SEO, or search engine optimization, is a complex term for a simple idea. SEO is the practice of optimizing your website and digital presence for search engines with the purpose of ranking as highly as possible for select search terms. Local SEO is doing the exact same thing for a particular place.
To effectively promote your local business online, good local SEO strategy needs to be one of the cornerstones of your digital marketing plan. For example, if you’re the owner of Crazy Duck Home Builders in Austin, Texas and Jane Smith searches for “home builders austin tx” you want to be at the very top of the search terms to have a good chance of making an impression on Jane.
The goal is clear. But how does Crazy Duck get up there?
SEO Best Practices
The first step is ensuring your website follows SEO best practices. These include, but are not limited to:
- A fast-loading website (otherwise Google will penalize you)
- A mobile optimized site (60%+ of visits are from mobile devices)
- Content with targeted, relevant keyword phrases (one of the phrases we targeted for this piece of content is “what is local seo”)
- Frequent, useful internal page links
- Handwritten meta tags and descriptions (these are what users will read when they search for your terms)
- Image alt tags (descriptions of your images so Google’s algorithm can “read” images)
- No duplicate content
- Compelling title and subtitle tags
If you meet all these criteria – great! You’re already ahead of most small businesses in the digital marketing game. Let’s find out how we can go further and optimize for your locale.
The #1 most important component of successful local SEO strategy is gathering online reviews. For any service-based business, whether that’s Crazy Duck Home Builders or Odd Duck Restaurant, customers will decide whether or not a business is worth their money by reading reviews. This is not a joke – 86% of people regularly read reviews of local businesses. If your company has no reviews or bad reviews, you are driving away customers point blank. Aside from prominently displaying Review Now buttons and the like on your website, the best way to gather quality reviews is by asking your customers. This might mean table tents on your tables if you’re Odd Duck, or emailing satisfied new home owners if you’re Crazy Duck.
Where should my customers review my business?
One of the best places to gather reviews is Google itself. If you haven’t already, head to Google My Business and fill out a business profile (it’s free). Have your customers visit your profile and leave reviews. The more high-quality, positive reviews you have the more likely you will show up here:
In case you didn’t notice, that Google Maps widget is at the very top of the page – above even the top search results. Basically, what I’m telling you is a bunch of good Google reviews is a cheat code to the top of Google search results.
There are many other places customers check for reviews: Yelp, Houzz, Angie’s List, YellowPages, and the Better Business Bureau for starters. The more profiles and positive reviews you have on these sites, the more traffic you’re going to drive to your site and eventually, the more customers you’ll gain.
Social Media for Local SEO
Many people don’t realize, but social media is another great tool for local SEO. Frequent, quality posts engage customers and drive traffic to your site, as well as build links between major sites like Facebook and Instagram and your own. All of these things are great for your search engine rankings.
Add a Map and All your Locations
Google needs to know where your business is located and so do your customers. Make it easy on them by featuring your address prominently in your footer. Next, add a map to your contact page, or even your front page if it won’t make the page feel cluttered.
All good SEO strategy starts with content that’s valuable to your customers. Don’t write about your business – no one cares. Instead, write about solutions to problems your customers have. For example, this blog article helps my service business clients understand local SEO, why it matters, and what we need to do to improve their search engine performance. For local businesses, you can go further and write articles directly related to your locale. Our friends at Crazy Duck Home Builders in Austin could write an article titled “Is it a Good Time to Build a Home in Austin” or “The Austin Housing Market in 2019”, or 1,000 other topics of interest to locals. Spend 10 minutes brainstorming and I’m positive you can generate some compelling ideas.
Local SEO is vital to your success as a small business. It might sound daunting, but it’s possible to improve your search engine rankings with some hard work. By combining sound SEO fundamentals, quality customer reviews, an engaging social media presence, and frequent local content, you can beat out your competitors and start winning the SEO game.