Local SEO is Google’s gift to small businesses, yet many are ignoring it.
Some marketers who’ve been doing SEO for years are too entrenched to see the benefits of shifting their strategies; others might be stuck in the past, thinking that earning a difference-making search engine ranking is nothing more than a pipe dream. With local SEO, though, anything is possible. Local SEO levels the playing field, letting small businesses get ranked by leveraging their relevance to nearby customers. Thanks to local SEO, the auto shop 30 miles away can’t outmuscle the one that’s just down the street.
Most small businesses already engage in both digital and traditional marketing. Here, we’ll review how you can integrate local SEO into your existing marketing plan.
Google My Business
Before going further, we must stress the importance of Google My Business. This is Google’s business directory where business owners can list their establishments for free. After signing up, Google sends a postcard with a PIN to your business to verify its legitimacy. Once you log into GMB with your pin, then you can optimize your business page with photos, your contact information, your hours of operation and more.
Once you’ve verified and optimized your GMB page, your website will be eligible to appear in Google’s “Local 3 Pack” above all the other organic results. Businesses in this grouping are shown on a locator map along with star ratings, phone call buttons, and other useful information. These elements are highly engaging, especially for smartphone users.
But why does this matter for small businesses that already have top-ranked organic placements? Think of it this way – if you owned a cabin next to a beautiful mountain lake, would it matter if someone built a bigger cabin between yours and the shoreline? The Local 3 Pack takes up a hefty amount of prime real estate atop Google’s search results pages, requiring users to scroll down for everything else. As a result, click-through rates on organic listings have decreased by up to 40 percent.
Sorry, old-school SEOs. Top-ranked organic results are still nice, but optimized local SEO is better for small businesses that focus on local customers.
5 Things to Start Doing Right Now
Ready to make local SEO a priority? To make it as easy as possible, we’ll focus on optimizing five popular marketing tools that might already be included in your overall marketing strategy.
1. Leverage Online Citations
When your business name, address, and phone number is listed on a website, that’s called a citation. Yelp, Angie’s List and Facebook are three examples of popular, highly ranked websites where any business owner can easily get citations. Building citations not only helps customers find your business, but it also increases the likelihood of your business information displaying higher up in Google’s search results, potentially giving Google users more than one listing to click on.
Additionally, some people skip Google entirely and favor sites like Yelp when seeking local goods and services. Optimizing your citations on these sites will instantly raise your profile among local shoppers.
One thing to remember — make sure all information in your citations exactly matches your Google My Business profile.
2. Flex Your Local Muscles on Your Website
Your website is your most powerful digital marketing tool. When someone clicks on a search result and lands on your site, that’s when the real sales pitch begins. However, your website is also important in a different way – it’s where you can prove your value to your community and local customers.
Infuse your website content with as much local content as possible. Include mentions of your city, your neighborhood and even your street. Start a blog and help people solve their local-specific problems. Post photographs of your business, your employees and your customers. Post locator maps, service areas, hours of operation, accurate phone and address information and anything else that establishes your place.
3. More Mileage from Local Outreach
Link-building has always been a foundational element of SEO. With local SEO, there is increased value from getting inbound links from local movers and shakers. Engaging with your local media is a great way to optimize your local link network – pitch story ideas and offer to be quoted in exchange for links on each story’s web version. You can also offer to contribute blog posts to regional websites, blogs and trade associations that carry weight in your community. Not only is this good for your link network, but you’ll also build brand awareness as more people see and recognize your business.
4. Be Local-Centric on Social Media
Most businesses are already active on social media, but too often this activity is focused upon promoting sales or new products. You should also be using social media to establish your local presence and connect with local customers. Optimize your social media pages in the same way you should your website, engaging visitors with as much local-specific content as possible.
5. Encourage Customers to Leave Online Reviews
Like it or not, your customers are already talking about you online — you just might not be aware of it. These online discussions can be the deciding factors in whether people give your business the time of day.
Take control of the situation and encourage your satisfied customers to leave online reviews. This is even easier once you’ve created and optimized your citations! Chances are you’re already engaging your customers on a regular basis — they’re either coming into your store, or you’re connecting with them via social media, follow-up emails, follow-up appointments or other means. To start inviting reviews, simply embed Yelp or other business directory buttons on your digital marketing materials. For the best results, simply ask your customers face-to-face, on calls, and via email whether they’d leave a quick review of your business.
Local SEO is a game changer for small businesses. More people are using smartphones with the goal of visiting restaurants, bookstores, clothing retailers and other establishments in their immediate vicinities.
With local SEO, even old-school mom-and-pop businesses can be seen along with big-budget companies.
This doesn’t happen automatically. Business owners and marketers must integrate local SEO with every phase of their marketing plans. Make local SEO a priority, though, and the results will be well worth the effort.
Want more SEO tips to improve your Google rankings? Click here to grab a copy of our Ultimate SEO Checklist.