Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is a topic on most business’s agendas. But if your market is primarily local, there are some specific details you need to know. For example, you might remember what a disconnect there used to be between Google’s search results and its map results. Recent adjustments to Google’s ranking algorithm reduced that disconnect. In fact, Google is ever more aware that locally relevant search results are important to its users.
But Google’s primary goal is still to personalize results for individuals, so you can’t depend on search algorithms alone to bring you to the attention of new leads. That’s where local SEO comes in. Here are a few things you can do to ensure that you’re easy to find.
Put Yourself On the Map
There are a variety of ways to make it easy for search engines to list you in their local results. The simplest is to go to Google’s “Google My Business” page and fill out your listing. Once you’ve done that, though, it’s important to connect your listing to a Google+ Local page. The content in these guides is produced by a thriving community of diners and shoppers who crowdsource information about local businesses through reviews, photos and videos. With Google’s focus on offering personalized search results, it’s no surprise that Local pages show up at the top of search results– even more so if the user is using the Google Maps “near me” function. This is another great reason to put a Google map on your webpage. It makes it easier to get directions to your business, yes, but since we know that word-of-mouth reviews carry a lot of weight, use a map to drive people to your business’s Google+ Local content.
NAPWhile a siesta is always a good idea, in this case, NAP refers to Name, Address, and Phone number– information that should feature prominently on your site. Experts in local SEO believe that Google cross references your address to ensure that you’re not a spammer, and that you’re still in business. Keep your address format consistent across platforms, so it’s a clear match every time. Add it to the footer on every page, so it’s easy for users to find.
A side note: if your business has multiple locations, create separate listings and Facebook pages for each. Provide your business as many opportunities as possible to dominate the search rankings.
Mark Up Your SchemaAdding tags to the HTML code of your page can make it much easier for search engines to crawl– but only about 1% of sites are currently availing themselves of this option. That’s good news for those of us who do, because marking up your schema can move you up four positions in the search results. Schema.org goes into detail about how to mark up HTML code, and offers a variety of titles and types you can use to be as specific as possible. For example, if you own a restaurant called Venice, you can use schema markup to make it clear you’re talking about an eatery, and not the city in Italy. Schema markup also enables you to add rich detail to the snippet that shows up on search engine results pages (SERPs), such as a small image, or the average star ratings of your reviews.
Encourage FeedbackReviews may be the single most important factor in Local SEO. If you search “restaurants near me,” you’ll quickly see why. Restaurants with good reviews zoom to the top of the search results, to the point that it becomes work find restaurants that don’t have online reviews. When customers tell you how much they appreciate the work you did or the product you offered, let them know how helpful reviews are. Encourage them to leave one. And while Google leads the pack, don’t stop there. Keep in mind that when you page down a SERP, you’ll see what other review sites are talking about a business, and their rich snippets may well show how many stars your reviews average among their users, as well. This will add legitimacy to your Google reviews.
Brand YourselfThere’s a time and place to keep things general, but it’s not when you’re engaged in SEO. If your branding and URLs are too general it’s harder for them to rank, because while people might be searching for you specifically, Google can’t easily tell. Searches will continue providing a broad range of results, and you won’t move up in the rankings the way you would if you had a more distinct name and URL. To ensure you get full credit for your customers’ interest, keep your branding and page URLs specific to your business.
Use Local KeywordsYou might have seen those memes that pop up every now and then showcasing things like, “Most Frequently Searched Foods By State.” The results show regional flair and can be downright hilarious! While this is a silly example, it also serves as an important reminder that all keyword searches are not created equal. When choosing the terms that will hook potential leads, use tools like Google’s Adwords Keyword Planner to find out what potential customers in your neck of the woods are looking for. While you’re at it, be sure and check Google Analytics to find out what terms are already bringing people in.
Local SEO is one more opportunity to customize your outreach, and as you can see, Google is increasingly reaching out to small business owners, as well. So keep it local, keep it personal, and the larger discussion taking place on the internet will quickly become a small, intimate conversation between you and your next customers.