Get ready. If you own a local business or do marketing for one, then you need to read this guide. we’ll uncover the tactics used by our team here to deliver results on a month to month and year over year basis for our clients.
Who should read this?
Anyone who owns, operates or is marketing for a business that serves customers at a location or within a local area. If you have 1 or 1,000 locations, this work will help you rank higher in the search engine in key areas known to drive more traffic to websites and convert well once on the website itself!
Note, this is a guide to help you rank higher and be more visible in the digital world. This isn’t all that needs to happen to in order to convert more business once they make it onto your website. That’ll come with continual testing, great offers, and a genuine customer focused business in demand. Let’s get started!
On your website, you’ll want to capitalize on the items below. Make sure you have each of these polished and continue to improve upon them as you grow. These items signal to Google where you’re located and help it show you when people are searching generic terms within your area. For instance, a user searches “plumbing service” vs “plumbing service in New York”. You’d expect that companies from anywhere would show up, right? Wrong, Google is smart enough to know that you’re in need of a plumber near you, and they can guess where you are based on many factors, including your IP Address. Google then shows you plumbers in your area that are advertising, in a local map pack, and organically rankings. We want to make sure your signals on the website are shining brightly to ensure you’re one of those coming up at the right time.
Quicklist of On-Site Factors
Plain and simple, a location page should contain the details of your business. Name, Address, Phone Number, Email, and Area Serviced are great data points to ensure are located on the page. You’ll want to make sure this page is setup the way you want your Company’s name, address and phone number to show up on the web. It’s VERY IMPORTANT that you use the same format for your information (NAP or Name, Address, Phone Number) to allow Google to link up profiles.
Similar to the location pages, micro-location pages help the search engine understand where you work. They also have a direct impact on ranking in specific areas within your service area. For instance, your city may have several towns within it that your users are adding to a search when looking for your services. This could result in a search like “HVAC Repair in Aquia Harbor” instead of “HVAC Repair in Stafford”. Aquia Harbor is a large neighborhood within Stafford. We’d recommend building out pages for all the areas within your service area.
Making these pages unique is where the challenge comes in. We recommend you keep the user in mind on these pages and not just copy and paste some canned text from one page to the next. Talk about the area, give some insightful information while making sure the user knows that you’re able to service them should they need it.
This is the magic that happens behind the scenes. Schema is a markup language that helps the crawlers at Google understand and file your data away more efficiently.
It’s recommended that you use Google Tag Manager for this step, so if you’re unfamiliar with this tool, keep an eye out for a blog coming about Google Tag Manager and why you need it.
We use a stellar tool from Technical SEO called the Schema Markup Generator. This tool greatly simplifies the process of coding schema. To develop your Local Schema, select Local Business from the drop down and begin filling out all the fields that appear. Look for an @type that matches closely to your business, then select a sub-type from the menu next to it.
Fill out all the details and you’re ready to click the G-Validate button in blue. This will validate your code. If it comes back with no warnings or errors, then you’ll want to copy & paste this code into a tag in Google Tag Manager.
The next step is key, this code cannot be run on a page that doesn’t also contain the local business information that you’re displaying in the markup. It’s recommended this only displays on the contact page, so setup your schema accordingly. Alternatively, you could run it on every page in your site if you’re able to insert the content into an area of your site that is everywhere, such as, your footer or header.
Keeping your portfolio up to date does a multitude of jobs for Local SEO. It keeps your website fresh, which is a signal to the search engine that you’re still in business and looking for more, it shows the customer what kind of work you’re good at, and it can be used to bring keywords onto your website that are more niche or long tail in nature.
Keeping your website fresh is a tough business as time goes on. Writing a new blog on a new topic when you’ve done that for years can be difficult. This is where the portfolio can really shine. You’re always doing new work, so taking pictures, videos or even virtual tours of your work and then writing about what you did for that particular customer is a great way to keep the new and fresh content coming on to the website.
Use the portfolio as a showcase for your prospective customers! They’ll see that you’re really good at that specific thing that they’re looking for and want to hire you right away. Add content that explains what the customer’s issue was and how you solved it. Finally, be sure to include calls to action on these pages that are relevant to the service rendered. You’ll be sure to capture business with a stellar portfolio.
Use keywords for the portfolio that are very specific or “niche” about your services. For instance, if you do electrical work, your website says that 100+ times throughout it and your brand screams that you’re an electrician. On the project, you installed recessed lighting outside in a porch, that’s very awesome and most likely others are out there searching for that exact service as well, but not by “electrician in [city, state]”. They may hit the search engine and Google “Recessed Light Installer” and boom, you’re the guy for the job because your portfolio has those keywords and an example of the work.
You’ve seen these along your journey of buying online or looking for a technician to come out and help you. You want to feel like before you make the phone call, you can trust these people will do good work or are selling a reputable product.
Trust signals come in various forms:
- Reviews from customers
- Case studies of how your product or service helped solve a problem
- Badges or Certifications from governing bodies
- BBB Rating
- and so on…
These little clues that you’re a good business to work with start to help a potential customer know that they’re in the right place. They also let the search engine know you mean business. It’s important to not only do good work, but to get proof of that good work visible to everyone who needs to know.
These items, when done right & the ethical way, pave the way for success for years to come. Done wrong can land you in an area of Google that the black hat SEO’s get their customers time and time again, banned. You’ll want to refer to Google Webmaster Tools Guidelines for the latest in white hat strategy, below is the quick summary of what you should be doing in order to grow your local business off-site.
Local Listing Citations
Here is the fun part… There are hundreds of websites out there ready to accept your business into their directory and be a “vote” that your business is who you say it is and located where you say it is. The big ones are Google My Business, Bing Local, Yelp, and so on. They’re free to setup and generate traffic when managed appropriately. To rank in the local market, volume is the key. For once in the game, it’s quantity over quality here, as each of the places you can get listed are pretty equal in value.
We generally get several hundred citations setup in the first year, which attributes to higher rankings in the local map pack.
Identify these places by looking for a business, such as a plumber, and start looking at all the directory type listings that list them as a business and see if you can get yourself entered in there.
Look for local specific directories, these will have the highest relevancy to your business. If you can find a directory that is geared towards your town/state, that’d be the best case scenario.
When you’re looking online to figure out who/what to buy, one of the biggest items, when it comes down to decision making, is how well it’s reviewed. If you’re Googling your business right now and going, “oh my, I have 0 reviews!” or “Yikes! I have a 1-star rating!”, don’t worry. It’s most likely because you haven’t begun the work needed in this area.
Gaining reviews and/or fixing bad scores don’t need to be difficult and you can help get more customers to the website and convert more of them by doing these simple tasks.
- Solicit reviews at the end of your service with a customer.
Share with them how they can go to Google and leave a review for your business. Usually, if you just delivered a stellar experience, they’ll be happy to do so!
- Follow up with an email and a link to your business where they can review
We have a nifty tool that can help make this easy – Grade.us Google Review Link Generator
- Incentive helps!
Give an offer to leave a review, but do it right! Leaving a review should be natural, but if you do make an offer to a customer to leave you a review, just make sure if they give you a 1 you’re willing to offer the same deal. Also, don’t make the offer “leave us 5 stars and we’ll give you something”
- Do it right
Slow and steady growth in reviews is a sure fire way to grow your business online. Don’t go pay services that leave phony reviews and hope to make a difference. Google is trained to spot fakes and it’ll only result in penalties or banishment if abused.
Make sure you keep your eye on a goal. Get your team involved and incentivize them to solicit more reviews. Tactics like $100 gift card to whoever can secure the most reviews in a month from close sales, will go a long way with your team and help you grow the business at the same time.
This is quite possibly the most difficult, however, the most impactful tactic in Local SEO. The issue that is run into time and time again is lazy SEO’s or busy business owners begin to purchase links without regard to quality or relevance. This is a black-hat tactic that can result in banishment from Google. I repeat, DO NOT PURCHASE LINKS.
Ok, now that we have that out of the way, how do you gain links? Simple, outreach!
Yes, outreach. I mean getting on the phone, reaching out on social media, emailing people and working within the community. Reaching out is the most effective way of gaining valuable links. A phone call to the right blogger about your service can result in a highly relevant link which will bring up the ranking of your entire website.
Forms of non-paid links include:
- Directory listings from aggregate websites (Yelp, BBB, Foursquare)
- Directory listing from local companies (Chamber of Commerce, Bloggers, event companies)
- Forum Links (Yes, going out and answering questions can result in links to your website)
- Blogger Mentions (Give advice to a blogger on your topic that they can quote you on, it’s a surefire way to make an impact)
- Social Mentions (Help someone out and get help is at the heart of Social Media.)
Another form of links are the paid links. Wait, didn’t I just say don’t buy links? Yes, but this isn’t the same. For instance, when you purchase an advertisement from a highly relevant source, this isn’t considered the same way as when you buy 100s to 1000s of links from a reseller and are listed on websites that make no sense.
An example, a client of ours purchased advertising from Cleaner Magazine for their Pressure Washer business. It makes sense to the business as this is where their target market is located. So why not? They get traffic from the advertisement itself and Google shows all the links they’re getting from Cleaner as a positive impact. Win-Win!
Cultivate Local Content for Blogs and Other Posts
There are many ways to increase brand awareness in your community when it comes to a small business. One method involves cultivating local content, or content themed around your community for blogs, website updates, newsletters, and more.
There are a few benefits to including local content in your site, including:
Encouraging Customer Engagement
Customers love seeing content that speaks to them directly. For example, if you’re a florist, looking to increase website traffic. Rather than posting a blog on the top 5 tips for rose enthusiasts, post a blog about the local flower show and how rose lovers in the community can keep their blooms looking their best for the show. This encourages sharing, comments, and even searches for your individual posts.
Remember, the more engagement your customers have with your website and blog, the more visible you become to Google and other search engines. Engagement is a huge deciding factor in search rank.
Using local topics for content isn’t difficult. You can tie in local news, events, and community locations with the standard content you’d normally post. This makes your post more relatable.
Promoting the Humanity of Your Brand
Businesses are often seen as separate entities from the consumer population. Showing customers that your brand is just as human as they are increases empathy, promotes brand loyalty, and encourages shoppers to share their experiences about your brand with others.
You humanize your brand when you include information about your community and location because it reminds shoppers that you’re just down the road. There’s been a huge movement in supporting local and supporting small businesses over the last decade. This is a huge advantage and one which can work in your favor for sales and traffic if you plan your content accordingly.
It isn’t only your customers who will notice the relevance of your posts, but search bots as well. Google has often voiced its opinion on the quality and relevance of content being posted. Search engines are no longer ranking businesses based on word count, but on how relatable your content is to your consumers. Localizing content makes the information you share relevant to those in the area.
Increasing Search Visibility During Local Search
Finally, when your customers are searching for a business within your industry online and they type in, “Florist in Palo Alto”, how likely is it that your brand will appear if all your content includes something regarding Palo Alto? Far more likely.
Creating local content increases the number of times your location and industry are mentioned. This is almost like creating a keyword specific to your community and brand. The key here is to use your location in moderation. This is where it’s important to use real places, events, and community activities to base your content around.
Partner with Local Businesses for Backlinks or Sponsorships
Backlinks play a big role in the search engine optimization success of a local business. Google can see how popular your site is based on traffic between these links. This means the more your links are out there on the internet, the more likely it is that consumers are using them.
You can build up naturally occurring backlinks by partnering with other local businesses. Offer to mention and link the local grocer, dog groomer, or bakery in your content if they’ll do the same for you. The key here is to partner with local businesses that aren’t direct competitors. It wouldn’t help your ice cream shop, for example, if you link your customers to another ice cream parlor down the street.
You may also find local partners who will run ads for your business on their sites in return for the same. Small businesses that support other small businesses will find a huge benefit to sharing customers and SEO.
Create Mobile-Friendly Pages
No matter where you live, the number of internet users now viewing sites from a mobile device has increased exponentially. Statistics show that many shoppers search on the go, using laptops, tablets, and mobile phones to perform many of their searches. Local businesses that promote mobile viewing are more likely to see success compared to competitors who don’t comply with these updates.
Mobile-friendly websites use photos that are square or presented in portrait mode over landscape mode. Similarly, videos are sized down to fit smaller screens, reduce lag during streaming, and maintain the integrity of the video within limited space.
You can also use responsive design, so the site customizes itself to fit the screen it’s being viewed on. While Google has separate SEO algorithms for mobile sites than it does standard sites, you’ll find that your traffic will increase if your site is visible in all formats.
Now go get started
Doing local SEO is a never ending journey. None of the tasks above are set it and forget it and/or overnight successes for any company. To get to the top and grow your business it’ll take doing them well and consistently well to catch up and beat any competition on the marketing front for Google Organic.
So strap on your shoes and get ready to grow your business in local search.
Did you know: We’re recognized as a top Search Engine Optimization Company on DesignRush