Local search is essential for the success of small businesses. It’s how your business stays relevant and gets found by potential customers in your area. A stunning 80% of consumers use search engines to find local information. If you’re not set up to capture these customers using local SEO, you’re missing out in a big way.
But local SEO is a little different from more general SEO tactics. What works for national businesses isn’t always the right solution for small businesses that rely on local customers. After all, a local taco restaurant in San Antonio doesn’t need to be found by people in Boston looking for tacos in their area.
With that difference in mind, what goes into a successful local SEO strategy? Let’s find out.
Best Practices for Local SEO
Setting up Google My Business
The first and most important step is to optimize for Google My Business. Google has become the mostly uncontested ruler of local search, and you won’t get anywhere without a Google My Business (GMB) page. What’s a GMB page? It’s a free tool that lets you control how your business appears in Google Search and Google Maps. GMB lets you customize and update your contact details and hours of operation, add photos, and monitor and reply to reviews. It also lets you find where and how people are searching for your business, which is invaluable data.
Your Google My Business page is the best place to start with your local SEO strategy. This is because usually when a person is searching for a product or service near them, it’s because they’re ready to make a purchase. You don’t want to miss out on those easy conversions to sales.
Claim and Set Up Your Page
To get started using your Google My Business page, you need to log into your Google account and claim your business. You’ll also need to verify this claim by proving you’re the business owner. And Google helpfully provides several options to claim your local listing.
Once you’ve claimed and verified your business, you’re ready to begin editing your listing and adding to your profile. Go to your Google My Business dashboard to begin. You’ll want to update the info section with your hours, how customers can contact you, your website URL, your service area, and more. Don’t forget to add photos. Customers are much more likely to click through to a listing with professional and attractive photos.
One last but important task for your Google My Business page – responding to reviews. It increases trust in your business and reminds customers that you’re concerned with making their experience with your business a positive one. Respond politely and professionally to negative reviews. It’s also good practice to thank customers for their positive reviews, which gives you the chance to interact again with a pleased customer.
Create Local Content
For a local business, you aren’t aiming to attract the widest possible audience. You want to bring in the attention of people who live in your area and are good prospects for purchasing what you offer. That’s why you need to hone your content creation to focus on local or industry news – you want to attract that local audience.
One way to create compelling local content is to become a local authority for your industry. Promote local industry events and gatherings, provide content that educates, or spotlight local leaders and employees in your industry. This content goes beyond just promoting what your business sells. It’s a method designed to get prospects into the top of your marketing funnel by creating content that engages them.
You can also come up with a plan for local content creation by thinking about which types of customers you want to attract, and writing blog posts or articles that speak to their needs. If you’re a cupcake bakery and you would like to attract business from more mid-sized companies in your area, start promoting content about local business events and ways to celebrate milestones at work.
Keyword research is just as important here as it is for a wider SEO strategy. Just be sure to hone in on what people are searching for in your area. It doesn’t help that San Antonio taco shop to know what searches people in Boston are conducting.
Make Your Info Consistent Online
It’s really critical for local businesses that your customers can find you easily. That means ensuring your name, phone number, and website are consistent and accurate across the web. On your website, accuracy is especially crucial. And you’ll want to be sure your name, address, and phone number are in your website as text, not as an image. That way, search engines can crawl that information.
If you have multiple locations, be sure to set a location page on your website for each location. And be careful about duplicating content on those pages – it can confuse Google. Put the name, address, and phone number info for each location on its page so customers who are searching in that area will find the one closest to them.
Get Local Backlinks
Backlinks, or links from external websites back to your site, are a critical part of any SEO strategy. But they’re especially helpful in local search. And they can be easier to get since you’re part of a smaller community. Backlinks build your credibility with search engines. The more you have, the higher you’ll rank in searches.
How do you get backlinks? There are a few ways that work well for local businesses.
You can write a guest post for a blog in exchange for a link to your website. Become a resource for your industry and community, and write about it. This is especially effective in getting your name and business out there if you’re just starting out.
You can get links through a sponsorship of an event, webinar, or meet-up in your community. Host a community event or network with influencers and prominent people in your community.
And finally, providing local scholarships don’t just provide community goodwill – they can also be another source for getting a link back to your site from a .edu site, which is very effective for SEO rankings.
Make Your Site Mobile-Friendly
Almost all local search happens on mobile devices. Think about it: you’re out running errands and realize you need to pick up some cupcakes for a party later. How do you start your search? You whip out your phone and do a quick search for “cupcakes near me.” You need a website design that permits mobile-friendly.
Most potential customers will use their mobile devices for a few local search purposes: to find your location, get your phone number, and read reviews. Ensure all those elements are easy to find and easy to read on a phone as well as a desktop, and your customers will come.
Share on Social Media
Social media is an important part of any local business digital marketing plan. Sharing those community events and news, as well as your own updates and specials, can connect with customers near you. But it’s not just about that social media nurture strategy. Social media can play a key role in local SEO too.
Google considers content that you share on social media important. It will help improve your search rankings while engaging your local community. And you can add your best social content to your Google My Business page too – especially photos, which are very engaging.
Google Local 3 Pack
You might not know what the “Google 3 Pack” is, but you’ve certainly seen it before – the listing of three local businesses that appears at the top of a local search page. The Google pack (which used to be seven results, and has now been narrowed to three because of the use of mobile devices) can drive a huge amount of traffic your way if you appear in it.
How do you get into that 3 Pack? Well, it’s all in the local SEO strategy details we covered above. Get those in order, and your business will start climbing the ranks of trusted Google sites and raking in that local traffic. You can even beat out big national chains if your strategy is solid. You’ll win a spot by connecting to your local community and ensuring your mobile users have a good experience on your site.
Trust the Local SEO Experts
Local SEO is both essential to the success of your small business and a bit complicated to excel in on your own. We hope this guide was a helpful overview of the basics.
But if you’d like more guidance from experts with years of local SEO knowledge, give us a call at ContentFirst.Marketing. We offer a variety of solutions for small local businesses that will help you gain traffic, increase sales, and measure your results. Local search is only getting more competitive – don’t get left behind. Schedule your free business review today and get started on the road to success.