For a local business it is hard to compete with the big names online, but if you are strategic in your approach and have the right tools, you can easily grow the visibility of your brand and increase your sales.
Here are Four Steps That Can Help with Local SEO:
Establish Your Online Presence
We will start with a simple yet important thing that a lot of business owners ignore — business listing directories.
It is not enough to just have a website; you need to put your business information out there for the customer to find. The information should be accurate and consistent across the internet, and this can be a challenge; we will get to that in a moment.
First, let’s figure out:
What is a business listing and what is business information?
Business listing directories are basically today’s replacement for the last century’s Yellow Pages. These are maps, apps, search engines, GPS systems, digital assistants, social networks, and other services that collect, organize, and keep information about businesses.
Google My Business is an example of a free business listing. So are Yelp, Foursquare, TripAdvisor, Facebook, Apple Maps, Yahoo, and Bing, but there are many more. There are dozens of listing directories, and that is only counting the biggest ones.
The significant pieces of business information are Name, Address, and Phone number, aka NAP. There may be other additional information on various directories, but NAP is essential for the customer to find your establishment.
Why are business listings important?
Being in multiple directories increases your visibility and trust with the search engines and people, which leads to higher local search ranking and can eventually bring an audience of eager and ready-to-buy customers to your doorstep.
The key is to have consistent information in each listing and keep it updated. The catch is that the time required to do this can be quite tedious, especially if your business has more than one location.
Business listings collect the data from multiple sources, they cross-check it and weigh it is accuracy using proprietary algorithms. This process is prone to errors and discrepancies, so you need to continuously supply listings with the correct information.
A SEMrush Solution for business listings:
Working in collaboration with Yext — an acclaimed technology company that helps businesses to manage their online presence — SEMrush developed the Listing Management tool.
To start, enter your business information:
Click Check listings, and get the list of directories with the status of your data:
The Listing Management tool covers 50+ directories including Yelp, Foursquare, TripAdvisor, Facebook, Apple Maps, Yahoo, Bing, and the most recent addition — Alexa. In case you didn't know, Alexa is an Amazon’s voice-control system that answers questions on the tens of millions of devices every day, so providing Alexa’s database with the best, most up-to-date information about your business is highly beneficial.
Now, to distribute the correct information you need to purchase a location card for your business. Our agreement with Yext allows us to charge our paid subscribers $20 per location per month, which is a small price for the provided functionality and the extended list of directories.
When you are done with circulating business cards among the most relevant and authoritative directories, proceed to the on-page optimization.
Prepare Your Website
A lot of people search for local businesses on the go, and you have to provide a good mobile experience to bring them in. So, as well as fixing all possible technical issues your website might have, you should really focus on the mobile friendliness.
Optimizing websites for mobile is critical today since Google has rolled out the long-dreaded mobile-first indexing.
Nice-looking pictures and short descriptions, along with a clean and simple look will hold the user’s attention for longer. Review your website’s interface. Are all the necessary buttons easy to reach? Is the purchase process a 10-step quest or a simple two-click experience? Make sure that all the fill-in forms are clickable and large enough to use on any screen without much effort.
Here is a nice example of a user-friendly, adaptive website with easily accessible fields, and a well-thought-out user interface:
Follow Google’s guidelines for creating a mobile-friendly website.
A SEMrush Solution:
Whether you implement a responsive or adaptive design, have a separate mobile version or only provide a desktop one, you should set up the Site Audit tool to check on your website’s health — neither your customers nor Google would appreciate a broken website.
Your site should work well, and most critical mistakes are not specific to mobile devices. However, it would be a good idea to select a mobile crawler during the Site Audit setup process:
This way our crawler will go for a mobile version of your website.
Also, if you have an AMP version of the website check the box Crawl AMP pages first (available only on Business subscription)
Assess your website’s Total Score and the scope of work:
Glance at the Thematic Scores, and review your top issues:
When you sort out critical errors, go back to thematic reports.
Start with Crawlability — you want all the essential pages of your website to be accessible for the search engines in order to be indexed.
Then move to the Performance report — page loading speed always matters, and it is especially significant for the quality of the mobile experience.
The Internal Linking report is about the informational architecture of your website — you want your users to get the information they need in the fewest possible number of clicks. Structuring your website correctly will also help its rankings by evenly spreading the link juice.
The HTTPS report assesses how secure your website is, which nowadays is vital for every website, not just the ones dealing with sensitive information.
Finally, the International SEO report is a must for businesses with multilingual websites — hreflang implementation is a very tricky business.
Maintaining a healthy website is an ongoing process, but for now, let’s move on to the visibility of your website.
Improve Your Visibility
We won’t talk much here about keyword research, but its importance will not fade away anytime soon. You can catch up on our Keyword Magic tool in this great blog post. Just keep in mind that queries you want to aim for will have local intent (like “pizza near me”), and quite a lot of people will use voice search.
As we have already established, a lot of local search traffic comes from mobile devices, and mobile SERPs are quite different in terms of visibility.
Even if you rank well in the desktop results, being in the top organic results does not mean that you will be seen because of the ads and SERP features taking up the screen space. And on devices with smaller screens, it will be even harder to be seen.
Here is an example of a mobile SERP for the request “pizza in new orleans”:
First, there is an ad with sitelinks and an app, then another ad that also has extensions, then a Local pack with a map and the three results, and only then will you get the first organic result.
As you can see, the best way to gain visibility is to get into the Local Pack.
As well as managing the aforementioned business listing directories, keeping your NAP consistent across the internet, and the on-page optimization of your website, you can try a few more things to increase your chances of getting into the Local pack:
Reach out to the local websites that write local news, cover local businesses, and host local blogs. Try to get backlinks.
Encourage your clients to leave reviews online.
Check out custom markers on Google; it will help you to stand out.
Create posts in Google My Business.
Track Your Results
Now, when you are done with the hard work described above, it is time to sit back and enjoy the success. Well, not really. Your competition never sleeps. You have to keep working to stay on top.
Luckily, SEMrush once again has a solution for you—the Position Tracking tool.
This tool tracks your website’s rankings for a custom set of target keywords. The data is collected daily, so you are getting the freshest information.
When configuring Position Tracking for your website, you can choose to track any subdomain, URL, or subfolder.
On the first step of the setup, pay close attention to the input form for the business name:
Google doesn’t always add website links to the local map packs, especially on mobile SERPs. In these cases, it gets much harder to track your local rankings, but SEMrush Position tracking solves this problem for you.
Insert the name of your company exactly as it appears in Google My Business. Pay attention to the case sensitivity (e.g., if it is “Best Pizza” in the Google directory, “best pizza” won’t do here).
This way you will be able to see if you appear in Local packs, even if they don’t have a link to your website.
The second step of the setup is crucial for local SEO — choosing the device and location you want to target:
Position Tracking allows you to target the location by the ZIP code, which means that your targeting can go deeper than at a city level. Tracking SEO results of a local business can be more precise than ever before!
Your visibility and appearance in Local packs is about proximity, so monitoring and managing your search engine performance for your exact location is extremely beneficial. As well as this, focusing on your local queries will spare you the work, and will save you time and money.
To finish setup you need to add your keywords, and, optionally, your competitors. Let the tool gather keyword data and get to work.
Go to the Competitors Discovery to see your closest rivals.
Blacklist domains that are not in direct competition with you (e.g., wikipedia.org), and add others to your tracking campaign by clicking Set as competitor next to the domain:
Once this is down, you can easily keep an eye on your competitors, and see how well you perform compared to them.
Another very useful feature of the Position Tracking tool is filtering by SERP features.
Let’s look at Local packs. Filter the words that you don’t rank for:
Now you have the list of keywords you need to work on:
Another important SERP feature that you need for your website is Reviews. Having stars on your snippets is advantageous as it is eye-catching.
The workflow of finding keywords that trigger reviews is the same as filtering for Local packs. But there is a technical nuance in acquiring it — you will need to add a special markup on the pages of your website.
If you are running a local business today, you must have an online presence because your competitors are not invisible, and they are taking your customers.
Follow the steps we described to get started with local SEO, and share your success stories in the comments section.