How to do Effective Local SEO on a Budget

Yext directories

Over time, SEO has become tougher and more rigorous, but should that necessarily mean more expensive? Not all companies that need SEO services are Internet-based or IT-related. In fact, the majority are small, local businesses that serve a specific geographic area. These folks need local SEO rather than traditional, national SEO.

Local businesses and individuals — dentists, plumbers, apparel stores, electronic shops —don’t really have a pressing need to rank highly on global searches to attract clients from the other side of the planet, or even out of their own state. They only need to come out on top when someone looks up “dentists in Seattle” or “plumbers in Madison.” That’s where local SEO comes in.

local results


“dentists seattle wa” returns a 7-pack of location-based websites

Much has been written about local SEO and its importance in an increasingly Google search-driven market. Unfortunately, not many people realize that local SEO can actually be performed at very little cost; and the little expenditure invested in local SEO can turn major ROI.

Local SEO should be less expensive than the usual grind of SEO packages that companies often sell. Here’s why:

1. Less Competition

With a global/national SEO package, you’re obviously competing with thousands of other websites (if not more) that are burning through huge budgets to achieve top rankings. When it comes to local SEO, the competition is instantly reduced to a handful of organizations and websites. This is because the keywords you target become “location-specific,” which is a great advantage (thanks in part to Google’s intelligence).

Instead of competing with websites across the country or globe, you are now pitted against just a handful of local businesses. Chances are good that not many of them have had professional SEO help, leaving the door wide open for you to take over the search results.

2. Easy Keyword Targeting

With local SEO, the focus is on longtail keywords and geo-specific keywords. Instead of trying to rank for the keywords “dentists,” with local SEO you’d be targeting “dentists in Seattle,” which changes the whole equation of competition and keyword targeting. With longtail and geo-specific keywords targeted, keyword competition is vastly reduced, making it easier to compete and achieve top rankings.

3. Better Conversions

Microsoft’s report in 2010 stated that smartphone users are more likely to convert quickly. This year, Nielsen reported that about 64% of smartphone restaurant searches converted within an hour. The essential point here is that all of those were local searches for local listings. Local businesses get better conversion rates through local search results. This applies not just to the smartphone ecosystem but to every other device people use to search Google for local business listings.

One important thing to note is that conversions have been shown to sharply drop off when pages load slowly; mobile users have little patience for waiting for websites to load. CDN (content delivery network) hosting provides the best solution for eliminating slow-loading pages and optimizing conversion rates.

4. Lesser Optimization

Unlike traditional SEO, local SEO is more about what is popularly called “citations” — non-link mentions of your brand name, address, and phone number, examples of which include getting listed on directories and obtaining good reviews. Throwing in a few traditional SEO techniques like a blog and an array of quality links from established local websites certainly helps, but these are icing on the cake. Most optimization — on-page and off-page — is easier with local SEO in comparison to traditional SEO.

5. Ready-Made Solutions

This is where it gets even better. As with traditional SEO services, wherein the specialist can find a variety of tools and resources to manage the process effectively, there are services like Whitespark’s Citation Finder, Yext (which automates and manages citations across a plethora of directories), and plenty of other tools to assist local SEO efforts.

Yext directories

Since most local SEO companies use these popular, successful, and time-tested services, the time investment needed to achieve results is substantially less than with traditional SEO.

6. Faster Results

Results in SEO cannot be guaranteed, but many observers agree that local SEO efforts get faster results. Interestingly, not many websites (and their businesses) understand the advantage of getting faster results for their SEO efforts: this effectively means less expenditure, because time is money.

Most conventional SEO companies continue the optimization processes until they have credible results to show their clients. Eventually, they bill the client for much more than it should have taken to achieve those results. To a large extent, this can be avoided with local SEO.

7. ROI and Ongoing Processes

Unlike traditional SEO, local SEO has a very high ROI. This is because most local businesses are physical service providers, and people looking for the services in a particular city are more likely to turn into customers faster. With less competition (in most cases), better chances of listing on Google and other search engines, and an optimized website, local businesses can easily leverage the “trust” factor.

Local SEO is not bereft of post-optimization opportunities. One needs to keep a constant eye on the rankings, optimize, and repeat certain processes, but these are typically less intensive and quantitative than required with traditional SEO.

Free or Affordable Resources for Local SEO

1. Google Adwords Keyword Tool

There may be better, more feature-rich keyword tools, but for all practical purposes, Google’s own Keyword Tool answers most fundamental keyword research needs. The tool is versatile and especially great if you’re looking for location-based competition and search volume data.

2. List of Directories & Websites

There are hundreds of directories where you can get “citations,” which is an important factor in ranking for location-specific keywords. Late last year, Myles compiled a large list of citation sources for US & UK businesses. Most of it still holds good.

Remember the local SEO trinity: Google Places, Bing Local, and Yahoo! Local. Get your website and business listed with complete details on each of these. Then add the citation sources to your recipe and you’re mostly set.

3. On Citations & Reviews

Google’s evaluation of citations has been the mainstay for getting higher rankings. However, reviews play an important role too. Websites like Yelp are popular based on the reviewing criteria. Many of the results for location-specific keywords come from Yelp local business listings that have substantial reviews.

 yelp results “dentist seattle” – Take a look at the first result. It’s from Yelp.

Google is very smart. It not only reads citations but also knows how to read the review counts. The more reviews, the better your chance of showing up on top.

Getting reviews isn’t difficult if you take time to ask your past and present customers, friends, and even family to review your business listing (on as many websites as possible). But of course, you don’t want to over-do this.

4. On-page Optimization

Almost everyone says this: If your business has a physical address, put it on every page of your website (preferably in the footer). Make the address you use consistent across all websites and directories that you list on. Phone numbers are also vital. is perfect for ensuring consistency across all directories.

5. Social Media

Adding in a healthy dose of social media engagement is one of the best things you can do for your local SEO efforts. Social media is increasingly turning into a strong contender for both SEO as well as marketing, so including this in your local SEO recipe is a great idea.

If your business largely relies on local customers, local SEO is your ticket to higher website traffic and visibility in Google. Cost shouldn’t be an impediment to optimizing your efforts to get higher rankings on Google — which could be your primary source of new customers and more business.