What is local SEO?
Local SEO means tailoring your website and business to achieve a higher ranking in your local search results. It is a lot of words to describe one simple thing: visibility! In short, Local SEO increases the visibility and credibility of your business. And in our day and age, it doesn't matter if you have been around for 50 years or five minutes. If you are not online, you can’t be found easily.
How does it work?
Google along with the other search engines, use specific parameters or signals when ranking websites. When you search for something online, they will tailor the results based on signals, patterns, and their specific algorithms. Making your website is SEO friendly means understanding those systems and tailoring your content. It doesn’t matter if you have the best local business as long as people don’t know about it.
Here are the top 11 ways you can make your Local SEO successful:
1. Create or claim your Google My Business listing
Now I don’t plan to beat a dead horse here, but creating or claiming your Google My Business (GMB) profile/listing is critical. I have written several blogs (here, here, and here) about it, if you want to learn more.
If you simply need help claiming it, reach out to me. I will be glad to help free of charge as it is so critical to helping small businesses!
2. Prioritize and get reviews regularly
If your business has been around a while, you know how important word of mouth, referrals, and recommendations are. I often equate online reviews in the same category. Online reviews help validate that you know what you are doing and do what you say you will do. According to a report by BrightLocal, 85% of customers believe online reviews as much as personal recommendations. I myself have taken the recommendations of friends over reviews, but I have also looked at reviews and went with those over the recommendation of a friend.
How do reviews help you rank higher in the search engines? When Google is trying to figure out the best results for the searcher, often called searcher intent, they look at several factors, with the number of reviews being part of it.
Depending on your industry, there are numerous review sites out there. I will not attempt to name them for fear of leaving one out. However, the top two are Google and Facebook. Utilizing a service, such as BirdEye will help you with your online review management. While there are other services, any one of them worth their salt will help you acquire, monitor, and automate reviews, which in turn makes your life easier.
Here are three quick tips to encourage customers to leave reviews:
- While you are still in person, and after the sale is closed, try to ask for them to leave you a review
- If you can’t catch them in person, try sending them an email or a text message requesting the review.
- If you get a review, you have about 24 hours to respond. Responding shows, you care about their opinion and gives you another chance to engage with them. If the review happens to be negative, then you have an opportunity to turn the negative into a positive.
If you want to learn more about reviews and how to respond to them, check out this article by Adam.
3. Mobile dominates: Make sure you optimize for it
While this falls more under “Technical SEO” rather than Local SEO, it bears repeating. You will want to make sure your website is mobile-friendly or responsive. For years now, Google has favored responsive websites. Often, search engines are used more on mobile phones than on desktops, laptops, or tablets.
Here are five tips to ensure your site is up to par:
- Your website needs to load fast, ideally in three seconds.
- Bigger is better when it comes to your font choice because it makes things easier to read on a small screen.
- Be cautious and considerate of the number of images and text you use. Images take time to download, and the bigger and more you have, the longer the page takes to load. With your text, you want to make it skimmable. Use headings and bulleted lists to help the mobile reader.
- Make sure your user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) are good. Keep with conventional standards, like a hamburger menu for the navigational menu.
- Also, make sure that links and buttons are large so that they can be easily clicked with a thumb.
4. Focus on local keyword phrases
In your text, you want to try to answer people’s questions. Frequently as searchers, we will enter an entire question into the Google Search field, or we may ask one of the numerous smart speakers or digital voice assistants to look up our query. If you have content on your site that incorporates these questions or have components of the questions, often referred to as long-tail keywords, it will help you rank for those searches.
Often when it comes to voice searches, we are searching for something very specific, such as hours or directions to your location. Be sure to have it clearly listed on your website, so we don’t have to find it somewhere you don’t control.
5. Add your business to local directories, AKA ‘offsite SEO’
Ah, the online directories. They are both a blessing and a curse for Local SEO. While they can help you get the coveted backlinks, they often will appear above your listing in an organic search. To ensure that you have every chance, you want to make sure you have an accurate listing there as well. To help you out, HubSpot has compiled a list of 57 online local business directories! On the list you will find a variety, many are free, some want to charge you a fee or have a link to their site on your website, or some may not be working at all.
Getting listed in these directories will help you with your Local SEO efforts. Here are the three main things you need to include:
- Name, Address, and Phone (NAP) is accurate and consistent across all directories.
- A link back to your website.
- Pro-tip append:
- This will allow you to track the clicks in your Google Analytics account.
- A word of caution some of these may not let you list the utm code, if not then a clean link is best.
- Pro-tip append:
- Ensure you have a thorough description of your business
Now several services will help you automate it:
Before I leave this topic, I want to emphasize that your website is one of the many places that the search engines and mapping software go to look for your NAP. Ensuring that you have it listed correctly across the web is a must, and the above services will help ensure that happens.
The best way to explain what a backlink is if you were to think of it as a citation in a research paper. Google wants to see that you are linking to authoritative and factual sources and that others link to you as well in each piece of content. Google uses these backlinks as part of its search engine ranking signal, and high-quality backlinks can help increase a site’s ranking position and visibility.
Here are three tips to help you with backlinks:
- Create your own quality content that answers questions
- Create list posts, “how-to” posts, “why” posts, infographics, or posts with embedded videos. These formats usually get more backlinks than standard posts.
- Write guest posts on other blogs and websites, essential earning backlinks with other web pages.
7. Dedicated Service Pages
If you are small or niched down, it may seem easier to lump all your services all on one page of your site. I would recommend you not. I often tell prospective clients and clients alike, Google is always hungry for content, and the more content and more pages you can give it, the better off you are. However, there is a balance of having enough content on the pages. Ideally, you want to shoot for about 600 words to a page minimum. Besides, you want to get the most bang for your Local SEO buck. If it's all on one page Google and the other search engines typically will not see your brand as the authority you are for a specific area. Ultimately it will lower your ranking possibility!
8. Geo Landing Pages
I have found that for our clients whom travel to their clientele, such as our service and trade clients, having the geo landing pages helps Google understand what they do and where they do it. Much like your dedicated service page, you want to focus on a single service you offer and where you offer it. Including information about the area and surrounding areas, if possible, helps. Anything you can do to help Google understand more, the better off you are.
9. Optimize your homepage
The homepage or front page of your site needs to clearly state three of the five w’s:
- Who you are
- Where you are, if you have a brick and mortar, be sure to list the address. If you are more service-based, list the areas you serve
- What you do
The bottom line is you want to make it easy for the search engines and the would-be visitors to understand your business.
10. Technical SEO
While I briefly mentioned technical SEO at the beginning of this post, it deserves more attention. Technical SEO tends to happen more at the inception of the site, but some basic maintenance is required. You will want to ensure that your website page’s title tags, header tags, and meta descriptions are clear and concise.
There is debate on whether or not page titles and meta descriptions are ranking factors, which I will not get into. What I will say is that regardless if they are ranking factors or not, they do show up as part of the search results or SERPs. This is what the searcher skims to determine if your page has the answer they are looking for.
Here are a couple of tips for maximizing your efforts:
- Include the name of the city and the product or service you offer
- Try to summarize your page in 160 characters or less for the meta description.
11. No need to maintain social distancing on the web; why you need to have a social presence
If you don't have a Facebook business page, you should! Having even the smallest presence on the socials with information about your location and website is a bonus when trying to rank locally. While you don’t need to do much with your social media pages, it, however, it is best to have some sort of social media strategy.
Local Small Businesses Need Local SEO More Than Ever
Google and the other search engines are constantly making changes to help improve both the experience and the search results for their users. The best way to stay on top of Local SEO is to implement the eleven tips I have provided. The other bonus tip, if you will, is to just keep putting out content that answers searcher questions. No matter what changes come in the next few weeks or next few years, you can bet that you will be rewarded in the long run as long as you are trying to answer people's questions and stick to the basics.
If you are a small business who either doesn’t understand, doesn’t want to understand, wants to understand, or simply doesn’t have the time to implement any of these tips, you may want to consider contacting us to help you.