In our current “go big or go home” culture, it’s easy to miss opportunities that are quite literally at our doorsteps. According to GoGuf, 46% of Google searches are looking for local information. Why not give people what they are searching for?
In this article, we will be going through all the steps you will need to optimize your small business’ online presence. There are so many Local SEO tools available, so let’s try to get through them all!
So what is Local SEO and what makes it different from regular SEO?
Let’s do a quick run through of the basics. When you input a search query into any major search engine (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc), you get search results. The order of the site listings on the search engine are based on what the search engine determines to be most relevant. This relevance is based on the number of visits or “pings” your site receives. It’s become an ongoing cycle: you need pings to get more pings.
All website owners want their sites to pop up first. But that's the problem -- all website owners want their sites to pop up first. At the end of the day, you are competing with hundreds, thousands, or even millions of other businesses that want that spot in the lead.
This is when SEO comes into play. SEO stands for search engine optimization, and, in short, it is the process of increasing traffic to your site by making your site easily accessible to the search engine.
Local SEO, on the other hand, has a geographical component. In Local SEO, you, the local business owner, are marketing your product to your local customers. As an example, it is late at night and you want to order a pizza. Instead of searching “pizza place,” you would search “pizza place in <insert your current location>”. This is a local search, and for the local business owner, this calls for Local SEO.
A big part of Local SEO would be the Local Pack.
Google’s Local Pack comes as one of many features under Google’s Local SERPs. SERPs stands for Google’s Search Engine Results Page. While the Local Pack may arguably be the most crucial component to Local SEO, Google’s SERPs contains very useful features to help your business market your product.
Let’s go back to our previous pizza example. So you’ve typed in the search query “pizza places in los angeles” and this is the result you get:
Looks familiar, right? The Local Pack is the boxed area that appears after local searches. Only the top three most relevant listings make it on there. This is why Local SEO is so important. 30% of first page SERPs feature a Local Pack and your business can gain amazing exposure from being on there.
Now that we’ve gone through what Local SEO is and why it’s important, let’s go through the Local SEO tools you can use to maximize exposure and pings for your small business!
Before anything, we should address your on-page elements. This might feel like a hassle, but cleaning up your site will prove beneficial in the long run. An online site can be similar to a physical store. You want to maintain a clean and concise presence -- it adds credibility (and pings)!
First up, keywords!
You want your site to show up in the SERPs when people search for a product that you sell. The usual format is <service> in <location>. Applying this to our pizza example, when a customer is searching for your product, they would likely input:
“pizza place in los angeles”
“pizzeria in LA”
“best pizza in los angeles”
So how should we find SEO keywords?
After finding these keywords, apply them! One of the biggest myths about SEO is that SEO is a one-time thing. This is not true. Instead, SEO is an ever-changing process which requires constant maintenance, updating, and refinement. What was a popular search last month may not be the same popular search today. By continually researching, refining, and implementing, you can make sure your business continues to benefit from properly implemented SEO techniques.
A title tag is the HTML title of the web page and is displayed on the search engine results page. The title tag in the photo below would be “Sprout Social: How to Grow Your Social Media Presence l electrIQ marketing.”
It is important to create title tags that a customer would want to click on. They should be attention grabbing and enticing. With a combination of SEO techniques and other tips, you can make a very ping-worthy site. Your goal? A title tag for your site that is both attractive to users and search engines alike!
What should your title tag encompass?
You need a clean URL that won’t make your website’s link look like a virus or keyboard explosion. The goal of your URL should be: to be search-engine friendly and simple enough for your user to understand. With a good URL, you can rank higher for competitive keywords and increase your site’s page rank. With a good page rank, Google will rate your site better for user experience.
Optimizing images is also a must. While the camera quality may be absolutely amazing, loads of high-resolution, heavy photos slow down your site. When sites load too slow, your visitor leaves and goes somewhere else. Additionally, large files and slow sites lower your Google grades for user experience.
For photos, our tips would be:
To begin the process of local SEO, you need to claim and manage your online listings. In fact, 56% of businesses have not claimed their Google My Business listings.
It is crucial to claim your business listings, but also to maintain them with accurate data. There should be no discrepancies between listings or sites. Because of the “suggest an edit” function, there is a possibility of your listings changing without your knowledge. This can be addressed by simply checking your listing’s information every couple of weeks. If not, it can cause incorrect information to be spread to and among customers. This can lead to negative reviews and responses by customer to your business and product even though it may not be your fault.
Some things to keep updated and uniform through all sites:
Now let’s go into the specifics of Google My Business, Bing Places, and Apple Maps.
Google My Business is a free and easy-to-use tool for businesses and organizations to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps. With a market share of 76%, Google has been the leading search engine for nearly two decades. As such, claiming your Google My Business listing is a must.
After verifying your listing, you can begin to optimize. Adding categories, listing services, and creating categories will help to expand your credibility and draw in customers. Additionally, Google My Business gives tracking insights through Google Analytics! We will talk about this more later.
As you begin optimizing your Google My Business settings, consider adding photos. According to Google, businesses with photos get 40% more requests for directions. In fact, an original and high-quality photo can help boost SEO rankings! Photos are helpful in connecting to your customer and drawing them in. It boosts the legitimacy of your business and sparks their interest.
Additionally, if a business has filled out all of their information (hours, phone number, etc.), their logo will appear next to their business profile!
According to Microsoft Advertising, 33% of American searches are powered by Bing. While that is more than a lot of us had expected, it shows the importance of Bing for Local SEO -- it can not be forgotten! Claiming businesses on Bing Places is very similar to Google My Businesses. In fact, if you already have a Google My Business listing, you can transfer it over!
After verifying your listing, begin to optimize by adding the basics such as your phone number and website, but also your Facebook, Yelp (which we will be going through soon), and other sites you may have. Additionally, like Google My Business, photos are crucial. Bing allows you to add up to 100 photos and gives guidelines here!
Apple Maps is another important business outlet. Why? Because it is used by millions of IOS users, and it automatically connects to Siri and spotlight searches. When iPhone users use voice command for navigation, or click an address, Apple Maps provides data. Similarly, when customers are searching for certain businesses or products, Apple Maps becomes a worthy contender. In short, claim your Apple Maps listing, and of course, optimize as usual!
Now, don’t forget the business directories. And with those business directories come reviews. Here is where it can get timely. While claiming listings and updating information can be done pretty infrequently, business directories call for the monitoring and generation of reviews and testimonies. However, this constant maintenance is necessary and here’s why:
Yelp can make or break your business. As one of the highest trafficked websites and the leading review site, this is the place to be for your local business. Thankfully, Yelp made it pretty easy for business owners to claim or create a business listing.
Here is a mini checklist for navigating through Yelp for your small business.
In addition to claiming your business and looking for incorrect edits, engaging with your customers is key. Google My Business gives access to various Google tools which is great! Use Google Posts to update and communicate with your customers. And of course, responding to reviews (both positive and negative) in a timely and positive manner.
Google Analytics is deservingly the leading web analytic tool. With real-time reporting and historical analysis, you are provided with better knowledge of your customer.
Through the information received, you can better know your customer and effectively implement SEO techniques for your online site.
Like citations on an essay or article, your business can be cited. Online mentions of your business on credible sources can be helpful by displaying your NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number). This is added exposure.
There are two types of citations, structured and unstructured. Structure citations are the ones where your NAP is shown in a very systematic manner. They are usually found on business directories (Yelp, Google My Business, etc.) and social profiles. Unstructured citations tend to be found on blog posts or articles. They don’t necessarily show all of your information but will likely link to a site.
You want the added exposure of citations of your business. Listing your business of reputable sites can be helpful in gaining credibility. Search engines rank sites with more citations higher. However, these need to be credible and accurate or Google may rank you down. Examples of sites you may want to be listed on include, but are not limited to:
Whenever adding any information, make sure you are careful to avoid typos and mistakes. Reread anything you type into your profiles two or three times. Mistakes can be costly, both in an SEO sense and a monetary sense for your business!
A backlink is a link from another website to your source. The function of backlinks are to build authority and increase traffic. More backlinks lead to more referral traffic -- this brings in more exposure and customers for your site. Additionally, greater numbers of backlinks will improve your SEO as it gains the trust of crawlers. This means it will gain greater relevance and ranking in search results, a huge positive!
Increasing the volume of backlinks for your site will increase Local SEO and build credibility for your business. To do this, here are some tips:
Local SEO can be challenging, however, it is a vital component of running a successful business. Increasing your business’ exposure so that it can be located by searchers is crucial. Plus, don’t forget that Local SEO is an ongoing process. One that requires updating and refinement.
As always, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out! Or, if you are looking for some ideas about how your business specifically should approach Local SEO, book one of our complimentary consultations. We’d be happy to go over how you can take your business to the next level through a well-planned, custom-tailored SEO approach!