If you own a local business, developing a strategy for local SEO should be at the top of your marketing to-do list. Potential customers are searching for your business or service nearby, and if your business isn’t showing up, you are missing out on VERY valuable traffic! Working with a local SEO specialist will help make sure your business is getting excellent online visibility and search engine rankings in your geographic area.
Local SEO is different than traditional SEO in that it focuses on a specific geographic area. For example, local SEO would apply to businesses with a physical location (or providing services in a geographic area)– think of what you search for and add “nearby” and you get the idea. Businesses that we consider to be “brick and mortar” fall into the local SEO category as do restaurants, bars, laundromats, doctors’ surgeries, law offices, etc. If someone were to go to Google and search for “hair salon near me,” this is where local SEO tactics would come into play. If a business has actively optimized their website and digital presence for local SEO, their business will likely show up under a map in the 3-pack, in a Google My Business listing in the right-hand side bar, or at the top of the first page of search results.
A local SEO specialist (like Seaside Digital Design & Marketing) applies a holistic approach to your small business’s search engine optimization strategy and helps you leverage hyperlocal marketing. Through a thorough evaluation of your business’s website, social media presence and other local ranking factors, a local SEO expert can ensure that your business is showing up on Google in the right places (for your specific local area) for the right search terms. Local businesses have a distinct advantage over large corporations when it comes to local search engine activity, so you want to make sure you aren’t losing out on customers who are online searching for your product or service right now!
When people think of SEO, they often think of keywords and not much else. In reality, there are many different factors that play into how your website ranks online compared to the competition. Here are the three pillars we focus on at Seaside Digital Design & Marketing when evaluating local SEO for your small business:
Having a website that is optimized for mobile devices is probably the single most important factor under website optimization when it comes to local SEO. According to research, 88% of searchers for local businesses on a mobile device either call or visit the business within 24 hours (source) and 78% of location-based mobile searches result in an offline purchase (source). If that isn’t reason enough to make sure your local business’s website is optimized for mobile, I’m not sure what is!
The key to your website performing well on smartphones and tablets is to make sure you are using a responsive theme. Most website builders and WordPress themes are responsive out of the box, but it’s always a good idea to double check if you’re not sure. It can also be a good idea to enlist the help of a few friends who aren’t familiar with your business’s website to view it on mobile device and give feedback. Can they easily find out where your business is located, your hours, your contact information, etc.? Is the site easy to read on a mobile device or is the text too small? Are images displaying correctly or are they distorted? These are just a few of the questions to ask them to consider when taking a look at your website.
As mentioned above, the content of your site should be easy to read and scan on a mobile device, so make sure there is plenty of white space and that the body font is a minimum of 16px for easy reading (we generally recommend 18px). Use a hamburger menu instead of a traditional navigation menu across the top for easy access and a more streamlined appearance. There are many aspects that go into creating a good mobile user experience for your website, and those will be covered in a subsequent article.
The loading time of your site plays a HUGE role in the mobile-friendliness of your site (and it’s something Google continues to prioritize), so use PageSpeed Insights to check out how long it’s taking your pages to load. Evaluating important factors like site speed and mobile friendliness are covered in our Simple SEO for Small Business course (you can download the first module for free!). Site speed will continue to play a critical role in SEO as more traffic shifts to smartphones, so make sure you are doing everything you can do ensure that your site is loading as quickly as possible– ESPECIALLY for mobile devices!
Social media factors into local SEO in a number of different ways. For example, when you have a new business website, it’s likely that your business’s Facebook page will initially show up higher in search engine rankings than your website. This is because Facebook has a lot of “link juice” and ranks much higher than your new site. This is exactly why you want to make sure that you have a social media profile claimed for your business on each of the major platforms. You don’t need to be actively using each social media platform, but claim your listing!
The other way that social media can influence your local SEO is through “social signals.” When a person tags, reviews, or comments about your business on social media, it helps your business gain more visibility and brand awareness, which generally leads to more traffic to your website. Additionally, some social media platforms, like Twitter, have partnered with Google and tweets have been added to search results.
Search engines also consider that many likes and social shares of a page generally indicated a good domain authority. They like sites that can be trusted and, consequently, reward them with higher rankings. If you have a strong presence on one or more social media platforms, make sure you leverage it for SEO by sharing content that your users find valuable and continue to like, comment on, and share!
There are other local ranking factors that should also be part of your local SEO strategy and these include Google My Business, backlinks and reviews location-based social media platforms like Yelp and TripAdvisor.
Google My Business is one of the first things we look at when working with small businesses to build their local SEO strategies. It’s a free service provided by Google that allows you to showcase your local business and connect with potential customers. Many times local businesses will have their Google My Business profile show up more prominently than their website (often in the right-hand sidebar of search engine results pages (SERPs)) or in the top 3 businesses under the map of results (referred to as the Google 3-pack).
Make sure your add all of the essential information about your business like location, hours, services, photos, special offers, etc. Check out our Google My Business set-up guide to get started. It’s important that details like contact information be consistent across the web (on social media, Google My Business, directories, your website, etc.) as this also helps you build trust in the eyes of search engines.
Also make sure your are encouraging your customers to leave Google reviews, as these will also help set your local business apart from the competition. Your star rating will often be displayed next to your business name in search results. Make sure your respond to all customer reviews (positive or negative) as this also helps you build trust with Google which, in turn, helps your local SEO!
We mentioned link juice above and this is what you get from high-quality backlinks. When a site like your local chamber of commerce or media outlet links to your website, they can pass along their link juice to your business website through a do follow link. In essence, this transfers some of their domain’s value and authority to your page. The more high-quality backlinks you have, the higher you can move up in search engine rankings because your site is deemed to be trustworthy and providing valuable content that is linked to from other reputable sites.
Take a look at trusted sites in your local area and other business partners you may have with whom you could share a link to mutually help each other with local SEO. If you belong to a local business organization or chamber of commerce, make sure you submit your website to their directory. Creating a Google My Business listing will get you a backlink from Google, but don’t forget to seek out opportunities from local media, other local businesses and sponsorship of local events.
Location-based social media platforms can play a crucial role in local SEO strategy. Platform users often consult ratings from other reviewers before visiting an establishment. If you have a lot of good reviews on these location-based social media platforms, it can be VERY advantageous when it comes to local SEO. If you own a local business, you definitely want to make sure you have a business profile on Yelp and you are actively managing it because data shows that “more than seven in ten consumers trust an online review as much as they would a personal recommendation!
Another important point to keep in mind is that Apple Maps will show reviews from location-based social media platforms like Yelp and TripAdvisor when showing search results. When a user clicks on the business listing in Apple maps, they are taken directly to that listing on the platform. If you have a lot of iPhone users (you can find out by looking at your Google Analytics), you definitely want to take this into consideration.
Booking an SEO Virtual VIP Day is a great way to get a solid local SEO strategy implemented for your business. There are SO many things we can accomplish in just one day including setting up and optimizing your Google My Business listing, increasing your website speed, reviewing your site structure, adding alt tags to images, checking meta descriptions for pages, products and posts, and much more! If an SEO Virtual VIP Day sounds like a good fit for your business, book a quick connection call today!
Local SEO doesn’t happen overnight, but the sooner you get an effective strategy in place, the sooner you will start reaping the benefits of continued search engine traffic to your website!