Boosting a business’ online presence is a major concern for independent companies looking to expand their customer base. While traditional advertising can certainly help bring in customers, most people today are relying on the Internet to find goods and services in their area. It’s one of the biggest reasons small business owners are encouraged to build and maintain an active website. It doesn’t matter if a business is a strictly brick and mortar operation. These days a dedicated website is a strategic must if a company is going to successfully compete in a regional market.
Of course having a dedicated website is only part of the equation. The bigger trick is getting that website to show up in local searches. Google’s page ranking algorithms are the stuff of legend, and learning how to navigate those waters can take a lifetime. However, there are some simple steps small businesses can take to increase their online visibility and improve their page rankings in local searches. We’re talking about local SEO, and it can help your business gain the online attention and consumer traction you need to bring new customers to your doors.
What is Local SEO?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the keystones of web management. Using a variety of methods webmasters can optimize online content so that it performs better in online searches. The goal is to gain a higher page ranking across the majority of popular search engines, ultimately generating more traffic for the website and, by extension, the business itself.
Local SEO uses these same techniques but with an emphasis on localized search terms, data points and content that defines the company’s website and internet presence by geographic location. This helps Google and other search engines return the most useful results for their user’s local inquiries. So, for example, if someone is searching for “best pizza in Des Moines” the first page results they receive will concentrate on businesses in their area and not random Italian restaurants from around the country.
Why Local SEO Matters to You
According to the latest statistics 75% of consumers use online searches to find local goods and services. Moreover, 18% of those local searches lead directly to a sale within the following 24 hours. Proof positive that local searches drive much needed traffic to local businesses. But before you can start showing up in local searches you need to boost your online presence, and the best way to do that is to start using some simple local SEO tricks of the trade.
3 Basic Building Blocks of Local SEO
Even if you’re unfamiliar with the intricacies of search engine optimization there are some simple steps you can take to implement local SEO strategies with your online content. These are the basic building blocks of local SEO that every small business owner should have in place if they are going to realize their regional sales potential.
1. Google My Business Listings
As frustrating as Google’s ranking algorithms may seem at times, the truth is the search engine giant works hard to return the most relevant responses to their user’s queries. But they can’t do it all on their own. Business owners have to do a little of the work themselves.
Claiming your Google My Business (GMB) listing is the first step along the road to a sound local SEO strategy. Google My Business listings are those snippets that appear in search results when internet users search for a local business. GMB listings are displayed at the top of the first page of search results (prime real estate!) and are designed to boost your business’ online visibility.
GMB listings provide users with a business’ vital statistics, such as street address, hours of operation, and primary contact information. Ideally, they should also contain links to the business’ main website and to online performance reviews and citations. This is where the optimization part of local SEO comes into play. Google sorts listing by a number of criteria, most notably regional relevance and consumer trust. Linking your GMB listing to positive reviews shows Google that you are a trustworthy operation, as well as falling into the geographical parameters of the user’s search. That combination of data will help your to rank higher in search results and will give potential customers the information they need to choose you over your competitors.
2. Submit Listings to Local Directories
Once you’ve claimed your free Google My Business listing it’s time to start looking at other ways to up your local search game. Listing your business on relevant online directories and review sites is the next logical step.
There are a number of online directories and review sites to choose from, so at first you should narrow your focus on the most relevant and far-reaching. Some of the more notable directories and review sites to concentrate on at first include:
- Better Business Bureau
- Angie’s List
- Bing Places
You may be surprised to find that your business is already listed on some of these directories. That’s not entirely unusual. Some online directories auto-generate listing for businesses, but it is up to you to optimize those listing for best results. If you find an active listing make sure that all of the information there is current and correct. Also, make a point to monitor any review sites you appear on to respond to customer concerns and protect your business’ reputation.
3. Regularly Update Your Company Website
Finally, it is always important to maintain and active website for your business. For many people this is the first contact they have with you and your company. An outdated website offering little or no current information will turn off potential customers. It will also perform poorly with Google’s search algorithms, and that means a drop in page rankings.
Take an objective look at your current website to see where it can be improved. If your site hasn’t been updated in a while now is the time to do so. A few basic tips to improving your website include:
- Update your site with a more responsive design. User experience is everything.
- Give special attention to making your website more mobile friendly. (Remember, more than 50% of all local searches are mobile)
- Add location based landing pages. If you have more than one brick and mortar location you should create a separate and distinct landing page for each.
- Regularly create and publish original content that reflects local interests and activities. Tie your blog posts to local affairs and pitch your content to reflect your involvement in local community affairs.
Now is the Time to Make Local SEO a Priority
Consumers are increasingly turning to Google and other search engines to find goods and services in their communities. While traditional advertising still has a place in marketing, the value of a robust online presence simply can’t be overstated. If customers can’t find you online, they’re less likely visit you in the real world.
One of the best ways to boost your online profile is through local SEO. These simple techniques will help Google’s search algorithms find and recognize your company’s online content, sort it for relevance, and present it to potential customers in your region. Now is the time to make local SEO a strategic part of your digital marketing agenda.