Way back in the stone age (back before the Internet), all a business needed for marketing was location, location, location and a decent reputation. But those days are very much in the past. Now, business visibility and marketing are all about having a strong online presence (Local SEO).
It doesn't matter if you're a local business that depends on folks walking through the door (dentists, hair stylists) or a service-based business that goes out and covers a specific region (fencing contractor, electricians). If you want your potential customers to know you're out there, you need local visibility, which means Local SEO.
What Exactly Is Local SEO?
Local SEO is the goodness that helps your target audience find you. They go online and search for products and services you provide in conjunction with your area and Boom! there you are (in theory).
Let’s say you run a local coffee spot here in Las Vegas and you want potential patrons to find you when they go online and search “coffee shop in Summerlin” or “the best coffee in Henderson.” All of the steps you take to improve your business’ online visibility, especially where your website ranks in the search engines, is covered under the umbrella of Local SEO.
The ABCs of Local SEO
A. Research your competition thoroughly.
If you want people to find you when they search for a phrase related to your products and services, start by looking for which businesses are ranking high for those phrases right now. Then, try to figure out why.
The four major things you need to look for are:
- The keywords they are ranking for.
- The quality, quantity, and posting frequency of their content.
- The links they are getting.
- Their on-site SEO optimization.
While you're being nosey, you may as well check out their social media profiles as well. That'll give you an idea of whether the folks in your local market are into interacting with brands. It couldn't hurt!
B. Claim your Google My Business Page and optimize it to perfection.
Google My Business is one of the core pillars of your local SEO strategy. It's a straight shot to Google! It's your way of telling Google exactly what your business is and where it's located. You don't have to rely on them figuring it out.
Your GMB helps Google direct any relevant searches your way based on proximity. While we're on the subject, take the time to fill in your Bing Places profile and claim (and optimize) your Apple Maps listing as well. Siri is all about Apple Maps and Cortana only pays attention to Bing Places.
C. Do your Keyword Research.
Normally, I don't get into the weeds on the geekier "how to" parts of local SEO here on the blog. But it makes sense for this article so here we go!
Local SEO isn't about guesswork. You gotta roll up your sleeves and do some research. You need to identify the search "intent" of your potential customers. What words and phrases do they type into the search engines when they are about to reach for their wallets? You can get a head start on this research by peaking in on what your competition is doing and build upon that.
And if you're just getting started, be smart about it. If there's an established competitor in your market who has a website that has been up for a while and has way more local authority, don't try to rub foreheads with them and go after keywords they're ranking well for. Shoot for low-competition variants. Being at the top of the page for several low competition keywords can give you just as much bang for the buck as being at the bottom of the page for one huge-volume phrase. Grab hints from Google auto-complete and find keyword ideas on AnswerthePublic.com.
D. Content, content, content!
Now comes the part that you knew was coming. I know you don't want me to bang this drum one more time but... the words that are sitting on your website matter. This is one of the most important elbow-slinging techniques available to you.
Think about it. On-page SEO helps you rank in the search engines. But you can't apply a whole lot of on-page SEO techniques, if you don't have much on-page content to apply it to. Decent content written around long-tail local keywords can help you rank organically.
Once you've got some content to fill the page, it's time to format it so the search engines easily understand who it's for. This is all about taking care of the on-page basics, i.e., keywords in your H-tags, URLs, title tags, meta details, etc.
If you service different areas or operate from multiple sites, you should structure the landing pages on your website accordingly. The concept should be to make your website as comprehensible and easy to navigate as possible (for both customers and search engine crawlers).
E. Now it's time to get your Off-Page game sorted.
According to Moz.com, local citations are among the top-ranking factors for search engines, NAP is an acronym for Name, Address, and Phone Number. NAP citations simply means the mention of these three nuggets of info on other websites around the Internet. That could be on local online directories or industry-specific directories.
Citations come in two flavors: structured or unstructured. An example of a structured citation would be your listing in a directory like the Better Business Bureau or on Yelp. This formatting on these sites is pretty standard and easily discernible. An example of am unstructured citation would be a local news story that's posted online where you business is mentioned. Info here isn't formatted in any specific way but as long as the Name, Address and Phone number are all included in the article, it counts as a citation.
Link building is what you do when it's time to take off the gloves. Sometimes your competitors are really annoying and won't simply get out of your way in the search engines. When this is the case, you need to start doing some serious damage with your local SEO. It's time to take you off-page game up a notch. Fair warning! As rabbit holes go, link building is pretty deep.
If you're building citations, you've already taken a good first step to establish your off-page foundation. They are fairly easy to acquire and are a major link-building resource. A few other ways to get links are:
- Creating helpful content that other websites will want to link-to and post on their sites.
- Engage in guest blogging on non-competitor websites.
- Become active in your community. It's a good idea to do anyway, and sponsoring events or local organizations is a good way to be featured on their websites or in local public interest news stories.
Strong local SEO will help your target audience find you. “Cracks” in your local SEO strategy will let business you should be getting slip pass you and into the waiting hands of your competition.
Local SEO is a continuing process so you don't need to try to get it all done at once. Have a long term outlook and start slow. By starting on your local SEO now you'll set yourself up to be found by potential customers for years to come.