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The Beginner’s Guide to Local SEO for Small Businesses

What Is Local SEO?

If you are a small business marketer, you already know that small business SEO is essential to your success. As a local business owner, having an effective SEO is non-negotiable. Local SEO is the marketing strategy that is designed specifically to benefit local businesses and drive customers to your door.

Did you know that 97 percent of people looking for a local business do their searching online? Anytime a potential customer searches for a business “near me” or for services in [city name,] your Local SEO strategies jump into action. Even if the user doesn’t type in their location or that they’re searching for a local business, Google has often already been given permission to pinpoint their location and present businesses that are close to them and have the services or products they’re looking for. Because nearly all consumers use the internet to find local businesses, you have no choice but to implement effective local SEO that puts you at the top of Google’s search results. Neglecting to utilize SEO practices means other local business are getting your customers, and you are losing money.

Higher rankings on Googles SERPs mean more people will view your site. If you’re in the first position on the search results page, you are likely to get 1/3 of users on the page. Once you fall to the third position, your visibility drops to 10 percent. And by the time you fall to ninth or tenth place in the search results, you are only going to see about two percent of the traffic on the page. An effective local SEO gets you to the top of Google’s search results which translates into more customers and revenue for your business.

The importance of your SEO cannot be overstated. Below are six topics that you should consider when crafting your local SEO.

What Factors Influences Local SEO Rankings?

Local SEO strategies focus on several techniques, all of which you find in general SEO: content, on-page optimizations, and link-building are keys to success. But it doesn’t stop there. When you are a local business, you must ensure that all signposts for your business are consistent across Google’s local search landscape. Your localized content is the key to ensuring that local users find you online and visit your store. Below are five factors that heavily influence your local SEO rankings:

Using Keywords to Improve Local Rankings

Selecting the right keywords for your business is one of the most crucial aspects of forming your SEO. When choosing your keywords, think about the questions your users are asking or the products they are looking for. Avoid using jargon that they won’t be familiar with and use keywords as relevant in your site’s Title and Description metadata and tags. Include the name of your city or town on your webpage. Get inside the mind of your customer to select the keywords that they’re most likely to search for when looking for the types of things you provide.

Claiming Your Google My Business Page

Did you know that Google will give you a free business page on their search engine? When you claim your business on this platform, you increase your visibility and the likelihood of users finding you on Google’s SERP. Not only will your business show up in the search results, but your location will show up on Google Maps, too. This increases your chances of local business because your user can see your physical location in proximity to theirs, motivating them to visit your storefront.

Including Localized Content

Local SEO is set apart from typical SEO strategies because of the focus on your local community. Your site should include content about your town or city; this can be done in a number of ways. Post blogs (consistently) about news, local events, and activities happening in your city or surrounding communities. Community involvement is important to your local customers; write about local charities or school events your business supports.

Taking Advantage of Local Online Business Directories

Online business directories are like a phone book with customer reviews. Popular directories include Yelp, Foursquare, and Citysearch, among others. When your user is searching for “best X near me,” chances are an online business directory will show up on the SERP. It’s vital to make sure all of your information is consistent across these directories down to the abbreviations and capitalization. This helps Google know that your business is the same on every platform and, as a result, rank your business higher.

Getting 5-Star Reviews

Positive reviews correlate with higher rankings and more business; it’s as simple as that. When potential customers see a lot of other happy customers, they’re more inclined to choose your business over others.

Tips For Google My Business Optimization

Google My Business is one of the most valuable and easy tools to boost your local SEO. It helps you control, index, and display your important information; interact with potential customers and manage your reviews; curate customer media; and gather insights on how customers are finding and coming to your site.

But actually claiming your business page on Google isn’t enough. Many businesses claim their page, input the basic information, and do nothing else. In this day, simply putting your information online is not enough to help your business attract customers.

Optimizing Google My Business is a great way to get ranked and get customers to your door. We’ve compiled a list of five tips to help you take full advantage of your Google My Business page.

Input Basic Information

Proofing is key here. Your page will not work for you if you’ve accidentally misspelled your address or your phone number is one digit off. Your name, address, and phone number (NAP) need to appear on this page exactly as they appear on your website, down to your map coordinates and 5-digit (not the hyphenated 9-digit) zip code.

Once your NAP is correct, you can focus on your business category and company attributes. Here is where local SEO becomes more crucial as you now determine what keywords you’ll highlight. Your category is very specific. Google has a list of almost 2,400 categories for you to choose from. It’s important that you browse this list to make sure you’re choosing a category that best describes what you have to offer.

The attributes section of your page allows you to expand upon your category. You can add attributes—like amenities for your apartment complex, seating at your restaurant, etc.— to give customers a better idea of what you bring to the table.

Finally, add a photo. In the midst of all of the written content on the page, a carefully selected photo will catch users’ eyes and cause them to engage with your listing.

Ask for and Respond to Customer Reviews

Reviews will make or break your business. If you are receiving a lot of positive reviews, your site visits and sales will increase. However, while bad reviews can be discouraging, even those offer an opportunity for a sale. Customers who leave negative reviews expect for you to respond to them. And of those customers who leave negative reviews, 45 percent say they are more likely to visit a business if it responds to their review. Even a bad interaction can be turned around for your good if you put the time into listening to and caring for your customers.

Communicate with Your Customers through Messages

Google My Business Messages allows customers to get in touch with you without having to give you a phone call. You enable this feature by clicking the “Turn on Messaging” button on your dashboard. Then you input your phone number, verify it, and you can even add a custom “welcome message” that users will receive when they send a message to you.

Add Posts to Share Updates

Google Posts acts like social media for your business page in that you can share content about your business in a variety of ways. You can share video, text, and even GIFs for your customers to view. You can also add call-to-action buttons to entice customers to “buy,” “sign up,” “reserve,” and more.

Gather Information about Customer Paths

Google My Business provides insights so you can know how customers are finding your business, where on Google they’re finding your listing, the actions they are taking, areas where they live, and total phone calls and call time when they call. All of this information allows you to know your customers better and craft your site to be more useful to them and to match their needs.

Local NAP Citations – What Are they

Your local NAP citation is your business listing that you’ve put online. NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone Number. Though this is very basic business information, it is also the most crucial. Without a NAP citation, customers can’t find you.

Your NAP citations are everywhere online: Google My Business, Facebook, Mapquest, Yelp, Angieslist. Anywhere that your business appears online, your NAP citation should appear also.

When a user searches for a business near them, oftentimes Google will give them sites that have compiled lists of the type of business they are searching for. Getting your business on one of these lists is the next best thing to ranking on Google’s SERP, and in order to make this happen, you’ll need to make sure your listings are consistent and accurate across the internet. If your information differs from place to place, the engines that crawl these sites won’t be able to determine the validity or reliability of your business, and they won’t rank you in SERPS.

The easiest way to ensure consistency across sites is to use a data aggregator. You submit your information once to the aggregator, and then it pushes your information to the main citation site. However, for more niche sites, you will still have to manually submit your NAP citations.

Local Onpage Optimization Tips

By this point, you know that your local business will benefit exponentially from a well-thought-out, effectively implemented SEO. There are a few onpage optimization tips that will help you rank higher and market yourself more effectively to your local audience.

To begin, your citations need to be accurate both across your site and across the web. You might also consider adding your citations to an industry-specific directory. Multiple citation locations will build your reliability in the eyes of Google’s web crawlers.

You will need to carefully choose the keywords you use on your site. Think about what your customers are looking for. But also consider they keywords your competition is using. Perform a few keyword searches yourself to see what keywords your local and global competition is using. A healthy mix of both local and global keywords will not only benefit your users but will make your business more appealing to Google.

Google is very particular about what kind of content they rank. Gone are the days of mindless keyword stuffing. Your content needs to be informative, helpful, and concise. The more your content is likely to be useful to users, the higher your page will rank.

To ensure you have an effective local SEO, you must analyze your page and the traffic it sees. Google Analytics is a great tool that helps you review site traffic and learn about your audience then adapt your SEO as needed.

Finally, don’t neglect social media. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are excellent ways to get content in front of a new sect of your audience. Plus, you can incorporate your keywords into your social media posts. Building a business profile on social is free and is a great way for your business to connect with the community.

Local Link Building Tips

Link Building is an extremely effective way to boost local businesses performance in SERPs. Below are six helpful tips to build links and boost your SEO:

Get to know your audience. Understand who your audience is and determine what your ideal audience would look like. This will help you craft your content so that you can draw in the type of users you want.

Make a list of websites that appeal to your desired audience. Link these sites on your page. This will help them find your site as well as provide information that is useful to them.

Create great content. If you don’t offer anything of value, users won’t care about your site, and neither will other businesses. Your content needs to be useful, appealing, and professionally executed. Then match that great content to other sites. You can use your products to network with other sites to get your name out there.

Reach out to site owners. If you have something of value to offer, other businesses and sites want to know about it. Most people are happy to review a product, especially if you give it to them for free. Be personal in your approach, and, more often than not, you will find that site owners are happy to oblige.

Utilize social media. Social media is a fantastic way to get your sites to a wide audience. Sharing links to blogs and sites is easier than ever, and socials allow you to reach an extremely diverse platform. Local businesses can benefit greatly from social media because of the connection that it fosters with people in your community.

How To Get Local Reviews

Positive reviews are an essential element to successful local SEO. Eighty-six percent of customers read reviews for businesses before trying them out for themselves, and a majority of customers will only use a business if it has an online rating of four or more stars. Below are a few tips to help you get those local reviews that are essential for your business to thrive:

Deliver a Product Customers Want to Review

To get positive reviews (the only kind of review you want), give your customers an experience they want to share with others. Impressive customer service goes a long way with your patrons.

Request Reviews

Seventy percent of consumers who are asked to leave a business review go on to do so. There are many ways to ask for reviews: face-to-face, via email, and by phone. However, make sure you don’t wait too long before asking. When too much time passes between a customer’s experience and when you ask for a review, they are less likely to oblige than if you had asked them sooner.

Offer a Variety of Review Methods

You want to make writing a positive review as easy and accessible to your customers as possible. This means you need to have multiple platforms available for them to share about their experience with you. Set up pages for your business on Facebook, Google My Business, Yelp, and other review sites. Once those sites are established, have a link on your business page that leads customers to these review sites. The easier you make it for users to give you a review, the more likely they will.

Respond to Reviews

The hard work of getting your customers to leave reviews is done, but you aren’t finished yet. Once you receive a review, it is important to show your customer that you value their time and opinion by responding in a timely manner no matter if the review is positive or negative. Even customers who leave a negative review may come back to your business if you take the time to respond to them.

Local SEO can make your business, and the absence of SEO can break it. With these tips and outlines, you have more than enough to set up and organize a local SEO strategy that will drive business to your site and to your door.

Read more about how to get customers to leave reviews.

Thanks for reading "The Beginner’s Guide to Local SEO for Small Businesses", by the Linchpin Team in Chicago, Raleigh, and Wake Forest.

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