Among the 63,000 searches done on Google per second, 46% are made to access local information.
This is why effective content features not only relevant keywords, but also helps point potential customers toward your local business.
As a local business owner, what are the first steps you need to take to get to the top of local search? Well, let’s understand what is first and then we’ll explain some quick things you can do today to get yourself ranked, starting with local SEO (search engine optimization).
Go Deeper: More Resources on SEO:
- What is SEO
- What does SEO Stand For
- The Ultimate Guide To Organic SEO
- The Top Local Search Ranking Factors
- Technical SEO and How it Affects Your Website’s Rank
- How Does SEO Work for Your Business?
- SEM vs. SEO: Tapping Your Business Potential
- White Hat SEO vs. Black Hat SEO: Are You Doing SEO Right?
- Easy Guide to Getting Local SEO to Work for Your Small Businesses
- The On-page SEO Checklist
- Keyword Research Mastery: The Beginners Guide
- The Ultimate Google Algorithmic Penalty Recovery Guide
- Questions you SHOULD Ask Before Hiring an SEO Expert
- The 5 Step Beginner Guide to SEO Writing That Ranks
What is Local SEO?
Stop for a moment and think of Google as this vast library of information about all the things known to mankind.
This library is so vast, it would probably be as vast as the entire world. Naturally, it would have smaller branches scattered in different countries, cities, and towns.
However, don’t forget that all these local branches are still connected to the main headquarters.
In every local branch, there’s a librarian who’s in charge of satisfying your queries. If you wanted to know about something, you would just have to get up and ask.
Now, let’s say you’re craving a good burger. You slip a piece of paper that says “best burger” to the librarian. (Let’s just pretend that’s how you would communicate with them).
Unless you’ve specified “best burger in the world”, the search results would give you burger joints, restaurants, and diners you could find nearby.
The first part of the SERP (or search engine results page) looks like this:
You’re provided with the name of the place, ratings and reviews, address, and operating hours. The results page even tells you what kind of restaurant it is so you’ll know what to expect.
Thankfully, this is all done digitally and we don’t have to literally slip a librarian a piece of paper every time we have a request. So, what if your local business showed up every time someone had a request for your service or product? Wouldn’t that be great!
Glad you asked. Let’s check out some simple strategies for ranking now.
Why is Local SEO Important?
Local SEO relies on the same basic concepts as general SEO, but applied to the local and hyper-local levels. Of course, there are many differences. But, local SEO is becoming very important for small business owners in all industries.
Following the same librarian example, if the library contains all the information in the world, you would be going up against competitors in the same industry, but on a global scale.
This would be extremely challenging, not to mention the fact that you’d also receive calls from customers you can’t actually reach.
There’s a pretty decent chance you don’t service the entire planet, which means that even if you appear at the top of the list, most people that contact you will be outside of your local service area.
Enter local SEO.
This practice is what allows you to target users in your service area, rather than everyone who tries to find your products or services.
In addition to targeting keywords that have location terms attached, local businesses also need to find relevant directories and implement other techniques to improve their chances of appearing on the first page of search engines.
Some of these tactics include:
- Google My Business listings
- Online ratings and reviews on Yelp and other platforms
- Improving the structure of your website
- Creating a responsive, mobile-friendly design
- Including relevant links that lead to reputable sites, which is known as link building
A lot of our clients start by asking if social media is important for local SEO. In short, you don’t need a good social presence to reach your local audience through search engines. Putting together a social media platform can have a positive effect for different reasons, for instance opening up new communication lines, collecting key data, and building a particular image for your brand.
Social media marketing is a unique project that has to be tackled separately from SEO. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are just some of the social platforms you can use to share photos and communicate with your audience. Facebook, in particular, has rolled out a variety of business-oriented features that may help you connect with local customers, so staying active on this social media giant is always a good idea.
Local SEO: Multiple Strategies in One
Google My Business
This is a tool created by Google for local business listings.
Remember when we entered a query for “best burger” earlier? The information you saw in the map listings are what local business owners entered in their Google My Business listing.
How can you make the best out of Google My Business and ensure proper management?
There are different parts you need to fill out before you’ll be featured by the biggest search engine in the world as a business in search engine results.
First, you need to enter your business name, the city as well as the rest of your address, and telephone number. Here are a few tips:
- Don’t play too much with your local business name. – Just because you’re targeting SEO doesn’t mean you should be stuffing your name with keywords. If you change your name too often you’ll struggle with consistency in your name, address, and phone number across your citations. However, the name of your location does play a significant role in your rankings. Check out the top local rankings signals you should watch out for here.
- Be consistent. – Make sure that the address and telephone number you add to your website is the same as the one you’re listing with Google. One thing that discourages your rankings the most is inconsistency with the information you put out there as it confused Google as to the geolocation of your local business.
- Check out Google’s map – The search engine also provides a map to guide the user on where to find you. More often than not, mistakes occur and your potential customer is led to a different location. You don’t want to waste their time and effort locating you. So it’s best to check out if Google really points them to the right place.
*Please note: To make sure that your company is legitimate and you have a brick-and-mortar location, Google will need to verify your location with a postcard. The postcard takes about 5-10 business days to show up and will have a unique pin for verification.
After taking care of the basics, other things you should include to optimize your local Google My Business listing are as follows:
- Category (make sure you choose the right one).
- Photos (follow the format provided by Google and share as many as you can).
- Make sure your NAP (name, address, and phone number) match across all your citations.
- Choose the correct operating hours.
- Use a local phone number.
- Follow the “Google My Business” guidelines.
- Get reviews! Lots of them.
- Make sure your website and content have proper on-page SEO for your local business.
Remember that the more information you provide and the more accurate it is across the internet, the more Google will trust and rank you.
72% of searchers that have local intent proceed to visit a business within 5 miles after they search. You simply don’t want to waste that kind of opportunity.
Good ratings and reviews
Regardless of what generation you’re in, we know one thing: you’re a sucker for reviews and ratings.
The truth is the same for us and most importantly, for your local target audience.
They want to read raving reviews about your products and services. However, you need to be careful of how you exploit this.
Search users are quite good at knowing if you’ve paid people to write reviews for you or if you’ve made them yourself. In fact, many of them head right to the lowest meanest review made to describe your product.
Tough world, isn’t it?
Allow customers to rate you honestly.
Ask them to give you a review as well. If it puts your business in a positive light, great. If it doesn’t, you know where you should improve.
Offering high-quality products and services is still the best practice to gain more and more customers out there.
This is how all the parts of your site fit together is also an important factor for Google to understand where to index the pages on your website.
Crawling is a term you need to get familiar with if you want to understand how the search engine works. To know how each page is related to another, Google sends out bots to check it out.
One-page should lead to another through inner-site links. This will give the bots an idea of how your site is structured.
If it’s as organized as how it should be, it will make sense to Google. If it doesn’t, then many of your pages will suffer low rankings.
Having good local site architecture also improves user experience.
Imagine getting to a site where pages are all over the place. This goes without saying but a good site needs to be well-designed, easy to navigate, and equipped with tracking features that give you a breakdown of the traffic that cane through your site.
*A good rule of thumb is to try and make your best content as easy to access as possible. This is good for search engines and users.
Mobile-friendliness and Speed
61% of shoppers who use their mobile device to search for a local business are most likely going to visit the top location in the map results based upon a comparison of reviews and the comfortableness of the website.
Yes, that’s just one factor affecting a great number of potential customers. Who wouldn’t be happy with a site that’s mobile-friendly, right?
How do you improve your site’s mobile-friendliness?
First, make sure your website can adjust to a mobile device screen.
We’ve seen too many local sites that don’t do this. As a result, you either have to rotate your phone to accommodate its wider interface or to zoom in or out to be able to read what it says.
You may think those are really small things but to a mobile user who doesn’t want to waste their time, it’s a lot.
Next, you have to make sure that all your buttons are responsive.
Ever had the experience of tapping your screen endlessly to no avail? You don’t want your potential loyal local customers to experience that.
And finally, you want to check on your site’s speed.
Nobody likes to wait. Not you, not the users, not Google. Your website’s loading time is a ranking factor for Google.
How can you test your site’s mobile-friendliness and speed?
Luckily for you, Google provides a tool that allows you to see if your site is mobile-friendly.
Additionally, it provides resources on your site’s mobile usability report and tells you more about mobile-friendly sites you can learn a lot from.
It also creates an avenue for business owners to interact with one another by discussing and answering ranking-related questions.
Similarly, Google also has a tool for testing a website’s speed.
PageSpeed Insights analyzes your website’s speed on all devices. Let’s take a look at Neil Patel’s website here.
Wow, this speed is great. Its speed for mobile is even better.
This tool is free and very easy to use. If you’re looking for tools that can give you great insight about your site, these are what you need.
This is an area of SEO that many of us are familiar with.
Often, the first thing that comes to mind is, “the more links, the better the ranking”. This could not be farther from the truth.
For example, it’s a bad idea to just purchase hundreds of links that point to your site.
First and foremost, that doesn’t do your business any good. Second, your site might suffer a penalty from Google.
What should you do?
Acquire links from relevant sources (preferably local).
These can be businesses or establishments you’ve had dealings with in the past or you interact with regularly. It can be suppliers, schools, organizations, etc…
Get out of the box and try to acquire links from these sources in a genuine way.
Final tip: the most important things you need to keep in mind when trying to rank are the genuineness of your content and the quality of your product or services.
Need Help With Your Local SEO? We’re Here to Help
At Fannit, we’ve spent more than a decade learning about local SEO and helping small businesses connect with their audiences. If you want to get started with local SEO or want to learn more about what digital marketing can do for you, reach out to our team and we’ll be happy to help.