It seems counter-intuitive. One of the best things about the Internet age is that everyone – regardless of marketing budget or company size – has the ability to reach a massive global audience. Surely that massive audience should be the goal, not your immediate geographic area. But in actuality, now is the most important time for you to optimize your website for local search, and here’s a few reasons why:

Local Search Helps You Get Ahead Of The Competition

Local searches use a separate algorithm than national SEO. You can see it in action – try Googling something like “restaurants near me,” and you’ll notice three results that appear in a separate section above the other search results. Try just searching for “restaurants,” and you’ll probably notice the same thing (especially if you’re searching with a mobile device like the majority of Americans do.) This is huge, because it means that you have an opportunity to “cut in front” of the major companies that you normally couldn’t hope to compete with (like major global restaurant chains.)

Better yet, it’s not hard to get into those top three results. Google My Business, Bing For Business, and hundreds of other online business directories will let you claim your listing for free, and only 44 percent of businesses have claimed their listing on Google. So for the low low price of nothing, you won’t just be effectively competing at the national level, you’ll also be ahead of more than half of your local competition.

Local Search Is Targeted And Timely

The biggest strength of organic search is that it builds long-term customer loyalty by connecting customers to your product at the moment they need it most. This is true for all search, but it’s especially true for local search, which is often time-sensitive. To continue with the restaurant example: if I’m searching for a local restaurant on my phone, it’s probably because I’m hungry right now, and I’m about to go and patronize whatever business looks the most immediately appealing to me. 82 percent of local searchers follow their search with an in-store visit, a phone call, or a purchase, and that’s money you can’t afford to just leave on the table.

But My Business Isn’t Local

Kiai is a software company looking to help a variety of online businesses worldwide. We have an office space in Lincoln, but it’s not somewhere that customers often visit, and we have no physical product. So there’s no reason for us to waste any time or money optimizing our site for local search, right? Wrong. We can still benefit from the advantages listed above. Besides, for reasons both related and not related to SEO, small businesses need to focus on a targeted audience, not just hoping that anyone who needs SEO (everyone) will wander onto our blog and make a purchase. Think of local search optimization as the equivalent of putting up fliers around town or buying space in local newspapers – sure, it might not be worth bothering with if you’re a business as big as Cerner, but it’s incredibly important for creating local relationships and a grassroots customer base.

The difference being, of course, that print advertisements are dying, while changes to Google’s algorithm means that local search is more important and more beneficial than ever.