Local SEO proved to be one of the biggest trends throughout 2016 and 2017, and is expected to continue doing so throughout 2018.
Businesses that have been able to optimize their on-page and off-page SEO strategies are already reaping the supreme benefits of local SEO. For others, there are undeniable opportunities to begin their local SEO journeys.
Google suggests that 80% users conduct online searches for local businesses, while 50% of users who do a local search on mobile for a business visit its store within a day. Yet businesses continue to miss the opportunities that local SEO provides.
Don’t be that business. Instead, use the tips and tricks mentioned in this guide to get started with local SEO.
Claim your Google My Business page and optimize it
Google+ might have mostly fizzled out, but Google My Business continues to be a cornerstone for implementing local SEO. If you’ve not claimed a Google My Business listing for your business yet, this is the time to do so. The chances of your business featuring on the front page in a local relevant search improve manifold purely by having a well optimized and filled out My Business Listing.
Go to google.com/business, start the registration and verification process, and wait for Google to send you a postcard to your physical store location.
Make sure you understand that Google only allows real business owners to have their My Business pages; so you need to work out an arrangement with your digital marketing consultants so that you continue to own the My Business listing even if they depart.
Your business name, address, and phone number (abbreviated as NAP) must match what you have been using for digital marketing till now. Also, lay special emphasis on selecting categories, business hours, types of payment accepted, etc.
Then, have top quality photographs of the office front and insides uploaded on to the profile. Digital businesses without a location can hide the address to still be able to claim their My Business listing.
Here’s what a well maintained and optimized Google My Business profile could look like on a search page.
Understand and master the art of citations
Here’s it, put simply – every mention of your business online is a citation. More citations are good for your business’ local SEO. How does Google consider a mention as a citation? Well, your business NAP has to be mentioned for it to be counted as a citation.
Too many businesses have already lost several months of efforts in getting themselves mentioned online, purely because of inconsistent NAP. Though increasingly there’s consensus among digital marketers that Google actually triangulates data and identifies slightly different business names as belonging to the same business using NAP, we’d recommend you play it safe.
Keep on optimizing your website for mobile
Though this is something every website owner must do, local business website owners need to speed up their game particularly well. That’s because a majority of local searches are done on mobile devices, and are intent-backed.
Responsive layouts, intuitive user experience and interface design, etc. are the basics; you need to step past them! Google’s Mobile Friendly testing tool is a great starting point. I did a test on a post I was reading recently, and was impressed with the tool’s validation.
Add business directories to your to do lists
Apart from giving you a valuable citation online, business directory pages for your business also garner more visibility for your business. Here are some action points for you.
- Start with the most notable business review directory websites such as Yelp and CitySearch
- Next, use this list of business directories and create your business profiles on each (target at least 7 complete profiles per week)
- Look for niche specific business directories and create your profiles there
- Look for local business community websites, and grab your listing there
- Check if the state government has a Chamber of Commerce or equivalent website, and look for a way to get a mention there
- Use the services of citation aggregators like Infogroup, Acxiom, and Factual
- Look for an opportunity for a citation via local newspaper websites
- Of course, remember to get your NAP spot on every time.
‘Localize’ your website’s content
You can do a lot to help search engines understand your business’ local appeal by optimizing your website for the same. Local content, for instance, can help search engines contextualize your website’s niche to its local service. Then, you could include an interactive map widget to further enhance the local SEO appeal of your website.
Also, consider creating a separate local news section on your website, wherein you could post content about niche-related local events. This will serve you well in terms of allowing the usage of local SEO relevant keywords.
Businesses such as restaurants, lawyer services, house repairs and interior décor, etc. have a lot to gain by using these basic tactics.
Be very hungry for online reviews
A Moz report attributes 8.4% of ranking value to online reviews. It doesn’t sound much, but considering how 88% users depend on online reviews to form opinions on quality of businesses, brands, and products, the eventual impact of reviews is significant.
Google My Business reviews are the primary source of SEO juice; you need at least 5 reviews for Google to start showing your reviews. Facebook Business reviews must be the next on your radar, because of the trust they inspire among online users.
There are several other review websites you need to take care of, to maximize the local SEO benefit from the same. To get more reviews, try out these tactics:
- Motivate store managers and field sales personnel to get reviews from customers on handy mobile devices, asking them log in to, for instance, Zomato or Yelp, and doing it on the spot (consider giving them a little discount for the same)
- Use email marketing, with a single link that takes users to the reviews page
- Consider using a social listening tool such as HootSuite to be alerted of your business and brand mentions, which you can transform into reviews
- It’s worthwhile seeking services of online reputation management agencies for this.
Invest effort in local SEO relevant rich schema
Schema markup can be added to your website’s code to enhance its readability for search engines. There are several scheme markup tags that specifically focus on local attributes of your website.
Local schema markup tags assists local SEO in two ways:
- First, it allows search engines to understand your business’ local relevance
- Second, it means search engines can show your business page result along with rich snippet info such as phone number, address, business working hours, ratings, reviews, etc.
Here’s an example of how web results with local SEO schema markup appear on SERPs.
Local schema markup is beyond the scope of this guide, but here’s a good tutorial from Schema App.
Don’t forget to run your website through Google Structured Data Testing Tool to understand if the schema markup is done correctly.
As you read this, there are hundreds of potential customers searching for businesses in your neighborhood. Your website could be staring at them through their desktops and mobile phones, as soon as you get started on local SEO with the tips, tricks, tools, and methods described in this guide.
Multilocation businesses face some unique challenges in today’s local search landscape, but columnist Thomas Stern believes they can succeed by finding the right balance between centralized data management and localized content production.
Local SEO drives customer actions for businesses of every size, from local mom-and-pop shops to large companies with multiple locations. Local SEO is the new storefront, as search is now consumers’ top choice for finding local businesses.
Local is a strategic investment within your sales funnel; it impacts your organic search strategy, content marketing efforts and paid advertising investments. It ensures overall marketing effectiveness. But how do you maintain and continue to drive action for local businesses, and even enterprise brands with multiple locations?
What challenges do franchise-level brands face?
Local SEO has become a strategic investment for many franchise businesses because the results affect the company at scale. With the rapid increase of location-based searches, it’s key to capture and harness this growth to ensure your brand’s success.
Franchise-level brands have massive amounts of existing inventory, data and locations they have to manage every day. It can be challenging for multi-location brands to strike a good balance between efficiently managing data across all locations and meeting the individual needs of each location through things like localized content.
Through centralized data management systems like Moz or Yext, brands can create consistency across website location pages and local listings. This technology minimizes a brand’s time managing the vast amount of information like a location’s NAP (name, address and phone number) and helps to expedite any updates to their chosen data partner.
But to say bulk data management and updates are enough to guarantee local success would be misleading. Strategic localization is needed to compete at top positions during a consumer’s peak moment of interest.
Alongside centralized data management, brands will need to invest in unique and localized content, inbound location page links, hyperlocal keyword insights and structured and unstructured citations.
The uniqueness of enterprise brands with multiple locations
Brands with several locations that seek to perform well in local search and map results require a different approach to their local SEO from the mom-and-pop shop down the road. These brands have to consider the unique customer behavior and service or product offerings by region, varying store hours and promotions, compound data, franchisee education, strategic guidance and the frequency of store closing and openings. Simply put, that’s a lot to maintain.
But with a strategic localization approach, brands can speak to people nationwide, regardless of the different terminology someone may use in the Deep South compared to the West Coast.
For example, think of the way we order pizza. In Denver, it may be referred to as a “pizzeria restaurant,” while elsewhere it is called a “pizza shop,” “pizza place,” or “pizzeria.” While the terms all mean the same thing, the region determines the bases. Local keyword insight based on your business locations is crucial for creating unique content that’s personalized for local searchers.
Local SEO success on and off the maps
Local SEO success is often considered synonymous with strong performance in the Local 3-Pack or Google Maps. Indeed, Google My Business provides insights into many metrics related to local search performance, including local pack impressions, clicks for directions, website clicks and phone calls.
However, in order to maximize your business locations’ search visibility, you need to focus on more than just optimizing your Google My Business listings. The rest of the SERP can direct users toward relevant pages, too, helping to assist your local efforts.
Traditional organic search optimization efforts made with local in mind can improve your business’s search presence in relevant local markets. If a user’s search query doesn’t indicate a location explicitly, Google can often tell contextually that the user is interested in shopping around in the area, and local-based SERPs results will appear instead.
For example, for the search query “used ford explorer” (below), Google narrowed down its search results based on local inventory of the Ford Explorer.
Why are the sites highlighted above performing so well in organic search for implied local queries? Google rewards websites that are easy to crawl — and using structured data to ensure that Google can understand and evaluate your inventory every time someone searches for a product you have (say, a used Ford Explorer) improves your chances of showing up for these types of queries.
Google tailors its search results taking into account many different factors, like the proximity to the searcher or the amount of product inventory available at that location, so it’s important that your local business pages contain this information in a way that is clearly presented and easily crawled.
It’s important to re-evaluate your intent-focused search terms so you’re not leaving any money on the table in regards to your localized efforts, from bottom all the way to top of the funnel.
Many factors contribute to local SEO success. Centralized data management is important to maintain NAP consistency across the web, but you should take into account a multitude other factors — such as links, citations and unique, localized content — in order to capture potential customers at the right place and time in our current search landscape. It’s essential to utilize all efforts to garner local success and expand beyond in order to continue growing.
Local SEO can help you get an edge over the national competition by reducing competition to only your own geographic locality. To do this, you’ll need local-specific content on your website.
If you run a small business and you’re exhausted from trying to compete with your national, big-business competitors in search engine rankings, there’s no better sanctuary than local SEO. Local SEO functions on a different algorithm from national results, identifying local queries based on context and user location to bring users the top three local results “above the fold” of traditional search engine results page (SERP) entries.
Put simply, practicing local SEO can help you get an edge over the national competition by reducing competition to only your own geographic locality. To do this, you’ll need to accomplish a number of things, including establishing “local citations” across the web, updating your site to reflect your current address and location, and of course, earning more and better reviews on third-party directories.
But in addition to those things, you’ll need a strong content marketing strategy (as with any SEO campaign), and for a bit of extra local relevance, you’ll need local-specific content on your website.
How “Local” Should Local Content Be?
There are a handful of goals to meet with local content:
- Local keyword optimization. First, including more local keywords (such as the name of your city, state, or region) could solidify Google’s understanding of your business’s relevance for its location and help you rank for a broader range of keyword queries.
- Long-tail rankings. You could also use locally relevant content to rank higher in searches below the fold of the local 3-pack. These would include posts like “The X Best Restaurants in Denver.”
- Local relevance. Finally, you can use local content to improve the loyalty and recognition of residents who already know you, serving as a peripheral means of increasing your reputation, reach and reviews.
To meet all these goals, your content should focus in some way on the region in which you operate, but there’s flexibility in how you can accomplish this.
What Not to Do
It’s easier to explain what not to do with local content. Even though it’s important to include keywords relevant to your geographic location, you can’t just shoehorn keywords into your content and expect to see good results. For example, writing a post titled, “How to Buy a Bike Orlando Florida” will not only alienate your users, but likely not do any good from an SEO perspective, either.
Instead, make sure your keywords fit naturally and are relevant to the content you’re producing.
At this point, you may be confused about what could qualify as “locally relevant” content, or be short on ideas of how to produce this content consistently. That’s why I’ve come up with this list to inspire your brainstorming process:
- Local events. Your first option is to take advantage of local events—and of course, there are multiple ways to do this. As an easy start, you could use a newsjacking strategy to simply report on the news that a local event exists, and help to promote it. Doing this helps show your commitment to the local population, and your involvement in the community, but you can go a step further by actually getting involved in the event itself. You could sponsor the event, set up a tent, or have one of your team members attend a seminar and report on it. The more immersed you are in the event, the better it will look—and you might even get multiple posts out of it (reporting on the upcoming event, then doing a retrospective on it).
- Company announcements. You could also use company announcements as a way to create local content, especially if this is your headquarters or your only location in operation. Ideally, you’d frame this as a press release, announcing the introduction of a new product or new service, or reaching some milestone. When you do this, frame it in the context of how it improves the community—does this create more economic opportunities for the area? Does this improve the quality of life for your neighbors? You could also host your own local event, such as a workshop or a “family fun night,” depending on the nature of your business.
- Location-specific specials. You could also use posts to advertise local specials, which is helpful if you’re running a chain with multiple different locations. Here, you can use a local keyword set to explain what that particular location is doing differently, and incentivize people to attend. Be careful to keep this informative, rather than advertising, if you want to keep your strategy in the realm of content marketing.
- Business comparisons. You could also use business comparison content to attract more local visitors to your site. These are comparative posts that examine multiple competing businesses in a given industry (including yours), such as the “best sandwich shops in Orlando.” Don’t be overtly promotional when describing your own business or you’ll turn people away. Instead, be as objective as possible. These posts are extremely popular for local residents trying to make a purchasing decision, so don’t miss this opportunity to appeal to them.
- Local considerations. Finally, you could use local news and considerations to make minor posts that captivate the interest of your local residents. For example, are there major problems with traffic, some unusual weather, or new construction that you can talk about? Again, frame it in a way that’s relevant to your local readers.
Local content is important for local SEO, but don’t get carried away. It’s not the only factor for determining your presence or position within the local 3-pack, and it certainly shouldn’t be the exclusive focus of your content strategy.
Depending on your goals and how frequently you produce new content, local-specific content should probably represent less than half of your overall blog posts—and make sure to diversify the keywords and phrases you’re using.
Search engine optimization isn’t always much fun for small businesses. Aside from having to compete with your closest rivals, you’ve got those industry leaders hogging up page one of results.
To make matters worse, organic results are getting pushed further down the page, leaving less space for the little guy. These are the challenges small business marketers face, but each of these challenges is also an opportunity to get ahead of your competitors. Here are ten things every small business should be doing with their SEO strategy.
#1: Local SEO
We may as well start with the obvious one. Unless you happen to be a small online-only retailer, chances are you have brick-and-mortar stores or offices. Which means local SEO is going to be a core part of your search marketing efforts. Below is an example of a local listing in Google:
There’s more to local SEO than Google Maps, though. First, you have third-party directory and review sites to think about – both of which Google uses for search and Google Maps results. You’ll also want to localise your content strategy and work location names into anchor text, URLs, headings, etc.
#2: Tactical link building
Link building is tricky for every business so don’t let this one get you down. Just keep in mind that quality outweighs quantity when it comes to inbound links – so focus on getting links from sites with a higher domain authority than yourself.
These are some techniques to try:
- Guest blogging: The classic link building technique still works today.
- Syndication: Targeting trusted publishers that syndicate content can increase the number of links, traffic and audience you gain from guest blogging.
- The Skyscraper Technique: Find popular content, publish an improved version and reach out to the sites linking to the original piece.
- Broken link building: Find broken links to popular content and provide these sites with a replacement version.
Of course, your content needs to be good enough to earn those essential links and shares. Until your audience is large enough that link building largely takes care of itself, you’ll have to be tactical with your approach.
#3: Reach out to local/relevant publications
Another good link building strategy is to reach out to local/relevant publications. It’s not only the links you’re after, though. Google likes to see your brand mentioned in publications relevant to your industry or in your local area – so even if you don’t get links, simply being mentioned is beneficial.
The other main benefit with local and relevant publications is their audience. Links mean potential traffic, citations mean brand awareness and regularly featuring in these publications means you can tap into their regular audience.
#4: Exploit your competitors’ weaknesses
Your closest competitors are facing all the same challenges you are. Use this to your advantage. Are they missing out on obvious keyword opportunities? Are they suffering from poor reviews on Google My Business? Is their website painfully slow to load or poorly optimised for mobile?
Every weakness your competitor shows is an opportunity to beat them, show users you’re the better brand and prove to Google you should rank higher than them.
#5: Get a head start with AdWords
While SEO is a long-term process of building an online presence, AdWords is a much faster way of bringing traffic to your site. It’ll take time for your SEO strategy to generate any kind of ROI but advertising on AdWords allows you to generate profit as your organic presence builds up.
AdWords isn’t simply a shortcut to getting traffic on your site, though. It allows you to target users who aren’t looking for content anymore; they’re looking to buy. There’s a reason Google charges to advertise on its search engine – because it generates the kind of high-quality leads you can’t get elsewhere.
#6: Target high-intent users with your SEO strategy
Unlike paid advertising, SEO largely focuses on users who are still looking for content. Generally speaking, these are people who haven’t quite made up their minds yet. They might know they want to buy a new TV, but they’re not sure which model to go for. Essentially, they need help making a buying decision.
It’s important to understand what users look for as they progress along the buying journey. For example, someone who has booked a holiday but needs a hotel is very high-intent. They need a place to stay and it’s simply a case of finding the best place within their price range.
So let’s say you’re a small hotel, here’s your content idea: “Top 10 hotels in [location] for any budget”. Make this an evergreen piece of content that builds search authority over time and is always there for people looking for a room in the area.
#7: Target lower-intent leads as your SEO strategy matures
We all love high-intent leads but they’re sadly the minority of your potential customers. The vast majority are low-intent and end up doing business elsewhere, unless you capture them early enough and bring them closer to the sale.
Instead of looking for hotel rooms in your area, these people are still considering where to go on their holiday. So you’re recommending destinations rather than hotel choices at this earlier stage of the consumer journey.
#8: Website speed, bounce rate, etc.
Websites that offer a poor user experience aren’t much good to Google. The search giant wants to send users to pages that load quickly, are well-optimised for mobile and – above all – provide the content people are looking for.
Make performance a priority (speed, mobile optimisation, etc), refine your content to keep people on your page (reduce bounce rate) and guide users to the next relevant page.
#9: Automate everything you can
One of your biggest challenges as a small business is marketing efficiency. Keyword research, competitor analysis and everything else takes valuable time – all of which adds up very quickly.
The answer? Automate everything you can to cut down the workload of repetitive, time-consuming tasks.
Infusionsoft’s 2017 Small Business Marketing Trends Report reveals that automation is not a priority for most small business owners. Which means this is another one of those competitor weaknesses you can exploit while they’re busy updating their Facebook status.
#10: Build an in-house team or hire an agency
The biggest misconception with small business SEO is that budgets are the main barrier. Whereas the real thing that stops a lot of smaller brands building a solid search presence is resources – i.e. not having the right team on board.
Going back to the Infusionsoft report, small business owners also tend to be the marketing manager for their brand. The problem is most small business owners aren’t marketers and they’re too busy running a business to dedicate the time it takes to build an online presence. Our advice – build a decent in-house marketing team or hire an SEO agency.
We understand SEO can be frustrating for smaller businesses but it doesn’t have to be an uphill struggle. With the right personnel on board, and automation taking care of reports and other technical SEO tasks, you’ll start to see real progress.
Small businesses have a lot to gain from the latest marketing technology. Agility is one of the biggest advantages you have over bigger brands so move quickly to adopt the latest SEO technology and techniques – this is the best chance you’ve got at jumping ahead of your competitors and giving bigger businesses something to think about.