So, what is local SEO?
We all know SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a BIG deal, right?
But, not every business needs the same kind of SEO. For instance, a small business that serves a small, regional population only cares to reach folks in that area — people outside the area really aren’t prospects for the business so why care if they visit your website?
That’s where Local SEO comes in — you concentrate on reaching just those folks in your geographical area.
How is local SEO different from plain old SEO?
Local SEO uses many of the same tools used for a more global SEO strategy, such as content marketing, link building, etc. But, there are a few tactics specific to local SEO. Also, a few tactics you commonly use for SEO need a little tweaking to appeal to local prospects.
Google Local Business
Your first stop should be a visit to Google My Business to set up your verified business (a 2-step process). First, fill out all required information, including images and other promotional works, then return to verify your account (they’ll send you a postcard containing the code necessary. This ensures that you’ve entered a valid address.
Now, when folks search businesses that provide your services/ products, your location may be served to them, including a map to your location, your website, and your phone number.
Rate my business
Many third-party providers, such as Yelp, allow users to rate your business. These ratings are critical for driving new business. Here are some things you can do to ensure your ratings help with local SEO:
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- always provide the highest quality products and services. Train employees to treat customers with consideration. Remember, customers are #1.
- follow-up with customers after they receive services/ products to ensure everything was as they expected. (Over-promising is a sure way to ensure low customer satisfaction. Be realistic with your promises). A personal follow-up is better, if possible, even if it’s a hand-written note or phone call. Form letters and emails can actually damage evaluations.
- listen to consumer complaints or praise. Rather than being a nuisance, feedback is the best thing for making things better. Just pay attention to negative reviews, thank the reviewer and offer them compensation (if possible). After you’ve made changes to improve your delivery of high-quality products and services, send folks with complaints feedback letting them know you value their input and what changes you made based on that feedback.
- Ask for reviews from satisfied customers. Dissatisfied customers are 5X more likely to post a review than those satisfied with your work, which means you have to work 10X harder to get satisfied customers to write reviews.
- Integrate positive reviews with your website so visitors can easily read how wonderful you are. Some services, such as Amazon, integrate reviews with product pages, while other services have a widget that brings in positive reviews. See the screen capture below. How much more likely are you to select the link with the 5-star rating than one without a rating.For instance, as an author, I have reviews on my Amazon landing pages, but I also bring reviews onto my publishing website using Goodreads, which is an Amazon social network linking readers and writers.
- NEVER, EVER pay for reviews.
Schema markup used to be the name of the game when it came to both Local SEO and global SEO. While its importance has waned with the rise of new Google Algorithms, such as Panda and Penguin, you still need meta tags to help Google return your website in response to a user’s query. I use a WordPress plugin produced by Moz, a leader in SEO, to add appropriate meta tags to my pages.
For local SEO, those meta tags should include location, such as LA, Southern California, or West Coast.
Far more important is content marketing, which involves creating unique, valuable content on a consistent basis–commonly in the form of a blog or other long-form document.
As you see in the infographic, posting at least once a week results in a significant marketing lift.
But, blogging isn’t enough for content marketing. You need to also share content on social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. However, the strategy for sharing content is a little different when it comes to sharing on social platforms, where about 80% of what you share should be non-promotional, with only a maximum of 20% being promotional. Sharing content created by other local businesses encourages them to share your content. That helps your local SEO thrive.
Other local SEO tools
Just as with every website, you want to make sure it’s responsive and test it out on a variety of devices with different screen sizes. Google now penalizes websites that don’t look great on mobile devices.
Be sure that not only is your site optimized for mobile, but you make it easy for consumers using mobile devices can find the information they need — such as menus, maps, phone numbers, and addresses. Remember, users are much more likely to use a mobile device to access local businesses.
Use good on-page SEO, just like you would for global SEO. In this case, however, you likely want to include locational triggers as part of your URL structures, meta descriptions, and headings/ subheadings. This increases the likelihood these pages will get good positioning in search.
Black Hat SEO, which used to really help boost search results, is now deadly and can ensure you never show up in search — you get ghosted. Black Hat SEO involves such practices as using duplicate or spun content that isn’t truly unique, loading your post with keywords to the point where the content loses any value it might have had, or bogging down your meta tags with nonsense keywords.
Image courtesy of Velvet Cloud One