How Valuable Is SEO for Local Businesses?

Post image for How Valuable Is SEO for Local Businesses?

by on November 27, 2011

To attract your ideal customers, you must be highly visible, and one of the best online strategies is search engine optimization (SEO) for local businesses. Getting started with SEO does not need to seem like parachuting into a canyon; blind faith is not a requirement. This post will help you discover how often people use Internet searches to find local businesses, and what value it brings when a company ranks on the first page for relevant searches.

Shifting Local Markets

Internet searchers are often prospects looking to buy what local businesses sell, or are researching before buying. Think about the many ways that prospects describe what you offer, or its benefits. It is likely that someone is typing such words into a search box – right now.

These online queries are expanding. Internet search is replacing, and has almost made obsolete, ads in printed telephone books. The yellow section in your phone book keeps shrinking every year. Some people do not even have, or use, them any longer.

Another expanding market is smart phone users; they carry a sophisticated look-up tool in their pocket or purse, quickly finding phone numbers, addresses, driving directions and even coupons while walking, traveling, shopping, dining and making buying decisions while using mobile search.

How Visibility Brings Clicks

Its obvious that many local businesses like being seen in web and mobile search results; it is not so obvious, however, how much value arises from being in the top position compared to other, lower ranked listings.

Traffic by Google Ranking based on AOL data

This Traffic by Google Ranking pie chart offers insight into people’s search behavior. Searchers click about 42% of the time (blue slice) on the first listing in a search result. This means that the searcher clicks their mouse – for mobile, it’s a tap – on a search listing to see its associated website page or local business listing, hoping to move closer to their goal.

The second ranked listing (red slice) receives about 12% of the mouse clicks for the same query; subsequent listings receive fewer clicks, with even fewer clicks occurring on the second page (lightest blue slice), merely 10% of clicks – not a location that business owners value.

Clicks Bring Customers Using Local SEO

Let’s look at a concrete example, showing how search rankings impact clicks and attract customers. If you have a dental practice in Greeley, Colorado, you probably want to appear whenever someone searches for Greeley dentist, Dentists Greeley, CO, or other dental services like teeth whitening or dentures. We will analyze the first two searches, since they are very common.

Using Google’s keyword tool, the number of monthly searches for these two keywords can be found. Next, we determine a range of monthly clicks that a Greeley dentist might earn using ranking percentages from the traffic pie. Below, the number of clicks are calculated for the best positions that a dental practice might attain in Google’s search results:

Keyword: (Searches/mo) 1st Rank (clicks/mo) 2nd Rank (clicks/mo) 3rd Rank (clicks/mo)
Greeley dentist:          880     371 =42% x 880     105 =11.9% x 880      75 =8.5% x 880
dentists Greeley CO:  320     135 =42% x 320      38 =11.9% x 320      27 =8.5% x 320

You can see how the number of clicks vary significantly for ‘Greeley Dentist’, from a high of 371 clicks to 75 clicks per month, depending whether the dentist’s listing reaches first, second or third ranking for each keyword.

Over 12 months, assuming 1% of the people who click become new patients (#clicks x 12 mos. x 1%)*; this dental practice has the opportunity to earn many new paying customers, if optimized well for the two keywords. Again, the number of clicks, therefore, new patients/customers will vary based on actual rankings:

New Customers/Year

Keyword: 1st Rank 2nd Rank 3rd Rank
Greeley dentist             44             13              9
dentists Greeley CO             16              5              3

(*Conversion rates vary broadly by market niche and company. This conversion calculation was simplified, since this is an introductory discussion, however, a 1% rate is within reason.)

Growing Local SEO Results

The clicks gained by local SEO strategies can actually be greater, since there may be a dozen to thirty or more keywords germane to a local business. In addition, this example underestimates the number of searches and clicks because it does not include results for Bing, Yahoo and other search engines (Google currently represents about two-thirds of all searches).

A local business may also attract more searchers if it is located in a larger city or sells many sought after products and/or services, since each impacts the number of keywords used by prospects – specifying a nearby city, subsection of a city or zip code, or ways of describing what you sell.

Of course, rankings and results will depend upon your goals, budget and competition, and the Internet marketing strategies applied. It is still possible to start ranking well using SEO for local businesses, since the sophistication of local Internet marketing is still low in most cities – your small business, with consistent effort, can still rise above local SEO competitors.

If you have a question about SEO for local businesses, please contact us or leave a comment below. If you mention this local SEO post, we will provide a free web and mobile assessment for qualified companies.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: