This is a statement I hear all too often when speaking with potential clients ranging from carpet cleaning companies to tech-savvy SaaS entrepreneurs. Local business owners like yourself are some of the hardest working people I’ve ever met but as a result, they’re often juggling a million things at once and sometimes overlook the actual growing process of a business. The sentence “I need help growing my business” is an all too familiar one for me but today I’m going to talk about one channel you can use to optimize your business for a local audience.
Two words – Local SEO.
Wait, isn’t that the same as SEO? One would think this is the case, and while you wouldn’t be entirely wrong in this assumption, there is a little more to it than the usual SEO tactics. While the basis of Local SEO is extremely similar to SEO, we find that traffic generated from Local SEO converts 4x better than any other source of traffic. In order to obtain these results, we need to take a much more local approach to our strategy than we would for a national SEO campaign.
So what is Local SEO? Local SEO is the art of getting your business to show up where your customers are actually looking. For example, below is a search for “Digital Marketing Agency”:
The three results that are shown below the map of local businesses showing in the greater Seattle area. These businesses are able to populate in the above results due to a successful local SEO strategy.
Easy enough? Great. Let’s discuss how we can go about executing a successful local SEO strategy.
Make sure your Google My Business page is up to date and packed full of information.
This is a critical component of your Local SEO strategy. Over the last 2-3 years, we’ve actually noticed a decrease in website traffic from local audiences, not because our clients weren’t performing well, but because people were (and still are) interacting and engaging directly with their GMB page instead of going to their website. People want information and they want it now. Give them as much information as possible via your GMB page and see what happens. Do your best to pack your GMB full of information so people can get a better understanding of your business, culture, and specialties before they ever hit your website. It’s a great opportunity for you to differentiate yourself from other businesses in the search results. You might be surprised at the increase in phone calls, texts and direction requests you receive. If you’d like some actionable tips on how to go about this, check out this Ultimate Guide to Google My Business.
Ensure your business information is consistent across online directories like Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook, Yellow Pages etc.
This is really important. Take the time to review your business information (name, phone number, address, URL and business description) is consistent. A search engine’s biggest fear is pointing a user to an irrelevant website. One of the ways a search engine like Google builds confidence in your website is by confirming business information via online directories. If a search engine can’t find you on these directories or it sees conflicting information, how is it supposed to trust your website as a reliable source of information? Take the time to go through your top 25 directories to ensure your information is consistent. It’s time-consuming and mundane to complete but it’s worth it.
If you haven’t already, install Google Analytics on your website.
For those of you who don’t know, Google Analytics is a powerful, FREE, tool provided by Google that allows you to track website visitor behavior on your website. Sure, this isn’t necessarily a way for you to optimize your business for a local audience, however, what it does is give you an understanding of where your users are coming from and how they’re interacting with your website. Not only are you able to track behavior, but you can also determine where your audience is actually coming from down to an actual zip code. There is power in data and there is no better way for a local business to start collecting website data than via Google Analytics.
Tackle some of the easier On-Page SEO items.
Over the years, I’ve talked to a good number of people about SEO and I’ve heard some pretty wild statements. Some have been so bold as to say “SEO is dead.” If SEO is dead, go ahead and talk to your developer and ask him/her to “de-index” your website. Give it a week and let us know what happens. My bet is you’ll revert this change pretty quickly 😉
While some of the tactics used for SEO have progressed, the basics like on-page SEO are still a pretty important part of your digital strategy. You’ll want to make sure that each Title, Header, Alt Tag and meta description is specific to individual pages and entails local information in it as well i.e. city name. This is really helpful for a search engine to understand that you are indeed a local business and that the services you offer are done so at a local level.
Review your page speed times to determine how quickly your website loads.
Have you ever been to a website that takes FOREVER to load? We’ve all been there and it’s pretty frustrating. The end result? An aggravated user and a lost website visitor. Additionally, search engines actually devalue slow loading websites. Don’t let a slow website ruin the potential of landing new customers. Page speed items vary but you can test your website’s performance using Google Page Speed Insights. It’s a free tool and will give you some actionable items to speed up your website. You may need a developer to help you with some of these items but it’s a step in the right direction.
Install Local Business Schema on your website
Local Business what? Yep, you read that right – schema. The technical definition for schema is a structured data vocabulary that defines entities, actions, and relationships on the Internet (i.e. webpages). In English, that means your website is easier read by a search engine. You’re essentially marking up your website in a language that is easier understood by crawlers utilized by Google. You can find examples of local business schema towards the bottom of this page.
Recently Darren Shaw, the CEO of Whitespark ran a study of how reviews help you rank your Google My Business page. It’s not a huge bump in rankings but is still worth pursuing. Not only does it help improve rankings but it’s incredibly important in helping convince people to hire you for your services or buy your products. It’s a source of social proof and helps build confidence in your brand for potential customers.
That’s it! There are plenty of other things you can do to help optimize your business for a local audience but with these items outlined above, you should be well on your way to seeing improvements. Remember, SEO takes time to see results. If you’re not seeing improvements after the first month, try not to panic. We sometimes see SEO take anywhere from 3-9 months to start gaining traction. Be patient and know that the work you’re doing here is a long term investment into your company. Good luck!