Building a website has become a lot easier for small business owners than it was in the past, but it can still be a challenge to get the site to do well in local search. Even in a limited area, there are a lot of businesses competing for the top spot on local searches for Google and other search engines. SEO is still SEO, even if it's local, but there are some things that business owners can do to improve their rankings in local searches. Here are four simple steps business owners can use to improve their local SEO.
1. Establish Google My Business Profile
Just as Google is the starting point for SEO on desktop, the giant of search is where business owners need to start for planning their local SEO strategy. Google's local platform is called Google My Business, which took the place of Google Places. Local business owners should set up a Google My Business profile as soon as possible. In order to get a verified listing, which benefits the website in local searches, the business will need to have Google call a physical phone at the location or get a postcard sent to the address and use the verification code.
Getting a verified profile will help with SEO because it means the page will turn up in local searches. So if a person searches for delis and a zip code (or use the phrase "Near Me"), the Google My Business locations that are listed as delis will show in the map on search results. If some searches for the specific business, the Google My Business profile will give information about the business, like hours of operations or reviews directly on the right hand side of search results.
Business owners need to remember that establishing their profile isn't a one-time activity. Google recently announced they would "unverify" [not really a word, but that's how they described it] Google My Business listings that had been inactive for a certain period of time. This may be frustrating but understandable. Businesses open, change locations, shutdown, etc., regularly. Without some method for removing outdated listings, an address search from Google would eventually turn up multiple "verified" listings for the same place. Business can prevent their Google My Business account from being "unverified" by posting to the Google account along with other social media accounts.
2. Use Locations in Category and Page Names
One tip for good local SEO is to use the location name in the content, page name and URL structure whenever possible. Businesses that have multiple branches should create a specific page for each location. Each location page should include the name, address and phone Number, along with any nicknames that area of town may go buy. If there's an area of town called "Old Town" the page for the location in that section of town should include the phrase "Old Town" in the copy (e.g. "We've been the largest German bakery in Old Town for the past 15 years).
Another place to use the location is in categories for local content. If there are blog posts that related specifically to certain locations, the location should be used as a tag and category. To illustrate, say an insurance provider does a blog about a new law in New York. The post should be in a category and tagged with New York. That way the term "New York" will show up as keywords in the URL.
3. Cultivate Local Reviews
Local businesses on the internet have to work to establish credibility with the consumers on the internet. Just about anyone can make a website, so one way to let searchers know a business is legitimate and high-quality is to use reviews. Research has shown that people trust the reviews they see on the internet almost as much as recommendations from friends and family.
Google has also recently made a change where reviews show up on the right hand side of search results along with the Google My Business information mentioned before, when people do branded searches. This means that local businesses that use Google My Business to cultivate reviews will help the business establish credibility with searchers almost immediately. When people use Google to search for a general list of places in an area, the average review score shows up for some of the top listings, and this increases the likelihood that people will click on those listings.
4. Put Mobile Compatibility First
Mobile compatibility is important for SEO at every level, but it takes on special significance for local SEO. Many people conduct searches for local places when they are on the go. That's why many searches on mobile devices are related to local places. Searchers are looking for addresses, phone number, hours of operation and more. Including this information on a site will help that information show up quickly for searchers. Consumers using local search are often in a hurry. Not having the information they want readily available will cause them to look somewhere else.
Besides name, address and phone number, local businesses should try to keep information about product availability up-to-date on their mobile site. Many customers who search for local businesses while in route to the store are checking to see if the location is open and if they have the product they want is available for pick up. Which ever business has that information available is where the consumer will go. And the sites that hold the viewer’s attention the longest also gets an SEO boost.
Local SEO is important for business owners who want to use their site to attract customers to their brick-and-mortar locations. In addition to a traditional SEO strategy with link building and keywords, small business owners can use these tips to help their businesses grow.
For more tips on building a more effective website read this article on 5 advanced SEO strategies that business owners can use.