Are you just getting started as the owner of a real-site (aka, “brick and mortar”) business? Maybe you’re no longer “the new guys” on the block but you’ve never really addressed your marketing needs. Or maybe you run a business that everyone sees as a staple to the community but sales just aren’t what they used to be.
If any of these situations sound familiar and you’re doing your best to tackle the situation head-on, you’re sure to encounter Local SEO—local search engine optimization. If you have internet access, Local SEO is something you’ve probably come in contact with a million times as a consumer, even if you don’t know the term.
When you know the place you want (Felicity’s Flowers, Tony’s Tires, or Pop’s Pizza) but can’t remember its address or phone number, you do what everyone else does: get online and Google it! If you know the place you want but can’t remember it’s name, you might Google for “flowers,” “tire shop,” or “pizza near me.”
In response, Google provides you with a list of businesses that match the terms of your search, conveniently pinning them all on a map, and when the listing corresponds to a physical site, it provides such information as their contact details (including their website if they have one), hours of operation, and in many cases, customer reviews.
All of the businesses that appear on a list like this have owners who have diligently worked to create and improve their Local SEO listings, and you can do it, too. The benefits you can receive from the added visibility of appearing on Google’s top hits list like this are both astonishing and incalculable, but the bottom line: new customers!
Whether you offer goods or services, if your business has a physical presence in the community, you will want to have a presence on a Google listing, too. Not only does it tell people that you exist, but it gives them everything they need to know to reach you.
If you would you like to learn more about how Local SEO works and how to utilize it for your business, please read on. We will discuss everything you need to know in this article.
The Internet, Local SEO, and Your Business
The internet—and with it, globalization—is here to stay. For better or worse, that’s a fact, so it is probably best that we just get onboard with it. In any case, for the savvy business owner, the benefits are too great to ignore.
From a means of communicating to a source of news to finding your way around town, people use the internet for everything. Nearly everything we do starts with a search on Google—from defining unfamiliar terms to choosing a place to eat to finding the phone number to a business.
This interconnectivity has created a vastly different world from that which existed even two generations ago. Nearly everything is done differently now, and business owners who are still relying on word of mouth or space in newspapers are simply flirting with extinction. Moreover, if your shop has no internet presence, you could be missing out on a great deal of potential customers … and revenue.
What we’re really talking about is strategically using Local SEO (search engine optimization) techniques to position yourself as the go-to business in your area for whatever market you’re in. That’s right—search engine optimization is employable at any scale, and Local SEO is specifically a local marketing technique.
Think of Local SEO as a strategy for making yourself more visible to those who are close enough to drive to your location.
So, your business is up and running and you’re selling goods or services at a physical establishment. By employing Local SEO strategies, you will appear to consumers in the area of your business when they search for whatever your business offers. That’s it in a nutshell.
You might also choose to employ Global SEO strategies, of course, depending on what you sell or offer, and using Local SEO will not interfere with that. It’s really up to you, and how applicable it will be for you, how far you choose to be relevant in search results. We’ll discuss global strategies in another article.
How Local SEO Benefits Your Business
Why you need to have a strategy for local SEO? Because it can bring you these valuable benefits:
- Local customers: Local SEO helps inform the people most likely to visit you—those from your area—of your presence.
- Awareness leads to leads: Anyone who sees your listing is a potential customer. Maybe they do not visit the first time they see your name, but they’ll know you’re there and may choose your establishment the next time.
- Narrow the field of competitors: With Local SEO, your only competition will be other businesses in the area.
- Customer reviews: A good or bad review can either propel a business to great fame or sink it like a stone. Employ techniques in your business that encourage positive reviews.
- “Do I even need a website?”: There is still great benefit to maintaining an aesthetically pleasing, informative website, but it is true that with good placement in Google search results, you could forego a website (which has traditionally been used as a means of advertising) altogether.
- Google Map pin. Nothing beats seeing your business listed on Google Maps for the first time, and your customers will be equally impressed.
The Fundamentals of Local SEO
The search terms used that will ultimately bring a customer to a business are most often the Name of the Product/Service the customer wants and the City/Town/Area where the customer is located.
Of course, finding yourself in the top position in the search results is the main goal, so let’s spend some time on how to accomplish that.
Fundamental Techniques Used in Local SEO:
- Keyword research: The key to a high ranking is choosing the keywords most likely to be used by a customer when they’re searching for what you’re selling. You’ll want to begin by thoroughly researching keyword options. Be sure to consider words of locality.
- Optimize your website to reflect the primary keyword you’re using in your Local SEO optimization. For example, “bookstore in Grand Rapids;” “tuxedo sellers in Kentwood.”
- Include Name/Address/Phone data on your landing page. The information your customers are most likely to want and search for should not be overlooked.
- Google My Business (GMB). Registering for GMB is key to boosting local SEO placement and increasing your number of reviews on Google.
- Register your business on both local and international business directories (Yelp, Urbanspoon, etc.). The greater your internet presence, the higher your ranking.
- Create a social media presence (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.). If you create these, you want to keep them updated with current information and be responsive to queries posted there, or risk getting negative reviews.
Applying Simple yet Effective SEO Strategies to Your Business
Here are some final, specific tips on setting up Local SEO for your business. You may want to do this work yourself or hire the work out to an SEO specialist, but this is the information you’ll need in order to manage the project.
Manage Your Google Reviews
You would probably agree that when you Google a business, you feel more comfortable going to the place with 5 stars than to the one with 2 stars. And you’ve probably scrolled through comments plenty of times to try to distinguish the better business if their star ratings are similar.
Potential customers who are interested in your business or looking for what you sell are likely to do the same. Because you want them to see high ratings and very positive comments when they google you, it will be worth it to go the extra mile with your customers to ensure they have a positive experience. Ratings are so important that you should actually ask your customers to leave a review, or even offer them a small, free gift in exchange for a rating.
Responding to the comments your customers leave you—both positive and negative—is your next responsibility. Potential customers Googling you will see the responses you leave each customer as a sign of your professionalism and how committed you are to each customer’s satisfaction.
For positive reviews, simply thank them for their feedback and welcome them to come again. Interestingly, for negative reviews you should also thank them for their feedback, briefly apologize for whatever negative experience they had, and state that you intend to fix the problem.
Create Local Content
The second tip for local SEO is to write related content. How? By researching and identifying what your local audience searches for most on Google.
Perhaps it is simply “bicycle shop in San Diego,” or maybe they go further and are searching for terms like:
- “repair bike in San Diego”
- “where to fix my cheap bike in San Diego”
- “bicycle workshops in San Diego”
- “best spare parts store for bike in San Diego”
There are countless terms that your potential clients could be looking for. You just have to find out what they are and optimize for them.
Let’s talk a little bit more about how to create optimized content for your business.
There is no thumb rule for writing content. If you are writing content for your own blog you may want to choose conversational style of content writing where you are writing as first person telling your version of things. If you are writing content as part of your content marketing campaign then it is not always recommended that you write things like ‘I’, ‘my’ etc. It’s more recommended that you share relevant information and also use a few search terms that may help your content be found by readers looking for similar content.
Select Top Business Directories
Some websites, known as directories, garner a lot of internet traffic by visitors looking for information about local businesses.
You’ve probably heard of TripAdvisor, or maybe even used it to plan a trip, looking for places to go and places to eat in the unfamiliar city. Well, TripAdvisor is an example of a business directory, and you can probably imagine the boost a business gets by being listed there—especially with positive ratings.
There are many other business directories, including the following:
Two things to consider when deciding which business directories to register with are:
1) Is it specialized in a particular economy or sector that your business is in? For example, if you’re a restaurant, register with all the food and restaurant business directories you can find.
2) Its authority rating, according to Google. You want the places that Google gives a high authority rating.
Create Consistent Accounts Across All Directories
Of course, you should use the same information (Name/Address/Phone, descriptive language, etc.) – and in the same format and order in every business directory. For instance, write your address the same way every time and use a consistent format for your phone number. That is, you can use 1 (###) ###-#### or 1.###.###.####, but once you choose a format, you should use that same format everywhere.
Customers should see no difference on your website, social networks, business directories, or the Google My Business registry. More importantly, the Google computers should see no difference, as different looking listings could split your accumulated records, which we are trying to amass into a single defining presence.
A Targeted Approach
All of the tips provided in this article should be applicable and helpful for every type of business in any market in any area. However, every business has different needs and every plan can be improved upon.
It is important that you consistently analyze the results of the Local SEO strategies you employ. In the process, you are likely to uncover some part of the plan that can be improved upon. Make changes, monitor results, repeat. In time, I think you will find that you can learn a lot about your business through this process, and you should factor in everything you learn for the next iteration of your SEO plan.
Local SEO is a long term strategy, not something you will do just once and be done with. Just as a house is finished as soon as the last nail is pounded in, it will not stand forever without maintenance. Keep monitoring the situation, keep tinkering with your strategy, and above all, keep reading and keep researching for more strategies to improve your ranking and increase your sales.
We will continue to publish informative articles about Local SEO, so bookmark us and keep checking back for new content. If you have any questions about this article, please leave them in the comments section below, which we endeavor to monitor and respond to as time allows.