No matter what else you are or are not doing to promote your business online, local SEO is something that you absolutely must invest time and money into and that is as close to a 'no brainer' as you can get. Local SEO is an incredibly powerful tool and is only going to get more important moving forward. Not only that, but local SEO is also beneficial for larger ‘non local’ businesses – a fact that many people miss starting out.
So, what is local SEO?
Essentially, local SEO is SEO designed to target a local area, rather than being global. The most obvious way to do this is by targeting local keywords. You may take your usual keywords, such as ‘cheap haircuts’ but then suffix your local area ‘cheap haircuts Smallville’. The idea of this is that you can then avoid competing directly with the larger haircut chains and at the same time, target your business more specifically. This is a key digital marketing strategy for any business.
Benefits of Local SEO
Tons of Targeted Traffic
If you have a local business, then local SEO is the best way to get highly targeted traffic to it.
For instance, if you are selling something like
- wedding dresses,
- or if you run a restaurant,
then all of your customers will need to be local in order to do business with you. That means they're going to be searching specifically for services and products in their area. If you aren't targeting those local keywords, then you'll be missing out on the people who are literally looking for your service right now and you'll be bringing traffic in instead who can't actually use the services you're offering.
If you have a company that sells hats, then you can try and rank for the search term 'buy hats online'. Unfortunately though, you'll literally be going up against every other hat company in the world and your chances of success are close to zero as a result.
Instead, try to rank for 'buy hats in [LOCAL AREA]' and you'll only be competing with a few local businesses. Before you've even done any SEO, you could well be on page one of Google because there will be so few other options. Even if your service isn't explicitly local, this is a great way to get a foothold in the market and to start getting customers.
For example, you can start by focusing your attention on just one smaller area and use this to grow your renown, inbound links etc. Then, once you have momentum, you can branch out into more areas. This is effectively how Facebook launched – by starting first in Harvard only and then opening up to include a few other universities.
Top SEO Tips For Local Businesses
Now you know that SEO is important, the next question of course becomes ‘how do you do it’? In that case, read on for some powerful tips that will help you to get the most from your local SEO efforts.
The Right Keywords
Whenever you use SEO, you need to first choose the specific keywords or phrases that you want to target. These keywords should be designed to bring the most targeted traffic to your site, so that the people who find you are looking for services like yours and likely to be willing to spend money/click ads/sign up to your newsletter.
Add Your Business to Google Maps
Sometimes people will already be out and about when they're looking for your business. If you're running a restaurant for instance, then they might be in the area and looking for food in the area and want to find suggestions from their smartphone. To make sure that your business is listed as a suggestion, you need to add your site to Google Maps. Use this link and you can add your business to Google and make sure you can be found through maps, Google+ and more. This will also help boost your ranking in related searches.
This is smart right now, seeing as Google will give extra priority to businesses that are in the local area. This is called local search and it goes hand in hand with mobile search. In other words, if someone is searching for something on a mobile device, then chances are that they will be more likely to be looking for something in their specific area. Seeing as more and more people browse the web on mobile, this becomes increasingly important.
Use a Responsive, Mobile-Friendly Design
With that said, it’s also incredibly important that your web design be mobile friendly. This way, you can ensure that Google will want to show it to people who are on the move and who are likely to be looking for a business local to them. Google’s online ‘Mobile Friendliness Test’ is a perfect tool to ensure that your site meets the requirements to be considered mobile friendly.
Smart Link Building
When building links, the objective is always to get links from relevant sites. In your case, that means getting links that are from other sites in your area. You can do this by networking with businesses in person, and actually that will give you a big advantage seeing as people you actually speak to are much more likely to want to link to you.
Find businesses in your area that are local to yours, then ask them if they'd be willing to work with you by suggesting eachother's goods and/or services on your sites. This way you can land a link from a high PR site and significantly boost your SEO. Actually, more important than PR is ‘authority’ and ‘trust’, which can be roughly calculated by looking at a few factors such as domain age, the TLD (top level domain) and prominence that Google gives to the URL in its featured news etc. Your local paper is also a great place to get a good link.
Get Your Customers to Participate
Again, good local SEO means leveraging your social contacts in the real world to build authority in Google. Another great way to do this is by asking your visitors to post links to your site on their own blogs as well as on social media. Because Google looks for relevance in links, links from local sites or social pages will do a great deal of good for your local results.
The Various Aspects of a Google My Business Listing
When it comes to search marketing and local content, Google has provided methods that local businesses can use to supersede the ordinary search results when someone is looking for a business that is located within a particular geographic region. Understanding the various aspects of listings for local businesses will help you better understand the ranking factors as well as optimizing your Google my business listing to be able to get seen by potential customers in your city or state.
One of the things that a business listing should have is an address and phone number within the local area. This is one of the ways that you can prove to Google that your business is located within that geographic area and therefore listed in one of the local packs that come up first on the search engine results page for Google local search.
Besides the address and phone number so that you can be placed on Google maps when local search is initiated, Google also looks for what is called a local citation. Citations are when your business as mentioned on other websites and connected with that local geographic area. One of the best ways to get local citations is through online reviews. Getting a positive review from a website that places you within that local geographic area *such as Yelp) can help you prove to the search engines that you are indeed a local business and deserve to be one of the local businesses showcased.
Google wants people to find local businesses when they are looking within a geographic area. If you have a business that is properly optimized for local search, then you will be able to outrank even national businesses that may have a location nearby if you can show that you are exactly what the customer is looking for and are located within the geographic area that the customer is searching. It all depends on what is being typed into Google.
For example, Italian restaurants in Syracuse, New York will probably bring up some of the local Italian joints while the word restaurants followed by city and state may bring up chain restaurants that have more money to spend on search engine optimization for local geographic search.
How to Optimize for Local Search
- There are a few ways that you can optimize for local search. Some of them we have already discussed. One of those is getting citations. The way that you get citations is by making sure that you are listed on sites that provide Google with legitimate information. Yelp is a good example of a review site that Google trusts when it comes to local businesses. You can register your business and then encourage customers to leave reviews on these sites so that Google knows that you are a local business within that area.
- You also want to make sure that you fill out your business information with Google. Google allows you to register your business including your name, address, phone number and website, so that it can show up on local maps when someone types in the name of your business or a keyword that would bring up that listing.
- Having a website is a good way to show Google that you are legitimate business that deserves to be listed in local search. Make sure that you have your name and address as well as the other information described above listed somewhere on your website where search engine spiders can pick it up. That means, do not have an image of your name address and phone number but have actual text that can be read by the search engines.
- You can also use content marketing in order to optimize for keywords within that local geographic area. For example, if you are an Italian restaurant in Syracuse, New York, then you may want to create a post somewhere on your website that uses the keyword phrase ‘Italian restaurants in Syracuse, New York’. Content marketing is another way to let Google know where your business is located and which local search results you should be included in.
- You also want to make sure that you provide as much information to Google as you possibly can. This is not only for the benefit of local search, but it is also for the benefit of your customers. For example, if you list your hours within your Google business listing, customers are more likely to use your business if you are open when a competing business is closed.
- Be aware that the three pack of local search results that appear first on the Google results page rotate depending upon the IP address of the person searching. So, you may not be able to access your own name in a three pack unless you search on a computer with an IP address near your physical location. This is something to be aware of see do not waste time trying to optimize to get on the front page for every location in your city.