Every local business owner knows how important it is for their business to be found online. Mobile search now accounts for over 50% of searches worldwide, and it is now the most common way people find local businesses. But Local search engine optimization (SEO), remains a bit of a mystery for all but the most tech-savvy business owners.
Here are five of the most important steps to get your business ranking better in local search results:
- 1. Consistent Name/Address/Phone number across the internet
- 2. Relevant Content
- 3. Social Media Presence
- 4. Get Reviews
- 5. Get Links
1. Consistent Name/Address/Phone number across the internet
Your company address, known to search engines as N.A.P (Name, Address, Phone), should be the same in every place it is listed online. Capitalization, formatting of phone number, “rd.” vs “road”, all should be consistent. You want to be listed on as many relevant and high quality business directories as you can, and you don’t want any confusion as to the right information about your business.
This free tool, Moz Local, will help you find your business and check the listing consistency on the major business directories.
If your score is under 80%, you should take some time to fix the listings on the sites that show inconsistent or incomplete results.
In addition to these large business directories, you should look into local business directories, and industry-specific directories. It’s also worth looking into organizations like your local chamber of commerce, and seeing what it would take to get your business listed with them.
2. Relevant Content
No amount of SEO is going to bring people to your website if the content isn’t interesting to them. You need to provide value to your users if you want people to visit and come back to your site. There are many ways to accomplish this, but there aren’t any easy shortcuts. Relevant blog content, pictures, infographics, videos can all be viable forms of content.
This is a stumbling block for lots of business owners, because it can be time consuming, and it can be very difficult to create content for “boring” industries. Oftentimes you need to get creative in the types of content that you create. For instance, a hotel owner in Traverse City could write blog content along the lines of “Family Activities in Traverse City Michigan”, or “Things for Kids to do in Traverse City”. They are providing actual value to families looking for info on that subject, and they now have content on their site that will attract visitors and can be shared. A fantastic example of this is the company Blendtec, who created the now famous “Will it Blend?” series on Youtube. How do you get millions of people to watch a video demonstrating your company’s blender? You blend an iPhone, of course. Their videos have now been viewed over 250 million times.
3. Social Media Presence
Social Media is absolutely crucial in today’s connected world. It has become the main form of communication for many types of business, and customers today expect to be able to connect with your brand using social media.
It’s up to each business to decide which social networks to use. While using a variety is a good idea, it’s better to only use networks that you will be active on. Whatever networks you choose, make sure to include social sharing buttons on your content so that users can easily share your website with their social network.
Most Important Networks:
Facebook – Almost all businesses should have a facebook account. It’s the most widely used and versatile social network out there today
Twitter – For some businesses twitter is even more important than facebook.
LinkedIn – Professional networking site. If your business has a strong networking element, this is an important one
Instagram – Great for artists, musicians, and anything with a strong visual component
Pinterest – Also has a strong visual component, but is a little better for products
Google+ – Although Google has stopped listing links to Google+ accounts from search results, Google+ is still a valuable social media account to have for a local business
There are dozens of other Social Media sites out there, and it’s worth investigating which ones might be valuable for your business.
If a customer has 2 or more options to choose from, and no pre-existing opinion, then reviews are likely to be how they choose.
Obviously the main determining factor of your reviews will be the quality of your product, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to improve your online reviews. Monitoring your reviews is an important part of your online brand identity.
We never recommend leaving fake reviews, or purchasing reviews. But there is no reason that you can’t ask your repeat customers if they’ll take the time to leave a review, or even offer an incentive if they will leave a review (although certain sites discourage this). Your first few reviews on a service such as Google+, Yelp, Tripadvisor, Foursquare, etc. are especially important, because their star rating shows up directly in the search results.
In addition to trying to get positive reviews, responding to both positive and negative reviews when it makes sense can boost your online brand presence significantly. You don’t need to thank every positive reviewer, but responding to questions or concerns brought up in a review shows that you are actively trying to improve your product and customer experience. You could even go as far as contacting unsatisfied customers, asking them for more info on how their experience could have been improved, and offering them a free replacement, or discount on their next purchase, or something along these lines. It’s actually possible to turn these reviewers into advocates for your product if you prove to them that you want to make their experience better.
5. Get Links
Link building is a huge topic that I could never completely address in one blog post. The basics for a local business are that you want other high quality, trustworthy, and relevant websites to link to your website in a natural way.
You should have already created a few links to your website, through the business directories in Step 1, and the Social media accounts in Step 3, but these are only a part of the equation. You may need to get creative on how to accomplish getting additional links, but some ideas are:
-High quality blog, or guest blogging
-Get in the news
-Local business contests, award nominations
-Host an event
-Sponsor events, nonprofits, community groups, etc.
-Websites and business directories that are specific to your industry
-Offer student, teacher, and alumni discounts for your business through a local university
-Create a local resource on a specific topic, reach out to local influencers
Relevance is important. Trading links will not work anymore unless the content makes sense. If you own a pizza restaurant, sharing links with your friend who runs a gardening website is going to have no effect whatsoever. If, however, a blogger writing an article called “Top 5 pizza places in Traverse City” lists your business and website, this is an excellent, high quality link.