Local SEO is an overwhelming topic for the average small business owner who is just trying to get more customers through the door, pay their bills, and make it through the day without too many emergencies. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Allow me to explain.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving your visibility and rank on search results pages. Local SEO does the same, only the focus is on getting visibility in the geographic area where you do business.
One tactic that’s always helped me as a business owner is to apply the 80-20 rule (Pareto Principle) to all my tasks. For example, it says that 80% of results come from 20% of actions or that 80% of sales comes from 20% of customers. It’s a law of nature that can be applied to nearly anything.
In the case of local SEO, we can ask, “What SEO effort is going to give me the biggest return?”
Statistics indicate that video is one area worthy of extra concentration when it comes to increasing online visibility.
- According to Think With Google video research on consumer shopping, more than 50% of internet users look for product videos before going to a store, and are more likely to visit and purchase if the product is mentioned in an online video.
- 80% of people switch between online search and video while researching products they intend to buy.
- Nearly two-thirds of shoppers claimed online video gave them “ideas and inspiration for their purchase.”
- Additional research on video and shopping found that more than half of shoppers watched video online while actually in the store shopping.
- Watch time for “which product to buy” videos on YouTube has doubled in one year.
- YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine, behind Google.
And according to YouTube, the trend for business video usage is only rising, with the number of small- and medium-sized businesses advertising on their platform doubling since 2016.
The video statistics go on and on, but I think you get the picture.
If you don’t want to be left behind, your local business needs to implement video to remain visible.
How to Use Video to Boost Your Local SEO
The good news is that it’s easier than ever to get started with video. And once you start, it’s easy to get great results with regular use of even the simplest of videos.
Use this table of contents for quick access when you refer back to this article. I cover seven easy steps to getting video to work for your local or ecommerce business.
6 – Use live video
If you’re not yet doing video, you might have outdated expectations about video creation that are holding you back. The following seven steps to maximizing local SEO with video will dispel those notions.
1 - Don’t be afraid of using video
I’ve heard lots of reasons why people don’t want to use video in business:
“I don’t look good/professional on camera” or “I’m really nervous in front of a camera.” It generates the same kind of fear as public speaking.
“Video requires skill that I or my staff doesn’t have.”
“Video requires too much time or too much money.”
Video is not a scary thing and you can do it without sacrificing a lot of time or money.
The most important thing about using video, if you’re not currently doing so, is to change your mindset. Commit to creating and using video.
With today’s video technology, you don’t need to appear on camera to use video. There are plenty of video maker apps that let you create screen recordings, animations, and explainer videos without ever appearing on screen.
Google’s research also found that 70% of viewers feel “empowered, motivated, or confident” after learning about something new in such videos.
Yes, at one time it required skill to create a do-it-yourself video. Today there are dozens of apps and video templates available online to help you create local business video. It’s no harder than posting to social media.
Of course, if you have the budget, you can hire an agency or video production specialist to help.
And you need not worry about looking and sounding like a professional actor in your videos. Google’s video research shows that YouTube viewers want videos that feature people who are “genuine, authentic or relatable.”
A simple smart phone video of you or your staff showing customers how to do something that helps them will be deeply appreciated. It’s precisely what your customers are searching for.
Get past the fear (it’s not real) and commit to using video.
2 - Create and optimize a YouTube channel for your business
We already mentioned that YouTube was the second largest search engine in the world. Which means if you don’t have a YouTube channel you’re missing out on a significant source of traffic.
It’s easy to start a YouTube channel. Go to youtube.com and sign in with your Google account. If you don’t have a Google account, create one.
Follow the instructions on how to create a YouTube channel with a business or other name.
Optimizing your new channel
Once you create your channel, it’s time to think strategically about the videos you want to upload.
Since we’re focusing on local SEO in this article, it’s important to think about location-based searches.
Just as you would do with your blog, website or pay-per-click ads, start with keyword research. It doesn’t have to be complicated, especially when we’re talking about local businesses.
What questions, phrases, and terms are your customers using when they do an online search for your service or product? You probably have a few ideas with which to begin.
For example, let’s say you have an auto repair shop in Sparta, NJ.
Start with Google’s Autocompletions, also called Auto-suggest. Your keyword might be your service + location. As you type it in the search bar, you’ll see suggestions pop up as shown here.
Take a few of the keywords you come up with and go to Ubersuggest. We’ll search “auto repair Sparta NJ” and we see a low volume.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing because we’re not going global on this. We’re staying hyper-local. The more focused the searcher’s intent, the more likely the viewer will click on your page if you appear in the results. (We’ll talk about how to use high-volume keywords in a minute.)
Once you enter a keyword, scroll down to Keyword ideas. Here you get additional ideas for keywords you can use in your title and description.
If the keyword volume is low, try using other geographical identifiers. This can include neighborhoods, specific streets, counties, or metropolitan areas. For example “car repair Sussex county,” “car repair northern nj,” “auto repair main st. Sparta NJ,” and so on.
As you’re doing research, keep track of all these keyword possibilities. Ubersuggest lets you download a .csv file.
You can also expand your local keywords by adding your specialties to your local keyword phrases. For example, “emergency auto repairs Sparta NJ,” “24 hour auto repair Sparta NJ,” “BMW auto repair Sparta NJ,” “imported car repair Sparta NJ,” and so on.
Of course, there will be higher search volumes in densely populated areas. As I mentioned previously, we don’t necessarily need a high search volume to be effective locally.
Optimize video titles
Always include a target keyword in your video title. For example, we could use “Licensed Auto Repair Sparta NJ” as the title of an introductory video, as long as the content is relevant to the title.
Optimize video file names
Add your target keyword to the video file name. For example, if your video is “intro-video.mp4” change it to “Licensed Auto-Repair-Sparta-NJ.mp4”. It should be done naturally, and if possible, put the prime keyword early in the title.
While YouTube allows up to 100 characters, the title will be truncated in the search snippet to around 60-70 characters.
Optimize the YouTube Video Description
The official character limit for YouTube video descriptions is 1000. Think of it as a mini blog article of about 150-200 words.
Just remember that in the search results, viewers will only see the first 2-3 lines and they’ll need to click “show more” to see the entire description. Put your most important info in those first lines, such as phone number, vital links or CTA’s.
Optimize video tags
Tags help YouTube understand what your video is all about. It’s important to use tags wisely and not overdo. Too many and you confuse the algorithm.
Brian Dean has a brilliantly simple and effective way to remember how to tag your videos—he calls it the TAB system (or MVC for YouTube views in another post.)
TAB = Target + Alternatives + Broad or... (MVC = Main Keyword + Variations + Category)
Target—add your target or main keyword, e.g. “emergency auto repair Sparta NJ.”
Alternatives—add variations of the target, e.g. “urgent auto repair Sparta NJ,” “24 hour auto repair Sparta NJ.” Use your keyword tools, if needed, to search for a few alternatives.
Broad—select one or two broad categories into which your video fits. Continuing with our example, you might use “auto repair,” “car repair.”
Tag your location
Use the “video location” feature to add a location to videos. Go to your YouTube channel, select a video, and click Edit. This takes you to the following page (screenshot) where you can input your location from the location suggestions.
For local businesses, this will drive better quality views since people will be searching your area for your product or service.
Link to your website
Add a link to your website within the video description.
Include your official Name, Address, and Phone (NAP) in the video description. Use the “official” format you use across all social media platforms and review sites. One way to do this is make it part of a call to action. For example, “Visit us at Joe’s Produce, 123 Main St, Anytown, NJ or call 973-555-1212.”
If possible, include your NAP in text at the end of the video. Algorithms can read text within videos. If you can actually say your NAP in the video, that will be included in the transcript.
Additional resources for optimizing your YouTube channel
One of the most studied sources for how to optimize videos and blogs is Brian Dean who has done lots of in-depth research to find out what works in video marketing. These two in-depth guides are worth bookmarking if you want to dive in deeper on optimizing your video channels.
3 – Create a Google My Business (GMB) page and post videos on it
One of the most popular search terms for local businesses is “[service] near me.”
Let’s go back to our “auto repair” search term. Google Autocompletion shows “auto repair near me” as the first suggestion.
Let’s look at the search volume for “auto repair near me”. It has an incredibly high search volume at 165,000 searches per month as shown in this screenshot from Ubersuggest.
If you plug in any type of retail store or local service, you’ll find “near me” is almost always the top suggestion, meaning it has the highest volume of searches.
So how do you take advantage of this locally?
When you do a “near me” search, Google is searching for businesses who have a geographic presence near the searcher. For Google to know that, you must have an online presence that indicates your geographic location.
The Google “3 Pack” or “Local Pack” typically shows up (screenshot) at the top of the search results page.
One way to boost your chances of appearing here is to create a Google My Business Page if you don’t have one already. Their tutorials will guide you through the setup and verification.
According to Google, a GMB page will help your customers find you in relevant searches. Adding photos and videos increases your GMB visibility.
When I did the “auto repair near me” search in the screenshot above, there were NO videos on the page. That means the first business to add a relevant video to their GMB page as well as their website, is likely to appear on page one for that search.
It’s easy to add video to your GMB page. Log in and click on Add Photo. Then click Video in the navigation or Add Videos just below it. Add your video. Currently GMB has a 30 second limit on videos.
4 – Publish every video on multiple platforms
You can get a lot of mileage out of one video. Here’s how to get the widest possible reach.
Step 1 – Use it on your website
The most common old-school way to use video is to upload it to YouTube (or other video hosting account) and then embed it on your website. Then you regularly share social media links to that web page and to the YouTube video. This is important, but don’t stop there.
Step 2 – Publish native video
Start to think of yourself as a publisher. Your next step is to publish this same video on all your relevant social media channels. This includes your Google Business Page, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook. In other words, wherever your ideal customers hang out.
Publishing means you’ll upload those videos directly to each channel. The video then resides permanently on each channel. This is also called “native video,” and native videos tend to get wider reach than links to videos that are on another platform.
It makes sense when you think about it. Each channel is in the business of promoting content that resides on their platform. For example, on LinkedIn it’s been my experience that native video or other native content gets 10-15 times the views than links to video content that resides outside their platform.
Be sure to use appropriate introductions and hashtags, especially those relevant to your location.
5 - Re-purpose videos for additional reach
Video is one of the best content formats for re-purposing. Videos can quickly be transformed into graphics and text content. It’s easier than re-purposing from text or graphics into video.
Since the video is local in nature, the repurposed content will help your local SEO.
You can use the video transcript in articles, especially from longer videos. YouTube even transcribes videos for you.
Just click the ellipsis (3 dots) below any video and click Open Transcript. You’ll see an auto-generated transcript in the window as shown in the screenshot below.
Auto-generated transcriptions are not perfect, but you can copy and paste it into another document and then make corrections.
For additional SEO benefit, transcripts can be used on the web page on which your video is embedded. Google doesn’t read the content of embedded videos on your site (at least not yet). Adding a transcript gives the algorithm something it can read.
You can use images or screenshots from the video as social media posts. For example, if you covered 5 points in a video, each point could be a single post to each of your channels.
6 – Use live video
YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Periscope and others have live video capability. If you have an account on their platforms and a smartphone or webcam, you can stream live videos whenever you want.
All these platforms encourage and prioritize video in general, and live streaming video in particular.
But live is scary to introverts!
Remember two things about video we already discussed:
1) You don’t have to appear in your live stream video. For example, if your business is having an event, you can stream a few minutes of it live with a bit of commentary, or an invitation to come visit the event.
2) Viewers are looking for authentic, genuine video. It doesn’t have to be polished. They would be happy to see you on camera just as they would be to see you in person.
A few tips to ensure your live stream goes well.
- Plan it. Script it. Rehearse. If you’re comfortable you can, of course, wing it. Even so, you should have a plan for the video topic and how it’s going to proceed.
- Give viewers a reason to watch until the end. This could be as simple as a coupon, a giveaway, or a solution to a problem.
- Engage. If you like, you can interact with your audience, answering questions or doing interviews. One of the reasons these platforms promote live video is because it increases engagement and time spent on their platform. Interacting via Q&A increases engagement even more. Interaction can be as simple as having a Facebook comment section. YouTube has a live chat feature.
Optimize your live streaming
One thing I’ve discovered in testing is that live streaming ranks incredibly fast (sometimes in less than an hour) on both Google and YouTube. It’s also much easier to rank for a highly competitive keyword with a live stream post than it is for any other kind of post.
You can get the immediate SEO benefit of live streaming on YouTube by simply scheduling your streaming video for a future date.
Here’s how that works.
1. Sign into YouTube > Camera+ icon upper right > Go Live (youtube.com/livestreaming/stream) If you haven’t done this, YouTube will put you through a verification process that takes a day or two.
2. Then click the Stream tab to add a New Stream.
3. In the title, try to use the target keyword and a variation. For example, “Emergency auto repair Sparta NJ – are you facing an auto repair emergency near Sparta NJ?”
4. In the description, the first three lines must contain the important CTA, link or phone number…wherever you want the viewer to go. Those are the lines that will be visible in the search snippet.
5. Include variations of main keyword in your description, as long as it sounds natural and isn’t forced. Also include your NAP.
6. Schedule your live stream for a later date.
7. Upload an attention-getting, relevant thumbnail.
8. Click Create Stream.
The stream will appear on YouTube and Google in short order. Promote the upcoming stream on social media.
On the scheduled date, follow through with your live video.
As with regular video, mention your location (NAP) at some point in the live video for better local SEO.
7 – Content ideas for your local videos
As with SEO for the written word, a consistent supply of new content will help your SEO, local or otherwise. Even if you plan to do only one or two videos a month, such consistency will put you far ahead of your competitors.
Remember, when it comes to content, it pays to think like a publisher.
If you’re wondering where to start, here’s a list of local video ideas that should help you and your team come up with an endless supply of videos.
- You can show the neighborhood in which you’re located
- Talk about the history of your business or your neighborhood
- Highlight your services and products
- Introduce new products or services
- Offer how-to tips that help your customers
- Create product demonstrations
- Discuss your specialties
- Explain technology behind your product or service
- Introduce your staff to help humanize your business
- Interview your good customers
- Create customer testimonials on video
- Do video FAQ’s to answer common questions
- If your business does events, create videos of those events, live or otherwise
- Video your company behind the scenes. People love to witness the inner workings of nearly every kind of business.
That’s enough, I’m sure, to keep you busy for a while. Remember to optimize for local as you create.
In short, it’s time to embrace video as part of your marketing strategy. Set up a YouTube channel and a Google My Business page and optimize them for your business and your location. Take advantage of native video by publishing on all your relevant social media platforms. Include live streaming in your planning. Then re-purpose your videos and use that local content for even further reach.
Sure, it's a bit of work. But the payoff—the chance for your business to dominate your local search results pages—makes it well worth the effort.