As a local business, you have a lot to offer your community. But to serve your community better, people need to know where to find you. The way to make sure your audience knows about you is to optimize your online presence so that people know how to locate you in person.
What is local SEO?
A golden rule to live by when working on your local SEO is that you actually have a business address in that industry. Local SEO is not for online businesses looking to target a specific area. It’s crucial to have an actual address first.
If you have a local brick and mortar business, your website is a way to make sure people can find you in real life. Local SEO all about making sure your online presence caters specifically to people in your area.
So now that you know what local SEO means, you’re probably wondering exactly how to implement an SEO strategy.
4 Ways to improve your local SEO
Local SEO is all about optimizing your website to that local audiences can finding it when they search you on Google. Many factors go into optimizing your website.
The content on your website (on-page SEO) and the content off of your website that links to your site (on-page SEO) both affect your ranking. It takes a combination of both methods to achieve SEO success — especially in competitive industries.
Here are four things you can do to build a solid foundation for your SEO strategy and reach more of your local audience.
1. Claiming your Google My Business Page
Your “Google My Business” page is the cornerstone of your local SEO strategy, yet 56% of businesses haven’t claimed GMB listing. Claiming your business on Google is only the first step, but this one step can make a huge difference.
Local businesses need visibility to improve their online traffic and get people through their doors. On Google, the “local pack” or “3-pack” are the first three businesses that appear below that map after a local Google search. Appearing in the 3-pack is incredibly impactful on people visiting your business in person.
You can start this at anytime by visiting https://www.google.com/business/
2. Keyword research
You need to do keyword research to see what people in your target audience are actually searching for. Researching a few keywords will open your eyes to specific things your target audience is searching for related to your business.
You obviously want to appear in searches that include your name. But the goal is to appear in searches that are meeting a specific need of the person searching. You might think you already know what your target audience is searching for, but doing additional keyword research will help you identify gaps in your keyword strategy.
Keyword research is one of the most important parts of local SEO. You need to know what people are looking for to make sure you can optimize your site for them to find it.
You can invest in SEO tools and software like Ahrefs, SEMrush or others, but there are some other ways to do Local SEO research. Using Google’s auto-fill features is a great way to see what else people are related to your business. For example, here’s an example of what auto-fills for the search San Francisco bagels. Now you know you could also be optimizing for the keywords “bagel recipe,” and “bagel delivery.”
3. Guest Posts and Inbound Links
Google sees the number of times your content is linked to from high-authority websites as an indicator of the credibility of your site. The more links you have on other websites that point to your website, the better you will rank.
When working on a backlink strategy, search for publications that are popular locally or in your industry that accept guests posts and frame yourself as an expert in this niche. Writing a well-thought-out a guest post will not only build your portfolio of backlinks, improving your rankings, it will also establish you as a thought-leader in your industry.
You can also get backlinks by being mentioned on different websites or news outlets organically. For local businesses, a lot of times you can submit pitches or press releases for things you’re doing related to the community to get featured in local news roundups and publications.
While inbound links won’t make or break a local SEO strategy, having a good link portfolio will help you stand out among your local competitors.
Over 90% of consumers read online reviews before deciding to visit a local business. Google’s ranking algorithm loves reviews as much as consumers do and awards higher rankings to businesses with more reviews.
Having good customer reviews creates a harmonious cycle. Good reviews attract more customers. Those customers then give more good reviews. Encouraging your customers to leave reviews in person is one of the most effective ways to market your business.
Don’t stick to Google Reviews exclusively. Have reviews on other platforms, like Yelp or Facebook, play a role in your rankings as well.
Bonus: Don’t make these mistakes
SEO is constantly changing. As businesses find new ways to appear higher in searches, Google is also finding new ways reveal who is using unfavorable tactics and will hit them with a penalty.
Avoid keyword stuffing at all costs. It’s getting more difficult to trick Google into thinking that your content is good. Google will penalize it, and your audience will be able to tell that your content is inauthentic. The best way to avoid penalties is to create good content that organically incorporates keywords that your target audience is searching for.
Use caution when publishing duplicate content. While Google isn’t as strict on this as they have been in the past, you still want to create original content as much as possible without posting the same content in multiple places. Remember, Google is smarter then you, they will devalue the duplicate content and you won’t even know it.
Stay away from irrelevant links. Always make sure that the links your receiving makes sense for your business. Having links on suspicious sites, sites far outside your industry, or sites that cater to other local areas, puts you at risk of being penalized by Google.
SEO is a long term strategy that will change regularly. You need to stay in touch with what is happening. The rules of SEO change often and things that worked a year ago don’t work as well anymore. It’s important to keep up with analytics and tracking what is working and what isn’t getting results.