SEO — search engine optimization — can already be a murky area for business owners, who don’t fully grasp what it is and the importance of what it does.

Now add to the mix LOCAL SEO, and already confusing terms might be even more so.

So what is local SEO? How does it differ from just SEO? And why should you care about it?

Why is there so much mystery surrounding SEO?

Here at LaCroix Creative, we’ve always been disappointed by the tendency to keep SEO and what it does a secret to business owners. To us, it comes off as fear — manifested as a scarcity mindset — on the part of SEO providers.

Why all the mystery? We believe that by being somewhat mysterious, SEO providers create more perceived need for their knowledge and expertise. If business owners understood SEO better, some of the curtain would be pulled back on these providers, and, perhaps, their services might not appear to be quite so “magical.” Hence, you’ll see the use of a lot of “jargon,” in particular, acronyms — SEO, SERP, PPC, and GYM, just to name a few. We’ll explain a few of these in just a moment.

Personally, we find the fear unfounded. In order for business owners to deeply desire any service, they first need to fully understand and appreciate what the service could mean in terms of the success of their businesses. Once SEO is understood, we believe it’s all-the-more desirable. (Read more about this in our article on demystifying SEO by clicking HERE.)

SEO, once explained, really isn’t difficult to understand. However, understanding it doesn’t necessarily make it easy to achieve.

For that reason, CEOs aren’t going to be wasting their time working on SEO. They’re still going to leave that task to us experts.

So to understand both SEO and local SEO, you first need to understand what SEO itself is.

What is SEO?

SEO — “search engine optimization” — is the act of making a website as easy to find as possible by a user of a search engine (such as Google, Yahoo, or Bing).

Good SEO improves your website’s “rank” — that is to say, where your website shows up on a search engine results page — or SERP for short.

This is achieved in a variety of ways including (just to name a few): attractive, friendly, easy-to-use visual design; proper use of heads and their head designations (H1, H2, etc.); and the use of well-researched keywords (the words people most likely will use to find your website) in written content.

Why is this so important? Well, you want your future customers and clients to be able to find you online. You want to be able to get your message to that audience. But to do so, you need to drive traffic to your website, where your message resides. Once you get them there, your content can do the rest of the work of converting these leads into sales.

But ah! Getting them there… That’s where SEO comes in.

A website that has made little to no attempt at proper SEO is like a needle in a haystack. The internet is a sea full of competing websites. Unlike a finite location, like a mall or a town’s main street, that has limit on how many stores can exist (and in particular, stores offering your specific goods and services), the Internet’s choices for products and services like yours are endless and limitless.

And yet, in the 21st century world, and even more so now that we’re dealing with a pandemic, your customer or client is most likely hanging out online, as opposed to walking down a commercial avenue or strolling through a mall.

How do you stand out? The answer is SEO.

SEO vs. local SEO — location, location, location

So what’s local SEO, then?

Borrowing on a phrase that’s so often used in real estate, local SEO is all about location. Local SEO takes what traditional SEO does, but does it much more geographically. It takes into account where your business is located in the world and the areas your business serves, and looks specifically toward driving LOCAL AREA customers and clients to your business through your contact information (which includes your website, but it’s not necessarily only your website).

This is usually done in two ways: 1) the use of directory sites and 2) the use of review sites. These two online entities can help users who are in close proximity to your business learn more about you, quickly and easily — without ever necessarily going to your website (although the information provided can take them there as well).

Should your business focus on local SEO over traditional SEO?

So which SEO is right for your business? It’s important first to note that all business websites need traditional, organic (that is, not paid for) SEO. That’s where you need to begin.

You don’t want your business to be buried by your online competition. You have to help your audience get to your message, and to do that properly, all business websites need traditional, organic SEO to turn your audience into visitors and users of your website.

But do all businesses need local SEO? We’d argue yes. For a great example, take our own agency, LaCroix Creative. We are a “virtual” agency that operates on a national scale within the USA. We can, and do, serve businesses across the country — from the east coast to the west coast, and everything in between. For us, traditional SEO is extremely important.

However, by the same token, we don’t want to ignore the tremendous power in connecting with our fellow local businesses, who need our help just as much as businesses that reside out of state. So we pay attention to local SEO as well.

But if you are a brick-and-mortar business with foot traffic… or if you run a business that has definite areas that you serve… Local SEO can’t be an afterthought for your business. It’s a MUST.

The value of a Google My Business listing and reviews for local SEO

When thinking about local SEO, think first and foremost about creating a Google My Business listing (often called GMB for short). A GMB account is like getting a pay-per-click ad for FREE. With the right keywords and optimization, your free GMB account can effectively compete against paid-for Google ads — and WIN. 

You’ve seen it at work, if you’ve ever used Google to search for anything. Try it now. Type in what you think are keywords for your own business. What would you type if you were looking for the products or services your business offers? See what comes up.

Most likely, you’ll see a box with at least three listings. If you have a GMB account, you very well might be one of those listings. If you don’t, you won’t. This box is commonly called the GMB “3 pack.” As you can see, it’s prominent. It pulls your attention AWAY from pay-per-click ads at the top of the search page results.

Furthermore, you’ll see the added benefit of review ratings. Star ratings and their related reviews are HUGE as deciding and motivating factors for your potential customers. If you play your cards right (and we can help you do just that), you can make your business appear as the clear, obvious local choice for your products or services, based SOLELY on your reviews.

But for that to happen, reviews can’t be ignored. They have to be properly managed and continuously requested, so that they are timely, relevant, and always revealing of your high quality. (If you’d like to learn more about how we make that happen, CLICK HERE to schedule a time to learn more!)

Are online ads necessary for good local SEO?

The answer to this is another question — how badly do you want customers? Ads are always going to support doing that in a bigger way.

Without a doubt, job one is organic SEO. A tremendous amount of SEO can be successfully achieved without paying a cent for ads, as mentioned above.

But as your business scales and grows, you’ll want to at least consider running ads. We’re fans of both social media ads and internet search engine ads, but for different reasons according to your specific objectives. 

For good local SEO, the first place to spend your money might be a directory provider. A number of companies (including our own) can give you access to platforms that will place your business on a great number of directories that are designed specifically to pull in local customer traffic and improve your online presence.

It’s important to note, however, that many of these directory providers won’t necessarily manage your listings. That’s where LaCroix Creative is different, as we will manage your listings. We are into providing SERVICE, not just SOFTWARE — and we often provide the service with the software for the same price that other companies are charging for the software alone.

Once you’ve fully optimized your GMB and your presence on local directories, ads would be the next considerations. We feel that Facebook and Instagram is best served as avenues of exposure, rather than lead generation.

It’s not that you can’t generate leads from social media. You certainly can. But the bigger question is, can you generate quality leads when you are going after people, rather than the other way around? 

For lead generation, we feel most companies are better served by PPC and “Local Services” ads from Google — where people are genuinely searching for businesses that give what you’re offering.

No — online ads aren’t necessary for good local nor traditional SEO, but they still maintain an important rung on the ladder of your business’ success online. Organic results will only take you so far. At some point, to continue to expand your business, you’ll want to consider paying for ads.

Discover solutions to your own SEO needs today!

BOTH SEO and local SEO are important… and they are just a part of creating a strong, meaningful online presence for your business. LaCroix Creative offers a FREE consultation, where we break down all of your marketing needs, including your SEO, and devise a market strategy specifically designed to help your business. Click HERE to schedule your appointment with us today!