In today’s marketplace, with more and more consumers using smartphones to find the products and services they need, a strong web presence that is optimized for search engines is essential for any business. Through search engines, the internet provides businesses with an audience. With millions of sites to choose from, businesses that use carefully planned SEO marketing strategies will stand out from the masses and have their results displayed on the front page of relevant searches.
What is SEO?
When we talk about search engine optimization (SEO), we’re addressing the process of making sure all the online components of your business are optimized so that your search result appears in front of a relevant audience when they’re searching for your product or service.
What is Local SEO?
It’s a variation where we further define that audience as someone who is currently, or will be, in the same geographic area as your business.
It’s an important distinction. For businesses that are online only with no physical store, standard SEO practices are sufficient. For brick and mortar businesses, mastering local SEO is critical. Why is that and how does it work?
Local Business SEO Explained
When a user visits a search engine and enters a term, Google’s goal (using Google as an example) is to provide you with the best, most relevant result. If the user enters “cake”, Google must make a determination. Is this item something the user wants close by or is the search meant to be global? Is the user looking for cake recipes so they can make their own cake? Or are they looking for a bakery in their town where they can order a cake? How does Google make that determination?
Local SEO is the method by which you communicate to Google, and other search engines, that you’re a bakery, not an online index for recipes. You can use local SEO marketing to provide search engines with the right information so that you not only show up when someone is looking for your product or service in your area, but that you show up in the very top results.
When a user searches Google, they are actually getting an index the search engine created by crawling the web, one link at a time. The position or rank of your site in a search engine’s results are determined by many factors like keywords used, the number of sites linking to yours, how easy it was to navigate the site, and more.
Where do you start? The most important first step is to devise a plan. It takes time, even for a properly optimized site, to be recognized and assessed by search engines as being friendly, relevant and having authority on given topics. Identify your target audience and consider how their needs are to be met by your service or product. Competitors should be identified and studied. Plan for how much time will be allotted to SEO efforts and don’t shrug it off. SEO is not a “set it and forget it” type of marketing technique. And don’t forget a plan for measuring and assessing results, using free tools like Google Analytics. Unless you track your results, you can’t know if your efforts are paying off or if adjustments need to be made. Ask yourself and your team members “what is local SEO to me and what do I want to accomplish using it?” This exercise will help you see the strategy as less of a tedious activity that’s supposed to help increase your business and more as an important business tool that will help you achieve great results over time.
Finally, use the local SEO guide below to put your plan into action.
Local SEO Guide
For those just getting started with local business SEO, there are five important topics that should be the primary focus of your marketing strategy once you have a plan.
• Google My Business Profile – Having a high-quality business profile on Google is a must. Once you verify your listing, you’re granted authenticity and authority on the category you’ve selected by giving Google a very strong indication as to who you are and what your business is about. Also, give careful consideration to the categories that are a match for your business. Using the example above, your business might be a bakery. Do you specialize in cakes? Further, do you specialize in wedding cakes or cakes for special occasions? Determining your categories from the beginning and integrating them into your Google presence and business listings can help speed up the process of achieving a good search engine position.
• Compelling, relevant content – To many, content is using header tags, the right density of keywords or keyword phrases, and recycling the same topics. Doing such may get you better results in the search engines, but are the people on the receiving end going to get anything of real value from such content? Formulas can’t be used here. The top goal is to provide the audience with the information they are looking for. Do you have the product they seek? Do you provide a service they need? Your content should explain how you can meet their needs and do it better than your competition. On top of that, yes, it must also be search engine friendly.
• List your business around the web – Listing your business name, address, and contact information around the web, particularly at authoritative local sites such as the Yellow Pages and Yelp, are not only beneficial in confirming to your identity to search engines, but provide additional links to your site which will also help your ranking. Be sure your information is consistent across all listings and keep track of all the venues where your business is listed.
• Building Links – Next on our local SEO checklist is building links, the process of getting external pages to link to a page on your website. When another website links to you, they are announcing to the search engine that they believe in your content and authority on given topics. The more sites that link to your website, the more credit the search engines will give you for providing your audience with relevancy and authority and your ranking will improve.
• Reviews – Good reviews on your product or service should already be a goal. Yet they also serve the additional purpose of helping your search engine rankings. Many place a lot of value on Google reviews but reviews on Yelp and other sites also have significant value in helping your site attain a higher position. The reviews must be authentic.
SEO should be considered a work in progress. Search engines change things constantly to provide a better service. Smart companies should do their best to stay informed about the latest local SEO tips and search engine changes. However, by being patient and staying true to their SEO strategy, companies can watch their search engine rankings improve over time and with it, their business’s traffic and sales.
Local SEO Checklist
• Devise local SEO marketing plan
• Google My Business Profile
• Create compelling, relevant content
• List your business around the web
• Build links
• Get good authentic reviews
• Stay up-to-date on local SEO tips & search engine changes