For any small business, appearing in a local search is crucial to bringing new business through your doors. While word-of-mouth is enough to stir up some new business, it isn’t nearly the same as what a Google recommendation could do for you. But many small businesses simply don’t have the marketing budget to hire an expert SEO strategist to help improve their rankings. With this guide, you will:
What is a Local Search?
• Understand how a local search differs from a standard search and why it is important.
• Learn how to shift your SEO strategy to appear in local search results.
• See the importance of your online reputation.
• Find out new ways to improve your search results rating and bring new customers through your door.
Before getting into how to top a local search results list, you need to understand what a local search is and who can benefit from one. Consider when a customer wants to find a product or service in a particular area. When they key what they’re looking for into the Google search bar, they’re going to include a city name or the phrase ‘near me’ and Google will then pull businesses in that area that offer that product or can provide that service.
Google doesn’t automatically know where your company is located, however. Through your SEO strategy, you need to make the connection clear so that Google can find you. This connection is created through shifting a typical SEO strategy to be local-search friendly.
How to Rank On a Local Search
Ranking on a local search is very similar to ranking on a standard search. You need to be one of the top companies that fit the keyword that was typed in, but the criteria for ranking on a local search can actually be much different.
Here are some of the SEO areas you must focus on when creating a local SEO strategy:
Potential customers look to Google like the friend who has been everywhere and tried everything, so they’re going to consult the search bar before deciding if your business is worth their time. When Google decides which businesses to push to the top of its list of results, it is only going to consider those that consistently provide a positive experience.
If you want to see your name among the top three results, you need to get online reviews from your customers to improve your online reputation. Simply asking those who visit your store to review their experience on Google, Yelp, or Facebook can help to improve your results listing.
But beware of negative reviews. While it is not uncommon to see one or two bad reviews on a company’s page, they need to be balanced by glowing recommendations and reviews from happy customers. Too many negative reviews will cause Google to push you further down the list of results.
If you do get a negative review, do your best to make the situation right. A good reputation management strategy is to respond to the individual’s message and ask them to get in touch through a private avenue, such as over the phone or via e-mail. This can show visitors that you care about improving customers’ opinions of you but will also take the drama off the Internet.
Accurate and Consistent NAP Information
Your NAP information refers to your name, address, and phone number of the business. While it may seem like there is no way you can mess this information up, even little inconsistencies can push your ranking further down the list. You want each and every page you own online including website, social media pages, and citations; to have the same abbreviations and punctuations.
Google is very smart, but it is still a computer. It isn’t that difficult to throw Google off with minor inconsistencies. While you’re trying to make a connection between your company and your geographic location, you need your NAP information to appear the same every time it appears online. If your address appears different on your website than it does on your Yelp page, even if it is a minor inconsistency such as an abbreviated word, Google may not recognize that the two are connected.
If your pages are not being connected to Google, it may register them as entirely different businesses. The efforts you put on your website can only go so far without the additional support of a Yelp page or your social media platforms, and vice versa. Ensure that you don’t run into any of these problems by double checking that your NAP information looks the same on each of your pages.
Use Local Citation Building
Local citation building is another crucial component of developing a local SEO strategy. When you build local citations, you’re getting your company name and information listed on directory pages for your area or your industry. Yelp is one of the most popular citation pages around.
To appear higher on a Google results list, you will also need to ensure creating a Google My Business page is a part of your local citation building plan. Because it is owned by Google, the Google My Business pages will appear above all other results in a local search.
When you have a citation posted, double check that all your information is correct. If you are listed but the phone number or address isn’t correct, it isn’t going to help your business or your SEO strategy.
When creating your local SEO strategy, always keep in mind that you want to appear like you are part of the community. You should have connections with other businesses in your area, should appear in the listings of citation pages all over the Web, and your review pages should show that real people in the area are having a great time when they visit your store or restaurant.
by Eric Welke