- Optimizing a small business for local search is a powerful way to boost local traffic and increase sales.
- With the large majority of web users actively seeking products/services in their vicinity, building local leads is essential.
- Joseph Dyson offers a step-by-step guide to improving local visibility for small businesses.
- He focuses on the importance of Google My Business, keyword research and implementation, internal and external links, reviews, and more.
Do you want your business to appear in the top local search results on Google? Do you want to attract high-quality traffic that helps you boost sales and grow your business in the long run? Do you want to achieve and sustain target KPIs?
If you answered these questions in the affirmative, you may want to optimize your business for local search if you haven’t already.
An astounding 80% of all local searches on mobile phones result in a transaction.
While you may have created a winning social media marketing strategy and revamped your brand identity, the work doesn’t end there. In fact, it only begins. With the competition becoming increasingly cut-throat each day, standing out among the crowd has become more important than ever—especially for small businesses that are struggling to navigate the digital marketing learning curve during the ongoing pandemic.
To make things easier without compromising efficacy, you need to start off on the right foot by focusing on local SEO.
We’ll break down the basics and offer a step-by-step guide to dominating local search in 2020 so your business can hit the ground running.
What is local SEO and why does it matter?
Local SEO is the process of optimizing your business to improve its visibility in local search results on Google.
Why does this matter? Because local consumers are actively looking for products/services close to them.
If you run a small business, it’s very likely that you operate within a certain area, i.e. a specific city or state. If you fail to optimize your business for local search, you’ll attract generic leads that aren’t capable of making a transaction because of geographical constraints. You’ll also reduce your chances of appearing in the top local search results each time someone runs a “near me” or “close to me” search.
Instead of appearing in the Google 3-Pack (attached below for reference), your business will show up on the eighth, ninth, or 30th SERP.
And while earning a not-so-favorable spot among Google search results may not sound too bad, the large majority of web users never scroll past the first SERP.
So what do you do? You optimize your business for local search.
We’ve rounded up some of the most effective local SEO strategies for small businesses in 2021 to help you get started.
Claim and optimize your Google My Business listing
Leveraging Google My Business is a surefire way to give your business a much-needed visibility boost. The popular platform allows businesses to drive local traffic by creating and maintaining a strong online presence on Google Search and Google Maps.
As you share relevant information about your business, Google will effectively crawl, index, and rank your business.
The outcome? Improved local rankings.
Claim and optimize your Google My Business listing to maximize your chances of appearing in the Google 3-Pack.
We suggest sharing the following information:
- Phone Number
- Business Hours
- High-Quality Photos and Videos
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Attributes and Amenities
Google’s algorithm determines the legitimacy of a business by checking for consistency across the board. For instance, if your business hours are inconsistent across multiple platforms, your business will not be perceived as credible or reliable.
Even the slightest deviation can lower your chances of appearing in the Google 3-Pack.
Ensure consistency to dominate local search and increase the visitor-to-lead conversion rate.
In addition, keep your listing updated by sharing fresh content and interacting with customers through Google My Business Messages.
Become a pro at keyword research
Keyword research is undeniably the crème de la crème of local search. If done right, the process can help your content stand out among the massive pool of competition.
Why should you use keywords in the first place?
Let’s break it down.
If you own a small salon in Los Angeles, most people looking for salon services will search for very specific phrases like “salons in Los Angeles” or “best hair stylists in Los Angeles.” These keywords are a set of industry-specific and location-specific phrases that help customers find what they’re looking for.
If you want your products/services to appear in the top local search results, you have to incorporate these phrases into your content to give users exactly what they’re looking for.
Use Google’s Keyword Planner to find local industry-relevant keywords. It’s important to note that keywords are constantly evolving based on current trends, events, and news. So while you may have assiduously compiled a list of the most relevant keywords, it’s unlikely that they’ll dominate search engines within a few months.
Stay at the top of your game by actively researching and re-researching keywords. You can also use third-party tools based on your preference.
If you’re unsure about how to incorporate keywords based on regional trends, use Google Trends to discover what’s trending.
Use actionable on-page SEO techniques
On-page SEO is the process of optimizing web pages to boost rankings and attract high-quality local traffic.
How does this work? As you focus on specific on-page optimization factors, your website will become more visible on the web.
These factors include:
- Title Tag: The title/topic of each page
- Meta Description Tags: A short description that summarizes the content
- Robots Meta Tag: A piece of code that helps web crawlers determine which pages on the site should be indexed
- URL: The web address of a specific page
- Header Tags: Headings that add structure to a page, for example, H1, H2, and H3
- Image Alt Tags/Alt Text: Short and clear description of an image
- Canonical Tags: An HTML link tag that helps crawlers prioritize the main page instead of indexing duplicate page URLs
Each time you create new content, incorporate high-volume keywords in the aforementioned on-page optimization factors, especially the title tag, meta description, URL, and header. This will help you attract local traffic and make your website more search-friendly.
Leverage internal and external links
Focusing on your website’s link structure is a great way to optimize your business for local search.
Internal links are hyperlinks that take readers to content or products/services on your own website. Here’s an example to help make things a bit clearer. If you’re writing a new blog for your website and hyperlink an old infographic on your own domain, this will qualify as an internal link. Of course, you can link any type of content, including blogs, articles, press releases, infographics, videos, product pages, service pages, etc.
How does this help? As web users interact with your content, they’re more likely to engage with the internal links. This, in turn, helps Google determine the relevance of your internal pages and rank them accordingly.
If you’re already ahead of the game, you can link location-specific keywords, thereby organically improving your website’s visibility for local search. These factors collectively play a big role in ensuring your business climbs local SERPs and maintains a strong online presence.
External links work in a similar manner. If an external (third-party) website links to your content or products/services, this qualifies as an external link, also known as a backlink.
For instance, if an established website like Forbes links to a value-added blog you wrote a few months ago, you’ll earn a high-quality backlink. As a plethora of potential customers is redirected to your website, you’ll reap the benefits of high traffic for your local business.
High-quality backlinks from websites with a high domain authority (great rankings on SERPs) help Google determine the validity and reputability of a business.
If a considerable number of established businesses are hyperlinking to your content, it’s very likely that you’re producing engaging, informative, and impactful content.
Google’s reward system is quick on its toes. Their algorithm will immediately process the information and make sure your business gradually climbs SERPs. If you were stuck on the 15th SERP, you could climb a few pages.
Of course, if you continue to produce winning content and earn quality backlinks, you’ll manage to break into the first search page.
How should you use internal links?
- Create more content so it’s easier to include internal links in new content
- Check the domain authority of pre-existing content to use internal links accordingly (for example, link to popular content more frequently)
How should you increase external links?
- Write high-quality and engaging guest blogs
- Leverage broken link building
- Convert unlinked mentions into backlinks
- Collaborate with non-competitor businesses in your industry to build quality backlinks
- Repurpose and syndicate content
- Offer to write authentic testimonials for other businesses in return for a backlink
Optimization isn’t enough, create high-quality local content
Optimization isn’t the be-all and end-all of content marketing. If you haven’t produced high-quality content in the first place, it’s unlikely that optimization will help you get any further.
The best way to dominate local search is to strike the perfect balance between optimization and quality. Losing sight of either one of the two could end up doing more damage than good.
Create impactful content around local events, trends, movements, and news.
For instance, find a way to incorporate popular holidays like the 4th of July into your content plan. If you sell pool accessories, you could create a blog titled “Five Tips for Having a Lockdown-Friendly Fourth of July Party This Weekend.” One of the tips could include having a family pool party and ordering fun pool accessories online.
Building these connections will go a long way in helping your business become a familiar sight in local search results.
Of course, don’t forget to incorporate location-specific keywords to make sure you attract high-quality leads that can easily buy your products/services.
Request and respond to reviews to climb SERPs
Reviews are a gold mine when it comes to improving visibility for local search.
If you run a local search, you’ll notice that each business in the Google 3-Pack includes a plethora of positive reviews.
Here’s an example:
Google doesn’t want to take any risks. The entire point of the Google 3-Pack is to display the top businesses for a specific search. The factors used to determine whether a business should appear in the Google 3-Pack include NAP consistency, relevance, reputability, experience, and—you guessed it—reviews.
If your business has a great review rating and flattering reviews, you’re very likely to earn a spot in the Google 3-Pack.
But how should you generate positive reviews? The most obvious way is to offer excellent products/services and ensure great customer service.
But there’s a little more than meets the eye.
Here are some expert strategies to increase positive reviews for your business:
- Use Google My Business to encourage your customers to share reviews
- Request reviews from customers who recently invested in your products/services by sending a short, individualized, and engaging email
- Use social media to encourage customers to share their feedback
- Create a testimonials page on your website and include a short form that allows customers to share their experience with your products/services
Actively respond to positive reviews to encourage customers to share reviews in the future. In addition, take correctional measures to make it up to your customers who leave negative reviews. If done right, you can end up turning a bad experience into a good one.
If you’ve been struggling to give your business the boost it deserves, implementing these strategies will go a long way in turning things around.
Closely monitor your progress using Google My Business Insights and additional tracking platforms to determine where you stand and realign strategies accordingly. Ensure consistency to view concrete results in local search rankings and traffic.
We also recommend keeping up with your competition to develop an edge as a small business with relatively less experience. Go over their strategies and replicate certain aspects that seem relevant.
As you develop a holistic local SEO strategy, your business will begin to reach milestones and gear up for long-term growth.
Local SEO is undeniably one of the most powerful weapons in the digital marketing arsenal for small businesses. Polishing these skills can help a business actively climb SERPs for local search and build a wide audience that continues to grow organically.
While implementing local SEO strategies may seem challenging at first, it’s less complex than many small businesses think. The right tools, resources, and expertise can make the process much easier.
Incorporate these strategies into your current marketing campaign to get started. If you have any concerns, feel free to connect with an expert. Good luck!
Joseph Dyson is a renowned content marketing manager at Search Berg. He offers expert small business SEO services and has headed various local SEO campaigns over the years.