Small business owners need recognition and support from their local community to make a profit and thrive. However, traditional marketing methods such as flyers or word-of-mouth marketing can only do so much.
As consumers become more digital-savvy, most businesses have also migrated to the web to reach their target customers. And once online, small businesses will have to rely on local search engine optimization (SEO) as a critical part of their digital marketing to create a lasting online presence.
This comprehensive guide covers the basics of local SEO along with the tips and strategies to make your business local search-ready.
Local SEO is a set of techniques and strategies for increasing the online visibility of local businesses. With local SEO, you’re aiming for a higher ranking for local searches.
Think of local SEO as a branch of traditional SEO that focuses more on geographical elements. Most of the strategies and practices used in regular SEO overlap with local SEO. However, there’s a difference in the audience being targeted.
With traditional SEO, you have a national or broad audience. Whereas local SEO is specific to the target audience in a certain geographic area or multiple locations, depending on how many branches your business has.
For businesses with a local audience who can visit a physical location or a website, local search is valuable. Depending on the competition level of your niche, local SEO may generate faster results compared to traditional SEO for more generalized terms.
In addition, consider these statistics that prove how important local SEO is:
• 46 percent of all Google searches are local.
• More than 95 percent of users searching online are looking for a local business.
• Over 80 percent of people use their phones to make ‘near me’ searches.
• 78 percent of users who search for something nearby visit the business within the day.
In short, customers are looking for a business near them. So, if you don’t have your local SEO, you’re simply leaving money on the table.
Now that you’re convinced that local SEO is essential for your small business’s online success, we share some tips and strategies to improve your local online presence.
Small business owners wear different hats–accountant, salesperson, HR expert and other skills that allow them to run a business properly. You already have a lot on your plate and adding the complexity of SEO, not to mention the wider world of digital marketing as a whole, can be problematic.
Most time-pressed business owners struggle to learn and make sense of the large amount of information available about SEO and digital marketing. And yet, you know their importance in today’s modern world to increase foot traffic.
So, what do you do?
Let the experts handle or guide your local SEO efforts. SEO agencies live and breathe SEO. This means that they specialized in all things related to SEO, helping you create effective local SEO campaigns that drive better results than on your own. With their help, you can save time and resources and allow you to focus more on what’s important – running your business.
Claiming and filling out your online profiles on local listings, especially Google My Business (GMB), is the best place to start optimizing for local search.
Google dominates the search engine industry, taking over 90 percent of the market share. Thus, you want to make sure that your business has a strong presence via GMB, attracting visitors to your website and physical business premises. If done properly, your small business can easily get featured on the first page of a local Google search.
In addition to GMB, you also need to create profiles on other local listing sites such as Bing, Yelp and TripAdvisor. Setting up your profiles on these listing sites will help you become more visible to potential customers and provide them with critical business information. Also, it helps in boosting your search ranking as it provides search engines with more information about your small business.
Speaking of critical business information, when filling up your online listing profiles, consistency is key. You need to verify that all your citations and business information that you’ve provided is consistent and complete across online listings. You also need to make sure that you have the same business information included on your website and social media accounts.
Discrepancies such as abbreviations, wrong or different phone numbers and misspellings can be problematic. Don’t include your business information within an image since it can’t be crawled by search engines.
If search engines can’t find or determine which information is correct, it won’t show your business in search results. It’s that simple.
Content is king. In the world of digital marketing, creating relevant, valuable and high-quality content gives you authority in your chosen niche and industry and helps you connect with your audience. This also helps build trust by answering their questions and providing them with the information they need.
For instance, if you’re a landscaping business, you can provide your users with some valuable tips on proper landscaping and gardening. The user can either follow the instructions or call your business to do it instead.
That said, when writing content, there are some things you need to do.
First, write localized content. You can write general topics which can help attract a larger audience. However, it’s best if you can focus on local news or topics that attract your local audience. Consider writing localized content such as specific events in your locality or specific problems in the area you’re servicing.
To make it even more targeted content, make sure to include local keywords and opt for long-tail forms. If you’re trying to target local terms, you need to let website crawlers know that you’re operating a small business in a specific location with local keywords.
So, instead of using generic keywords like ‘pest control,’ you can add the specific location like ‘pest control services in Alabama’. This keyword is an example of location-specific and targeted keyword. This helps increase the chances of attracting qualified leads from your locality and converting them into clients.
If you have different physical branches, you need to create a dedicated webpage for each. This allows search engines to promote a specific local branch to the local users it serves.
Location pages offer readers your business name, phone number, address, store descriptions, store hours, promotions, parking information, and testimonials from local customers.
You need to optimize the title tags for that particular location web page by including information that’s relevant to that specific branch. For instance, if your Colorado-based dental business has a branch in multiple cities and you’re creating a location page for your branch in Denver, then the title tag for that page could be ‘Dental clinic in Denver.’
In addition, you need to create different content across multiple location web pages and to make each page unique. As for your About Us page, make sure to provide locally descriptive information about your business, attach real images of the location of your branch, and add map information.
Before the internet, businesses can easily spin their branding and dupe customers. Today, however, the internet has given consumers the power to voice their opinions. Now, everyone can see whether a small business is as good as they say they are.
If you’re confident about your services, you won’t fear customer reviews. A good business will even encourage customers to leave reviews on your online listing profiles–whether it’s good or bad reviews. You should also consider adding some testimonials to your website. Doing so helps validate how good your services are and back up your claims.
Research reveals that over 80 percent of people read reviews and check ratings. In addition, over 95 percent say that customer reviews influence their buying decisions. So, if potential clients see good reviews about you, it encourages them to choose your services over your competitors.
Meanwhile, poor ratings can turn potential customers off. However, in reality, every business will receive a few negative reviews at some point. So, when you do, don’t ignore them. Respond personally and professionally and help them resolve their issues.
Fighting to climb to the first page of search results can be difficult for businesses, particularly if you’re a small business with limited resources. However, investing in local SEO is critical to your success.
So, make sure to follow the above pointers to optimize your website and other digital assets for local search and become the go-to business in your locality. Keep in mind that optimizing your small business for local searches will take time before you see results. But when you do, you’ll enjoy a consistent increase in lead generation and conversion, ultimately boosting revenue and business growth.