While it is clear that small businesses do not have the marketing budgets of big-box chains, there are still plenty of local SEO tactics and strategies small businesses can put in place that are guaranteed to have a significant impact on their SEO. In some cases, these strategies can even allow them to compete with the more prominent household brands.
There are a few factors at play here, but the key ones are:
Flexibility. Smaller businesses can be more agile, make decisions more quickly, and implement sweeping updates to their online visibility without having to go through a host of departments for approval.
Personality. These days, consumers are often on the side of smaller, local businesses. They aren't as focused on doing business with more established, but ultimately faceless, franchise businesses.
Focus. More prominent brands have a massive number of moving parts, and with them comes a deluge of varying metrics to analyze and glean insights from. Meanwhile, small businesses with a laser focus on local SEO tactics can often appear in search thanks to their ability to excel in a few key areas.
What do I mean by a 'laser focus on local SEO tactics'? In this piece, I will be covering 10 of the most effective ways local businesses can improve their search performance online without breaking the bank.
1. Ask for Reviews Wherever You Can
Quantity, quality, and velocity of online reviews play a more important part than ever before in determining how your business ranks in Google's Local Pack and Google Maps search results.
So this means you need reviews. If you do not have the budget for a review management system or an agency to manage the process, do not worry! The key to growing new reviews is simply to ask for them, wherever and whenever you can.
You could create a shortlink, using a tool like bit.ly, and place this everywhere: cash register receipts, invoices, email footers, an in-store kiosk, business cards, in-store signage, etc. And then there's the old classic: asking in person at the end of a transaction. You might have noticed that most of these are as good as free, only requiring you to update existing assets.
However you go about it, the important thing is to keep asking and never to let a fear of negative feedback stop you.
2. Respond to Reviews Whenever You Can
One of the things that makes a customer more likely to leave you a review is seeing your replies to other reviewers. It just makes sense that they are more likely to review your business if they know they will get a 'thank you.'
Be sure to respond to all reviews if you have time, and if you do not, focus on the reviewers asking questions or leaving a lot of detail. Consider the effort the customer will have gone to leave the review and try to match that in your response.
3. Get Your Business Data Accurate And Consistent
While it doesn't play as critical a role in local rankings as it once did, the industry agrees that a clean and consistent business listing profile is still a ranking factor for local search.
Business listings management for a small business is incredibly affordable, because more than anything, it merely requires time rather than skill. You can hire an agency to manage it for you or use one of many citation management services available. Optimizing your business listing profile is a fundamental task that all small, local businesses must undertake.
4. Get Local Links by Giving to Your Community
Donating to charity is likely the most costly tactic on this list, but it makes up for it in terms of importance to local SEO. Links are very much the backbone of search engine algorithms, so it is vital to invest in them.
But when I say 'invest,' I don't mean just 'buy links.' Buying links is a well-known tactic that Google strongly frowns upon. They spend vast amounts of resources on investigating and subsequently ignoring instances of paid links.
This makes generating links hard for all business types. However, it is a little easier for smaller, local businesses because they are not interested so much in the high-DA websites. What is more important for ranking these types of companies is how 'local' the links are.
For example, a nofollow link from a community-led sports group isn't going to make a difference to Amazon. Still, this kind of locality is key to establishing and showcasing a relationship of trust between two local businesses in the same area.
So put a little budget into sponsoring local sports teams, events, and volunteering at charity organizations, and ask them for a link to your site. Genuinely caring about your local community is the best thing you can do for your business website's link profile as it will improve your organic and local rankings.
5. Upload Quality Pictures to Your Google My Business Profile
If you are a small business, you will undoubtedly be familiar with Google My Business (GMB). Optimizing your GMB is the most critical factor in local rankings (this should come as no surprise considering your GMB listing is what ranks in local search results).
There are a few affordable ways to optimize this listing easily, which I will go into below, but this is an area worth further investment if you can afford it. GMB, as a Google tool, is always changing, so working with a GMB professional to keep your listing up to date is a wise purchase for any local business.
By having several photos of your business on your listing, you'll be able to engage better with a user when they're trying to find a business to visit. So, getting more photos uploaded to your GMB is essential. Almost every cellphone on the market comes with a high-quality camera, so it should be easy to take high-quality images of your business or services for your GMB profile.
6. Ask and Answer Questions On Google My Business Q&As
Google Q&A is by no means a new feature, but it is understandable if you have not spotted it in search. It is a criminally underused feature, even though it is one that provides business with another opportunity to engage with their customers.
The key is not to sit and wait for people to ask questions about your business or to encourage them to do so. The trick is to use the Q&As yourself, asking and answering popular questions to create a kind of off-website FAQ for your business.
7. Test for The Right Google My Business Category
You may have picked a primary and secondary business category when you set up your Google My Business. Still, Google is adding more and more niche categories to the available list all the time.
This presents a cost-effective opportunity to optimize your GMB listing for more relevance to local searches. You don't have to do anything more than tweak your subcategory, see if the change significantly affects performance by looking at your GMB Insights data, and keep it if it has a positive impact.
8. Include Your Name, Address, and Phone Number Prominently on Your Website
Moving away from off-site elements like GMB and reviews, let us talk a bit about what you can do on your local business website to improve search results.
First, getting your NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) prominently added to your website on key pages is a must. This is important so that the visitor can validate the business' location with ease, but also because (provided it matches up with the business data you have included in your GMB listing), it's a sign that the website is accurate.
Businesses that serve an emergency need, such as plumbers, pest control, or locksmiths, should make their phone number one of the most visible and eye-catching elements of their website, as this is the information panicked visitors want to find right away.
9. Add FAQ Schema to Your Website
One of the more recent interactive elements disrupting organic SERPs is FAQs. Businesses with FAQ schema markup will find themselves an opportunity to answer questions and generate interest right in the organic results. Competitors without this functionality may fail to catch the attention of the searcher.
It does not have to be too technical, but if you are nervous about messing with your website's code, don't worry: it's relatively simple to add schema to the FAQs on your site, so your web developer should not charge a great deal for this work.
10. Find Assistance and Inspiration in the Google My Business Help Community
My final tip is entirely free: join the Google My Business Help Community and look there daily for tips, tricks, and to get your questions on GMB answered.
The answers come from established Product Experts and, for the most part, experienced Googlers, so your queries will be in safe hands.
And while you are bookmarking useful sites, join the Local Search Forum, the internet's premier resource for free discussion and information on local search.
I hope I have shown above that improving your small business SEO is not as costly as you may have thought. Good luck boosting those rankings and generating more business!
SEMrush Tip: You can unify your business listings on Google My Business and dozens of other online directories to improve local SEO with the Listing Management tool. This tool is the product of our collaboration with Yext and is available to anyone with a SEMrush account - paid or free. Just pay a monthly fee and we will align all of your business info to be consistent and correct across the web.