Sussex firms need local SEO to be found in their local community. But what is local SEO and why is it so important to small and medium-sized businesses that they should think about this?

Region-Specific Advertising

As the name suggests, local SEO describes the process of optimising a website such that it promotes a product or service to potential customers who live or work in Sussex. It is often the only sensible option for small and medium-sized businesses that do not operate or trade outside the region. A restaurant, for example, might only be able to deliver to customers who live within a ten-mile radius of its physical location; indeed, some restaurants do not deliver at all, so they are limited to an even smaller nucleus of potential customers.

Advertising on the internet provides companies with an opportunity to access global markets. Although a local business could derive limited benefits from advertising local services to the entire world, the reality is that local customers hold the key to success. And that means local customers must be targeted online. But how?

Keyword Selection

Local businesses should attempt to identify which keywords drive local traffic to their competitors. Are people in an area searching for "florist" (53 million results) or "florist in Brighton" (3.9 million results)? What about "florist in Brighton & Hove" (82,500)? Do local customers prefer pick-up or delivery? Are they motivated by value or quality? What stops them from turning to a nationwide firm such as Interflora? Targeting the right keywords is a critical first step that requires companies to examine every aspect of their business.

The next step is to produce high-quality content for each keyword. Finding the right balance can be difficult, but an article on growing "flowers in Brighton", for example, might include the targeted keyword two or three times. On-site content is important, but businesses also require links, which is why publishing content on other websites can be advantageous. Content must be original, informative and relevant.

Google's Local Services

Local SEO should not be confused with location targeting in Google AdWords, which is a pay-per-click (PPC) advertising platform. Many business owners initially opt for PPC advertising because results are more instant and measurable. Location targeting also ensures that ads are displayed to local people. This feature of AdWords is able to narrow display options to specific countries, counties, regions or towns. It can even focus on an area within an area (e.g., a five-mile radius of Brighton city centre). But PPC can be expensive for larger traffic volumes. Targeting local customers organically is a better long-term strategy.

Another must for local businesses is to sign up for Google's Places for Businesses service, which helps a companies visibility with local customers on Google Maps and Google Search. The free service helps users update and display information about their business and users can upload important details such as address, telephone number, website URL, products, services, and special offers.

Social Networks

There is arguably no better way in which to advertise a business than to get people talking about it (preferably in a positive light). Small and medium-sized businesses should follow in the footsteps of multinational corporations by creating profiles on Facebook, Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn. Interacting with existing and potential customers via social networks can be the cheapest and most effective way to initiate word-of-mouth local advertising.