When trying to get your local business to rank well on search engines, there are two categories to focus on: On-page SEO and Off-page SEO. Optimize well and you’ll appear consistently at the top of results when current, potential and past customers search locally.
On-page SEO is basically everything you can optimize on your website – the underlying code, copy, and website structure.
Off-page SEO is what you do beyond your website to improve your site’s authority. This includes getting your business listed on directories, optimizing Google Business Profile, link building, and more.
Today our focus is on the essentials of Local On-Site SEO optimization and the 7 basics you need to master to improve your local search engine ranking.
1. Optimize your homepage
You may have come across the sleek, clean, single image style websites, but for a business, this format misses several opportunities to make an impression on potential customers, not to mention missed opportunities in SEO ranking.
Your homepage has link equity and the highest potential for high SEO ranking. It’s the first page that people see if your link is shared or mentioned elsewhere, and it should aim to draw them deeper into your website.
Cimara Cleaning Services, for example, includes text about their services, the solutions they offer to solve your cleaning concerns, customer reviews, a link to their prices, and the areas they service. Most importantly the page is easy to skim and not overloaded with text.
They also sprinkle in local keywords that show search engine web crawlers exactly what their website is about and which region they target.
For optimal SEO potential, make sure your homepage has:
- Text about your different services
- How long you have been in business
- Where you offer services
- Target your most important keywords
2. Optimize your page titles and meta descriptions
Page titles catch your reader’s eye to help them determine if they want to read more as they skim the page for relevancy. They’re also big opportunities to show your local connection to both your potential customers and search engines.
Meta descriptions are HTML code embedded on the page that are used by search engines to display snippets of text under search results. They give visitors a quick glimpse of the page before clicking through.
A web page title is one of the most important on-page items to optimize for local rankings. Include the name of the city that you want to focus on as well as the product or service you are offering.
The image below from Whitespark provides a few examples of how to structure your meta titles. To rank locally, you need to add your city and target keyword or keyword phrase for each page title.
3. Optimize your footer
The smallest details can sometimes make the biggest difference. Search engines look for consistency to determine the validity of a website and corresponding business listings or mentions.
You want to ensure that your business’ NAP (Name, Address, and Phone number) is accurate. Any discrepancies can hurt your ranking.
One of the most crucial and easiest things to correct is your address listing. Make sure your address is listed correctly on the footer of your website and make sure that the footer translates across your site so that no matter which page is visited, that same address is listed.
Our website, for example, states our address as:
1202 Crestway Ct
Fort Collins, CO 80526
Subtleties like abbreviated “Ct” in your address, or spelling out “Court” in a different listing can change the way Google or other search engines view and match our site. The same goes for your business name and phone number.
Take a few minutes to look at how your business is listed in your Google Business Profile listing and make sure that it appears the same way on every page of your website. This info is a key element of local SEO and should be on every page of your site, starting with your footer.
4. Embed a Google Map on your website
Your goal is to keep your customers on your website and to draw attention to it. Eliminate the click away when it comes time for customers to locate and navigate to your physical store by embedding Google Maps directly on your site.
To embed a Google Map:
- Open Google Maps.
- Type in your business’ address.
- Select the Menu drop-down located in the top left.
- Select “Share or embed map.”
- Select “Embed a map.”
- Select the size you want by clicking on the down arrow located to the left of the text box.
- Lastly, copy the text in the box and paste it directly into the HTML code of your website.
5. Add an Image Alt tag to your photos
Image alt tags are another opportunity to help improve your SEO. Usually used for vision-impaired people, the tags help describe featured website images.
They also appear if an image fails to load. For Google and other search engines, this helps their web crawlers “see” the images and adds to your site’s authority.
Your image alt tag is added next to your image file. In HTML here’s how the code would look:
<img src=”file-name.jpg” alt=”Local SEO optimized text that describe the image.”>
Keep in mind that your image alt tag should refer back to the actual photo. If the photo does not lend itself well to the keywords you’d like to highlight, consider selecting a new photo.
Don’t forget to include your local keywords but do be careful not to overuse or awkwardly use them, as this can lead to an illegible phrase that may hurt rather than help your ranking.
6. Create a unique page for each product and/or service you offer
While it’s okay to have a main “products” or “services” page it’s way more important to have a page for each individual product and/or service.
This helps search engines see you as a true expert in your service area, and gives you more physical space and opportunity to attract your potential customers.
Each page should have a minimum of 350 words and keywords to clearly define your product or service. Don’t copy/paste the same text on each page. Make each page unique and focus on the specific product/service.
Combining your products or services into a single page, while much easier to manage, can actually decrease your ranking potential. Splitting them onto their own pages is well worth the extra few minutes it takes to set up.
7. Create unique pages for every location
Similar to products and services, if your business operates in several different locations, make sure to create optimized pages on your website for each location. To optimize ranking in search engines make sure to:
- Add each location’s NAP to each location’s page.
- Create unique Google Business Profiles for each location.
And, don’t forget to add local keywords and information to each location’s page in addition to your general services.
Local information may include well-known details about the city, places to see, or city features. This local information will help your site’s authority and connect the local aspect with your offered services.
Create city pages if you’re a service area business
If you’re a service area business with one location, you will want to rank for the cities you serve. You can’t get a Google Business Profile in a city you don’t have an address in, but you can create city pages to help you rank for those areas.
A few rules to follow when creating your city pages:
- Create proper title tags, (including the location) “Plumbing services in Fort Collins, Colorado – Jack’s Plumbing”
- Write a meta description. Don’t stuff it with keywords but do create descriptive copy to entice people to click.
- Craft unique content for each page. Make each page descriptive, including your services and some details on the area. Take the time to make sure each page is unique, informative, and not spammy.
- Include keywords (about the city and your services) without overdoing it.
For the best success, write naturally
Diving into SEO best practices, trends, and keywords can feel a bit overwhelming and sometimes lead to sentences or Alt-text that are overloaded and make absolutely no sense.
Optimize your pages with keywords and local terms but be careful not to overdo it. In addition to confusing potential visitors, sites can be penalized for adding too many keywords or trying to over-influence search engines.
The key is including your city or region throughout your website without seeming as if you are cramming it into every single possible space on your site. Don’t spam your keywords.
For example, if a dentist in Denver, Colorado used the word “Denver” 29 times and the word “dentist” 30 times in their home page copy, it would be a big mistake! In fact, keyword stuffing like this will most likely hurt you more than help you.
A good rule to follow? Write naturally for your audience, and weave in your keywords and location without overdoing it. Not every space will hold your location and keywords, and that’s okay. If you follow the other best practice tips, your site will rank just fine and, likely better than your competitors.
Do you want your website to rank better locally?
Simply taking a few minutes to complete our brand audit will help you think about your current marketing efforts and what might need to change.
It will also help me suggest several ways to improve your marketing and Local SEO now: Brand audit.
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