Local businesses have one significant advantage in the realm of SEO that global corporations and online-only businesses lack; the physical store. That’s not just an advantage because there’s always an offline fallback. It’s an advantage because a local location is an avenue to online success that global and online businesses can’t take away or do better. If Coca-Cola started optimizing for Coke Los Angeles, no one would believe their legitimacy; but a local beverage company has all the advantage in the world.
As a local business, it’s a lot of work leveraging this advantage, but once you’ve established a presence and a pattern, you’re good to go. Here’s how to get to that state.
Adopt and Optimize Local Listings
Local businesses are often aggregated in directories, ranging from Yelp and the Yellow Pages to Google+ and Facebook. You should strive to find any relevant profile for your business and adopt it as your own. Once you’ve registered and claimed a page, you can make sure all of the information in it is accurate and that it’s working for you.
• Google+. Google+ is a great place because having a robust page gives you access to the local pack results and the carousel. If you look into the drama over the Google Pigeon update recently, you’ll know why this is so important.
• Yelp. Again, Google Pigeon puts a lot of emphasis on Yelp, putting it above your website in search results for your product and locale. Claim your Yelp page and optimize the information.
• Bing Places and Yahoo Local are just like Google+ and Yelp; claim them and fill them out. Refer traffic from those pages to your website or your Facebook page.
• Industry-Specific Directories. Are you a restaurant? You should check Urban Spoon. Are you a travel company? Check TripAdvisor. Every industry has a directory or two that sits high in the search results; identify any profiles you can adopt or create, take them over and turn them into SEO batteries.
Identify and Merge Duplicate Listings
Facebook used to have their own Yelp-alike, with Facebook Place pages. Google+ used to have Google+ Pages. Both of these have been rolled into their respective overarching services, Facebook business pages and Google+ local profiles respectively. However, this means that if you had claimed profiles for them before, you might have multiple instances of a given page now. Try to identify if you have any of these duplicate pages and take steps to fix the problem. You’re free to either merge them into your page or have them deleted, depending on which may be more valuable.
Maintain Consistent Contact Information
The NAP – your Name, Address and Phone Number – need to be consistent across every profile and every instance they’re posted online. Any time one piece of that information is incorrect, it causes a host of problems. Users get the wrong idea and end up calling the wrong number of visiting the wrong address. Google uses the NAP for their carousel and to keep your SEO under one heading, specifically to differentiate between franchise installments. If your NAP is inconsistent, you’re hurting your presence.
As an additional note, if possible, use a local phone number with a local area code rather than a bland 1800 number. The local area code is another, albeit minor, SEO ranking factor.
Identify Local Authorities and Obtain Editorial Backlinks
If you’ve done any post-Pigeon searching for your business, you may have noticed that local authorities are some of the most highly ranked sites for general queries. What do I mean? If you run a search for Chicago Pizza, the results would look generally like this:
1. The Chicago Tribune’s Top 10 Pizza Places
2. Yelp.com’s Chicago Pizza Listings
3. Your local Chicago Pizza restaurant
And this assumes there aren’t multiples in each of those slots; multiple editorial sites, multiple directories, multiple competitors. You can find yourself pushed back to page two from this.
You’ve already optimized your site and claimed your Yelp profile; target the top, the Chicago Tribune – and any other local authority equivalent. Links from these local authorities are some of the most powerful links you can obtain.
Maintain a Locally Relevant Blog
It’s one thing to maintain a blog with general value and content designed to appeal to a wide audience. It’s quite another issue to try to maintain the same blog with a local focus. You can throw in local keywords, and that’s fine, but it’s uninspired. Every business with a website is doing at least that. You should go above and beyond. Blog about local issues and local events. Blog about local people. Blog about what you’re doing for your local community. The more value you can place in your blog for local readers specifically, the better off you’re going to be.
Optimize a Mobile Website
On the general Internet, over half of all web users are searching through mobile. For local results, that number is even higher. Think about it; if you’re out driving around and you want to find a place to eat, you’re not going to drive home to check. You’re going to pull out your smartphone, hook on to 4G or a local Starbucks, and you’re going to run a local search. If your business doesn’t have a mobile site, that local user has to really, really want to go to your restaurant to push past that to find your location and hours. Chances are they’re going to go to the first appealing website with a mobile site.
Create a Mobile Task App
Does your business have a few common tasks that can be done online? Do many of your users come in person to accomplish those tasks? It’s possible that you have an opportunity to create a mobile app that will allow them to perform those tasks. You don’t need to fill it with blog information or calls to action; just make it simple, effective and cheap. Sell it for $2 on Amazon’s App Store, the iTunes store and Google Play. This route isn’t for every business, but if you can pull it off, you’ve instantly made a new revenue stream.
Passively Encourage Reviews
Yelp and other such sites are valuable to have a profile on, but you can do it one better by filling out reviews. One thing you should avoid is directly asking your customers, via a public blog post, to review your page. Instead, just point out that you’ve established a presence on Yelp with a link to the site. If you want to be a little more direct, do so through your newsletter or in order confirmation pages.
Encourage Local Social Media
There’s a lot you can do with local social media that you can’t do with general online social media. For example, no one can check in to your Foursquare if you don’t have a physical location to check in. The same goes for Facebook check-ins.
Another avenue for local social success is the customer spotlight. Identify your most entertaining and engaged customers and feature them for a day, week or month. You can augment this by running contests to find those users.
All of this is, of course, only scratching the surface of local SEO. For a massive, in-depth guide, check out this local success guide. You’ll find more than you’ve ever wanted to know, and then some.