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Ultimate Guide to Local SEO for Small Businesses and Start-ups

In our last blog post, we talked about why is Local SEO Important for small businesses, so naturally, we here at MarketKeep thought it would be a good idea to follow that up with the Ultimate Guide to Local SEO. To fully understand why Local SEO is important and the ultimate guide to local SEO we have understand the harsh truth first. Search Engine Optimization for local businesses and Small Businesses is become more difficult and competitive by the day. Local SEO best practices are constantly evolving to keep up with new features that search engines add, and how they display search results for local search queries. So your ultimate guide to Local SEO needs to keep evolving as well. So with that being said, here are the 3 main types of local SEO strategies to concentrate on:

  • Optimize your website for local listings and citations
  • Optimize your website and its content constantly
  • Optimize and work on building links to your website

These 3 categories have specific strategies that will help optimize your local presence, and ultimately bring more traffic and visibility to your website.

Ultimate Guide to Local SEO: Optimize Local Listings & Citations

If you have been reading online guides and forums about local SEO you may have come across a term called NAP. NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone Number, and these three elements help get your business listed and ranked on places like Google Maps. Your NAP helps online citations verify that you are a legitimate business. More importantly, your NAP helps your business to stay consistent and listed everyone online. In addition to your NAP the following information is important to building citations and local listings online: 

  • NAP of the business
  • Website URL 
  • Short description of your business which should include your main city name and type of business (up to 50 characters in length)
  • Long description of your business that describes who you are and what you do. Make sure to include your location and the areas that you serve if applicable (up to 250 characters in length)
  • Recent photos of your business
  • Category of your business
  • Keywords that you would like to rank for

Keep in mind that when you are building your local citations and online listings, you want to get as many as possible in the right categories with consistent information such as your NAP across all listings. 

So what are local citations anyway? Local citations are mentions of a local business, which includes your NAP data. Location citations can either include a link to your website or not. There are generally two strategies small business owners use for getting more local citations: 

Building local citations by yourself can be a really big project, especially if you are in a competitive industry. Competitors could have hundreds of thousands of local citations, which is nearly impossible to do manually. 

If you are a small business owner in a fairly non-competitive market, then getting a handful of local citations manually is typically a good strategy to use. If that is the case here is a list of local citations that can help you build your ultimate guide to Local SEO

  • Google My Business
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Local (currently requires a Yext payment)
  • Apple Maps
  • Bing Places for Business
  • MapQuest
  • Nokia
  • Yelp
  • BBB.org
  • Superpages
  • TripAdvisor
  • Foursquare
  • Angie’s List
  • Home Advisor
  • Thumbtack

The last two local citations are specific to certain industries, so make sure you search for local citations that are specific to your business as well. A simple Google search will do the trick. 

Submitting your NAP to these directories will allow your small business to take advantage of what is often referred to as “barnacle SEO”. That means your business will be listed on pages on other websites that rank well for a certain keyword you are trying to target. 

So if you are a plumber it is generally a good idea to be listed on platforms like Angie’s List, Home Advisor, and Yelp. 

Once you have successfully submitted and verified your local listings the next Local SEO strategy you should use is to get listed with the main data aggregators online. Here are the top 4 online currently:

These 4 data aggregators will take the information of your business and aggregate it, making it available for thousands of websites to use. So when you submit make sure you are using the correct NAP data and website URLs.  Once data aggregators get hold of your data, it is tough to get it corrected and updated. 

Ultimate Guide to Local SEO: Generate Online Reviews

The second piece to the ultimate guide to Local SEO is generating online reviews for your business. The most important place to generate online reviews is Google. These reviews help your search engine rankings and encourage others to visit your website and business in person. If you are a small business in a service-type business or any business where reviews are key, then creating a good strategy for dealing with reviews is key. 

Focus on requesting and encouraging customers to leave a review. Some businesses post a plaque at the business asking for reviews. Other small business owners encourage reviews by offering a “prize” each month to a random reviewer. 

Once someone has left a review of your business online, make sure to respond quickly! Here are a few helpful ways to generate and respond to online reviews:

  • designate 1 or 2 employees to handle all online reviews
  • Encourage reviews by asking your customers when they check out or pay for services
  • Send customers a letter or postcard in the mail for a review
  • Outsource your reputation management services to a digital marketing company
  • Add a link to your website in a few places where customers can leave a review
  • Add a form to your website so they can leave reviews anonymously

While reviews left on your website are great, reviews on 3rd-party websites have been given extra weight by search engines like Google. So sites like the ones listed below are important to your ultimate guide to Local SEO

  • Yelp
  • Trip Advisor
  • Yellowpages
  • Better Business Bureau
  • Manta
  • Angie’s List
  • Foursquare
  • Facebook

Ultimate Guide to Local SEO: Optimize your Web Content

The third piece to the ultimate guide to Local SEO is optimizing your website content. Focus on building content that optimizes for the following searches:

  • Optimize your website for search such as “near me”
  • Optimize for local search
  • be a local content machine
  • buy a local website or blog to add to your site

Optimizing your website for “near me” searches online

With the rise of mobile phones and smartphone devices, there has been an uptick in searches labeled “near me”. So how do you rank your website for searches like this? Focus on strategies like Google Reviews, backlinks with your city in the anchor text, and profile views. So if you want to optimize your website for searches near me, focus on getting backlinks specifically to your individual location pages that include the city and the keyword you are trying to rank for. 

Become a local content machine 

Add a blog to your website that focuses on local issues and topics. Write about local news and events that people within your city will want to read and share, especially on social networks. While you are not necessarily writing about your business, you are branding the business locally. When someone wants or needs the services you offer, they will think of your business first since they have seen it online so much. 

Buy a Local Website or Blog

If you are looking to add content quickly to your website you can always purchase a local website or blog. Set up redirects from the old domain to your business so that it will pass any link equity and history over to your business.  

Ultimate Guide to Local SEO: Additional Tips and Final Thoughts

The first three strategies are really helpful and make a significant impact when it comes to your ultimate guide to local SEO. If you need more thoughts and strategies here are a few more Local SEO tips for your small business. 

Local Listings – The #1 way to rank online for local search is the proximity of the business to the point of search. So how far away are you from the customer searching online. Some businesses have been known to get a virtual office or two to help bolster their local listing. 

Keep your local online listings up to date – Update your NAP once a quarter to make sure that it stays consistent. 

If you plan on moving start updating now – As soon as you sign the new lease, start rebuilding your local listings now. Sometimes citations can take months to be updated so the sooner you start the better. 

Audit your listings – This refers back to keeping things consistent, but every once in a while audit your listings. Make sure your NAP is consistent and remove duplicate listings and update inconsistencies you find online. 

Add updated photos on a regular basis – Get in the habit of taking photos of your location and business. Add new photos to your Google My Business Account, Facebook page, and other sites that will accept photos. 

Generate reviews – We talked about it above, but make sure to always be generating online reviews for your business. 

Add Schema.org code to your NAP – Schema helps your meta tag titles and descriptions to stand out online, so make sure to add schema to your website. 

 

Finally here at MarketKeep we having been doing Local SEO for ourselves and our clients for years. While these 3 strategies will certainly help, please know that Local SEO is always changing. If you need help with Local SEO or would like to talk to an SEO specialist, please don’t hesitate to reach out! Contact MarketKeep to talk shop!