All businesses have to have an online presence these days. Unfortunately, simply creating a website and hoping people find you is no longer enough. The online space is a competitive one for businesses and it is often necessary to use many different tactics and techniques to get noticed by new customers and clients.
Local search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the most crucial components of any online marketing plan. Proper local SEO strategies and SEO tools will ensure that the major search engines find your content and deliver it to the people you want to reach.
There is a lot that goes into local SEO and making sure that you’re using the right strategies at the right time. Perfecting your local SEO takes time, but the payoff is definitely well worth it.
If you are ready to start getting recognized by more customers, below are some of the best practices that can help you do it.
Use Your Website To Create A Solid Foundation
Local SEO all starts with your website. It serves as the foundation for everything else you will do, so it should be as good as possible. Having a great website involves more than just telling customers about your company and posting some content.
You need to implement local SEO practices on the site so it is easier for the search engines to find it. Without these practices, you will not realize the results you are after. The most important local SEO practices to use on your website are as follows:
- A responsive design that shows your website properly, regardless of whether they are using a desktop computer, laptop, or mobile phone
- Pages that load quickly, which is becoming even more important today
- Proper URL structure, which makes your website easier for users to navigate and helps boost your search engine ranking, particularly if you submit your sitemap to Google and the other search engines
- Internal links that take users from one page of your website to another, making it easier for Google and Internet users to find the relevant information they need on your site
The above are just a few of the most important local SEO strategies. Don’t know how to implement some of these best practices? Many of them are explained in further detail in upcoming tips.
Optimize Your Website’s Homepage
There are many ways to optimize your homepage for both the search engines and users. One of these is to include your name, address, and phone number (NAP).
Of course, this is an extremely important step that allows customers to get in touch with you. To make sure the search engines can find this information, include it in the footer of your homepage.
This is helpful for users, too.
How many times have you scrolled to the bottom of a business’ homepage looking for this information and couldn’t find it?
It’s incredibly frustrating, so save users and the search engines that frustration by simply including it in the appropriate spot.
You should also include the main area you serve within the copy. For example, if you’re a restaurant in Dallas, Texas, you should include the location several times in the copy.
Even something as simple as “Our Dallas fine dining restaurant was established in 2002,” is enough to optimize your homepage.
If you serve more than one area, include the main city or town on your homepage and create other pages dedicated to those other locations.
Having a map of your location on your homepage can also help users find you, and the search engines love maps, too.
If you have any reviews or testimonials from customers and clients, include a few of those on your homepage, as well.
Optimize Location Pages
Creating local pages for the other areas you service is more than just swapping out the name of one location for another.
Using the same restaurant example from above, you may want to focus on Dallas as your homepage but create other pages for Highland Park, University Park and other locations.
Make sure the content on one page is entirely original and different from other pages on your site, or the search engines will penalize you for including duplicate content on your site.
You should also optimize the URLs for every location page. Optimized URLs look something like this:
Any page you create should include the same strategies and tactics you used when creating your homepage.
The only real difference is that they are new pages that include secondary locations instead of the main geographical area you serve.
Additionally, if you have a physical presence in the secondary locations, such as another restaurant or another office, include the NAP for those locations within the location pages.
Also remember to include a new map on the location pages, if appropriate.
Check Your Page Loading Speed
Did you know that if your pages don’t load within two to three seconds, users will leave and head over to one of your competitor’s sites?
Google and the other search engines also only want to deliver the best results to users, and the search engines will also know how long your pages take to load.
To check your page loading speed, you could just try to open your website and see if it takes too long.
But there is a better way.
Due to the fact that Google wants your page to load quickly, they have created a tool that lets you test your page speed. You can check it out at PageSpeed Insights.
This tool will let you run the different pages on your site to determine how quickly they are loading.
Once a page has been run, you will receive an aggregate score which will tell you how quickly your page is loading. You’ll also receive tips and tricks to execute that can increase your page speed.
Once your pages all load quickly, your page ranking will increase, bringing even more people to your site. Not only will a faster page loading speed get more people to your site, but they’ll stay there, too!
Mobile-Friendliness Is Of The Utmost Importance
More people search for local businesses on their mobile devices than any other type of device. This is not a new trend, which is why in 2015, Google released a new algorithm that recognized the importance of a mobile-friendly website.
The algorithm is still in place today and it boosts the page ranking of websites that are mobile-friendly. This means that when a potential customer accesses your website on a mobile device, such as their phone, the website displays properly and is easy to navigate.
When websites are not mobile-friendly, they don’t display properly. Users may have to scroll through long pages of text, it may be difficult for them to find menus or click on important links.
A lack of mobile responsiveness will not only cause your page ranking to decrease, but it will also cost you potential customers who may head over to your competitor’s site after becoming frustrated on yours.
Determining whether your website is mobile-friendly is very simple. Head over to Google’s free mobile-friendliness testing website.
Enter the URL of your website and the tool will automatically start checking the mobile-friendliness of your site. If your site is not mobile-friendly, the tool will inform you of the issues on your site.
For example, it may find that your site has clickable elements that are too close together, or that the text is too small to read. If your site has any of these issues, speak to your web host about implementing a mobile-friendly design.
Incorporate A Sitemap
Search engines use bots to crawl your site and index pages, which makes your website easier to search. You’ll want to index many of the pages so users can find them.
On the other hand, there are some pages you will not want to index, such as staging sites and certain pages meant for internal use only.
When creating a sitemap, it is also important how you structure your URLs. All of your location pages should link back to the homepage, as should other content pages, such as any blog post you create.
This makes it easier for both Internet users and search engines to navigate your website and find the information that is most relevant.
Any URL you create should also be short and sweet. If other people link to your website, they will likely use the same keywords they found in your URL. Make it easier on users by avoiding random letters and numbers.
Remember that you will also be linking back to your homepage when creating most of your content, and those links will also appear on the sitemap. Make sure the links are in line with the keywords you are trying to rank for.
Schema involves a bit of coding and so, many people who are not familiar with computer language can become intimidated by it.
Schema is nothing to fret about. It is true that historically, you did need to have a fairly firm grasp of coding in order to incorporate schema on your website.
Today, Schema.org has made it much easier. The site lists the various types of schema you should add to your site and shows you examples of what to add. After adding the json.ld code, you need to visit the Schema Markup Validator to check for errors.
Schema markup can also sound intimidating but it really isn’t. Schema markup is a standardized format of code you include in the backend of your website. It provides information to Google and the other search engines to decipher your content.
Schema markup is also sometimes called structured data. Using Local Business structured data, you can include your hours of operation, the products and services you provide, reviews, and more. All of this will help you rank higher for local searches.
Choose the Right Keywords and Use Them Appropriately
It is important to know the types of local searches you want your business to rank for when someone performs a search. The best way to do that is to conduct very thorough research on the right keywords to use.
There are many different tools that you can use to do this, including Google’s free keyword planner. Keywords and key phrases are the terms people will use when they are on a search engine looking for businesses just like yours.
You must target specific keywords as part of your local SEO strategy so you can boost your chances of your business showing for those searches.
Your keywords should be related to your business, the products and services you offer, as well as your geographical area. Staying with the same restaurant example, a few good keywords may include:
- Best restaurant Dallas
- Dallas restaurant
- Dallas fine dining restaurant
- Restaurant Dallas
When creating a list of keywords, it is also important to include long tail keywords. These keywords are longer and more specific than others and they can be a great help when Internet users are trying to find businesses just like yours.
Like all keywords, you can use long tail key phrases to create important content on your website that drives more traffic to it. Some examples of long tail keywords for a Dallas in restaurant may include:
- Restaurant serving steak, seafood, and other delicacies
- Best fine dining restaurant in Dallas, Texas
- Dallas, Texas fine dining, music, and more
You can use these keywords and key phrases in your meta descriptions, title tags, and on-page content for your website. You should also include them in your Google Business Profile and even your social media profiles.
Optimize Meta Descriptions and Title Tags
Discussed earlier, optimizing your title tags and meta descriptions is one of the best things you can do to improve your local SEO efforts. Title tags are HTML code and they show the title of the page.
Title tags also appear in the search results. Ideally, your title tags should be between 50 and 60 characters long and they should also include your target keywords and sometimes, your location, although this does depend on the type of page you’re creating.
Title tags give users a better idea of what content is on the page before they click on the link to it.
Meta descriptions, on the other hand, can be anywhere between 50 and 160 characters long. They should include a brief description of the content on the page and the keywords and key phrases you are targeting.
Your meta description will give people an even better idea of the content they can expect to see on any specific page they are considering clicking on.
Start a Blog
Did you know that companies that regularly write and publish blog posts get 55 percent more visitors to their site?
Google and the other search engines also rank businesses better when they have a blog because it establishes trustworthiness, authoritativeness, and expertise in a specific industry.
Google recognizes that companies that are the experts in a certain area will provide more information and a better website than businesses who are not the authoritative voice in an industry.
Creating a blog makes a drastic difference in establishing you as an authority on any given subject. It also gives you a chance to regularly update your website with content that is fresh and keyword-rich.
Writing and publishing posts can also help with your overall marketing strategy. You can use the blog posts in newsletters, promotions, and any other type of marketing you do.
If you publish downloadable content, you can use it to obtain the email address and phone number of customers on your site.
If you have already created a blog to work in conjunction with your website, you should create content regularly while keeping in mind the keywords and key phrases you researched.
If you don’t have a blog already but are thinking about starting one, you can do a quick check on Google Trends to see what people are looking for online or you can even ask your current customers and clients what they would like to see on the blog.
You may not feel as though you have the time to create and maintain a blog. If that’s the case, keep it in mind as something to do in the future when you have time to dedicate to it.
In the meantime, creating an FAQ section on your website is another great way to add relevant content, while also answering your customers’ questions at the same time.
Claim Your Google Business Profile Listing and Optimize It
One of the best ways for your company to be found in local searches is being listed in Google Business Profile (GBP), which is directly connected to Google Search and Google Maps.
Within your listing on GBP, you can include a vast amount of information about your business. Not only can you include a phone number, your website link, and your address, but customers can also call you, visit your site, and get directions - all within your Google Business Profile!
Listings in Google Business Profile are also usually the first to be shown below the ads but before any other listings on local search.
To claim your GBP listing, follow the below steps:
- Go to Google Search and enter the name of your business.
- On the right side of the page, you will likely see some information for your business. Click on ‘Own this business?’
- Follow the prompts given to you by Google to claim the listing.
You may not find a possible listing after your search. This is likely because Google doesn’t have enough information about your company to create an unclaimed GBP listing. If you do not find any information about your business, follow the below steps:
- Go to business.google.com
- Click ‘Manage now’
- Click ‘Add your business to Google’
- Follow the prompts to add your business
After claiming your listing on GBP, or creating one, it is critical that you verify it. This is the only way to ensure you can make changes to it in the future, and it is almost certain that you will need to make those changes.
You also need to optimize your listing once you have claimed it. There are many different components of your GBP listing that will give your local SEO efforts a boost, so optimizing it is very important.
You can do this in a number of ways. We'll go over the important things you need to do on this free listing.
The link to your website, your phone number, address, and hours of operation must be listed, and they must be accurate. You should also maintain the same information across all online directories, which we will talk more about later.
The more information you can provide your prospective customers, the better you can present your business to them. As such, it is important to fill out as many sections of your GBP listing.
Many business owners do not understand the importance of adding things such as photos and descriptions, but these are crucial. These small details will help potential clients understand your business as a whole, which will have a big impact.
When it comes to photos specifically, add a cover photo, your logo, your team, the interior and exterior of your building, and shots of you and your team in action.
Make sure you are placing your company into the right categories. The primary category you choose will have the largest effect on your local search rankings, so make sure you choose wisely.
Sometimes there are multiple categories that apply. If you are unsure, check out what categories your competitors chose. You can also change your category in the future, if necessary.
Manage Your Reviews, and Always Strive for More
When trying to improve your local search ranking, you cannot overlook the importance of reviews. Consumers today don’t just love reviews; they rely on them.
Nearly 90 percent of users read reviews for local businesses. The search engines know this, and rank businesses with reviews higher than those without.
Google and other search engines will look at the number of reviews you have and rank your website and listing higher than those with fewer reviews. Internet users also consider reviews just as good as a personal recommendation.
So, by having a number of positive reviews, potential customers are more likely to trust your business.
Remember that keywords are important, and that extends to your reviews, too. Having the right keywords included can help boost your local search ranking, while the wrong keywords or key phrases may hurt it.
Reviews can also help your overall rating in local search. When a person performs a search using the keyword ‘best,’ Google will only return ratings that have 4.0 stars or more.
Cleary, the importance of reviews cannot be stressed enough. You can get more Google reviews by:
- Asking happy customers to leave a review on Google Business Profile and other online directories
- Including a link on your website to your Google Business Profile
- Including a link in customers’ emails to your Google Business Profile
- Sending an email of a survey to your customers
After you have obtained a significant number of reviews, the work is unfortunately not over. You also need to respond to your reviews, both the good and the bad.
Potential customers trust reviews, and the businesses that are the subject of them, that have a response more than businesses that do not respond to reviews.
Plus, responding to reviews makes customers feel as though their opinion and voice matter, and are appreciated.
If you receive a good review, thank the person for taking the time to leave it and mention that you are happy they had a good experience. Also be sure to invite them back.
If a bad review is left on your profile, also leave a response. Make sure to apologize for the unsatisfactory experience the customer had, and ask what you can do to fix the situation.
This will show both happy and unhappy customers that you care about them and that you will do whatever you can to make it right.
To manage your review in Google Business Profile, sign into your listing and click on “Manage and respond to reviews.” This small step will go a very long way in improving your local search ranking.
Create Listings On Many Different Directories
Having a listing on Google Business Profile is important, but it is definitely not the only directory out there. There are hundreds of online directories today and it is important for your local search ranking that you are listed in at least a few of them.
Ideally, you should list your business in at least five to ten online directories, but you can also list your company in more, as well.
When choosing the online directories you want your company to appear in, start with the major ones. These include Yahoo, Angi, YellowPages, Bing Places for Business, Yelp, and LinkedIn.
You can then search for online directories that are very specific to your niche. For example, if you own a restaurant, you can go to Google Search and look for “online directories for restaurants” or “restaurant online directories.”
Google Search will pull up a list for you and you can choose a few of those you want to appear in, as well.
Although it is important to be listed in many different directories, you also want to make sure you are not over-saturating online directories.
If you do, Google and the other search engines may view this as spam and actually penalize your local search ranking for it.
Choose the directories that are most relevant to your business and make sure you are listed on those.
That way, you can strike the balance between making sure you are listed in enough directories, without worrying about the search engines penalizing you for spamming.
Consistency Across Directories is Important
Clearly, your listings in online directories are a very important aspect of your local search ranking. However, it is critical that you pay very careful attention when creating those listings.
Accuracy is of huge importance, and it is sometimes more difficult to achieve than you think. It is critical that your NAP, as well as any other information you include in your listings, is consistent across all online directories.
You may think you are doing this simply because you are filling in all the different sections within the different directories. However, that may not necessarily be the case.
For example, a business may be located at 123 Main Street. A business owner may write this as “123 Main Street” on one online directory, and write it as “123 Main St.” on another.
It is a small discrepancy, and one that Internet users will likely not even notice. Or if they do, they will still likely know that the two directories are showing the same business. The search engines, though, may not.
When listings for the same business are not consistent and do not display the same information, the search engines tend to become more mistrustful of them.
Without any way to verify that the two are the same business, the search engines may actually penalize these listings, and your business will suffer. To ensure this does not happen, keep a running list of the different information you have uploaded for your website.
So, if you create a listing on a directory and use “123 Main Street,” write that down somewhere. Then, whenever you create a listing in a new directory, you can just refer to the list and ensure that all of your directories will be accurate and consistent.
Update Your Listings Often
Online directories are hugely important to the success of obtaining a good local search ranking. However, these listings will only do you any good if they are accurate, as mentioned above.
You may create a listing and leave it to sit there, thinking that everything contained within it is still accurate. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.
There are many reasons the information in your listing could change and it is important that you make the necessary adjustments when that is the case.
Naturally, there will be changes to your business over time. Maybe you’ll move to a new address, or get a new phone number. Maybe team members will be added.
All of these changes must be reflected in your online listings. If they are not, your listings will no longer be accurate and your local search ranking, as well as your profits, will suffer for it.
Many business owners also don’t realize that some online directories also allow anyone to edit listings. This means your customers can add things and if you do not regularly update your listing, you may not even realize these changes have been made.
To ensure that your listings are always accurate, review them at least every six months, and preferably every three.
Build Local Backlinks
Another important tactic for local search ranking is building backlinks. A backlink is any link to your website on another site. Every time someone links to your website, the search engines consider it a ‘vote.’ The more links, or votes, you have, the better ranking they will give you.
There are many ways you can build backlinks and if you’ve already followed some of the above tips, you likely already have some. Some of the best ways to collect backlinks are as follows:
Create Listings In Online Directories
Creating listings in online directories such as Google Business Profile and Bing Places for Business is a great marketing tool for your business. It exposes you to more potential customers and helps you build business.
Claiming your listings also builds backlinks. When you create a GBP listing, for example, you are creating a listing for your business on an external link. You should include a link to your website within these listings so customers can learn more about you, but doing so also creates a backlink. Most of the major online directories also have a high page authority, and backlinks on these sites are given a higher ranking.
When you guest post, you ask the owner of another website if you can write a post for them to publish on their blog. Usually, the content has something to do with your industry, but is not for the direct competition.
For example, if you owned a restaurant, you may want to guest blog on a nutrition’s website about the benefits of a plant-based diet.
If you include a lot of plant-based options in your restaurant, you can then include a link directing customers to where they can get a nice, healthy meal. Often, people will exchange backlinks, meaning that each party writes a guest blog post for the other.
Sponsor Community Events
Sponsoring events right in your neighborhood is a great way to draw in more people to your website and ultimately, your business.
Start small by simply providing refreshments for a local event. Within each serving, include a business card with the address of your website.
You can also run a contest through these business cards, in which contestants have to go to your website to enter. This will drive traffic and that boost will increase your local search rankings.
Use The Skyscraper Technique
The skyscraper technique is very simple in concept, but it is also extremely powerful. First you find content relative to your industry that has many backlinks.
You then create a similar, but better, version of that content. Once you have published your version of the content, you contact the people who linked to the original piece of content, tell them why yours is better, and ask them to link to yours instead.
Utilize Social Media
When thinking about how to boost your local search ranking, you may not automatically think of social media. However, social media platforms can have a huge impact on your search ranking.
When you create profiles and company pages on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, you are not only expanding your online presence and reaching out to more potential customers. You are also creating more backlinks and more search engine results.
Social media platforms generally have a high page ranking just like Google Business Profile and other online directories. That high page ranking means that links within these websites, such as those that direct consumers to your page, appear high in the search results.
Just by simply creating these profiles, you are giving your brand more real estate in the search engines, which is the entire goal. And the more profiles you have on different social media platforms, the more exposure your business will gain.
Perform A Local SEO Audit
It may be the last tip in this report, but performing a local SEO audit should be one of the first things you do when trying to improve your local search ranking.
Performing an audit will highlight the issues that are currently on your site, and that impact your overall online presence, so you can correct them.
You should also perform a local SEO audit periodically, about once every three to six months. This will allow you to detect issues soon after they arise, so they don’t continue to have a negative impact.
Things you may want to include in your local SEO audit are as follows:
Google Business Profile Audit
Perform a Google search for your business to find your Google Business Profile. Review the listing to confirm that your business information is correct and that the listing appears as you want it to.
Google Search Console Audit
Make sure your site can be crawled by Google and confirm that no errors exist that could make indexing a challenge.
SEO Audit (On-Page)
Review the pages on your website to ensure that they adhere to all of the SEO factors (on-page) that will boost your status.
Audit Your Citations
Review any listings you have within all online directories to ensure the citations are correct. A citation is any mention of your company online, so review your NAP and other important information.
Compare your website to that of your competitor’s and determine if there are shortcomings that need closing. How do the two websites compare along the lines of design, content, inbound links, and positioning?
True success with any online marketing strategy really starts with boosting your local SEO search ranking. There are many ways to do it, but they all take time - and patience.
Follow These Local SEO Best Practices For The Best Results
Although ranking high in local SEO is one of the most effective ways to get your business more online exposure, you also will not see overnight success.
It can take several weeks to a few months before Google starts indexing your website and before you get enough reviews and interactions in online directories to boost your ranking there.
Still, staying diligent and following all of the tips in this report will ensure that your local SEO marketing efforts are successful. And, once you start seeing success, it becomes even easier to maintain your local SEO ranking strategy.