Every local business wants to be at the top of the Google or Bing search engine results when someone searches for a product or service like theirs.
Just think how much business you would have if every time someone searched for, “family dentist in Charlotte”, your family dental practice showed up at the top of the search engine results every time.
For every local search result in Google, there is a local business sitting at the top of the page. These businesses usually place a high importance on Local SEO optimization and invest the time and resources to get their business at the top of the search engine results.
Wouldn't it be great if your local business could do the same?
Local Searches Lead 50% Of Mobile Visitors To Visit Stores Within One Day – Google Think Research report
Now you might be saying to yourself, “I don't have the money to hire someone to do this”. The good news is that there are lots of things you can do to help in your local SEO efforts that require no money and little to no SEO experience. It simply requires a commitment from you to do it and a few hours a month to set aside to get it done.
Below I am going to outline some Local SEO optimization tips that can help your business show up higher in the search engine results. More visibility in the search engines will get you more targeted traffic to your website and more opportunities to generate leads online. Isn't that worth investing a few hours a month on for your business?
Now, not every industry is equal. For example, if you are a lawyer, mortgage broker or a plumber in your city, the competition online is fierce. With highly competitive industries like these where the rewards for new a customer is high, they are usually paying marketing companies with their local SEO to get to get top search engine rankings for their city. You may eventually need to hire someone to help, but you will have a solid foundation in place and a much smaller gap to close when you do get to that point.
So if you are serious about wanting to get your business higher in the local search engine results, here are some local SEO tips to get you started. All of these tips, when done correctly, can have a big impact on your rankings. They work best when you use them in conjunction with each other and when you do them consistently over time.
Google My Business and Bing Places
If you do a local search in Google like, “Pizza in Denver”, you will see a map show up in the search results along with a bunch of local pizzerias nearby. That is a local search result, sometimes called a maps result. This type of result has two parts:
This type of search engine result has two parts:
- The map listing, which shows local businesses on the map.
- The organic listings, which shows a list of the top web pages for that particular search.
When a business shows up on the local map results, it is not your website that is doing it, but your Google My Business listing, which is a free listing by Google. Bing Places is the Bing search engine equivalent and works pretty much the same way. We'll talk about Google My Business here as it is the dominant search engine in most markets. When you look at a search engine result with a map listing, you will notice these local businesses are listed above the traditional search engine results, giving them a lot of visibility on the page. This is why optimizing your Google My Business page is so important.
Setting up your Google My Business page is pretty simple. Go to Google My Business and sing up for your free listing. You will be asked to verify that you are the owner of the business and they will usually send you a postcard in the mail to verify your location. The good thing is that you don't have to list your business address publicly if you don't want to, which is great for home based businesses.
Once you have signed up and accessed your listing, these are the most important things you need to do:
- Make sure your NAP (name, address, phone number) are correct and match what you have on your website
- Make sure your business category is relevant. You can add multiple relevant categories for your business
- Add lots of images. Add multiple images for every image category
- Fill out your listing completely. They show a progress bar, make sure it is at 100%
Now, once you have finished this for Google My Business, head over to Bing Places and do the same.
Once Google and Bing have verified your business, your listing will be live and you now have the opportunity to have it shown in the local search engine results and appear on the map.
Local SEO optimization tip: Download the Google Maps app on your phone and search for your business. Once you find it, scroll down and look for the “Add Photos” tab. Click on that and you can use your phone to take pictures of your business and upload them to Google as a customer of your business. Encourage your customers to do the same. Google loves to see customers interacting with local businesses through reviews, image upload, etc and it helps add content to your Google My Business listing and will help it rank higher in the local search engine results.
NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number)
This is a simple tip that can pay big dividends over time. Make sure your NAP is consistent across all of your online web properties. These include:
- Your website
- Google My Business and Bing Places
- Social media properties
- Review sites
- Online directories
For every business, Google has to scan numerous websites and try and match each page to a business. Sometimes, if the NAP is inconsistent, Google will have doubts if this is the same business, so when in doubt, they will leave it out. So by not being consistent with your NAP, you run the risk of losing associations (and resulting links to your website) because of NAP inconsistencies.
Examples of NAP inconsistencies would be:
- Business Name: Sam's Plumbing, Sam's Plumbing Service, Sam's Plumbing Services, Sam's Plumbing Services Inc.
- Address: 123 Main Street, 123 Main Street, 123 Main
- Phone Number: 704-999-9999, (704) 999-9999
Now many times Google will pick up on the inconsistencies and still give you credit for the listing, but sometimes it won't. It's such a simple thing to do so it doesn't make sense to lose any time of SEO credit for a silly technical mistake.
Out of these three identifiers, your phone number is the most unique. You may share an address and other people may have the same business name, but a business will rarely share their phone number with another business.
Local SEO optimization tip: Perform your own NAP audit to check for inconsistencies with your NAP. The easy method is to go to https://moz.com/local/search and enter your business and check the results. From there, you can make edits to any inconsistencies you find with your NAP online.
Citations For Local SEO
A citation is a mention of your business online, regardless if it is a link or not. There are two types of citations, structured and unstructured.
These are where your business is listed in an organized and structured format. Examples would be:
- Google My Business and Bing listings
- Review sites like Angie's List and Yelp
- Online directories like the Yellow Pages and Manta
These are mentions of your business, but not in a formal structure. Examples would be:
- A blog or media website mentions your business name in the body of an article
- Someone mentions you on a social media post
- Someone mentions your business in an online forum or Q&A site like Quora
Google understands that not all local businesses can be SEO and link building masters. So they routinely scan the Internet for people talking about your business. When they find these mentions and the sentiment is positive, they give you credit for that towards your local SEO, which helps to increase your rankings and visibility in the local search results.
Your goal with citations is to make sure you are listed properly (having a consistent NAP) on major 3rd party platforms like Facebook, Linkedin, Yelp, etc. You also want to make sure you are listed in niche sites that cater to your industry. An example would a restaurant being listed on AllMenus.
Here is a nice resource from Moz that shows you the best places for citations organized by business category.
Local SEO optimization tip: To find important websites to be listed for your business, perform several searches in Google just like a person trying to find a business like yours would. Check the first 1-2 pages of Google to see what directories and review sites show up. These are important to for your business and you should make sure you are listed on all of them. Another tip is to Google your competitor's phone number and sift through the first 5 pages of results. Here you can find websites where your competitor is listed but you may not be yet.
Online reviews are super important when it comes to local SEO and getting your web properties to rank high in local search. Google reviews on your Google My Business listing are probably the most important as they directly tied to your Google My Business account and are the first reviews people will typically see when they search on Google.
93% of all Millennials rely on online consumer reviews, both from their social media contacts and from strangers, when they make purchasing decisions. – Adweek
Depending on your country and industry, Google also pulls in reviews from 3rd party websites as well. This is why it is important to have positive reviews on all of the major review sites like Facebook, Yelp, Yellow Pages, etc. There are also review sites like Angie's List and Homestars (Canada) that cater more towards service businesses or specific industries.
As you can see with the example below, Google pulls in reviews from across the web all of the major review sites play a part in your local rankings, not just Google Reviews.
How many reviews you need to rank higher in the search engine depends on your competition. If the Google My Business listings ranking at the top of the local search results are averaging 30 reviews, then you need that at a minimum in order to compete with them. When it comes to reviews
When it comes to online reviews, having a system in place is critical to gaining reviews on a steady basis. Timing also plays a big role in getting people to leave reviews. Have a system set up where you call or email (better, do both) your happy customer right after you have delivered your product or service. This is usually when they are the most enthusiastic about your business and most likely to leave a review. Do this on a steady basis and you will steadily add reviews to your online profiles over time.
Local SEO optimization tip: If leaving a review becomes a hassle for the customer, then they most likely will not do it. Try to make their lives as easy as possible. If a customer is using a Gmail account for email, then ask for a Google review since you know they already have a Google account and do not need to register. Unless they are regular “Yelpers”, don't ask people to leave a Yelp review, they have a notorious filter system and one time reviewers on Yelp almost always get their reviews removed from public view. Facebook is a generally good place to send people as most people have a Facebook account these days.
Service and Category Pages
Service pages, and category pages if you sell products are great pages to rank high in the search engines. They are specific and focused in content and with a little tweaking, you can localize the pages for your area. Spend some time customizing these pages to get them to rank higher in the local search results.
Let's use a local dentist in Charlotte, NC as an example. These are the typical offerings on a dentist website:
- Family Dentistry
- Cosmetic Dentistry
- Dental Implants
You would start with localizing the titles of each page for their city:
- Family Dentistry in Charlotte
- Cosmetic Dentistry in Charlotte
- Orthodontics in Charlotte
- Dental Implants in Charlotte
Once you have done this with all of your service/category pages, you have started the process of localizing the page for your city. You will further localize the each page and stand a better chance at ranking locally by doing the following:
Body Copy. In the text description of each service, talk about how you serve the residents of Charlotte and talk about how long you and your staff have been doing business in Charlotte. The important thing is not to keyword stuff, but to incorporate your city into the description naturally. Something like, “Big Smiles Dentistry has been serving the residents of Charlotte for over 20 years…..”, or “Our dental office, located conveniently in South Charlotte,….”. Aim for at least 500 words for each page, anything less and there probably isn't enough text for Google to view it as comprehensive enough to rank high for that topic.
Images and Video. Bring your page to life with various media you can incorporate into the page. Insert images of your dental practice and staff. Add video to the page if you can. Google loves to see multi-dimensional content, so if your competitors have Plain Jane service pages, turn yours visual eye candy for both Google and your customers.
Interlinking. Interlinking is when you link one of your website pages to another. It's not much of a ranking factor, but linking from high authority pages on your website to other pages can help give these pages a boost. Your homepage is almost always your strongest page, so be sure that any service/product page (or any important page you want to rank high) has a link on the homepage pointing to it. The easiest way to do this is with your main menu navigation.
Local SEO optimization tip: Similarly to Service/Category pages, consider creating area pages for your website to get even more hyperlocal with your marketing. If you do not have a physical location in an area, don't pretend that you do. But you can create pages about the various areas you service in your city. For Charlotte, you could create “Areas We Serve” pages for Matthews, Pineville, BalHuntersvilletersvills, Concord, etc. People will often not search for their city, but their specific neighborhood when looking for a local business.
Think of your blog as the doorway maker for your website. If you do not have a blog or an optimized website, then your homepage is most likely the only door for your website, which is how people find your website. With a blog, every time you create a new piece of content, you are creating a new door where potential customers can find you. Wouldn't you like to have 500 doors to your website instead of just one?
A blog is great for what we call “Long Tail Keywords”, which are longer and more specific search queries people make in Google. An example of a long tail keyword would be, “Dentists in Charlotte that cater to young children” This search query may not get a ton of searches in your area each month, but if you are the only dental practice in Charlotte that has a blog post talking about how your practice caters to young children, you have a good chance of ranking very high in the search results for this query.
Below is a list of hundreds of potential topics by simply entering the term, “Dentist”, in our keyword research tool. You can do the same by using a free service like Keywordtool.io
Local SEO optimization tip: Make a list of the top 20 questions prospective customers ask you on a regular basis. These should be the foundation for your first 20 blog posts. Make each one at least 500 words long and add several images to the blog post. Don't actively promote your business in the article, but add a nice byline for your business and a call to action at the end of the article. Be sure to add local elements to your blog post, like the city that you are in.
Most small businesses avoid video like the plague. If you are not used to being in front of a camera, recording yourself on video is akin to public speaking, most people are terrified of it. But like public speaking, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. If you can get over yourself and get comfortable in front of a camera, video marketing can be a gold mine for your local marketing strategy and give you a major boost in your local SEO efforts. While the links you add in Youtube are what's called no-follow and don't directly contribute to your Local SEO, the content of your videos can and will contribute to your overall Local SEO.
When it comes to video, Youtube is the king of video marketing. It's free, easy to use and is the second largest search engine on the planet, after Google.
Google is incorporating video into its search results more and more, and there is less competition with video than there is with traditional text-based content. The good news is that the only thing you need is a mobile phone and some nerve to create lots of videos for your business.
Use Youtube like your blog, create lots of Q&A posts on common questions people ask you. You can also create a brand video for your business, basically you in your business talking about what you do and who you serve. Make the videos short, 2-5 minutes in length, and keep them upbeat in tone. The last thing you want to do is bore people to death. Aim for being educational and lighthearted, smile a lot.
When it comes to creating Youtube videos, follow these tips when uploading your videos to Youtube:
You can upload videos directly from your phone when you are finished recording, but be sure to go back to Youtube with your computer and finish adding all of the necessary details that help you rank high in Youtube as well as possibly in the regular Google search results.
Add a proper video description. A good format is to use the first paragraph to describe what the video is about and what people will learn from it. After that, add information about your business along with a call to action and a link to your website. You can also add links to some of your social media properties.
Add Tags. Tags are keywords you can add to a video to give Youtube a better idea what your video is about and how to associate and categorize it properly. Spend time adding lots of relevant Tags to your video to help it get more visibility on Youtube. Currently, you have 500 characters available to add Tags, add as many relevant ones that you can, including your industry and city.
Embed videos on your website. While embedding a Youtube video on your website is not a ranking factor (according to Google), embedding a video on your website will help it get more views, which can translate into higher rankings for your video. Adding multimedia like video also adds another dimension to the pages on your website and can help liven them up.
Local SEO optimization tips: If you are hesitant about getting in front of a video camera, there are lots of other types of video you can easily create without getting in front of a camera. Take lots of pictures of your staff and location and create an awesome video using a tool like Animoto. Create a Powerpoint slide answering a question and either add your voice narration to the PPT or just play it to music. Powerpoint lets you easily convert slideshows into a video. With their permission, take short (less than 20 seconds) testimonial videos of your customers. Best of all, every video you create for Youtube, you can also upload your video to Facebook as well.
Optimizing for Local SEO isn't difficult
Yes, it takes time and patience, but it isn't rocket science. You just need to create a plan and dedicate yourself to implementing it. Your business will thank you for your efforts.
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