10 Simple Ways Small Businesses Can Leverage Local Search
With the increase in website consumption on smartphones and other devices, optimizing for local SEO is proving to be a big deal for businesses with physical stores. With accurate local SEO strategies in place, it’s becoming really easier for businesses these days with physical stores to cream off the best of the local business.
Even Local PPC ads are great to draw in the local audience to your physical stores. According to top PPC companies, PPC campaigns, more or less, makes sure that visitors clicking on your ads are the ones who are residing close by, which would help you mail things directly to them(more on this in a minute).
For the starters, here’s the basic info about Local SEO and it’s best practices that small businesses should take note of if they are really keen on growing their business locally.
First off: What is Local SEO?
As the name suggests, Local SEO is to attract the local audience to your physical store. And it includes a slew of the local-audience-friendly-SEO -strategies to grow your store’s popularity locally. (If you don’t own a physical store, you can ignore local SEO completely as adopting standard SEO practices will be more than sufficient.)
Let me explain it with an example.
Let’s say, you enter a search query “pizza” online. First and foremost, Google must determine, of its own accord, whether the searcher is looking for pizza recipe to bake pizzas at home or whether he or she is looking for a bakery shop in close proximity. Given that Google is in dilemma as to exactly what the searcher is looking for so Google, in all likelihood, will throw up all sorts of results. The result? Both bakeries and recipes sites will pop up in the search result pages.
Now, if you are running an XYZ bakery shop, the first thing you need to make sure, as part of your local SEO strategies, is that your XYZ company pops up as a bakery store in local search results and not as an online index for recipes?
For this, you need to take into account several factors such as the keywords applied, external sites linking to yours, effortless navigation among many other things. This will make sure that your website pops up for all the relevant queries in top search results.
I know what you are thinking now. From where do I start, then?
First of all, remember, there’s no printed roadmap for this. Even properly optimized sites have to work really hard, sometimes for several years at a stretch, before they even receive a token recognition by search engines, as being friendly and having an authority in a given area.
So, the best thing you can do initially is to identify your target audience and then scope out ways to meet their needs using your product or service. Also, study your competitors and leverage free tools like Google Analytics to assess results. Tracking results are important because it gives you a better understanding as to whether your efforts are paying off or not.
Here are some 10 Local SEO Strategies which small businesses could apply to grow their business locally:
1. Create Google My Business Profile
First of all, create a high-quality business profile on Google. It kind of gives a strong hint to Google what your business is all about. Plus, tick, all those categories that you think are almost similar to the business you are running.
Going by the above example, does your business only make pizza? Or is there anything else as well that could be considered? How about hot dogs, specialty breads, rolls and more? Nail down the categories at the beginning itself. It will speed up your acceptance process and might as well help you achieve good search engine position.
Key things to remember once your account has been verified:
- Upload high-quality images
- Use unique description
- Add local phone number
- Add local business address
- Mention days and hours of operation
- Prompt customers to leave reviews
2. Optimize Title and Meta Tags with Local Keywords
Title and meta description tags, displayed in search results, could be likened to mini-ads that gives you an exact glimpse of what your web page content is all about.
In 2016, Google surprised the SEO world by expanding the width of its main search results area to 600 px. Meaning, you can run title tags in between 50 to 60 characters and description tags can run between 160 to 200 characters.
Make sure that you don’t come up with any random stuff here. Use the space wisely by including the brand name, and the location of your business. Not to mention include a keyword in your title. The same method applies to Meta descriptions as well, that is brand name, location and keywords.
However, make sure that the content doesn’t go beyond the character limit because it will automatically take the form of ellipses.
If you want to gather a beforehand experience as to how your title and meta description tags will look like, trying using emulators like SEOmofo or Yoast’s SEO Plugin for WordPress.
What’s more? Make sure the text is unique and compelling at the same time. If not, your click-through-rates will go down.
The bottomline: The space is sacrosanct. Write with extra care.
Key things to remember while writing Tags:
- If you want to connect with local customers, include the city name, and the area your business serves (e.g. serving the upper west side of Manhattan and Manhattan Valley)
- Use one targeted keyword and place it close to the beginning of the tag
3. Ensure Consistency in NAP
NAP stands for Name, Address and Phone Number. And it’s more important now than ever before to ensure consistency in NAP. Meaning there should be consistency in your Name, Address and Phone Number, all across the website and especailly while listing your business name on authority sites such as Yellow Pages and Yelp.
This is critical because your local search rankings depend on it. And if at all Google finds any variation in your NAP from what is actually provided on your site, the search engine might give your site a mighty miss.
4. Use Schema Markup
Schema markup or schema.org markup should be added to your website’s code because it offers search engines more information with regards to products and services, reviews you’ve collected and so on.
You can add schema markups to NAP, which makes sure that search engines display information about your business correctly. Google wants you to use Schema Markup because it helps its spiders’ scope out your site content. In fact, Google offers Structured Data Testing Tool which will help you see whether the markup is properly implemented or not.
If coding is not your cup of tea, try using Google’s Data Highlighter to mark up content with your mouse. But, before doing that make sure your website is set up with Google Search Console, or else it won’t work.)
5. Build Up on Local Citations
Local citations is all about mentions of your local business on the web. It may include a link or it could be without it. Google gives citation a hell lot of importance because it lends credibility to your business. In other words, the more the citations Google finds about your business, the more credibility it lends to your website.
So make sure you to list your business in as many sites as you want, but then no matter, ensure that all the data related to your business is consistent across the Internet.
So, without further ado, get your business listed in local directories. Also, check out with your Local Chamber of Commerce to see if they have a local business directory to get your business listed on. Additionally, you can also search for keywords [name your city + directory] to find local citation sites and directories.
6. Encourage Online Reviews
Online reviews are given equal weightage as personal recommendations. In fact, 84 percent of people today trust online reviews before carrying any sort of purchases. And about 7 out of 10 customers leave online reviews when prompted by businesses.
Today, there is good number of reputation marketing software and tool options to track, manage and also get reviews.
A couple of them to try out:
- Reputation Loop
- Get Five Stars
Several social media platforms such as Hootsuite and Tiny Torch helps you keep a track of your brand all the time by sending you alerts as and when your brand name is mentioned. But then, one thing you need to make sure is that you need to respond to all reviews whether it’s positive or negative, that doesn’t matter. It’s simply tells people that you are a responsible business owner and care about customer opinion.
Two places that you can look forward to getting reviews are your Facebook Business Page and Google My Business Page. Getting positive reviews on Google My Business Page is critical because the reviews pop up when someone searches for your business.
Positive reviews improve business visibility of the page, which in turn could affect the rankings on the local pack.
7. Leverage Local PPC
If you have a physical store in New York and you want to target people of California, you can do that by leveraging paid search.
Google AdWords has this amazing geo-targeting option that lets you appear on a certain location or on specific set of locations. Meaning, you will get clicks from specific locations only where your ads are targeted at and from any random location.
Local PPC campaigns, more or less, makes sure that the visitors clicking on your ads are the ones who are residing in close proximity. Meaning you could mail your products directly to them.
Additionally, you could set up landing pages for each destination, which will help you come up with personalized content for specific areas. The best part of this feature is that you’d be able to set up different Google My Business Page for each location, which in turn could be connected to your landing page of each location.
8. Engage in High-quality Link Building
This is a popular strategy. And it’s popular for a reason. Getting other websites link to your site helps build authority and credibility of your website. So your effort should be focused on building more and more external links to your website, which in turn will draw Google’s attention. This is because Google appreciates your efforts in providing your audience with relevant content.
9. Embed Google maps
Adding a Google Map to your website is not really a difficult process. And once you add the same on the contact page, you will be really helping users to find your business as your company will become more visible and searchable on Google.
10. Create Compelling Content
Last but not least, creating compelling content should be topmost priority. Sure, using location-specific title tags, keywords phrases and things like that are sure to draw the attention of the local audience, but then nothing could beat the value of quality content. Top content marketing companies suggest answering of user queries and also convincing the customers that no other competitor is as competent as them to fulfill their needs is one of the best ways to get local customers knocking at your doors.
These are some of the several local SEO strategies that could help you draw local audiences to your business. That said implementing these 10 strategies will surely help you gain an edge over your competition and reap rich dividends.