After reading hundreds of articles, organizing tens of Twitter chats and having thousands of conversations with SEO experts in social media, I’ve learned a lot about search engine marketing. Local businesses need SEO the most, yet often don’t know how to do it or who to call for help. In this post, I will share gold nuggets of information that I’ve learned from famous experts or discovered myself.
If you want your website to rank high in local search, both onsite SEO and off-site SEO, like local citations or social media promotion, are essential. You can’t achieve good results doing one without the other!
- Onsite SEO factors: website visibility and accessibility for search engine crawlers, no duplicate content, relevant title tags and meta tags, alt text in images, good internal linking etc.
- Reviews. Your number of positive review should be more than 10-15. Aim for quantity as well as quality. To learn more about getting outstanding reviews, check out the article “Local Businesses: How To Get Good Online Reviews That Build Businesses.”
- Google My Business. Make sure that your page is verified by Google. You can find the instructions in Google My Business Help.
- Optimized NAP (name, address, phone number) information. Make sure these are clear and visible, contain all necessarily information and are in text (not image) format. Your NAP data should be the same in all local directories as it is on your website.
- Local listings. Ensure that your business is listed in at least 20 of the top business directories, such as Yelp. You can check the most popular directories here: The Ultimate List: 50 Local Business Directories.
- Properly selected categories in Google My Business and other directories. Choose the ones that are most relevant to your business.
Obviously business owners have a lot to do during a typical working day. Sometimes it is simply impossible to devote a considerable amount of time to SEO. So here is a basic plan for maintaining your SEO if you have only 30 minutes a day:
- Invest time in creating great content and build relationships online. Create locally relevant, resourceful content that is specific for your geographic area. Think about how you can associate your products or services with a particular location. For example, if you have a car rental service, you can write about your city’s traffic network; if you’re running a legal agency, then talk about specific, local laws.
- Take part in local events, and then encourage other businesses that are a part of those events to link back to your site.
- Ask your loyal clients and fans to promote your business.
- Send an email to your customers after they have used your product or experienced your service and ask to write a review.
- Make sure your website is optimized its UX is fantastic. Whatever promotional strategy you use, on-site SEO comes first!
- Optimize your site’s title tags and meta description. Its title tag should include your company’s name and location. Meta description tags need to be unique, shortly describe page content, and contain both business and location keywords.
- A mobile-friendly website design is very important for local business! Most local websites are accessed via mobile devices, and since Google has launched an algorithm update, mobile-friendliness has become an official ranking factor.
Success or failure of your content strategies, PPC campaigns and other SEO efforts pretty much depend on the keywords you've chosen. So take time to make the right keyword choices and your efforts will be return to you hundredfold.
- Focus on long-tail keywords. It’s really hard to rank for short-tail terms – they’re too broad and too competitive. Moreover, for local websites long-tail keywords are especially important, as they may include location-specific words. For example, the keyword “buy shaker Chicago” is both less competitive and more geo-targeted than “buy shaker.”
- Focus on keywords that will result in conversion. You always need to conduct a keyword conversion audit. For example, if you’re tracking your goals in Google Analytics, you can easily define the most converting words. Then you can try to understand the trends and patterns associated with these keywords and apply this knowledge to your research strategy. Also, you can use keywords that include indicators of a user’s intent to perform an action – for example, words like “buy,” “delivery” and so on.
- Monitor your competitors. If you choose your target words without considering the competition, chances are you’re going to waste both your time and your money. Check to see what your competitors are doing, find out which keywords they’re ranking for and you're not and adjust your strategy.
- Use social media for keyword research. Look at what people in your region are talking about, what their needs and what they’re interested in.
Backlinks are one of the important factors that influence your local rankings. A well-developed content strategy can help you create a natural and qualitative backlink profile. Let’s take a look at how you can implement one:
- Start a blog and become a resource center in your niche. By regularly posting rich and informative content, chances are good you’ll gain qualitative backlinks.
- Choose a competitive keyword, create an amazing piece of content focused on that keyword and promote it heavily.
- Create list posts – best tools, top blogs, etc. – and mention other businesses on them. Let them know about your post; show gratitude. They’ll be glad to share it with their followers, which may result in a domino effect and drive a large number of backlinks and social shares.
- Write about key issues that are related to your niche and significant local events in your industry. Even if people are not searching exactly for your business, they may be interested in local news.
- Write guest posts for your industry and location blogs. Don’t go promotional, provide truly insightful, valuable content and insert a link to your website in the text, if it fits the topic.
Here are some of the most common mistakes that can significantly lower your chances of raking in local search:
- Duplicate content. All content published on your website should be unique, otherwise your website will be at risk of getting penalized or worse.
- Title tags that aren't optimized. Title tags are extremely important SEO elements that are shown on SERPs, so they require considerable attention. Make sure that you include your business’ location name not only on your homepage, but also on each location-specific page.
- Inconsistent NAP info on your social media profiles and local directories.
- Stuffing your backlink profile with crappy local directories. Quality matters!
- Not developing a review strategy
- Ignoring Google+
- Not using local phone numbers, or using one address to target multiple locations
- Not remaining active on social media; not monitoring brand mentions
- Overusing keywords and writing only branded content
- Not using SEO tools to save time and increase efficiency. Often small companies don't have the budget for a comprehensive toolkit. To get some ideas, check out the article “How to Choose the Best Marketing Toolkit for Your Budget.”
- Optimize your website to get more conversions. Utilize A/B testing to choose between various calls to action, special offers or design variants.
- Focus on creating great content that will earn links and social shares over time. Create helpful, insightful content on your company’s blog and distribute it to as many places as possible.
- Collaborate with industry experts; invite them to guest post on your blog, organize interviews and roundtables.
- Start collecting customer reviews and testimonials on various sites. Use your relationships with your partners and vendors to get testimonials as well.
- Remain active on social media – it’s a powerful tool for a local business. Make sure the information on your social media profiles is consistent. Try to publish fresh content regularly – this will drive more engagement. Set up your Google+ profile and repost the content from your blog on your Google+ page.
Feel free to share you favorite local SEO tips in the comments!