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When the world experiences a pandemic like what we felt with COVID-19, change will happen. Some of it will be temporary, some permanent, but most of it, we honestly still don’t quite know.

Such is the continued state of things in the world of marketing, where many efforts were seemingly upended more than a year ago with plenty of unknowns insight.

As the world pulled into its collective shell and began to prioritize between “risky” and “essential,” many small businesses and health care clinics were forced to quickly make similar risk/reward-type decisions regarding their marketing strategies. Customers and clients were social distancing, money was tight, and marketing – at least for a while – seemed like an excellent place to make cuts.

Do more with less” became a common directive.

Fortunately, such directives often force people, businesses, and entire industries to focus more closely on value. Which efforts provide the greatest return on investment (ROI), which may be less valuable in the short term?

In the marketing world, we found our answer pretty quickly. Local online search optimization, which has long been evolving as an essential marketing effort for small businesses, promptly became the most significant priority among those with limited budgets.

And, it’s not leaving that top spot any time soon.

What Is Local Search?

Local search is what you expect it to be. Yet, the effort of optimizing your brand, so it’s found within such a search is probably much more complex than you thank.

A local search is a business, clinic, or brand’s ability to be seen in local online search results. That’s it. That’s the definition, with the word “local” being the essential part.

See, as a small business – if, say, you’re a dentist – you can’t possibly succeed in standing out through simple generic searches for keywords like “cavity,” “filling,” “whitening,” or “teeth cleaning.” The internet is much too vast. But, if you can get your brand pop up when someone adds the words “near me” to the search, that’s local-search success.

And, it leads to new business because local search optimization aligns with the way people find goods and services these days. Consider the following statistics:

  • 97% of consumers search online for local businesses.
  • 46% of all Google searches are local.
  • 70% of consumers will visit a store (or business) because of the information found online.
  • 28% of local searches result in a purchase.
  • 78% of local mobile searches result in an offline purchase.

Isn’t ‘Local Search’ the Same as SEO?

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, plays a role in local searches. Getting people to find you and your website can lead to new customers, sales and appointments.

However, people have more ways of finding you and learn about your brand than ever before, sometimes without visiting your website.

Studies show that about 50 percent of all online searches end without a click on other content. These are called “zero-click searches,” and there’s a reason – well, a few different reasons – why they happen.

The main reason: Google has gotten much more robust when it comes to local searches.

Consider how search engine results pages (SERPs) look today compared with how they looked just a few years ago. When you do a local Google search like “physical therapy near me,” you no longer just get a listing of websites. Most prominently, you get a “local pack” of specific business listings in your area, often with a map and locations, contact information, hours of operation, buttons for driving directions and websites, and perhaps even a mention of special services, such as “online care.”

On the same page, you’ll also likely get Google advertisements from local clinics, a list of websites for businesses and clinics in your area, and perhaps even a “featured snippet” at the top that answers a common question asked about the topic in your area.

In many cases, Google gives searchers the information they need to take action. So, how does a small business take advantage of this? It starts by simply using the tools Google gives you.

Optimizing for Local Searches

The critical thing every business must do to show up on local searches is to make full use of their Google My Business accounts.

Google My Business (GMB) is the tool you use to claim your brand from Google (yes, you have to prove to them that you own it), then provide them with accurate and continually updated information about your business. This information can be pretty extensive.

Through GMB, you can provide Google with nearly everything you would typically post on your website, from the business description, location, contact info, and hours of operation to services, specials, bios, and logo. You can even provide high-resolution photos and turn on/monitor customer reviews.

The more, the better when it comes to GMB. Google gives preference to active accounts that are continually evolving with edits, news information, better photos, and so on.

Other ways to stand out in local searches include:

  • Optimize Social Media Use: The more active you and your brand are online, the more attention you tend to get from Google. Also, keep in mind that local searches are performed all the time on social media platforms (i.e., Facebook) as well as be browsers.
  • Practice Good SEO: Again, SEO is simply a piece of a much larger Local Search puzzle, but it remains essential. Maintaining best practices for locally relevant keyword use will help your brand gain greater SERP exposure.
  • Be Mobile Friendly: This goes along with SEO, but it also aligns with the way people are searching today. With mobile searches outpacing desktop searches, it’s crucial that your website is mobile-friendly and gives people one-click access to call and contact you.
  • Get Positive Reviews: Google Reviews are a powerful way to stand out from your competition in local searches. So, work to generate positive reviews while also striving to correct issues that may have led to negative reviews. After all, reviewers can edit them once they’re happy again.
  • Strive for Brand Consistency: Once your brand gains online traction, it can start to show up in online directories for which you never registered. It happens, unfortunately. By taking the time to ensure all such mentions of your brand are consistent – from name and contact info to hours of operation – you will help stand out in Google’s world.

If you have questions about how best to make your business or clinic stand out in local searches, we at MindStream Creative can help. Simply give us a call, and we’ll assess your current situation and help you determine the best steps for moving forward.