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Image Representing Local SEO for Small BusinessWhat is local SEO? Search engine optimization (SEO), because of its complexity, seems to a mysterious subject to most small business owners. What does “Local SEO” mean? Who needs it? Why do you need it? How do you get it?

Local SEO Defined

SEO is the process of taking steps to ensure that web content is recognized and “understood” by search engines and served up to satisfy internet users’ searches. SEO  increases the “match” between what a user is looking for and what the search engine presents in the results. If you are looking for Fargo the city or “Fargo” the movie, you want to get the expected results. The search engine algorithms use the results of SEO to improve upon the results the user is provided.
Local SEO is a subset of the search engine optimization strategies. It is about optimizing for geographically-specific search. It includes a dizzying array of tasks including registration in business directories, listing in search engine local directories, attracting incoming links from local sources, and many, many other tasks. In the US, Google+ Business and Bing Places are the most popular.

Who needs local SEO?

Local SEO is a must for any business that serves local customers, usually defined as those within 100 miles of your business location. Examples include restaurants, retail stores, doctors, grocery store or even a local marketing agency. Any business with a physical address where customers are greeted should utilize the benefits of local SEO for that location.
How is Local SEO different from regular (national) SEO?
The basic SEO elements apply to both national SEO and local SEO. A few of these factors are keyword usage, titles, and image text for on-page and incoming links, social media, and search engine indexing for off-page.
The difference between local and national SEO is that priority and focus are given to actions that will affect how local internet surfers receive a business’ information in the search results. Some priority actions that most affect local rankings include:

  • Create Google+ profile for your person and a Google+ Business page for your business. Verify the page to your website and ensure your page’s information is complete and the map appears correctly. Ensure your business page profile is 100% complete.
  • Create a Bing Places business listing and verify it.
  • List your business in other reputable online business directories, ensuring that your business name, address, and phone number (referred to as NAP for name, address, phone) are exactly the same everywhere it is used. This is referred to as a “citation” which is basically anywhere you put your information on the web. Avoid inconsistent abbreviations.
  • Use schema.org markup using the “local business” schema in the footer of your website.
  • Use your city and/or state names and, if useful, zip codes, on your website pages in your title tags, Meta descriptions, site content, and incoming link anchor text (as it makes sense, forcing it when it does not does more harm than good).
  • Get lots of reviews (positive, of course) on your Google+ Business page. Getting reviews on 2 or 3 other sites like Yelp, or manta can also be useful, but your Google Business page should be your priority. Utilize notations on your business cards, invoices, website, and everywhere you can think of to solicit reviews. Make getting reviews part of your business cycle.
  • Set up key social media profiles. These are useful for SEO even if you do not plan to use them right away. Claim your business name or short name while it is available.
  • If you plan to use a YouTube channel (highly recommended!), be sure to link it to your Google+ Business page. If you have an existing channel, you can link it to your page. Need help with that? Give us a call!

Tip: When creating business listings, use your real business name and, where applicable, your own real name. DO NOT use any keywords or location names that are not a part of your official business name.

Google Bonus Reasons to Optimize your Google+ Business Page

Innovative new ways of presenting information to searchers has resulted in many ways your business can shine. Check out this video on Google search features such as the Knowledge Graph and carousel.

As you can see, these features rely heavily on correct information, keyworded descriptions, and media. The more images and videos you add to your Google+ Business page and other business profiles online, the more your business will appeal to searchers and drive them to click!

How to find Local SEO Citations

The Local Citation Finder tool has a free option to locate the citation sources for your city. Also guest articles, press releases, and blog posts are fantastic ways to get citations as those types of content utilize author bios in which it is easy to include your city and state.

More ways to get customer reviews for local SEO

Reviews carry tremendous weight especially in getting your business to show in the map-related search resultsand Google’s Knowledge Graph and carousel features. Do everything possible and ethical to get happy customers to provide positive reviews, especially in Google Plus on your business page. Do not directly solicit reviews (especially do not offer to buy reviews), but make it easy for your customers to create them by adding icons that link to like, share, and review pages on your website.

Display social media icons, including Google+, prominently at your business. The cash register, if applicable, is a great place. Have business cards hand that you can place with the receipt. Print review page URLs on your receipts or invoices. Use positive language like, “We love to hear from our customers, please review our products/services at URL”.

Tip: DO NOT fake reviews. It is unethical and unearned. And you can find the review gets banned if overly positive and perceived by Google, Yelp, or other review sites as spam.

Beyond SEO

A lot of local SEO campaign activity is about getting the right information formatted in the right way out on the internet. But here are some creative local SEO ideas to help you not only build online authorit, but also connect directly with your community. Be seen as a contributor and benefactor in your community. That type of exposure is not only good for business, but good for everyone.
schema.org

Should local SEO be done in-house or by an outside specialist?

No one right answer exists. Your budget, knowledge, and availability of qualified SEO specialists for hire will impact your decision. There are excellent guides, most free, on the internet. For a very detailed person, it is possible to absorb the guides and read frequent blogs on local SEO to stay up to day. The downside of that approach is that if the SEO is not being performed correctly, it will take you a long time to figure that out and not only will your investment be lost, you will be left with errors that can hurt your rankings. A local SEO expert can accomplish the tasks with greater speed and accuracy. It is likely to cost more upfront, but you will reap the benefits of higher traffic by qualified local visitors that should pay for those costs.

No matter what you decide, do not delay. You need local SEO for small business growth.

What is the cost of local SEO?

Local SEO from an outside expert can range from US$400/month for basic essential elements. It can cost in the tens of thousands of dollars per month if you have a highly competitive business in many locations. In-house costs are usually based on experience and geographic location of the resource. For a very experienced SEO expert in the US, you could pay a salary of $100,000+. For SEO, local or otherwise, the adage is usually true; you get what you pay for. Be willing to accept the risks of cheap SEO. Be sure to check references.

Is Local SEO a one-time event?

Many activities are one-time for setup of profiles and listings, but SEO is an evergreen activity. Your business should seek a steady stream of new citations, reviews, social mentions, and incoming links every month. In fact, consistency of this stream is one of Google’s ranking factors. Review key profiles like Google+ Business, Bing, and social media accounts quarterly to ensure they evolve with your business.

Want to find out how your local SEO stands up against your competition? Get a local SEO report?  We are here to help you let others know that you are the best at what you do. So call for a free consultation.