Search engines today are increasingly personalizing their user’s search results, especially Google. Search engines can track location and generate search results or business addresses that are geographically close to users. For a small local business, this is a great advantage. For one, you won’t have to compete with global giants in your industry for recognition in cyberspace.
In fact, most local businesses don’t even need to draw in national or international traffic to visit their websites. Let’s explain this with an example. Imagine you own an auto repair business in Mankato, Minnesota. Any Internet traffic visiting you from Hollywood, California, would be inconsequential as they are unlikely to visit your shop for auto repairs. So, local SEO is the key for attracting the right Internet visitors in your area. Now that we’ve piqued your interest in local search engine optimization (SEO) for your business, below is a guide to help you get started.
Search On the Go Will Lead Customers to You
Statistics easily convey why it’s so imperative for your local business to be geared towards more potential customers with local SEO strategies. According to Google, 94 percent of smartphone users prefer using their phone to look for local information and 84 percent of these users have taken action based on their mobile search results.
Let’s take a real-life scenario. A person is driving through Mankato and his car breaks down. The only way he can find a mechanic is to type “mechanic in Mankato” or a similar phase into the search box on his smartphone. If your auto repair shop is properly optimized for local searches, guess whose business would automatically pop up in his search engine results.
Is Your Website Smartphone Compatible?
Adapting your website to smartphone screens is quite simple. Be specific in asking your website designer whether your business’s site is running compatible with mobile devices. Even more than desktop searches, mobile searchers are increasingly being personalized. 61 percent of local searches are performed on mobile devices like smartphones. Also, Google has recently reported that mobile friendliness will become a ranking factor for websites now.
Android users are automatically logged into Google the moment he or she activates the smartphone with an email. Any search conducted on the phone through Google will always be personalized. With more than a million new Android phones and tablets being activated daily, it’s clear that people are increasingly leaning towards this search method. It’s also worthy to note that iPhones and iPads have Google Now, which provides precise local information too.
Preparing Your Website for Local SEO
If you’re going to achieve any meaningful success in tapping a potential source for local customers, there’s several aspects that need your attention. From your website to your social media profiles, the location of your business must always be at the forefront. The following are some other helpful local SEO tactics to increase your local online presence.
- Use Local Keywords
Your website can be compared to an online library and the information about your business would be one of the books in your library that’s read by search engines. When someone searches for a product you offer, the search engine will highlight you whenever you use local keywords. Local keywords are critical because they tell the search engines that your company is located near the user’s current location.
A good local keyword can be created by simply adding your geographical location to your other keywords. Let’s revisit our last example. If you’re using a keyword like “auto mechanic,” then your local keyword would be “local mechanic in Mankato.” These local keywords should appear in the following areas of your website:
- Image tags
- Title tags
- Meta descriptions
Putting in an effort to broadcast local keywords ensures that search engines can properly appraise your exact location as well as the kinds of services or products you’re providing.
- Take Advantage of Local Directories
There are several “local” Yellow Page directories that allow businesses to add themselves to a list for free or a very small dollar amount. When creating your directory entry, be patient enough to key in your full street address complete with a zip code. Also, don’t forget to list your phone number including the area code. There’s absolutely no limits to the number of local directories you can register your business with. If there’s a specific “city page” maintained by the directory for advertising local businesses, go for that too.
- Encourage Local Reviews
Review websites like Yelp are also excellent for local SEO because they’re designed to zero in on the location of your business. They’re also pretty popular as customers often express their opinions and experiences with a particular business here. Keep in mind that interaction with your customers is recognized by research engines and rewarded with higher rankings. But, this doesn’t mean that you should pay for fake customers to publish reviews on your behalf. Most people will look at overly positive reviews with skepticism today.
It’s advised that you encourage your customers to leave true, meaningful feedback on your local business. Although many may not oblige, the few who do will do you a lot of good. When you request feedback, politely ask customers to log-in to any of their social media accounts because the accounts usually have their local information. Most review sites make it mandatory for users to first register through social media accounts or add their own personal information.
- Explore the Unexplored – Videos
Not many businesses create videos to convey what they have to offer, but this is a missed opportunity. Online videos are the future of content marketing. Website visitors would much rather learn about your business visually than have to read multiple paragraphs. When adding videos to your website, keep in mind that search engines can only index text. Therefore, it’s vital that you add local keywords and your contact information to the video’s description, title, and meta-tags. You could also create a professional-looking YouTube video with a link to your website.
- Get Involved on Social Media
In today’s digital world, your company’s presence on social media is all-important and will play a major role in boosting your local search engine rankings. High traffic on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn will help you grow. Don’t forget to add your complete address with a phone number and other contact details. You should also create a Google profile for your business and maintain an accurate presence on Google Maps with Google My Business. This will get you on 7 Pack SERP results quite easily.
Having multiple addresses or an inaccurate address can confuse search engines, especially on Google Maps. I also advise refraining from having multiple accounts on the same social media platform. If you’re running paid campaigns on social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter, you’re allowed to choose your targeted audience based on a wide demographic. However, it’s important that you narrow down your targeted audience based on your geographical area of interest.
- Give Customers a Local Feel
Images are very important for expressing local information about your business too. Post some pictures of the surroundings where your business is located. This will give your website a local feel and build a sense of trust in customers as you’re part of the local community. Of course, make sure you’re using local keywords in posting the picture’s image tags and descriptions. You may want to consider letting your website celebrate local festivals or events. You could promote the upcoming event on your business to local community members through social media too.
Local SEO Demands Effort, But You Can’t Afford to Be Left Out
While building a successful SEO strategy with the above tips can take time, it’ll be well worth the pay off. It’s been estimated that smartphone use will exceed two billion by the year 2016. During the next three years, over one-third of the world’s population will have a smartphone. Google says that over 77 percent of mobile users have researched local products and services through their phone. This is a big market you can’t miss out on.
With more and more people looking at smartphones to find local businesses online, search engines will continue to deliver more personalized results. Ignoring local SEO could eventually unleash a death blow to any businesses that choose to adapt to the changing environment. Make sure your small business isn’t among the casualties by putting these great local SEO strategies to good use on your website.
About the author
Shane Barker is a digital marketing consultant, named the #1 social media consultant in the nation by PROskore Power Rankings. He has expertise in business development, online marketing and is an SEO specialist who has consulted with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and a number of A-list celebrities.