If you have a small business, you know how important it is to get more people to contact you or visit your store or restaurant. One of the main reasons why digital marketing and SEO have overtaken traditional marketing is because of how it helps small businesses generate more calls, visits, and sales for not much money.
Now, the biggest trends with big potential for small businesses is with local SEO. It is similar to general search engine optimization but is specific to searches and platforms tied to a location. When people are searching for a business in a specific city, town or area, that’s where local SEO becomes important.
So, how does local SEO work? Whether you want to learn how to do the basics yourself, or you want to know what it is when you’re hiring an employee or an agency to do it for you, you can use our guide here to get started.
What Is a Local Search?
The first thing you need to know before you understand how local SEO works is what a “local search” is. Local SEO is all about making your small business rank at the top of any search where someone is trying to find your type of business in your area.
For example, say you have a restaurant in Vancouver. When someone who lives in Vancouver searches on Google for “restaurants near me” or “best restaurants in Vancouver”, that’s a local search where you want to rank at the top.
However, a local search is not always just on Google or other search engines like Bing or Yahoo. It can also be on other platforms like Google Maps, Apple Maps, Yelp, Waze, TripAdvisor, and so on.
Those are local search platforms that give the specific ability for people to search for local businesses in their area. Making sure your business ranks at the top of searches on all those platforms is why local SEO is so important.
What Are the Main Local SEO Ranking Factors?
So what are the most important rank factors for local searches? There is some overlap with organic search rank factors, but with twists according to the specific localization element. Here’s a quick list to cover the top ones:
- Having a website optimized for technical SEO such as page speed, mobile-friendliness, etc
- Optimizing on-page factors for local searches and local keywords
- Creating localized content that connects with local news, events, and keywords that are searched for in your area
- Having citations and business mentions on other sites and platforms that include your business name, address, and phone number
- Building links on local sources such as chambers of commerce, local news websites, etc
- Having an optimized Google My Business account for your business location
- Having a good number and average score of online reviews
If you have all of these, the website you have for your small business is more likely to rank high in local searches. Why is it important to rank at the top? Because most people will only look at the top few results.
If you’re at the top you’ll get most of the business from the people looking for your kind of business in your ara. In fact, local searches on mobile devices will lead customers to visit the store they choose within one day, and 18% of them to make a sale. That’s the power of local SEO.
How to Get Started in Local SEO as a Small Business
The great part of local SEO for small businesses is that there are some things you can do yourself that will have an impact on your local rankings. Here’s a quick local SEO checklist that small business owners can follow:
- Create and complete a Google My Business account with your business name, address, phone number, website URL, hours of operation, a good description of your business and your products or services, and your business categories. If your business has more than one location, make sure each one has its own listing.
- Create and complete accounts on all the other major local search platforms, such as Yelp, Apple Maps, TripAdvisors, and so on. Use the exact same information, such as your phone number and address, as you did on Google My Business.
- Make sure your website is mobile-friendly. Try navigating it like a customer on your phone and see if there is anything that doesn’t work or look good. Talk to your employee or agency that deals with the website to make the necessary changes if you can’t yourself. It’s a worthy investment.
- Make sure your website uses local keywords and your local information, such as the city, other areas served, roads and intersection, and so on. A good way to use a lot of keywords relevant for your location is having a local blog to talk about news and events that affect your community.
- Get links back to your site on other local websites. Some good sources for this are your town’s chamber of commerce website, any local newspaper website, or any other local business or organizations’ website that you have a relationship with (e.g., charities you donate to, events you sponsor, businesses that supply you with services, etc).
- Generate positive online reviews from your customers. Encourage all your employees to kindly ask their customers—especially your happy and repeat customers—to leave a review on sites like Google, Facebook, and Yelp.
You should also have someone in your business routinely check for and respond to negative reviews to see if you can solve their problem and ask them to change their review to a better one.
For more advanced local SEO techniques, such as the technical SEO factors, it’s a good idea to either hire an employee or use an agency who can handle it for you. The list above is a good start for you to make yourself and will give your small business a leg up on most of your competition.