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If you own a local business, understanding SEO can be the difference between success and failure
Understanding local search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the most important tools at your disposal as a local business operator. Statistics overwhelmingly show that internet search is how people find and interact with local businesses.
Research has found that 46% of all searches on Google are for local information. Add to this the fact that 88% of consumers who search a local business on a mobile device call or visit that business within 24 hours, and it's clear that local search is a great way to put your business in front of potential customers.
SEO is a complex discipline, and local SEO is influenced by a whole different set of factors. But there are a few easy tips you can put into practice to get your business ranking in search results.
1. Get your Google My Business information right
Google My Business and Bing Places for Business are free directories, and they're absolutely vital for your local SEO. These databases let you manually provide search engines with information about your business, including your business name, address, phone number (NAP), opening hours, website and photos.
Make full use of these directories. Surprisingly, many of your competitors don't. A study by the Local Search Association found 56% of businesses haven't claimed their listing on Google My Business. Even more shocking, 82% haven't claimed their listing on Bing.
These are free services, and they spoon feed search engines relevant information about your business. Using them gives you the opportunity to appear in Google's local search results listings with your business marked on a map, your opening hours and your contact info.
Moreover, you can even use Google My Business to provide updates about your business. The Google Posts section on Google My Business allows you to add information about upcoming deals or events, and the updates are displayed in Google's search engine results pages (SERPs).
When you sign up, Google will contact you via snail mail to verify that you're actually the business operator. Once you're verified, provide all the information you can. To get the most out of these listings, make sure you provide up-to-date information on your business, and upload some high quality photos of your business' exterior, interior and some products.
2. Include a map on your website
Embedding a Google Map to your location on your website is a simple process, and it helps customers easily navigate to your business. Customers who land on your website looking for your business don't want to navigate away from your site to find you on Google Maps. Embedding Google Maps in your site keeps your visitors there, increases your dwell time and decreases your bounce rate.
3. Ask for reviews
Reviews are a powerful signal to search engines, and a crucial signal to consumers. A survey by BrightLocal found 86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses. For consumers aged 18–34, that number rises to 95%. And 91% of consumers aged 18–34 trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
Online reviews can either give your business a serious boost or seriously hamstring you. It's important to ask satisfied customers to leave you an online review. Make it easy for them by providing a link. Even more important is creating satisfied customers in the first place. If your business is delivering on customer service, asking for reviews should be easy.
4. Give different business locations different URLs
If your business has more than one location, make sure each location has its own URL with its own contact info page. This makes it easy for search engines to differentiate between your locations and provide the correct information for each.
5. Get your business listed
In addition to Google My Business and Bing Places for Business, there are a number of other directories where you can list your site. These citations are important local SEO ranking signals. They provide valuable backlinks to your site, and they help build your authority and increase your visibility.
Some of the directories you should look into are yellowpages.com, Yelp, Tripadvisor, the Better Business Bureau and Citysearch. Some of these sites will automatically grab your information from Google My Business or from other sources. But you want to make sure you claim all your business listings so you can update or edit information. Moz Local is a helpful tool to manage your local citations.
You need to ensure that everywhere your NAP appears, it appears consistently. This means if you abbreviate your address as "St.," it needs to appear as "St." in every source; your contact info page, your Google My Business listing, your directory listings and so on.
You also need to make sure every page on your site and every external directory listing correctly lists your phone number and your opening hours. Not only will inconsistent business information confuse search engines, it will frustrate potential customers.
7. Pay attention to technical SEO
Technical SEO is the process of making sites easy for search engines to crawl and index. There are a few technical factors search engines are looking for when they crawl your site. They want your site to be easy and logical to navigate, they want to understand how the pages relate to one another, they want your site to load quickly and they want it to be mobile-friendly.
You can find out more about the nuts and bolts of technical SEO by reading our guide, but the main takeaways are to keep an eye on your site's speed, make sure it's designed to be mobile responsive and make sure it's easy to navigate. As a local business, you might not delve as deep into technical SEO as a major corporation, but you need to make sure you have the basics covered.
8. Do some networking for backlinks
Backlinks, or links from other sites to your website, are one of the most important ranking signals search engines take into account. Each backlink serves as a vote of confidence from another website. Don't be afraid to do some networking to get backlinks.
One way to get backlinks is to join your local Chamber of Commerce. Not only will you get a link from the Chamber of Commerce website, you'll have the opportunity to meet other business owners who can be a potential source of backlinks. If you're not direct competitors, consider offering them a link to their website in exchange for a link to yours.
You can also build backlinks by contacting local journalists and publications and informing them about your business. Getting reviews or write-ups from local publications can give you a serious boost in the SERPs.
9. Provide a separate URL for each product or service
If you provide a variety of products and services, make sure each one has a separate URL with its own content. Lumping all of your products and services on one page makes it harder for search engines to view you as an authority in a specific area, because you're sending too many disparate signals on a single page.
10. Create great content
Ultimately, the best step you can take for your SEO is to provide great content that delivers value to your site visitors and brings people back to your site again and again. Start a business blog and write about topics related to the product or service you offer. You can learn more about how to create a great business blog by reading our guide.
For local SEO, consider blogging about local issues. Tie your blog posts into local events while still focusing on the industry you operate in. Great content brings people to your site and it keeps them on your site. Traffic and dwell time (the amount of time people spend on your website) are major ranking signals for search engines. If you give people content they find valuable, search engines will take note.
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Bonus Tip: Hire a professional
Local SEO doesn't have to be a complicated process, but it does take time. If you don't have the time to devote to getting your local SEO right, consider hiring an SEO expert. They can implement the tips above, and will be able to give your site a full SEO audit to understand how you're performing, identify opportunities and implement a winning strategy.