesses, hence the ongoing updates to support local SEO.
Importance of Local SEO for Small Businesses
One of the main reasons local SEO is essential for small businesses is that it offers a better return on investment (ROI). Traditional marketing can be costly, more so now that digital marketing in Birmingham, London, and all around the country has exploded following the onslaught of COVID-19.
SEO can help your brick and mortar store or eCommerce business generate a massive amount of visibility online. With this awareness, you can encourage users that find you in search to visit your website and become loyal customers.
While it may be a challenge to appear on the first page of search engine result pages (SERPs) for general searches, if users are searching for queries “near me”, you don’t have to worry too much about competing against large corporations.
Google has a specific set of criteria for local ranking factors that are used to determine whether your company is geographically relevant to “near me” searches, allowing small and medium-sized businesses to stay competitive against larger firms.
According to recent research conducted by Access, more than 92% of consumers travelled to stores no further than 20 minutes away to purchase products – reason enough to optimise for local search.
Here are some more local SEO statistics to show you the importance of optimising your business for local search:
- At least 29% of internet users conduct local searches weekly
- 97% of all online searches queries are about finding local businesses
- 88% of people searching for a local business will call or visit the company within 24 hours
- Nearly 50% of all Google searches include local intent
Local SEO gives small businesses the chance to compete with larger firms by capturing a local audience. When local SEO is done correctly, it offers even greater potential to drive business to your stores and generate high conversion rates.
5 Benefits of Local SEO for Small Businesses
Local SEO has fast become one of the most qualified methods for local businesses to drive online growth. Here’s an overview of five local SEO benefits for small businesses.
#1 Attract Wider Audience at Little Cost
Users conducting local searches tend to have a high purchase intent.
You could take advantage of that by optimising your website for local SEO, which will help your store attract an audience actively searching for your type of business. With almost a third of all local searches resulting in a purchase, investing in local SEO increases your chances of converting users that visit your website into customers of your business.
While optimising for local SEO can be time-consuming, it’s inexpensive and, when done well, can push your web pages to the top of search for relevant local search queries, putting your business in front of audiences that want to buy.
Unless you’re an authoritative brand, traditional marketing often results in a declining return on investment. However, a concerted local SEO campaign could lead to a massive increase in ROI by allowing your business to make the most of available resources and time.
#2 Boost Your Stores Online Visibility
While the main goal is to convert customers and maximise profits, without making people aware of your business’s existence, you won’t achieve either.
When done correctly, SEO can significantly increase your website’s traffic and boost your online presence by increasing your site’s visibility in SERPs. You might even unseat competitors from large corporations from the top positions in search results – that’s the power of SEO.
The first step towards gaining visibility is understanding user intent. What does your customer need? Is it a transactional, informational or navigational search? Come up with some example queries relevant to your business, which will give you a deeper insight into what your audience is searching for.
#3 Achieve Multichannel Success
Integrating local SEO into your overall marketing strategy can help you access avenues beyond Google and achieve multichannel success.
Achieving omnichannel success will allow you to seamlessly integrate the shopping experience across multiple platforms, which has become extremely important now that customers are finding businesses from all over: organic search, social media, and in-store.
Small businesses competing with large corporations in organic search could turn to other platforms and utilise local SEO to create more potential for revenue opportunities.
Social media and websites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, Apple Maps and the Yellowpages are becoming increasingly-sophisticated local marketing platforms for businesses.
While they are not as large as Google, people still use them to search for local businesses. Furthermore, blending all your avenues will strengthen your omnichannel experience and improve the customer shopping experience.
#4 Build Brand Trust & Authority
If you’re optimising for local SEO, search engines are more likely to show your brand in SERPs for relevant searches, which will help establish your business as trustworthy and authoritative.
To help people view your brand as a trustworthy source in your industry, we recommend generating as many online reviews as possible. According to recent statistics published by Qualtrics, 93% of customers read online reviews before purchasing.
Given that online reviews are a Google local SEO ranking factor, collating a significant number of reviews with a good score will be fundamental for your business. When a company is receiving glowing reviews, Google interprets that as a sign of a good buying experience, which the tech giant rewards by serving the business higher in SERPs.
Furthermore, people will be more inclined to choose your small business over a competitor if you have good reviews.
#5 Grow a Local Following
Social media can be a powerful tool for growing your business while keeping you aware of news, trends and events in your local area.
You can use social media platforms to engage with local audiences and grow your following, which can be invaluable for your business. Customers value brands that engage with them and respond to their comments and questions, as it ultimately builds an emotional connection between the customers and the company.
Businesses can also incentivise their customers to connect with them on social media and build strong relationships. Remember, the larger your following, the more reputable your business appears to new potential customers.