Looking to optimize your business website for local search, but not sure where to start? Columnist Ryan Shelley provides some tips for beginners.
When it comes to marketing your local business online, search is a great place to start. Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a number of small to mid-size local businesses, helping them grow their reach and their revenue using SEO.
One of the biggest hurdles we face when working with local clients is that they’ve been burned in the past by so-called “experts.” They’ve invested their hard-earned money only to see little, if any, return. This has led many local businesses to believe SEO is a scam or doesn’t work.
My goal is to share a few local SEO tips that actually work — and how you can start using them today to grow your business’s online reach.
Why local SEO?
Before we get into the tips, let me lay the groundwork for why you need to invest in local SEO. People use search engines to find local businesses they want to buy from. This is not just my own opinion; Google’s own research proves it. Here are a few stats the make the point.
- Four in five consumers use search engines to find local information.
- 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 lead to more purchases than non-local searches. Eighteen percent of local searches on smartphones lead to a purchase within a day vs. 7 percent of non-local searches.
What does this mean for your business? Not only are people searching locally, they’re taking action when they do! Building a strategy that promotes your business locally will do more than drive website traffic — it will drive sales. So let’s get into the some tried-and-true tips to help you rank better and convert more local searchers.
1. Locally focused content
When we talk about local SEO, often much of the focus is on citations, local directories and maps. All of these components are important, of course; but to really give yourself an edge, you need to create quality localized content.
What do I mean by localized content? Here, I’m referring to content that is based on or around your local area and educates readers on the specific issues/problems/wants they have. Local businesses can benefit a ton by sharing the purpose and passion behind what they do.
Here’s what I recommend: Start a blog (if you don’t already have one), and create content specific to your niche and town. Share why your community is special and how your products or services align with the community’s values. You started your business for a reason; tell your audience and let them connect.
Be sure to use location modifiers in your content, too. For instance, if you are a bakery in Palm Bay, Florida, share how your bakery serves that town.
A great place to get inspiration for local content is your customers. Interview them, share stories about interactions you’ve had, the possibilities are endless. Localized content creates a personal connection and serves your end user. It also gives other local sites a reason to connect and link to you!
2. Maps, directories & citations
For local businesses, it’s important to ensure that your business is present (and optimized) on Google Maps. After all, if people can’t get directions to you, then you’re out of luck!
It still amazes me that so many businesses have yet to claim their map listings through Google My Business. This is a simple and easy step that gives you more exposure and allows you to manage how your business appears on Google Maps. Here are Google’s instructions on how to add or claim your listing.
Google My Business is just one of hundreds of listing sites for local companies. The goal is to claim and update your business listing in as many relevant, legitimate business directories and maps services as you can, and optimize those listings with correct business information. (It’s especially important to ensure that your name, address and phone number are consistent across the web.)
The big directory and map sites you definitely need to get on are Google, Yelp, Yahoo Business, Bing, MapQuest, Super Pages, Yellow Pages and Facebook. To see some of the other main directories, check this out.
Now, one thing to note. When you start claiming these, expect to get calls from bots or emails from the sites themselves telling you they can grow your business for a small fee. Ignore them. They will go away. Claiming your listing, ensuring your address and phone number are correct, then adding the correct categories, social profiles, website URL and a good description should be enough to get you going.
If you want to really be on top of things, I recommend looking into Moz Local or Yext. They’ll help you streamline the process and alert you if something needs to be fixed. They won’t catch everything, but they can provide a good starting point, and they can help you monitor and maintain any listings you have claimed.
3. Local link building
Link building is perhaps the most important factor when it comes to SEO. But not all links are equal. The directory links we talked about above are great, but they don’t carry the same weight as organic backlinks.
Just like any other backlink strategy, local backlinking begins with good research. City-run sites are a great place for local businesses to start. Many of these local sites have “local directories” on them. Most of the time, all you need to do is email the website admin and request to be added.
Another great place to find local backlinks is with local clubs and outreach organizations. Joining a local Rotary Club or business group will often land you a nice quality backlink. These links are important because they show how connected you are to the community. I’ve seen this work over and over again for clients.
The key is to only link to, or get links from, sites you want to be associated with. Make sure that the link makes sense contextually, and never pay to play. Link building is really, at its core, about building relationships. When it comes to local SEO and business, relationships are huge.
These simple tips will help you rank better and drive more quality and localized leads to your business. Whether you’re a new local business looking to grow or you’ve been burned in the past, you can start to gain some traction by creating quality local content, claiming your listings and building relationships that lead to good links. So what are you waiting for? Go grow your business!