Local search is powerful for small businesses: four out of five consumers use search to find local information, which means if your business isn’t optimized for local search, you could be missing out on 80% of your potential customers. In short, local SEO is critical if you want your business to stay relevant.
To help you optimize your business for local SEO, we’ve created a comprehensive guide, which will cover local SEO tips and tools.
By the end of the guide, you’ll have a firm understanding on how to optimize your business to reach potential consumers who use local search to choose which products or services they’re going to buy.
1. Optimize for Google My Business.
Google My Business has become the creme de la creme of local search — since Google understandably feels most comfortable sharing content it can support and verify, Google My Business is their tool to help your business meet Google’s needs. If Google can verify your business as authentic, the search engine could potentially reward your business with a coveted sidebar space in Google local search.
To ensure you’re optimized for Google My Business, you’ll want to create and verify a Google My Business page, use Google Posts within your account, encourage your customers to share reviews online, and respond authentically to reviews, specifying location. For example, “We appreciate your feedback onin [city, state]. We value your input and look forward to working with you again. Thank you from the [full company name] team.”
To learn more about using Google My Business, check out our full post here.
2. Improve your internal linking structure.
Although external links pointing to your site are ideal (which I’ll discuss soon), adjusting your internal linking structure will also boost your SEO rankings.
Why does internal linking matter? It does the following:
- Supports website navigation
- Assists with information architecture and website hierarchy
- Distributes page authority and ranking power among pages
If you want to improve your internal linking structure but aren’t sure where to start, check out Kissmetrics’ The Seven Commandments of Internal Linking for Top-Notch SEO.
3. Optimize URL, title tags, headers, meta description, and content.
When it comes to content, every new blog post is a new indexed page for your site, a new page on which to target a geographic search phrase, and a new opportunity to get found in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Every time you write a piece of content, you need to optimize the content for search engines by using high-volume keywords in the URL, title, header, meta description, and body. If you’re having trouble coming up with geo-targeted content, consider highlighting customer success stories and case studies.
4. Add location pages to your website.
If you have more than one brick and mortar location, create location pages. Location pages provide readers with your name, address, phone number, store hours, unique store descriptions, parking/transit information, promotions, and testimonials from happy customers.
It’s also important you avoid duplicating content across multiple location pages. For single location businesses, create a locally descriptive About Us page. You’ll get big time bonus points if you add a Google Map to your website on your respective location page(s).
5. Create local content.
Google continues to get smarter, which means content creators are now able to truly write for users, not search engines. But while writing about general topics will attract a wide crowd, sometimes it’s more important to hone your focus and write about local or industry news to attract a local audience.
Be the local authority for your industry by promoting local industry gatherings, news, employees, and other educational content on your blog. Think of top-of-the-funnel content that goes beyond what your business sells.
For example, if you’re a local security company and you’re trying to attract businesses that are new to the area, create a helpful resource to get these businesses well-acquainted with your city. A map of local service providers or a calendar of city-wide events could both provide value for your persona and contain highly relevant on-page local signals.
6. Ensure your website is mobile-friendly.
Local search and mobile search go hand in hand (nine out of ten smartphone users conduct local searches on their devices!).
Some of the most common ways people will use your site in a mobile environment is to look up reviews, find directions to your location, and search for contact information.
Make it easy for your prospects and customers by making your site mobile-friendly.
7. Ensure your name, address, and phone number are consistent online.
You’ve got to make it easy for people and search engines to find you. To do this, set up your NAP, which stands for name, address, and phone number (with area code). This should be included as crawlable HTML text on your site.
Avoid the common mistake of only including the NAP within an image — images can’t be crawled from search engines like HTML text. The most common location for the NAP is in the footer or header of the site.
8. Optimize online directories and citations.
For United States companies, these four map data aggregators provide a large amount of the map data for Apple, Yelp, Bing, Google, Trip Advisor, and more.
Consistency is key: verify that your citations are consistent and complete across these four data aggregators.
Discrepancies like misspellings, abbreviations, lack of suite number or wrong phone number can be problematic.
If Google can’t determine which information about your business is correct, it may not show your business at all in search results.
Additionally, be sure to remove any duplicate listings you find. Bonus points for emphasizing a Chambers of Commerce membership in your community, which will garner you an external inbound link.
9. Get inbound links with relevance and authority.
Inbound links are incredibly powerful opportunities to boost your local SEO — every inbound link tells Google you’re a legitimate company, and inbound links can also raise your domain authority. Here are a few ways to get inbound links:
- Sponsorships or Partnerships
- Guest Blog Posting
Start with your own personal network, which may include the Chamber of Commerce, business improvement districts, licensing bureaus, trade associations, resellers, vendors, and/or manufacturers and other affiliates.
Consider sponsoring a webinar or meet-up, hosting a community event, promoting something local you love, and building relationships with prominent people and influencers. Additionally, learn to feel comfortable reaching out to partners to see if they can feature you on their partner directory.
Also, being a guest blogger can help attract links. Talk to and about (positively, of course!) other people in your industry, and act as a resource provider for the community. If you’re an active participant in community conversations, the buzz around you grows in the form of inbound links, social media growth, and media coverage.
Given that .edu links are the bee’s knees for domain authority, why not earn some links by featuring a scholarship in your geographic region? It should be relevant to your industry, send the right signals to your domain (given the backlinks from schools) … and make you feel good, too! Moz built up a solid guide on the steps to success for effective scholarship outreach.
10. Engage on social media and add posts to Google My Business.
Google considers content shared on social media more important now than ever before.
Now that you’ve carved out a beautiful Google My Business page, share the page on social media, further aligning social and search.
Local SEO Tools
Now that we’ve covered how to optimize your business for local SEO, let’s explore some useful tools you can leverage to improve your ranking in the areas where it matters most.
1. Whitespark Local Citation Finder
Price: Starter, free; Small Business, $17/month; Specialist, $24/month; Agency, $32/month; Enterprise, $80/month
A local citation is any online mention of the name, address, and phone number for a local business.
Citations matter because they help surface local businesses in online search, and when local businesses actively manage their citations to ensure data accuracy, it promotes trust of these online listings.
Whitespark knows this realm well — really well. Whitespark offers local listing management, recommends where to list your business, examines your competition, and robustly builds and monitors your citation growth for better local search rankings.
2. Screaming Frog
Price: Starter, free; Unlimited, $200/year
This desktop program crawls websites’ links, images, CSS, script and apps from an SEO perspective. Curious if you have any 404’s? Wondering about missing meta descriptions or H1’s? Screaming Frog will analyze up to 500 URLs for free and offers an unlimited paid version for $200/year.
3. Moz Local
Price: Basic, $129/year; Plus, $199/year; Complete, $299/year
Less expensive than most of its counterparts, Moz Local will ensure your business listing has been verified on Google and Facebook, and distribute your listing across the search ecosystem.
Additionally, Moz Local will collaborate with data aggregators to help push listings, ensuring your business gains visibility.
Price: Lite, $99/month; Standard, $179/month; Advanced, $399/month; Agency, $999/month
Ahrefs helps with backlink checking, which is important as these links (which are directed toward your website) serve as an indicator of website authority.
Ahrefs also offers competitor analysis, keyword research, and insight into the anchor text other websites use when backlinking to your site.
Price: Starter, $24/month; Group, $99/month; Professional, $299/month; Custom, $999/month
BuzzStream facilitates earning local backlinks, which helps you identify and build relationships with local influencers by researching influencers, tracking conversations, and providing reporting insights into your outreach campaigns, team performance, and link placements.
Price: Single Business, $29/month; Multi-business, $49/month; SEO Pro, $79/month; Enterprise, contact for pricing
BrightLocal is a comprehensive SEO tool suite specifically built for local business marketing needs.
The tool can help you generate and monitor reviews on local sites, understand your local search performance, and analyze nearby competitors.
BrightLocal also offers client access and white-labeled reporting — making it a solid fit for agencies and brands alike.
Local SEO is an important part of any SEO strategy for local businesses. If you have a storefront or service area, local SEO will help your audience find you when they search online.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in April 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.