Best Local SEO Practices for Small Businesses
Local SEO is the process of optimizing your website for local searches; companies that provide local services, such as trade contractors or brick and mortar businesses benefit from this type of optimization the most. Local SEO is also becoming more important as mobile phones make finding local services and products easier; as of 2020, nearly half of all Google searches are local, sitting at around 46%. With local searches seemingly growing, optimizing for local rankings should be at the forefront of every business that directly operates in their community. Local SEO, however, can be a challenging process and requires time and dedication, so let’s take a look at some of the best SEO practices for small businesses.
What Is Local SEO, And How Does It Work?
Local SEO is the optimization of a website, product, or service to local searches; this method seeks to increase a website’s local rankings, usually through page optimization and utilizing Google’s My Business profile. Whenever someone searches for a business or services by searching for “x near me.” Google determines the user’s location through their IP address (for desktop) or geolocation data (for mobile) and provides local search results. Local S.E.R.P.s generally comprise three sections, an overview map, local packs, and organic search results.
- The overview map shows your location along with local businesses or services relevant to your query in an interactable map.
- Local Packs, or sometimes called “3 pack,” is the block of three local listings that show as the result of a local search; Google attempts to use user intent to find specific results that match the user’s query. The packs also contain information on the businesses within them, like hours of operation, review scores, distance, general cost, contact information, and description.
- Organic Search Results are the usual results of a S.E.R.P and are seen below the Local Pack.
How Do I Optimize My Website For Local Searches?
Local SEO is all about optimizing your website to accommodate a local user base; this is primarily done by optimizing your Google My Business Account, optimizing your website, and maintaining a robust social presence. Let’s break each of these main factors down and analyze how best to optimize your website through each one.
How To Optimize Your Google My Business Account
A Google My Business Account should be the first step in any website’s foray into local optimization. This is because it provides Google with vital information to match your business with local searches. You will want to start by creating a Google My Business Account; in the initial account set up, you will only need the following information for your business:
- Phone Number
- Delivery Area
- Category: Your business category is vitally important, as a website’s relevance is a significant ranking factor used by Google for determining local searches, so pick the category that most accurately describes your business.
Once your account is made, you will need to verify your business; this can be done in several ways, but the easiest and fastest is by postcard. Once your business is verified, you will want to optimize your account by filling in the rest of your business information through the My Business Dashboard. To do so, within the Dashboard, under the info section, fill out the remaining fields as accurately as possible; there are also several things to consider when optimizing your account:
- Keep your NAP consistent: Your NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) is the primary means by which Google identifies your business online, and keeping your NAP consistent across all websites, accounts, and social media helps improve your rankings and makes it easier for customers to contact you across various platforms.
- Incorporate Keywords Into Your Description: In the description section of your profile, be sure to incorporate your business’s primary keywords at least once. We will talk more about local keyword research later, so feel free to come back to this.
- Make Sure That Your Location Pin is Correct: When you enter your location into your account, it should have a small red pin on the map display; if the address is not recognized or entered incorrectly, it will show a general service area. Make sure your location is accurate and that the pin is pointing to the correct site.
- Be Sure to Include Photos: If possible, you should include photos of your business. Google has stated that websites that incorporate photos receive 35% more clicks. You should have at least a cover photo and profile photo, along with any photos of products or services you find relevant.
Once your account is complete and filled in, you’re ready to begin utilizing it to increase your search rankings. Google weighs customer interactions and authenticity highly when evaluating rankings; thankfully, they provide Google My Business Accounts with the ability to directly connect with users in two significant ways: reviews and Google Posts.
- Reviews: A common misconception about Google reviews is that the more reviews a business receives, good or bad, the higher the ranking; this is false. While reviews play a part in the ranking of your My Business Account, it is only a single factor Google considers. Overall, Google wants to ensure its users are directed towards reputable, responsive, and trustworthy companies; so responding to all good and bad reviews professionally and politely will improve your rankings far more than bulk reviews with no interaction.
- Google Posts: Google Posts is a service that allows companies to post messages directly to their user base through their My Business Account. These posts are then displayed on the local panel of a local S.E.R.P. and last for seven days. You should keep these updated, and they should contain keywords relevant to your primary service or product.
How To Optimize Your Website For Local SEO
Website optimization is another vital component in increasing your local rankings and consists of several general strategies: Use locally focused keywords, optimize your site for mobile users, optimize website navigation, use proper keyword implementation, and create location-centered web pages; let’s go through each of these.
- Use Locally Focused Keywords: Identifying the keywords that you want to rank for is the first step in this process; once you have several keywords relevant to your product or primary service, you will need to add a local modifier to each keyword. For example, suppose you are an auto body shop. In that case, a regular keyword for you might be something like “automotive repair services,” to localize it, add your location to the end, resulting in “automotive repair services Atlanta” or “automotive repair services in Atlanta.” Finding the right keywords can take time, and we recommend using a good keyword research tool like SEMrush or MOZ.
- Optimize Internal Linking: Optimizing site navigation is important for customer satisfaction and Google’s ranking. On a surface level, if your site is challenging to navigate, customers may not be able to find the service or product they want, leading to a loss of sales and a poor user experience. Even worse, if your website isn’t being crawled correctly by Google, either through poor site structure or a missing or broken sitemap, your web pages may not be indexed and won’t show up in S.E.R.P.s. Utilizing product description pages, landing pages, along with an up-to-date sitemap, are simple ways to keep your site easy to navigate and properly indexed.
- Build Local Backlinks: Backlinks are important for any SEO campaign, local SEO included. Backlinks are when another website links to you; this process tells Google that the linking website finds you trustworthy, resulting in a boost to your website’s ranking. The higher the rank of the linking website, the more significant the increase to yours. Alongside general link building practices, local link building is beneficial; reaching out to other local businesses and seeing if they will link to you both help build your domain authority and foster valuable goodwill in your local community.
- Proper Keyword Implementation: After creating a list of locally focused keywords, you need to add them to existing pages throughout your site.You should ensure that all your pages contain your primary keywords in their title tags (H1s), headings (H2s), meta descriptions, and 1-5 times in their body of content.
- Create Location Focused Web Pages: Several web pages benefit local search rankings more than others; the three most effective are location pages, about us pages, and contact us pages. These pages are uniquely helpful because they allow you to add contact information and locally focused keywords to your website naturally; when creating them, make sure that your NAP is consistent with your Google My Business profile, other social media profiles and is internally consistent across your website. You should also include your NAP along the footer of your website, and if possible, add a Google Maps Plugin to your location page.
How Do I Optimize My Social Presence For Local SEO?
The final central element to building powerful local rankings is creating and maintaining a robust online presence. There are many massive markets you can reach through social media, all of which have the potential to help increase your local ranking. You will first need to pick which social media sites you wish to reach your audience through; sites like Facebook and Twitter have the largest audience and offer a host of benefits. For example, Facebook allows you to curate and incorporate ad campaigns into your business page, offering direct marketing opportunities and community interaction. Twitter will enable you to reach audiences quickly and easily, and it hosts the ability to create polls for instant mass feedback on products or services. Regardless of which social media platform you choose, you should always do the following:
- Keep your NAP consistent
- Encourage customer reviews on both your social media page and Google My Business page
- Continuously interact with your users in a polite and professional manner
- Have a consistent, frequent posting schedule
- Link your social media accounts to both your Google My Business Profile and website
Maintaining a powerful local SEO campaign is a daunting task that requires time, energy, and resources. However, through effective keyword research, site optimization, and online outreach, any business can, over time, grow its local presence and bring in more traffic. At Fluidrank, we are an Atlanta based SEO and eCommerce agency that can help you manage your SEO campaign, both locally and nationally. If you have any questions about local SEO or managing an SEO campaign, you can contact us here, or if you would like us to manage your next SEO campaign, you can view our services here.