Everyone knows that one of the key components of any small businesses’ digital marketing strategy is to effectively define your position in search engine results. Over the years, we have seen numerous small businesses encounter great success, all thanks to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
But the internet is so crowded with more businesses trying to create an online presence, getting your consumers to notice your brand on search engines is becoming increasingly challenging. Designing a strategy that focusses more on local SEO is the trick to get out of this rat race. Moreover, if your business depends on local customers, it is only smart to invest in local SEO.
Local SEO is a subset of Search Engine Optimisation which lets people in your area find your business on search engines. People are actively looking for local businesses on Google and Google’s own research proves it. Here are a few stats to put things into perspective:
- One in three smartphone searches were made right before a store visit.
- 46% of all searches on Google are local.
- Fifty percent of consumers who conducted a local search on their smartphone visited a store within a day, and 34 percent who searched on a computer or tablet did the same.
- Local searches are great for conversions. Eighteen percent of local searches on smartphones lead to a purchase within a day.
What this means is that people are not only searching for businesses on Google, they are actually taking action when they do. Very few purchase decisions are made without a certain amount of “googling”. In times like these, it is imperative to build a strategy that promotes your business in local searches. Let us dive right into how that is done:
1. Locally focused content
When businesses start building their local SEO strategies, much of the focus is put on maps, local directories, and citations. While there is no doubt that all these things are vital, quality content is the key to success when it comes to building an online presence. Since, you are focussing on local SEO, making sure the content is highly localized will give you the edge you need to stand out.
It is recommended to start a blog (if you don’t have one already) and share content that people in your vicinity will identify with. Simply put, content that is based on or around the things happening in your local area that addresses issues/wants of the consumers specific to your area.
Ensure that you add several location modifiers to your content. LandScapeGuys.com, a landscaping firm based out of White Bear Lake, Minnesota displays beautiful examples of locally focussed content.
2. Become social!
Digital marketing advice that does not mention the importance of social media is rare to come by. Fortunately, not once of those times. Enough stress cannot be put on the importance of social media for the success of your local business. A good SEO strategy will, therefore, integrate social media in its endeavors.
Social media is all about content, and as mentioned earlier, the content you share should be highly relevant to your business, location, as well as your target audience. Many of us also forget how high a businesses’ social media pages rank on SERPs. In fact, sometimes, they are among the top results and leave a huge impression on whoever click through. It is important to maintain consistency, not only in terms of business information but also in terms of reviews (more on these in just a bit).
An active presence on social media will also act as a proof of your involvement with the community. Another thing to keep in mind is that it is important to not restrict oneself to the common platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin. There are always new trends and platforms that rapidly gain a lot of buzz in a short period of time and become obsolete almost just as quickly. It is important to keep up and leverage these trends whenever you find them relevant to your business.
3. “Direct” data matters
The rise of “direct data” has made it important for businesses to have accurate and updated business information (like phone number, address and map location) available online to grab a top spot in the Search Engine Page Results (SERPs). It is integral for a local business to be present (and optimized) on Google Maps. After all, if people cannot locate your business, how are they supposed to interact with it? It is equally important for businesses to have Google Maps embedded on their websites with the businesses’ location specified.
The same research by Google mentioned above revealed that 86% of participants lookup the location of a business on google maps before making a visit while 50% of mobile searchers are looking for business information like the local address.
The goal is to build and optimize your businesses’ listing across a myriad of local business directories such as Google My Business and optimize those listings with correct business information such as address, phone number, and website. However, it is very important to keep in mind the company’s basic information, such as name, address and phone number is consistent across directories, websites, and social media pages.
Search Engines pay a great deal of attention to information. If your business’s address, for instance, varies on different websites, the search engine might identify the different addresses as individual business entities and not one business. This will have a negative impact on your visibility. Check out this example of how having variations in your information can hinder your SEO results.
4. Listing, and optimizing across various business directories
Google My Business is just the tip of the iceberg. There are a number of local business directories that you need to target, such as Yelp, Yahoo Business, Bing, MapQuest, Super Pages, Yellow Pages and Facebook.
Google and other search engines constantly scan these sites to develop a stronger understanding of the local web and your business. Your rankings and information present of Google are collected from all over the internet. It is then not hard to imagine what listing on multiple websites will do for your local SEO efforts. At the same time, it is imperative to ensure a consistency in the business information across different directories.
Make sure you leave no directory that you find relevant to your business. Here is a list of top 50 directories that you can list and optimize for.
5. Online reviews
Online reviews are critically important, not only for your local SEO efforts but for your business as a whole. It doesn’t matter if your business operates online or not, your online reviews matter. Here are a couple of stats to back that up:
Online reviews account for over 8% of local search engine factors.
A survey revealed that 90% of the people believe a positive review affects their purchase decision. While 88% believe a negative review affects their purchase decision.
This means that online reviews are not only a factor that will affect your ranking on SERPs, it is important to understand that these appear at a LOT of places.
Google is constantly trying to enhance the user experience and online reviews are a big part of doing that. Remember, your online reviews are attached to all the other information Google has about your business. It is not hard to imagine what would happen in a situation when a customer has to choose between a business with great reviews and one with negative or non-existent customer reviews. Check out these simple hacks you can use to garner more positive online reviews for your business.
6. Local link building
Links from your website to other contextually related websites and vice versa play a pivotal role in the success of your SEO strategy because it helps your business gain visibility while building credibility. Sure, listing your business in the directories we discussed above is great, but it will not bring about results that are comparable to organic backlinking. Here are a few benefits your business will enjoy with effective backlinking:
- Your website will receive traffic from other websites linked to yours.
- Backlinks from credible and high-quality websites will automatically make your website a valuable content resource. However, it is important to consistently generate quality content to maintain this image.
- More visibility of your blog in local search results.
- Link building helps to get your business indexed higher in SERPs.
Effective local backlinking requires a great deal of research. Start with local, city-run websites. Many of these have “local directories” on them, which your business can get listed on with a simple email or a phone call.
Another place to create great backlinks is to comment on local blogs. By this, I do not mean you spam every local blog you can find with comments advertising your business. Instead, find conversations that are related to your business or industry, and get involved in them by giving valuable inputs. You can also join some local business groups or welfare clubs and get yourself a nice, high-quality backlink on their website. This will be a projection of how connected your business is with the local community.
The only thing to keep in mind is to link or be linked to websites that make sense for your business. Don’t try to game the system by garnering useless, unrelated backlinks as this will have a negative impact on your visibility in the long run. If you want more tips on how to effectively backlink locally, check out these quick tips.
7. Go mobile or go home
This one is more of a general SEO success tip, but it works wonders for local businesses too! Having a mobile friendly or responsive website is not optional anymore. In October 2016, a number of mobile users surpassed the number of desktop users for the first time, with over 51% of web traffic coming from mobile devices and this number is only expected to increase. Website mobile friendliness, is in fact, now a Google ranking factor.
It is Important to understand that users across different devices use them with different intent. For instance, a mobile user, searching locally for a service, is looking for a “quick fix” for their need or problem. Hence, they are the easiest potential customers to convert. Switching to a mobile friendly website will show conversions, and not just in terms of website traffics or clicks, in terms of real financial transactions!
Giving your consumers a better user experience across devices is sure to amp up your conversion numbers. You can even offer mobile-only deals on your mobile website to make sure the customers keeping coming back to your website. So, if you already haven’t created a responsive website, it is high time to start building one to create the best possible user experience for your potential customers.
Whether you are a local business that is just starting out or someone who has been burned in the past by an “SEO expert”, these tips will almost certainly improve your SEO returns substantially. If you have any other tips that you’d like to share, please do so in the comments below. It is always interesting to look at unexplored viewpoints.