For a local business, showing up on page one of Google is a crucial part of staying in business. This post (and FREE checklist) will show you how.
Do you run a local small business? If so, most or all of your business comes from customers living in your own little hood.
And, if your customers come from your community, you must get deadly serious about local SEO.
But don’t fret, because ranking locally for the things your potential customers are looking for isn’t nuclear physics, but it does take a serious commitment to a few things.
You might be wondering if this local SEO thing, along with the work that comes with it, is even worth it. Just in case you’re pondering this, let me share a few survey tidbits.
Why mastering local SEO will rock your small business world:
- 98% of searchers choose a business that is on page 1 of the results they get.
- 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
- 77% of smartphone users contact a business after looking for local Information.
So…. I could ramble on, but I think you get the gist—if you don’t rank well locally for the things people are searching for, marketing your small business will be a hell of a lot harder and waaay more expensive.
Here’s the great news—focus on the five elements below and you can expect great results from local SEO and search.
(The competitiveness of whatever business you’re in may dictate your end results.)
1. Elevate your Google My Business page.
When it comes to local directory listings, you must pay attention to, claim, and optimize your Google My Business Listing.
Never heard of Google My Business? Well, don’t think you’re so not in the know, but do go immediately to Google’s Free Business Listing page and find out if you can claim your current listing.
More than a few business owners have created or had created Google+ listings and trust me, the Google peeps made a mess of how this became Google My Business… sooo you may have a wee bit of cleanup to do… to make sure that you only have one listing for your business and it’s the one Google thinks is your business.
After you claim the right listing you have to make sure to take full advantage of the linking and real estate options Google gives you.
Doing this is vital if your business is to ever show up in the prized Google 3-pack for local searches. (A Google 3-pack is nothing like a 6-pack but trust me, it’s important.)
Note: Make certain you have the correct business category and subcategories chosen for your business.
And make note of the exact way your business name, address and phone number (NAP) appear. Is it “Avenue” or “Ave.?” “Heating & Cooling” or “Heating and Cooling” Whatever you show listed as the NAP on your Google My Business Page, remember it, as you will want to consistently use this on your own website and across all directories. (I’ll provide some more details on this in a few.)
2. Markup is muy importante. Make sure to get it right.
The search engine folks are busy trying to adopt a uniform markup protocol to help use HTML code to properly ID important stuff like businesses, books, reviews, addresses, movies and the like.
If you want to learn more about the current popular markup for local businesses, take a look at Schema.org.
This is why markup is so important—using proper markup for your business address is really like handing Google your business card on a silver platter. It doesn’t look like anything to the naked eye, but Google spiders can be 100% certain about what they are looking at when it comes to ID’ing an address on your website pages.
And here’s the good news—you don’t really need to know anything about the underlying code to get this part right. There are a variety of Schema markup generators out there. You plug in your info and these tools will produce the HTML code you need to add to your site in place of your current address.
And there are some other more detailed things you can do with structured markup and you can read all about it here.
3. Citations are important. Clean them up.
You might have heard about directories like Yahoo! or Yelp, or maybe industry-specific directories such as Angie’s List or Avvo, but you might not know that Google relies on hundreds of directories and data aggregators to help them keep all these local businesses straight.
So, getting your listing right on Google is crucial, but if you’ve moved, or changed your phone, or just listed your details in a variety of ways in listings or Chamber directories, there’s a good chance Google isn’t sure which listing is correct. This is not a good thing for your business.
There are many, many data sources Google relies on to try to get the most accurate picture. The graphic above from MOZLocal details the interrelation of info sourced between directories, data aggregators, and search engines in the United States.
The last thing Google wants to do is send someone to the wrong address when they search for a local business.
Take a look at the example above. It shows a local business with multiple inconsistent citations. The name is written several different ways. There are three different phone numbers. And at least two different addresses.
And I’m not really picking on this business because honestly, most small businesses have some sort of inexact data listed.
Great local citation tools
A great tool like MozLocal will quickly show you how bad this problem is for your business. After you find that there are some inconsistent, inaccurate, and incomplete listings go back to MozLocal, or use BrightLocal, WhiteSpark or Yext to clean listings and halt the inaccurate duplicates that usually occur.
I love this list from Moz showing local directories by city.
And, here is a list of industry specific directories.
“Focusing on citations will probably do more for your business’s local listings than any other component of local SEO.”
4. Write content with a local SEO focus.
Think about the good old company brochure. When you create a brochure or flyer and give it to a prospect, they know that you’re local.
It’s obviously very different when you create content online. With online content, you have to go above and beyond to spell out where you do your work.
This can easily get spammy if you’re listing lots of local content. This can hurt you as much as help you, but you certainly should talk about where you work. In some cases, you might want to have specific pages with success stories for specific trade areas, suburbs, and neighborhoods.
Think about local events and happenings, then blog about them.
Hone your blog-writing by talking about community, customer, and employee-related local news.
Keep looking for ways to write that will ramp-up your local content in authentic ways.
If you have multiple locations you may want to learn about what many SEO peeps refer to as content silos for each location. Check out this great primer on local content silos.
5. Online reviews matter. Work to get more of them.
Online reviews are another important form of content. Meaning, reputation marketing is a huge deal for your business!
The statistic I cited at the beginning of this post suggests that people increasingly rely on reviews to make decisions about the products and services they buy.
Meaning you need positive reviews for social proof.
But you also need positive reviews as a pillar of your local SEO efforts.
Review activity is one of the elements that help determine what businesses show up in Google’s 3-pack.
So trust me, Google is factoring reviews. Review activity is not the only factor of course, but it’s a very important one.
The important little graph above from a BrightLocal survey clearly shows how important reviews have become in the purchase journey for local businesses.
Only a few years back nearly 30% admitted they didn’t use reviews – today that number is 9%. Meaning – 91% of buyers regularly or occasionally rely on reviews when making a local buying decision.
Search for a local business. You’ll see that reviews are displayed and play a large role in what businesses are shown and for the consumer, what business is clicked.
For Google to display the review stars as a highlighting feature of local results, you must have at least five reviews. This by itself makes it important to acquire reviews for your business.
And reviews are a bit more difficult to get than they should be. Even if your business has a horde of raving fans, you have to work to get your happy customers to write a review.
“91% of buyers regularly or occasionally rely on reviews when making a local buying decision.”
So, what’s the best way to get reviews?
Making it easy to leave a review is key. Ask often and make it as easy as possible for your happy customers to log in to the sites that matter and leave a review.
Of course, you will take a glowing email testimonial from a customer, but it is 100 times better to push for a review on a site like Yelp, Google, or Facebook, or and industry review site like Angie’s List. (Check out this list of important industry review sites.)
You know what else? It’s relatively easy for you to repurpose reviews. Put them on your website, in your newsletters, or display them in your store.
The practice of getting reviews is called reputation marketing, and many businesses are finding that they must make review collection a process rather than leaving it to chance. Tools like GetFiveStars and Grade.us can help automate this important marketing process.
Now go back, take a bit of time and work at making each of the five steps above a priority for your local business. If you do this a bit of magic will happen, and you might soon find that local leads drawn from a basic Google search can become one of your most powerful lead generation channels.
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