It’s not enough to build a website for your business and expect new customers to start pouring through your doors. In today’s digital world, you’re also going to need a plan to help people find you online. If you have a local business that depends on customers coming into your shop, store, or office, you’re going to want to reach the people closest to you with local SEO.
SEO vs Local SEO: What’s the Difference?
The tactics that businesses use to get found online can vary depending on your type of business. Online-only businesses can get away with focusing entirely on organic SEO, while local businesses typically benefit from a mix of organic and local SEO tactics.
SEO: Search Engine Optimization
A process to help search engines understand your relevance; what your website or business does and when to serve your website up to searchers who use specific search phrases (aka keywords) online. Also known as organic SEO.
Local SEO: Local Search Engine Optimization
Helping search engines understand your relevance (what your website/ business does) PLUS the geographical region that you serve.
Why Local SEO Matters for Your Business
Did you know that 50% of local-mobile searchers are looking for business information like your business address or hours of operation? That signifies a high-intent; these searchers want to know where to find you.
- 46% of all searches online are local
- 50% of consumers who conduct a local search on their smartphone visit a store within 1 day
- 18% of local mobile searches lead to a sale within 1 day
If you want to have a pizza delivered to your house on Friday night, you probably pull out your iPhone and search for “pizza delivery.” Search engines know that you’re most likely looking for pizza delivery near your location and get right to work returning search results for the nearest pizzerias -- and the results you see first are the ones that are using local SEO to their advantage.
By focusing on local SEO, you can send all the right signals to the search engines to show your business to the right people -- the ones in your area. Here’s how.
#1: It Starts with Google
The first step to local SEO is to setup or claim your Google My Business listing. There are over 6 ½ billion searches made a day worldwide, and 77% of them are made with Google. So make Google your number one priority.
Google My Business lets local searchers find important information about your business, such as your name, address, phone number, hours of operation, a map, and reviews all in one convenient place.
How to do it:
- Navigate to Google My Business
- Search for your business using its name and address.
- Add or claim your business.
- Verify your page.
- Choose the right category for your business.
- Fill out your business profile completely and accurately.
- Add photographs and logos.
- Ask for reviews (more on this in a bit)
#2: Add Your Business to Directories
Google My Business is just the start - now you’ll want to be sure your business is listed in secondary search sites and directory sites, as well.
Mind your NAP: your business name, address, and phone number. Be sure you’re providing the same information on every directory you setup or claim your business. Conflicting information from one listing to the next will just confuse Google and other search engines (not to mention potential clients).
Be consistent with the following information wherever it appears online:
- Business name
- Phone number
- Days/ hours of operation
- Website address
- Description or summary (be sure to include your keywords!)
#3: Claim and Optimize Social Profiles
Did you know that YouTube is considered the second largest search engine in the world, behind Google? YouTube has more than one billion users who watch 5 billion videos a day. Facebook has twice the number of reported users: 2 billion people.
Social networks play an important role in advertising your local business. Be sure to set up or claim and optimize a business page on all of the major social networks, such as Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter.
Remember that consistency matters and use the same information for your social profiles that you did across your directories.
#4: Optimize Your Existing Site
Update your existing website pages to include the local market you service. Remember that you don’t have to go overboard and that Google hates keyword stuffing, so avoid jamming the name of your closest metro area into every inch of your site. Be methodical and smart with your optimization.
- Page titles: Include your local search term in 70 characters or less.
- Page descriptions: Include your local search term and keep it to 155 characters or less.
Create a separate contact page with your business name, address, phone number, hours of information, and a map. Write out location details to help searchers and search engines know how to find you.
If you service multiple areas/ towns/ regions, create separate pages for each on your website and optimize accordingly. Don’t just copy and paste -- you’ll run into duplicate content issues. Instead, think of each page as its own landing page created specifically for the people who live in that town or area.
#5: Get Great Reviews
Recommendations and reviews matter. The best way to get reviews on business directories and social media sites is to ask your existing and previous customers.
Send out an email to clients you’ve worked with in the past. Let them know you’ve listed your business on a directory and ask them to write a review. Link to your business page/ profile to make it easy and provide options. You may ask them to leave you a review on Google My Business, Yelp, or Facebook, for example.
Get into the habit of asking for a review from new clients, as well. Wrap up each job with a thank you email and a request for a review.
Negative reviews can sometimes happen, and it’s ok. Here’s how to handle one.
- Always reply to a less-than-stellar review in a professional and courteous manner.
- Reach out to the reviewer and seek to find a way to remedy the complaint.
- If the issue is resolved, you can request that the review get updated or removed.
- If the review is completely unfounded or incorrect, you may be able to have it removed by contacting the directory itself and flagging the review.
If the one-star review remains, bring it to the attention of your most outspoken client advocates. Send them a quick email and let them know you received a negative review on a certain directory or platform and ask if they wouldn’t mind leaving one of their positive reviews as a better reflection of your service. Most times your fans and loyal customers will jump at the chance to stand up for you and your services.
#6: Publish Local Content
Content is important to all SEO efforts, both organic and local. Search engines love fresh content. Regularly publishing blog posts send signals to search engines that your site is relevant. By putting a local twist on your content you can also send highly relevant local on-page signals to search engines.
But even more importantly, publishing local content regularly allows you an opportunity to become a trusted authority for future and current customers. In other words, think of your blog as a customer service tool and a way to add value for your local customer base.
Winning the local SEO game takes some time and effort, but it can be done. It’s not enough to just optimize your existing website pages for your area. A combination of an optimized website, directory listings, and reviews is what it takes to get ahead. Ready to get to work?