If you run a small business, you’ve probably had a moment of despair when you clench your fist and curse the heavens that time and time again, huge business conglomerates outrank your humble small business in the SERPs. However, the times they are a-changin’, and search engines are starting to personalize search results based on the location of the person searching. So why is local SEO so important, and how can you improve your local SEO as a small business?
For small businesses, local SEO is crucial to making your business visible on the great big Internet. Local customers are searching for your business in the moment they actually need you and while they’re on the go (if I told you how many times I’ve searched for “Lincoln Park Chicago pizza delivery” on my phone on the way home from work, you’d lose all respect for me)- a fact that’s nicely summed up by the statistic that 46 percent of shoppers report using their phone to research local products and services. Local search is also highly targeted, since you’re reaching people who are very likely to buy from you. This, combined with the fact that customers who find your company via online search are more likely to convert than any other type of advertising, means that a few simple local SEO techniques can quickly translate into a better bottom line for your company.
Luckily, boosting your company’s local SEO isn’t too difficult. Here’s a quick guide to improving your local SEO:
Check your local listings for accuracy, consistency, and duplicate listings. Your business should have a local places page for Google+, Yahoo Local, and Bing Places at the very least. Take a few minutes to make sure each of these profiles is filled out completely and that all the information is consistent across profiles. Now is not the time to get bored halfway through claiming a local listing and type “2035 wabansia chicago il” instead of “2035 W. Wabansia Ave, Chicago, IL 60647.” Be patient, be thorough, and be correct. If you do run into a duplicate listing for your company, delete one. You may also wish to use a service to help with your local listing management- may we suggest Moz Local?
Complete local places pages for other high quality business listings. Pages like Yelp, Foursquare, Local.com, Facebook, Mapquest, and YellowPages.com all increase your reach and visibility. As stated above, make sure to fill out these profiles consistently (as a side note, you should also include your physical location in your social media profiles). Also, avoid any low quality listing directories. Many of these sites will claim to submit your name, address, and phone number (NAP) to hundreds of directories across the Internet, but these links will end up looking spammy and can hurt you in the long run. As is the case with all link building, quality > quantity.
Have your complete contact information in a page on your website. Include your name, address, phone number, e-mail address, business hours, website URL, and even a map of your location(s) if possible. If you have multiple locations, give each location its own page.
Use keywords that combine your service with your location. In my all-too-personal example in the second paragraph, you’ll notice I didn’t search for just “pizza delivery”- I searched for pizza delivery in my neighborhood, and this means that I’d find companies using local SEO in Chicago. Using local signals is especially important in your title tags and meta descriptions because these snippets are often the first things people will see when searching for you- make sure they know how easily accessible you are.
Fill your blog with fresh, local content. You have a company blog, right? Great! Use this space to write about local events that you’ve participated in alongside the helpful posts you’re already giving your readers. You could even reach out to other local businesses that are in a similar industry for extra link building through guest posts. For example, if you run a pizzeria, you could reach out to a local farmer for a guest post about why locally sourced ingredients taste superior on pizza.
Seek links from local sites. Going off the previous point, conduct local outreach to get links from other quality sites in your area. Local news sites, blogs, and chambers of commerce will all give your backlinks profile some oomph while making your business visible to a larger audience. One smart tip from Search Engine Land suggests offering your service/product for free to bloggers and local media in exchange for an honest review, like sending your bakery’s signature cupcakes to a local dessert blogger, or, similarly, making sure to alert the local media about any charity events you’re sponsoring or participating in, noting that “your PR efforts can result in positive articles, videos or other types of coverage that will remain highly visible in search over the long-term and boost your brand’s reputation.”
Encourage online user reviews. Of course, you shouldn’t strong-arm your customers into leaving gushing reviews- but encouraging honest feedback and letting your customers know that you’d love to hear from them on your local profiles is a great way to improve your local SEO. You can plant the notion of leaving a review in you customers’ minds through a flyer posted at checkout, a follow-up email upon product delivery, or that omnipresent “People love us on Yelp!” sticker. Focus on providing an extraordinary experience for your customers, and they’ll be happy to share their thoughts in a review. You can also respond to these reviews; if the review is positive, thank the customer and say you hope they’ll come again soon, and if the review is negative, say you appreciate the feedback and give the customer a direct way to contact you to discuss the issue further so that you can make it right. Above all, do NOT post fake reviews or offer an incentive for a positive reviews- these make your site look spammy and disingenuous, and Google will punish you.
The importance of local SEO will only continue to grow as searching becomes a more personalized process. Adopting local SEO techniques sooner rather than later can give you a leg up on your competitors and improve your company’s bottom line.
Looking for more ways to improve your company’s search engine rankings? Consider hiring an SEO firm to increase your online visibility- but first, make sure to ask your potential SEO agency these questions.
Kristen Geil is a Content Writer/Blogger at Digital Third Coast, a search engine marketing agency in Chicago with content marketing services. Connect with Kristen on LinkedIn and Google+. Connect with Digital Third Coast on Google+.