Most local businesses have a burning question — how to show up when their target customers are looking for their service on Google? For example, as a salon in San Jose, California, you want your site to rank when someone’s typing terms like:
- salon in san jose
- best salons in san jose
The benefit of getting a place in search results is obvious — more people visit the site, book more appointments, and you get more sales.
A local SEO strategy is the best way to rank for local search queries.
The optimisation technique works for all type of businesses catering to a specific geographic location: restaurants, plumbing services, pet services, law offices, medical services, and real estate services, etc.
Confused about how to start getting those rankings? Here are five steps to get ahead of your game with local SEO:
1. Set Up and Maintain a Google My Business Profile
Google, the largest search engine, helps businesses to create their business listing with the help of a free tool called Google My Business. You can register a business on Google My Business by adding its name, location, category, and delivery area. Once you add these details, Google sends you a verification code by phone, email or postcard. You need to use the code to get your profile verified.
You can add more details to your listing such as business description, services, opening hours, photos, and videos. These details are visible to searchers providing them with holistic information about the business. The simple process helps local businesses to start showing up for local search queries.
Businesses can encourage happy customers to add reviews on their profile. Positive reviews help build trust among those who are yet to try the products or services.
72% of consumers point to positive reviews a trust indicator for a business.
Creating a My Business Profile also means that you’re exposing the business to possible negative reviews or criticism. No need to panic — there are ways to handle negative reviews and maintain a solid reputation.
The Question and Answers feature in Google My Business allows online searchers to ask questions about the business or its products and services. You can make use of this feature to answer queries from prospects and help them clear their doubts.
Another way to squeeze the most out of a Google My Business profile is to embed the maps listing from Google My Business to the website’s contact page. The tactic helps site visitors to locate a business. My Business profile is the first critical step in any local SEO strategy.
2. Create Localized Content
The best way to build a relationship with a regional audience is to create content that resonates with them. Create a local audience persona by knowing about their behavior and preferences. A good strategy is to cover local news stories, community issues, and local events. Pitch guest stories to blogs and news sites that cover localized stories. A local business should aim at getting loyal followers of its content. Create a content voice that’s rooted in regional cultural values. Publishing authentic stories help build a local community of loyal fans and followers. Localized content helps improve search rankings and transform a business into a local brand.
3. Submit to Local Directories
Local and niche directories are helpful for online searchers to find information about businesses and service providers. Many directories rank for local searches for popular search terms. Getting a citation in directories is a necessary local SEO tactic. You can make a list of popular directory sites. Add your company name, address, and phone number to each of the directories. Local citations from top directories like Yahoo, Yelp, Yellow Pages, and Brownbook are vital for local SEO.
4. Add Structured Data
Structured data is a mark-up language that tells about the nature of a website or web page to search engines. The code snippet communicates with the search engines in their language. You can use structured data to categorize the business as a local one. Generate a snippet code from a tool like Scheme.org and add it your website code. Structured data is an essential way to make a search listing descriptive and achieve higher rankings in local search results.
5. Website Experience
Google ranks websites that provide a flawless experience to its audience. Ensure that your site loads quickly on the desktop and mobile devices. Build a responsive site that works well across devices and browsers.
A site should be easy to navigate and free from broken links. Create unique and keyword optimized meta titles and descriptions for each of the pages. A consistent design creates the right impression and helps a business look professional. The website should have the business address, contact details, and opening hours — helps site visitors to get in touch or make a booking. A good way to build trust with a local audience is to publish client testimonials.
If the audience loves your site, Google gets positive signals like more click-throughs and higher time-on-site helping improve search rankings.
Over to You
As consumers of services we often look for local service providers for everyday needs. According to Forbes, 95% of smartphone users have used their device to perform local searches, out of which 61% called the business and 59% visited.
Local SEO can help businesses to get a place in the consideration set of a growing number of internet users on desktop and on mobile devices. It’s a cost-effective method for brick and mortar businesses to create an online presence. The strategy gives businesses the power to reach out to a focussed audience delivering quick outcomes.
Originally published at Entrepreneur News and Startup Guide.