In the last 10 years, competition for organic traffic has increased. It’s harder (and more expensive) to appear in the top rankings of a search engine results page. But by optimizing your business’s local SEO, you can increase your visibility in the local market, which for many businesses is one of their most valuable market. More visibility can generate more leads, conversions and profits.
In addition, in the age of “going local” optimizing your local SEO can also emphasize a valuable aspect of your business’s brand. It helps you communicate that you are rooted in, and committed, to the local community.
With increased profits, a more clearly communicated brand as the benefits, and how Google serves local search, there’s no reason not to begin optimizing your business’s local SEO! You can get started now with these tips:
Local SEO Tip 1: Define your business's scope.
To take full advantage of SEO, you’ll need to tailor it to your particular business model. To see why this is important, consider three hypothetical businesses—a pizza shop, a plumber and a handmade furniture manufacturer—all located in Asheville, North Carolina. Are all the businesses’ identities tied up in location? Yes. Would they all optimize their local SEO in the same way? Probably not.
Each business would need to address local SEO by thinking about the following questions:
- What is the range of my customer base in miles? (The pizza shop may have a 5-mile radius, the plumber may have a 20-mile radius and the furniture shop may have a radius of hundreds of miles.)
- Do I have a brick and mortar business or a service-based business? (The pizza shop is definitely brick and mortar, the plumber might have an office but customers rarely come there, the furniture shop has two locations—one inside Asheville’s city limits and one just outside the city.)
- Does my business have multiple locations or branches? (Respectively: no, no and yes.)
- How can I obtain reviews and review stars in my organic listings? Should I plan and execute a strategic reviews campaign?
Once you’ve defined these elements of your business’s scope, you can now move on to the next tips with this information on hand. It will affect almost everything you do next, from how you communicate about your businesses in your content to how you tag your information and encourage reviews.
Local SEO Tip 2: Clearly and consistently communicate your business scope and basic information through appropriate channels.
One of the most important steps you can take in optimizing your local SEO is consistently communicating your information (business name, address, phone number) in every single online space, both on your website and in other web references (online directories, social media, reviews, etc.). Here are some concrete ways you can make sure your information is consistent:
- Set up a Google My Business location (and Bing Places for Business) and fill all fields that apply to your business. The most important thing is to have your name, address and phone number consistent and accurate. You’ll also want to make sure that the category of your business is correct. If you already have a Google My Business page, log in and make sure the information and category is accurate.
- Optimize your website for local and make sure your references to your name, address and phone number are accurate and consistent. It’s not a bad idea to have this information somewhere on every page (e.g. the footer of your site). You don’t have to force it into the content of a blog, but if referencing your location is appropriate, it’s not a bad idea.
- Be clear about multiple locations. If you have multiple locations, it’s a good idea to have optimized location landing pages on your site – using all elements of best practice on-page optimization. Include the address and Google maps/direction link on each location page. Make your business locations easily accessible (and findable) on your site by including them in your top-level navigation. You will also want to set up separate, optimized Google My Business (and Bing Places for Business) properties for each of your locations.
- Check all online directories and social media to make sure your business’s information is correct. This is especially important if you’ve moved but perhaps haven’t noted the change on your business’s Google+, Google My Business, Bing Places for Business, Yelp or Facebook page. Update any/all online directories to make sure that your business’s information is up-to-date and accurate.
Local SEO Tip 3: Use schema markup to emphasize your business model and scope.
Schema markup may sound scary, but it’s actually pretty easy! Basically, search engines know that content on your site contains information, but they can’t (on their own) distinguish if a number on your page is a date or a phone number. By “marking up” information, you are telling the search engine, “Hey, this is an address, here’s an event, and that is a phone number.” As a result, the search engine can provide searchers (aka potential customers!) with the most relevant information. Some examples of markups that may help you for local SEO are:
- Business name
- Phone number
- Company description
- Review aggregate schema
Local SEO Tip 4: Gain credibility through customer reviews.
Customer reviews can make or break a business, whether it’s word of mouth or online. But now, search engines regularly display the reviews immediately upon the search. Search engines also link the credibility of a business to its online reviews. So, currently, the review stakes are even higher. If this is part of your business’ local SEO scope, include aggregating reviews.
How do you get reviews? Make sure that your website makes it easy to write a review, whether it’s on your site itself or through a link to an external review site like Google, Yelp or Facebook. You can also explore how to best ask customers for reviews based on your business model. Perhaps if you send a thank-you email to customers after an interaction, you could include a request that the customer write a review. Make it easy by providing the links where they can post online reviews. In your brick-and mortar store, you could have a sign somewhere in your establishment, or put a reminder on a receipt. Ultimately, the best way to generate good reviews is to provide a quality product or service with great customer care.
What reviews are valuable? It will be different for every business, but you should consider Google, Yelp, Facebook, FourSquare, Trip Advisor and other sites relevant to your industry.
You also want to make sure that you have a plan to monitor and respond to reviews. This is an ongoing activity that won’t stop once you’ve put a link on your website.
Local SEO Tip 5: Cultivate inbound links.
The type and need for inbound links will be different for every business. But reliable, credible inbound links are always a good thing. Here are the types of inbound links you can cultivate:
- Local Directories. Whether you belong to the local Chamber of Commerce and have a link on their website or are listed in the yellow pages, directories are a helpful source of inbound links.
- Industry sites. An example of this would be a mechanic who is linked to from Car Talk’s recommendation page.
- Newsworthy mentions. These links are the hardest to receive, but could potentially be valuable. If a local blog or online news source writes about your business, these types of ‘follow’ links are valuable because they come from valuable sources.
At the end of the day, inbound links are good, but make sure the links are from credible sources. Once someone links to you, make sure you have valuable content to deliver to the audience once they arrive on your webpage.
Local SEO Tip 6: Don’t neglect the regular SEO Basics.
In order to optimize your local SEO, you still need to follow regular SEO best practices.
The biggest rule of thumb is to provide relevant content, whether that is an overview of the plumbing services your business addresses or a blog on how-to’s or the local trends in your industry. The more relevant, helpful information you provide, the more people who need this information will click through to your page. That, in turn, signals to search engines that your page is relevant.
In addition to creating relevant content, here are some quick basic tips:
- Don’t develop pages with thin or duplicate content. If you have six pizza shop locations but offer the same thing at each one, don’t repeat the same information on each location page.
- Pay attention to the mobile experience.
- Keep your page loading time down.
Local SEO Tip 7: Creatively capitalize on being local.
Being local is a benefit. So use it! Think of creative ways you can capitalize on the fact that you are a business about town and not a faceless corporation 1,000 miles away. Some ideas are:
- Use videos and images of local events (tagged using consistent location information!) to help emphasize your location to search engines and be favorite pieces of content for loyal customers.
- Use your community relationships to get reviews or links.
- Customize your content to the local crowd. If you're a local brew pub in Tennessee, don’t just write about the best glasses to complement your signature drink. Write about the local shops where you can buy those glasses! (And don’t forget to mention at the end of the article that you have growlers available at your establishment!)
- Gain a local following (and reviews) on your social channels. Use your social channels to amplify local events, announcements, sponsorships, sales, specials, etc.
At the end of the day, you probably value being in your local community. By using the tips above, you can also use your location to increase online visibility, generate interest, visits, purchases and relationships that benefit your business. Go local!