As a local business you might not be worried about optimizing your website for local search.
Let me tell you right now – that’s a BIG mistake that you’re making.
More than 60% of people are heading online with their smartphones to look up information about local businesses before making any purchases.
If your business isn’t in the top few spots on Google you’re leaving A LOT of money on the table.
The sites in the top spots get more than 90% of the visitors.
If you’re not up there you might as well be invisible!
In this post I want to share some of the most practical local SEO tips that small businesses can use to boost their local search rankings.
What does this mean for you?
More visitors to your website and more leads that you can use to grow your business!
Let’s jump right into it.
Practical Local SEO Tips for Small Businesses
Optimizing for local search is getting more important every day, especially as people start looking to support local businesses.
A significant amount of your local customers are doing research online before contacting anybody.
It’s important that it’s your business website showing up for them to contact.
Almost 20% of local searches using smartphones resulted in a purchase on the same day!
Stop leaving so much money on the table.
Rank your website higher and start getting new clients and customers!
Here’s what you need to do…
Tip #1: List Your Business on Google My Business
At this point I’m assuming you have a website up and running for your business.
If not then check out this guide on how to start a local business website.
With that out of the way, the best place to start with local SEO is the Google My Business (GMB) listing for your own business.
GMB Is a free tool from Google that helps you manage your online presence on Google Search, Maps, and Reviews.
It’s here where people making local searches are able to find the address, location, contact information, and website for your business.
This specific information is known as NAPW (name, address, phone number, and website) and should be used consistently on any platform.
Setting up your Google My Business listing properly from the start is one of the most important parts of any local SEO marketing strategy.
Tip #2: Verify Your GMB Listing
Your business won’t be listed on Google Maps and you won’t be able to get Google Reviews without a verified GMB.
A verified Google My Business listing shows the address, location, hours, phone number, and website link for your business.
It’s important that the information here is accurate, especially once you start listing your business on other platforms.
An inaccurate listing can have a negative impact on the presence of your business website on Google for local searches.
Here’s how to verify your Google My Business Listing:
- Step 1: Sign up for and set up the GMB account for your business
- Step 2: Select the post card verification method
- Step 3: Verify your account on Google once you receive the postcard in the mail
Important note: Make sure the address you use is the physical address for your business.
Using your home or a false address can lead to your account getting removed.
Tip #3: Create Dedicated City Pages
Dedicated city pages on your website make it easier for your business to get discovered in surrounding cities.
This isn’t a tip that helps to improve your GMB listing.
Instead, these pages can be used to reach people in cities and urban areas close to your own.
These pages only work with the organic search results and need to be optimized properly if you want them to work.
Despite having the access to the Google Map pack and My Business listings people still look at the organic search results for more information on local businesses.
This strategy works well in medium sized to large cities with sprawling metro areas.
Let’s look at Toronto using a tree removal service business as an example.
Here are different city pages a business like this could use:
Each city page would need to include relevant keywords to rank for the local areas.
This is a great strategy to increase the local reach of your business and get more customers or clients with local SEO.
Tip #4: List Your Business on Review Sites
More than 90% of people look at online reviews about local businesses before visiting anywhere or buying anything.
If your business is poorly ranked or isn’t listed at all you’re missing out on a lot of customers and clients!
Online reviews also have an impact on local search rankings – without them it’s an uphill battle to get that top spot on Google.
Some of the best review platforms to list your business website on include:
- Google My Business
- Google+ Local
- Yellow Pages
- Angie’s List
- Yahoo Local
There are also industry-specific review sites where you can list your business.
Having a strategy to get online reviews for your business is an underrated yet essential factor of ranking locally and taking advantage of local search engine traffic.
Tip #5: Publish Content on Your Google My Business Profile
Using your GMB account you can post updates and information about your business online.
This information shows up in the search results beside your GMB listing and is a great way to build trust with your customers or clients.
People seeing this information on the search engine results page are likely to feel a more personal connection with your business rather than looking at it as yet another cold entity.
What are some things you can post?
Some of the best things to share on Google Posts for your business include:
- Details about upcoming events
- New sales, products, or service upgrades
- Positive reviews from customers
It doesn’t take much time to share something on the Google Posts for your GMB listing and both future and current customers will appreciate it.
Tip #6: Add Images to Your Google My Business Listing
Every type of business will benefit from adding bright, descriptive, and high-quality photos to their GMB listing.
Images will increase the engagement on your Google business page, especially from people browsing using their smartphones.
Higher engagement on the business listing leads to better rankings.
Having just a few images can have an impact on the number of leads you’re getting from Google as the rankings for your website and GMB improve.
With Google recently upgrading and encouraging people to upload to their photo management section it’s clear that photos are playing a growing role in local search.
Where do you get photos for your business?
Use the smartphone in your hand!
Modern smartphones come with incredibly capable cameras and you can use these photos for your GMB listing.
Tip #7: Optimize Your Website Pages
Your small business marketing strategy needs to include optimizing the blog posts and pages on your website for the keywords you want to rank for.
Your city and service need to be included as keywords in the URL, meta descriptions, content, headers, and title tags of everything you’re posting.
This makes it easier for Google to determine an accurate geographical location of your business.
With this information Google is more likely to display your business to people searching locally.
Tip #8: Create Social Media Accounts
Social media profiles can show people that your business is being run by a real person.
Being active and encouraging engagement across different social media platforms builds trust and allows you to build relationships with your customers.
This isn’t a local SEO strategy that will impact your website rankings directly.
However, with the right social media strategy you can use these platforms to generate relevant and qualified leads for your business.
More than 90% of people with smartphones use social media on a regular basis.
Certain businesses will be able to tap into the interests of these people while others might be better off avoiding social media all together.
For example, a car detailing business can use Instagram and Facebook to target the local market.
Before and after photos can be shared, detailing products reviewed, and helpful tips that encourage people to interact.
Taking the time to nurture these relationships on social media will lead new local clients and better recognition in your area.
Tip #9: Start Building Citations
Citations are an online reference that include the name, address, phone number, and website of your business.
They’re used by Google to evaluate the online relevancy and authority of your business and how it relates to other similar businesses in your local area.
It used to be that you didn’t have to link your business website in the citation to benefit from it.
Moving forward I think it’s a better idea to include a link to the business website wherever possible when building citations.
There are hundreds of places where you can build citations for your business.
This is a time-consuming task to do on your own.
Most small business owners will be better off developing their website before focusing on citations.
Check out this helpful guide on citation building by Moz to get started with this local marketing strategy.
Tip #10: Include Contact Info on Every Page
NAP consistency means including the contact information for your business on every page on your website
You don’t want your visitors wasting their time trying to contact you.
People aren’t going to spend more than 5 to 10 seconds looking for the phone number, location, or email for your business.
Instead they’re going to click back and head to one of your competitors with this information readily available.
Including your basic contact information on every page makes it easy for people to get in touch.
Make sure this information is consistent across your website and when you’re building citations.
If it’s not consistent you’ll run into issues ranking locally on Google search.
Tip #11: Create Relevant and Helpful Local Content
Most local businesses will find blogging to be an effective marketing strategy.
Along with social media is can be a great way to promote your business locally while improving website rankings.
What kind of content can you create that your local market would find helpful and relevant?
It depends on the niche, though there are some content ideas that work for every industry.
Some of the types of content you could create include:
- A YouTube video showcasing a specific service
- An in-depth guide on how to find the right company to hire for services in your industry
- Tutorials or reviews on industry-specific products
For example, a tree removal business would benefit from a blog post on tips for removing trees in the local area.
Another example, a lawyer would benefit from a YouTube video covering the basics of popular local laws and regulations.
Sharing this kind of content will generate warm leads and help to develop the relationship your business has with the local market
Tip #12: Use Long Tail Keywords
With the majority of Google searches using phrases including four or more words it’s important that you’re using long tail keywords everywhere on your business website.
This is one of the basic aspects of latent semantic indexing, or LSI, something that we’ll get into another time.
So, what are long tail keywords?
They’re specific search phrases that include more than one or two words.
There’s less competition for longer keywords that aren’t searched as often.
That’s why you want to rank for these longer, targeted phrases!
For example, it would be difficult to rank for a keyword like “hotels in New York City”.
The competition is too fierce and for most people it’s not worth it.
Instead, a hotel in this position would want to use longer search phrases with less competition.
Assuming properly optimized local SEO the website would stand a better chance of ranking for these lower competition keywords.
Some of the search phrases this hotel could consider include:
- Best boutique hotel in Manhattan
- Best hotels beside Central Park
- Best hotel for three nights in New York City
- Hotels in New York close to the train station
This should give you a better idea of the types of keywords to target and include on your website.
Tip #13: Track Your Local Rankings
Use Google Search Console to keep track of the best keywords for your website.
It can also be used to discover hundreds of other keywords your website is ranking for as well as their position on the Google search results.
Alternatively, there are a number of keyword tools available for tracking local rankings.
Make sure to use a tool that allows you to set a specific location for ranking data, otherwise the rankings are meaningless without accurate tracking.
Keeping track of your rankings will let you know which of your marketing strategies are working.
At the same time you’ll be able to check on your competitors and continue to dominate your local market.