Whether you’re a large regional industry or a mom-and-pop storefront, local SEO builds online visibility that will draw customers to your door.
But what is local SEO exactly?
A whopping 46 percent of searches have what Google calls “local intent”—that is, they’re looking specifically for a nearby product or service. This could be, for example, a search for the closest coffee shop or doctor. In these instances, Google highlights a few businesses in that location rather than the most optimized content for a given keyword.
This is great news for the featured businesses that find themselves in Google’s highly coveted spotlight.
Why? Local search engine optimization (SEO) helps local customers find businesses in search results. Having thousands of users from across the country frequent your site may look impressive—but depending on what your business offers, they may be poor leads (for instance, if you own a dental office).
Instead, the hundred or so locally based customers that visit your site are more valuable, as they have a higher probability of actually going to your office or store. In this way, local SEO casts a smaller but closer net, working to get your community’s rich haul of customers to your business.
Who needs local SEO?
Traditional brick-and-mortar business benefit most from local SEO. That includes:
- Professionals like doctors, lawyers, dentists, or CPAs
- Service industries like plumbers, pet services, heating and air conditioning, or car repair
- Hotels, coffee shops, and restaurants
If your line of work involves greeting customers face-to-face, local SEO should be a priority. Whether you have multiple locations or just one, Google is your best friend for getting new locals to your business.
How to Do Local SEO: Google My Business
By far the #1 tool for local SEO is Google My Business (GMB).
This free service allows businesses to craft a profile on Google so that they can show up on Google Search and Maps. Once you’ve signed up, it creates a box (the “Business Profile”) showcasing your business, photos, and description in the upper right of Google search results. It also “pins” your business to Google Maps.
Optimize your Business Profile
Just like other content on Google, you can also optimize your Business Profile for local search. Here are four key formatting tips:
- Choose your categories and business types carefully, as these have a big impact on search algorithms.
- Sprinkle relevant keywords liberally in your business description. It’s crucial to fill out 100 percent of the information requested so that customers can easily find you.
- Add your logo. Your business profile will highlight this image, which helps to establish your branding and make it more recognizable to users.
- In addition to your logo, include carefully curated photos of your “business in action.” That includes photos of your products or services. According to Google, businesses with photos get 42 percent more requests for driving directions and 35 percent more click-throughs to websites.
Let customers share the love with reviews
Customer reviews also play a huge factor in your boosting your business’s visibility and rankings. In fact, according to the BrightLocal Local Consumer Review Survey 2015:
- 92% of consumers read online reviews, compared to 88% the previous year
- 40% form an opinion of a business after reading 1-3 reviews
- The biggest factor consumers use to judge a business is the star rating
One huge benefit of a GMB page is that customers can leave Google reviews. Positive, honest reviews are key to getting ranked higher on Google search, and it makes sense. You’ve worked hard to build a reservoir of goodwill for your business, so why not let customers “share the love” and spread the word?
Of course, customers often need a nudge to do so. To encourage them to review, consider handing out cards with a link to your reviewing page. The card might read:
“If you enjoyed our service/product/brand, please consider writing a Google review.”
Positive reviews show Google that your business has earned trust in your community. Let your customers sing your praises and build your brand along the way. You can even interact with customers on GMB by responding to their individual reviews—another way to build on customer relationships.
Google My Business is also available as a mobile app, so you can keep your business page updated and responsive even while on the go.
Lastly, ranking higher through local SEO requires what Google calls “prominence.” Prominence means developing credibility, which will bring your webpage clicks—and ultimately, customers.
Building local prominence is done in two main ways: directories and backlinks.
Make sure your name, address, and phone number (NAP) are listed on as many sites as possible. This includes Facebook, Bing, Yahoo, Yelp, Apple Maps, Citygrid, Factual, Foursquare, and Superpages.
Depending on the nature of your business, you might also use niche directories like findlaw.com or doctor.com. The more your NAP is out there, the more Google will favor your website.
Backlinks from other sites direct customers to your business’s website. Like a traffic policeman, they direct traffic over your way and in doing so, help to boost your SEO. They telegraph to Google search engines that you’re an authority or trusted business. The best sites for backlinks are credible sources like schools, government, or local media.
Sound hard to get? Not at the local level. Here are some simple ideas for getting backlinks:
- Make sure your local chamber of commerce posts a link to your website on their page.
- Sponsor a school event and ask the school to link to your website.
- If the local paper runs a story on your networking event or business milestone, make sure it includes your website URL in the story.
- Write a guest post for a nonprofit or another organization—preferably one related to your niche—in your area. Ask them to include your business URL at the end of the post or in your author bio.
Local SEO targets customers in a specific area. Like other types of content, optimizing for local SEO is not a one-time process; instead, it requires ongoing effort and strategizing. But local roots run deep—and your investment may pay long-lasting dividends if you win over and cultivate loyal regulars in your area.
Of course, local SEO is no substitute for standard, on-page SEO. Your website still needs to be optimized with the right keywords, freshly updated content, and other SEO techniques.
But for brick-and-mortar businesses, they’ve all got to start somewhere—a local foundation. Using local SEO tips can help ensure that your business develops a loyal following in its place of origin.
This article was written by Compose.ly writer Karen Fillman.