The Internet offers unprecedented reach to connect with far-away customers, but shoppers often prefer to buy goods and services from local merchants. Think of it this way: If you owned a plumbing business, a shoe store or a car dealership, would you rather rank high in search results all over the country, or primarily in the area where you live?
That’s why local SEO is such a big deal.
A website that implements local SEO best practices will be easily found by nearby shoppers. Also, the rise of mobile search technology is making local SEO even more important considering the hyper-local searches in Google for “[product/service] near me”. Depending on how much competition you face, a poor local SEO strategy could render your business invisible to folks who are seeking your goods and services.
Want your business to appear on top of the rankings when local customers search for relevant keywords? Improving your position in the search engines doesn’t happen overnight, but these five changes to your local SEO strategy can start you in the right direction.
Tip 1: Create a Local Business Page on Google
Each of the three major search engines — Google, Bing and Yahoo — offer places to create pages specifically for your business. For example, on Google, you’ll want to create a page using the Google My Business service.
Why is this important?
Take a look at the search results for “dentist near me” and you’ll see a big map at the top of the search results, along with relevant information for local dental offices listed below. These listings are not websites! They are Google My Business profiles.
That means if you don’t have a Google My Business profile, then your business will not rank high in Google when prospects are searching for you.
Tip 2: Add Location Pages to Your Website
More people now search for goods and services on their mobile devices — often while out and about — and Google is returning more hyper-local results to fulfill their needs. For example, if you need a nearby plumber, then you might search “plumber near 10011.” Or if you need a hardware store, then you might search “hardware store in flatiron nyc.”
Google’s goal is to rank the most relevant websites high in the results so the businesses that have specific, 100 percent relevant pages have an advantage.
What’s the key takeaway?
If you serve multiple locations, then consider creating dedicated pages for each location. These location specific pages will naturally be more relevant, so Google will be more likely to rank them high in the search results when prospects are searching keywords that include the respective location.
Tip 3: Get Reviewed
Online reviews can be a bit frightening — the last thing you want is a scathing review that turns potential customers away. However, Google gives search ranking boosts to businesses that get more reviews.
Plus, most prospective customers now want to see reviews before reaching out to a business to avoid wasting time. Think about your own shopping experience — why would you buy from an anonymous business when you could choose a merchant that’s been thoroughly reviewed?
There’s no silver bullet solution when it comes to getting online reviews. The best approach is to create a system for requesting feedback and ask every happy customer for an online review. Not everyone will do it, but as you gain more and more reviews, your rankings will start to improve.
Tip 4: Build Citations
A citation is simply a mention of your name, address and phone number, and Google uses citations in their local search engine algorithm.
Long story short, you need a lot of citations if you want to rank high in Google’s local results. Essentially, that means creating accounts on business directories. As you list your business information in these directories, you’ll gain more of Google’s trust, which translates into higher rankings.
For a quick snapshot of your citations, use the Moz Local tool. This tool will list any important citation opportunities that you are missing, as well as highlight duplicates and/or inconsistent information across existing citations. Start by fixing all the problems listed in this tool and then work on building even more citations to boost your rankings.
Tip 5: Get Social
Social media is taking over. Although Google is still the most popular search engine, Facebook has become a major source of information for many of your prospective customers.
In addition, David Mihm’s recent research about the local SEO ranking factors suggests that social media activity is one of the many signals Google uses to rank businesses.
Regardless of whether Google directly uses social media signals in their algorithm, there is no denying that social media marketing is a huge opportunity to get your business in front of your target audience. Facebook alone reaches all age brackets, all income levels, and spans urban, suburban and rural areas.
It’s no longer a question of whether or not your customers are using social media. The only question is are you using it to effectively get in front your customers?
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