As we are approaching the year 2021, many of the same practices for ranking well for Local SEO results still exist. It is a matter of learning, staying up to date, and keeping focused on these methods.
The one big and notable addition to really look out for is the advent of Google’s mobile first indexing. I highly suggest reading up on this as it really changes the playing field.
Essentially, your business website needs to be designed for mobile users, first and foremost.
Also, some more recent and newer SEO practices to keep in mind are Schema Markup, Rankbrain, User experience, AMP: Page Speed Boost, Google’s Mobile-First Index, and Google Voice Search.
These both come into play for adding success to your local business Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
I have created the following quick and practical guide for the intent of giving you a well-rounded set of Local SEO practices to use, expand upon, and refer back to.
These methods are discussed in chronological order of importance, based on my experience and success with Local SEO.
- 1 A Guide for Helping Your Local Business to Rank Higher in the Local Search Results
- 2 Small Local Business Website Content Strategy
- 3 Optimize Your on Page Ranking Factors and Content
- 4 Set Up and Optimize a My Google Business & Bing Pages
A Guide for Helping Your Local Business to Rank Higher in the Local Search Results
First of All – What Exactly is Local SEO?
The quick and simple explanation: Local SEO is the process of optimizing your local business’ online presence for attracting more business from relevant local searches.
These user search queries (keywords – phrases) are Geo-Targeted for a specific business in a specific location.
Although the Google Search Engine retains the majority of search queries (87% at this time), let’s not forget about Bing. I have gotten several client calls that found my local business on Bing.
The ultimate goal for success in Local SEO, is to land on Google’s ‘Snack Pack’ (top 3). This is absolutely golden! But, getting listed on that top organic local search result is right up there.
Here’s what a Snack Pack looks like on Google:
Optimize Your Website for Mobile Use and Speed
It’s official: Google announced that page speed will be a ranking factor in its mobile-first index
When it comes to Local Search more users are doing this on their mobile phone. Less than a year ago, 46% of all Google searches were local searches.
You put the two together, and Mobile use is on the rise like never before!
I had already mentioned the importance of Google’s Mobile-First Indexing. What do I suggest to really focus on here? Speed and Mobile Friendly Responsive design!
- Check to make sure your website is Google Mobile-Friendly
Drop everything and do this first and foremost!
- Test your website for speed at Google Page Speed Insights.
Website speed is crucial for your users and in the eyes of the search engines!
Here are some excellent free tools for measuring and analyzing your website speed:
While the direct SEO ranking factors don’t alter too much from desktop to mobile, the indirect factors do. Indirect factors correlate with user experience (UX).
I really suggest designing or updating your website for the mobile user experience as a priority.
Not all of us are web developers/designers, so integrating speed and responsive layouts can be tricky. I highly suggest looking into hiring a local web design company, if you need help with this.
This will pay off huge dividends for your incoming customers and SEO results!
Do a Thorough Keyword Research Focused on Local SEO
It is no secret by now that keywords are the most integral key for obtaining top results in the search engines. Doing that initial thorough keyword analysis is absolutely the first part of the process for building or updating a website.
Local SEO involves Geo-Targeted keywords and phrases. Therefore, the area your business is located in would be the main keyword you are focusing on. “Portland SEO”, “Portland web designers”…and so on.
I use a quick, easy, free and effective process for grabbing those ‘exact match’ keywords. I first start off with ‘exact match’ for getting a good idea of search volume and competition.
There are many keyword research tools available, but I use the free Google Keyword Planner Tool and the SEOBook keyword tool. Both of these cover just about everything I need for my Local Keyword search terms.
Also, I really suggest adding LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords to your strategy list. When I search “Portland SEO”, on the bottom of the front page “Searches related to Portland SEO” pops up, giving me all the related keyword phrases.
Click on one of these, head to the bottom of that page and grab those search terms. Rinse and repeat.
Think about Google Voice Search!
“What are the best web design companies in Portland?” These keyword questions will come in handy for your local business website blog…as great titles!
Finally, if you are just starting out with your business SEO or on a lower budget, it is recommended to look into those Long Tailed Keyword phrases. These usually are more easily obtained (less competition) and will bring in steady streams of traffic.
Some excellent paid tools, but well worth the cost: longtail pro, ahrefs, SEMrush.
Develop a Content Strategy That Emphasizes Local Business
Now that you have created a robust list of keywords and have developed a strategy of which ones to focus on, the next step in the process should be a good Content Strategy.
Where do all these broad match and long tail keywords go?
First of all, less is better when it comes to small business websites. Most local businesses fall into this category. You don’t need lots of pages for your website core.
Why? Because you are just diluting your link juice and Domain Authority. I recommend a Home page, Services page, About Us page, and maybe a Contact page.
The days of creating vast amounts of pages for each and every service…are over! The meat and potatoes of your keywords and content lies within your website blog.
You should certainly have your location keyword on your home page somewhere. I like to add my business NAP (name, address, phone number) on the bottom of the home page. I will explain the added local SEO benefits for this later.
Small Local Business Website Content Strategy
Don’t Litter your Home page and Product/Services page with a bunch of keyword stuffing. Pick out some of your main keywords and add them in a natural writing flow.
The main thing to remember is to have your location keyword on your homepage.
Focus on a good content strategy for your blog. Create a few cornerstone (your main articles) topics, mostly elaborating on your local services and products.
Naturally, add in your contextual keyword links to your subtopics (more articles describing your services).
Create a keyword linking cluster between your cornerstone article and the subtopics related to it. Link to each other using your keyword phrases naturally in the links.
Carefully plan and use this content strategy from the very beginning!
You will save yourself a lot of time and headaches later down the road.
Optimize Your on Page Ranking Factors and Content
First of all, if your website is already up and going, then I recommend doing an SEO audit. My favorite free tool for this is Screaming Frog. This robust tool will tell you everything you need to know about what is happening on your website.
A big thing to remember, duplicate content and 404 (broken links & pages) alone, can really kill your SEO. You should not have duplicate H1 – H2 titles, as well as no duplicate Meta Titles and Descriptions.
All of your content should be absolutely original and pass a copyscape.com check with flying colors! You should be writing your content fully based on user intent and not just writing for the search engines.
Google’s algorithms are really focused on human behavior!
Here’s a list for some on-page optimization tips which should help your Local SEO:
- Optimize Your Images!
Google images will do wonders for your SEO. Create keyword (but not too spammy) image file names, image alt tags, and image title tags.
good file name: local-SEO-tips.jpg
good alt description: “information on improving your local search results”
- Optimize Your H1-H6 Title Heading and Sub Headings
Be natural and creative and don’t keyword stuff these. Dazzle your readers with catchy titles! Use the titles and headings that you see in this article as good examples.
- Create descriptive and keyword fluid Meta Titles and Descriptions
These are not Google ranking factors, but play a big role for your Click Through Rate (CTR). Searchers really like to be informed in a natural way, as they scroll down the SERPs. They tend to click on the best description for what they are searching for.
- Keep Your URLs on the shorter side while pertaining their keywords
Check out this example I used for this article:
Set Up and Optimize a My Google Business & Bing Pages
If you are not sure if your My Google Business page even exists, do a quick search. I search “designatude”, and sure enough My Google Business Page and Bing Places for Business are sitting right where they should be. If you don’t have a Google account, set one up right away!
It is easy to claim or get your My Google Business and Bing Places for Business started. Once you have your account set up, there is a verification process, usually by mail.
The most important thing to remember: use the EXACT business name, address, and phone number you will be using for a long while…when first signing up!
This is the beginning and starting point for you for your entire Local SEO campaign.
Everything is relatively self-explanatory when you are adding your information for these pages. But you really want to be as thorough as possible, and let your business and Brand shine for your audience.
- Make sure your business name, address, and phone number are correct! This is your NAP and the focal point that Google uses for ranking your Local SEO results. This has to be consistent and correct for all your local business directories and citations!
- Add a compelling logo or profile picture that invites your viewer to easily click. Submit great photos of your business environment, happy employees, and show off some of your products and wares!
- Pick the right category(s) that is most suitable for your business. Look and see what category your top competitors are using and go off of that.
- Write a compelling description of your business while naturally and seamlessly adding some of your top keywords.
- Make sure your hours of operation are totally correct. Don’t kill your reputation by being lazy on this.
Get Listed in Local Business Directories and Review Sites
Your local business is probably listed on various local business directories and review sites without you even knowing it! Do a quick search for your business name “designatude” and most of them will show up.
Adding your business to the more reputable and healthy local listing and review sites is really the backbone for accelerating your Local SEO search results!
Some of the Best Local Business Directories are:-
- Yellow Pages
- Angie’s List
- LinkedIn Business
- Hot Frog
- Brownbook & many more list goes on-
The important thing to remember: As already mentioned, your (NAP) Name Address Phone Number has to be consistent for all of these sites in order for Google to give you credit for your Local SEO rankings.
This can be a bit of a process and headache for tracking down where your business is listed and updating any incorrect information.
There is also a good amount of work involved in finding and adding your local business to the (trusted and healthy SEO) directories and review sites.
I recommend checking out Yext, MozLocal, or other reputable SEO Companies that specialize in Local Business Directory & Review website submissions and citations repair.
You really want to avoid those that are offering ‘1000 business directories for $10’. These sites will most likely harm your Local SEO efforts in a big way!
Be Involved with Reviews and Reputation Management
Review websites like Yelp, Angie’s List, Clutch and several others, need to be taken seriously.
Chances are high that your business is listed on some of these, and if not, you should start looking into getting listed on some of the better ones.
Reviews play a huge factor for your Local Business’ reputation and Brand image. Fortunately, a business owner can claim and verify their business rather easily, so there is hope!
Do a quick search on your business “name” and find the sites posting reviews.
Be confident but easy going and use some poise when responding to a bad review.
It really shows a lot of character when you can admit an honest mistake made by your business.
Propose a viable solution for the customer. Users that see this type of response will be more enlightened and willing to give your business a chance!
Get Your Analytics Set Up and Keep Monitoring
The best free option for tracking your local SEO keywords and traffic is Google Webmasters & Analytics. I like to get on the Google Search Console and check my search queries, impressions, and keyword (query) position.
It is also good to check Pages – and see which ones are performing well, based on impressions.
Google Analytics is great for gaining the information on ‘where’ your users are located. This is a very robust tracking tool and you can find a lot out about your personas and their online behavior.
You can quickly find your audience by hitting ‘Geo”, and this instantly gives you great insight on your Local Traffic numbers and behaviors.
A Few Bonus Tips
This is all just ‘icing on the cake’ and highly suggested looking into:
- Set up a Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn business account now! Facebook is a local business website in itself and will do wonders for gaining new local customers. A friend of mine that owns an antique furniture store took some amazing photos of all her wares, then posted them on Instagram and added all the Local and relevant hashtags. Her page instantly blew up as well as her customer base!
- Search these terms: ‘schema markup’ ‘google voice search’, and ‘featured snippets’.If and when you learn how to effectively use these methods, your local search results will greatly benefit!
- Search for local magazines and business blogs in your industry niche. Reach out to them for a guest posting opportunity.
Wrapping Things Up
There you have it! A great system with all the tools you need for improving your Local SEO. It really isn’t rocket science, just a matter of taking what is written here and applying it.
Use this article as a foundation and reference that you can learn and expand on.
Have some patience, and watch your Local SEO Search results skyrocket!