Own Your Own Backyard

Welcome back to another episode of Local Search Tuesdays. This week, I’m coming to you from my backyard because I’m going to be talking to you about Local SEO and when you should try to expand your reach. Now you’re probably wondering, what does this have to do with my backyard?

It’s going to make perfect sense–trust me. But I need to provide a little bit of backstory first…

I speak at conferences all over the world and I’ve recorded a lot of video courses for SEMrush. Pause real quick and get the URL if you want to check them out. So I tend to get a lot of questions from marketers and business owners from all over. One of the questions I hear most often is some variation of this:

I’m about 25 miles outside of [insert city name here] and I want to show up for searches in that city.”

Obviously, you’re doing digital marketing, and Local SEO specifically, because you want to attract more customers and grow your business. You want to get as many people exposed to you as possible. It’s an awesome plan, but there’s only one problem.

Almost every time I get this question, it turns out that the business that wants to show up in the expanded nearby area doesn’t even show up in its own city. So here’s what I always tell people in these cases: You’ve got to own your own back yard before you try to show up in other cities.

If you’re not even showing up in your own city, that means you don’t have good Local SEO. Obviously, your city is a smaller market and audience than the bigger city half an hour away. That’s the whole reason you want to show up in searches there. But if your city is smaller, with less competition, and your business isn’t optimized enough to dominate the local results, how do you expect to show up in searches in the more competitive market?

Location and proximity are massive factors in local search rankings. That’s why it’s so much easier to show up in your own city. When you try showing up in the bigger nearby city, you’ve got to realize that Google shows massive preference to businesses that are actually located there. You’re 25 miles away, and Google knows it. 

You’ve got to have awesome SEO to outpace the businesses that are actually located in that city. If your own local competitors are beating you in search results for your own smaller city, you’ve got no hope of beating the bigger fish in the bigger pond.

So before worrying about expanding your visibility, get your own backyard in order. When you start to dominate the local search results, you’ll know you’ve got a better digital footprint, and that you’re ready to start expanding your potential reach.

When you’re ready, you’re going to have to put in a lot of work. You can’t just add a crappy city landing page. You’re going to need awesome, relevant, localized content about the target city, links from websites and businesses in that city, and reviews from customers in that city.

At a basic level, you’ve got to prove to Google that you’re not only awesome in your own town, but that you’re a truly relevant result for the nearby city – and in fact, a better result than competitors who are actually located there.

So, now you know why owning your own backyard is an important cornerstone of Local SEO.

Greg Gifford is the Vice President of Search at SearchLab, a boutique marketing agency that provides Local SEO and PPC to SMBs all over the US and Canada. He's got over 17 years of online marketing and web design experience, and he’s one of the most in-demand conference speakers at digital marketing conferences all over the world. He graduated from Southern Methodist University with a BA in Cinema and Communications, and has an obscure movie quote for just about any situation.