SEO, or search engine optimization, is a way to optimize your website for discoverability online. The more relevant eyes see your site, the more sales and conversions you can potentially get. Local SEO is similar, but focuses on optimizing your web presence for local searches. This is a beneficial marketing strategy for businesses that only serve a local area, like repair shops, hairdressers, handymen, or any other small business that can find more benefits from a local audience than an audience located across the country.
You probably see local SEO in action whenever you search for a business online. Searching “mac repair” on Google will show local shops near your location first, and these come up as a result of effective SEO.
In this article, we’ll be going over the basic steps of how to implement local SEO. After this, you can begin with this effective marketing tactic. Cover photo by: Helena Lopes
Where Do You Want to Show Up?
The search results that you’re trying to show up in are not the normal organic results you’re used to seeing. When you do a search for a local business, you will get results above the organic ones around a map. These show local businesses with some information including their rating.
This area is called The Snack Pack. It shows the top three relevant businesses by default, until the user expands it. If users are actively searching for your kind of business, there’s a good chance that they will click on the Snack Pack.
The Most Important Details
Most users who are searching online are doing so from a mobile device. And that is perhaps even more true for local searches. Users may be out running errands, or doing a quick search while on the couch. This means it’s important to have a mobile-optimized website. You don’t want to put up any barriers when it comes to finding hours, locations, and details about what you offer, or users will leave and start looking for a big-box option instead.
In terms of your website, make sure that you describe your products or services. But most importantly list your location or locations, your hours, and your phone number. These details should also be consistent across all mentions, whether these are structured (such as in Google Maps) or unstructured (mentions in blogs and articles). Mismatched information will confuse customers, but will also confuse Google while trying to rank you. Check on old listings that may contain outdated addresses, phone numbers, or other information. Moz actually has a built-in tool that lets you search for information and find any mismatched data online.
Keywords for local SEO seem positively simple compared to normal SEO. Local SEO keywords tend to follow a specific pattern. “Plumber in London”. “Bakery in Seattle”. “Coffee in Boston”. No matter what the business or the town, you want to optimize for the phrases that describe your business in a location. Follow this format for your primary keywords, as they represent how most people will do their searches. Work on different variations of this phrase so that you cover all possible searches.
There are plenty of ways to do some simple research to get more ideas. Start with Google autocomplete to see what kind of longer phrases show up. So if “Coffee in Boston” was your starting point, you may end up with “coffee in Boston airport”, “best coffee in Boston”, and searches like that. Some additional third-party tools can make keyword suggestions as well. For a business that offers local services, places like Craigslist are actually great to look at. Go to their Services section and see what words and phrases other local companies are using to make their listings stand out. Make note of the trends that you see.
Google My Business
Google My Business is like a central location on Google for all of your business information. It’s an important aspect of local SEO, and is where Google search results pull your business information from. Google My Business is one of the most important factors for showing up in the Snack Pack we mentioned earlier.
When setting it up, you should start by searching for your business. Google may already be aware of it, you just might not have claimed it yet. Next you will have to enter your address. If you don’t have a traditional brick-and-mortar store, then you’ll probably want to use your home address, or the address of the owner that lives closest to the business. Don’t worry, you can make this information private. Google will only use it for verification purposes if you specify that you want to hide it due to the address not being a physical store.
Next up is picking a business category. This should be fairly easy, just make sure that you’re honest. A coffee shop shop would be a coffee shop, and a plumber would be a plumber. If you don’t know exactly what to choose, you can look up some of your competitors and see what category they chose for themselves.
Once you’ve entered in all of the data, you’ll need to verify yourself, which will generally be done by sending a verification card in the mail to your chosen address. Before going through these final steps, make sure that all of your general information is consistent across your Google My Business, website, social media, and everywhere else. Consistency is key, as you don’t want customers to receive incorrect information from any sources.
Speaking of information, take some time to fill out your listing with hours, photos, services, amenities, and any other relevant information that Google lets you add.
There are similar business listings for Bing and Apple search. While these searches don’t command a lot of traffic, that doesn’t mean you should avoid them. Bing Places and Apple Maps are good databases to submit your information to if you have the time to do so.
Getting Your Information Listed
Getting your business information listed in directories and other tools is critical to successful local SEO. Before you do this step, do what we said earlier and verify that your business information is consistent across all listings.
Next, get your business listed in local citations such as your city’s chamber of commerce and any business associations and directories that exist. To get a full view of the citation landscape, check out this list of the top 50 citation sources in the US, which are great for adding your business contact details to. Depending on your industry, there may be some industry-specific listings that you should submit your information to.
Traditional SEO Practices
While local SEO may be specific in many ways, traditional on-page SEO applies as well. Here are some things to consider when creating webpages for your site.
- Use your keyword in your H1 (main heading) tag
- Put your keyword in the URL
- Use your keyword in the page body
- Create an optimized meta description
- Work on creating backlinks (other reputable websites that link to your own)
- Give alt tags to images on the website
- Make sure that external links open in a new tab
If you serve multiple local areas, it will be best-practice to create a landing page dedicated to each location. Keep the structure consistent. These pages can potentially rank well for those location-specific keywords that we mentioned before. Also, only do this if you actually have a physical presence in this location, like an office. Don’t create hundreds of pages for neighborhoods around London if you’re a repair-person in London and are based out of your home. On the same note, don’t create a ton of variations of pages for the same location, just to rank for different terms. One location = one page.
Optimize your homepage using your primary location, not all of the locations you serve. Focus on what you consider to be the location you prefer to be known for. In addition to keywords, you can add your contact information and details, a Google Maps embed, reviews, and more.
Google also has a tool called Structured Data Markup which can give you a piece of code to embed into your website header, and embed your contact and business information into the code of your website. How to do this will depend on your website editor, but just make sure you copy the code into the header code. This is a great way for any business to tell Google what you details are.
Create Useful Resources
To stand out as a local business, you should do what many larger companies do. Create useful guides for relevant things! You may have to get creative with these. After all, you want to create content that an average person could use, and not just someone who is also in your industry, while not creating guides that would put you out of a job by giving away too many secrets. And it doesn’t have to be completely related. I once worked with an interior designer whose highest-traffic blog post was about how to clean a fireplace. It wasn’t directly related to interior design, but brought semi-relevant traffic to the website. A photographer could have articles about putting on events like weddings, some basic photography tips, and a list of the best spots for a photo shoot in the local area. It’d be useless to write articles about professional photography, since professional photographers probably won’t be hiring another photographer. But people who are looking for events and photoshoots will not only find this information useful but also find your services relevant.
You can create original content even if you’re not as creative. Improve upon already-successful content written by other people. Obviously don’t copy it, but create your own version with improvements over the old version.
Another upside of creating great content is that other blogs and websites might start linking to you as an authoritative source. This will greatly help your SEO and site authority. Another way to build these kinds of links is by looking up websites and publications that let you write for them. Try looking for industry or local websites that allow guest blogging.
You should create content on a regular basis. It doesn’t matter whether it’s one post a day, one post a week, or one post a month. Whatever you do, try to stick to a consistent schedule.
Reviews are incredibly helpful, both for Google and for customers already looking for your business. Encourage customers to leave reviews on Google so that potential clients can get a better idea of what it’s like to work with you.
When it comes to moderating reviews, the most important step is to reply to reviews. Whether they’re positive or negative, it’s best to respond positively. It doesn’t have to be detailed – a simple “thanks” is good enough. Just don’t respond to negative comments with more negativity.
If a review is obviously for another business, try to get the person to remove their review. Reviewers can also suggest changes to your contact info, so make sure that Google hasn’t done this! They tend to not notify the business owner of these changes, so check often so that you can correct the information before too much damage is done.