If you’re a local business, then local SEO is essential.
Why? Because if you’re an Italian restaurant in Manhattan and someone types in ‘Manhattan Italian Restaurants’, you want to be one of the first names they see!
Fortunately, there are a lot of things you can do to help ensure you’re top of the pile when it comes to local SEO.
Have an effective title and description on your website
This is SEO 101, but that doesn’t make it any less important. You simply HAVE to have an effective meta title and description on your website.
This is one of the main things Google uses to judge what a page is about, so if you don’t do it, the search engine spiders will have to guess what your site’s about based on other factors.
Don’t let them!
Obviously, you should try and sell your business in the description, too. So, taking the above example, you’ll want to create a description like:
‘Michael’s is one of the finest Italian Restaurant in Manhattan, serving award-winning dishes to the locals since 1970. Book your table today!’
Or something along those lines.
(For a technical guide on meta titles and descriptions, check this great article.)
Ensure you add yourself to Google My Business
Google My Business is a directory, very similar to ones like Yelp. However, as you’ve probably guessed, it’s run by Google. That makes it WAY more important!
The Google My Business verification process – which you can read about here – is a bit fiddly, but it’s well worth doing, as it will verify that you’re the real business owner.
Your GMB page can be filled in with information on your business, what you do, what hours you’re open and a number of other points. Try to fill it in in as much detail as you can: consumers regularly use it to make decisions about where they’ll take their business!
Try to grab as many citations as you can
In the old days, SEOs used to use directories for backlink building. Though this approach is less valuable these days, it’s still worth trying to get listed on any local business directories.
The important thing though, is that they be legitimate directories. These include:
- Yahoo Business
- Yellow Pages
As well as others. (There’s a great list here.)
With every directory, you’ll need to spend time updating your business information – as you did on Google My Business – but again, it’s worth it.
Remember, you’re setting up as a legitimate business, and you want customers to be able to find you through different means
(And, of course, by doing this you’re demonstrating to Google themselves that you’re legitimate.)
Ensure your data is consistent across the board
This applies to any directories, and it’s worth noting separately: make sure that the information you use is formatted EXACTLY the same.
So, if your address can be formatted in different ways, you want to use the same version in every listing to make it as easy as possible for the search spiders to connect them.
If your business is based on the fourth floor, you don’t want one listing to say ‘Floor 4’, one to say ‘4th Floor’ and another to say ‘Fourth Floor’.
This might seem a bit fussy, but trust us: it can make a difference.
Try to generate customer reviews
We’ve talked before about the value of social proof, and why it’s so important.
Put simply, customers don’t want to take your word for how good your service is, they want to take the word of other people that have used it.
So, whether you’re a local retail store or an agency offering B2B services, you want to provide some kind of capacity for your existing customers to review and offer feedback on your services.
This can be anything from third party review software to a page of testimonials. The key is to ensure they’re genuine: it’s better to have nothing than to fake them.
(Offer a free service in exchange for a review or two, if you’re really stuck.)
Local SEO is a bit different from the normal process: it doesn’t rely almost entirely on remote work.
Indeed, if you want to help generate buzz, old-school style local PR can be invaluable. Why? Because Google loves relevancy, and coverage by local media is VERY relevant when it comes to local SEO.
If you can, try to build relationships with local newspapers and news channels. If there are any local bloggers that cover your industry, ask them if they’d like to review your work.
Don’t fear actually getting out into your local community: you might be surprised how much of a difference it can make to your SERPs, especially over the long-term.
Post useful, valuable content
This is another SEO 101 tip, but it’s as valuable to local SEO as it is to universal search.
Your aim should always be to bring down your website’s bounce rate, and to get customers to spend more time on your website, and there’s only one way to do that:
Try to create value!
Now, we’re not suggesting that you should force the idea of blogging if it doesn’t fit your industry. (And there are some industries it definitely doesn’t fit.)
However, try to have something on your site that offers value: it could be a video promotion that takes clients around your office. Or maybe you could provide a free guide offering advice on your specialist area (this is particularly valuable for B2B services).
If you are going to blog, the key is to ensure you provide real, in-depth content that offers a lot of value. Think longer pieces, less often! (The vast majority of blogs on our page, for instance, are over 1,000 words.)
You might be surprised how many local businesses still don’t put any time into creating high-quality content, which is good: it gives you the chance to get ahead!
(For a superb guide on creating great content, we’d recommend you check out this piece. Which is a brilliant piece of content itself!)
One good method – if it suits your business – is to write very localized content. So if, for instance, you’re a real estate company working in a single location, you can create content based around your particular area: which locations are worth visiting, which areas have great schools, which areas offer brilliant transport links and so on.
If you can create localized content that suits your specific demographic, it can really help your local rankings improve.
Build a great-looking website
You might be surprised how many businesses on the local level don’t invest in a decent-looking website.
Many of them are done on the cheap, and don’t look that good. Even the ones that have an OK design don’t use good, pro-looking photos.
Again, this gives you the chance to get ahead of the pack. If your business only needs a five page ‘flyer’ style website, you don’t need to spend tens of thousands, but DO invest a little bit more for something that looks good.
Just by doing this, you’ll set yourself apart from a lot of the competition.
Ensure your website is responsive
We’ve talked about the importance of responsive design a number of times on our blog, and we’re going to do so again!
In any form of SEO responsive design is invaluable. Put simply, responsive design is a website that adapts to display perfectly on any device, whether that’s a phone, a tablet or a desktop screen.
Why is this vital? Because the search engines are all about providing visitors with a great service. If they click on a link and are confronted with half a website because the rest of it doesn’t fit the screen, that’s NOT a great service!
(Remember, Google uses bounce rate – whether people click straight off a site after visiting – as a key SEO metric.)
If you don’t have a responsive website design, you’ll get punished in the rankings. Simple.
Hire a good copywriter, or learn to be one
Effective copywriting is essential to local SEO for two reasons:
- It will help grab the attention of visitors and keep them on the page
- It’ll make your business more money
Effective copywriting is about generating sales through words. It’s about turning visitors to your website into paying customers.
And don’t fall into the trap that many businesses do of thinking content writing is copywriting – though both are valuable, they’re very different skillsets.
(For a more concrete blog on copywriting, check out this great piece).
Now, you might be surprised at the price of hiring a professional copywriter, but trust us: they’re worth it. Effective copy will recoup your investment multiple times over.
(If you’d prefer to learn the skill yourself – and it’s a valuable one – this is a great read.)
Ensure your website loads quickly
Another tip that’s universal in the world of SEO.
Google punishes websites that are slow to load. That’s a hard and fast rule that’s been proven in multiple studies.
So, to ensure your website doesn’t get punished, you’ll want to make sure it loads as speedily on mobile devices as it does for desktops and laptops.
Luckily, Google themselves have a tool that’s designed to help you test your site in a mobile environment, and you can find it here.
It might seem fiddly to test your site speed just for the mobile environment, but trust us: site speed REALLY matters.
If you’re interested in speeding up your website, here are some great tips.
If you serve several local areas, create different landing pages for them
It might be you’re still a relatively local business, but want to attract customers from both your town and the surrounding areas. If that’s the case, then it’s worth taking the time to create a landing page optimized around each town you want to appeal to.
The chances are that Google will prioritize your listing in your home town, but by simply making the effort to create a good landing page focused around location-based keywords, you’ll still be able to rank above a lot of other local businesses.
Business reputation matters the most
When it comes to local SEO, there are two sides of the story. The first is the technical side of things, and the steps you can take online to make sure the search spiders notice you.
These tips work, and can really make a difference to your online success.
However, when you’re marketing locally, you should never under-estimate the importance of reputation management. Of doing a great job.
In the end, there’s no substitute for word-of-mouth! Provide a brilliant experience and you’ll obtain new customers through recommendations from previous ones.
Why does this link to SEO? Because if you’re a locally focused business, SEO will get the customers through your door, but it won’t keep them coming back!
Use local SEO as a first step to get the customers in. As lead generation.
Then provide a brilliant service. Do this, and you’ll succeed. It’s that simple.
If you’d like advice on how to obtain new customers, pick up the phone and call us today. We’d love to help you.