How is your local SEO? If you haven't learned how to local SEO optimize your business effectively, you're going to struggle to reach your target demographic. Don't worry, LOCALSYNC has you covered with a How To local SEO primer.
When people grab their phones or boot up their computers to search for a business to shop with, they are looking for highly local service. For that reason, many will search for a business “near me” to narrow down their search. The number of local searches using the term “near me” grows at an astounding 130% each year, with searches on mobile devices using “near me” growing at an even faster 146% year over year.
Year over Year Growth in Location Search with "Near Me" Searches
Year over Year Growth in Location Search on Mobile with "Near Me" Searches
Those statistics show exactly how important it is to position your online presence to draw that local search traffic.
How do you do this?
Through a process known as local SEO.
What is local SEO?
Yoast indicates it is about optimizing your site so “people are able to find you in real life.” It's using search engine optimization to target people who are shopping for your product or service in the geographical area where you are located.
Remember, Google only lists three local businesses at the top spot on the search engine results page when someone searches for a business in your area. Local SEO improves your chances of getting one of those coveted spots at best or appearing higher in the regular search engine results for local searches.
Local SEO ranking doesn't happen by accident. If you want to rank high with local searchers, you're going to have to work hard to ensure that you do. This local SEO primer will teach you “how to” local SEO, so you can be found by the people who need and want what you have to offer.
How to Local SEOYour 10-Step Local SEO Primer
Are you ready to embrace learning how to local SEO optimize your website? This local SEO primer will cover 10 steps you can take today to improve your local search results, ranked from the least important to the most important.
STEP 1Create Unique Location Pages for Your Website
If you're like many business owners, you have more than one location that you serve. Even if you have just one physical location, you likely serve customers from many different towns around your location. Make sure your local search optimization targets all of those locations.
What is a location page?
A location page is an optimized page that targets a specific geographic area and outlines your products or services. It often includes details about the city or town that make it feel more local and personal, such as highlighting local attractions, but it primarily focuses on what you offer.
Location pages can't merely be copies of your main service page, with the city or county swapped for the specific location. Having multiple identical pages will kill your search engine reach because Google awards helpful, relevant pages. This means they need to be unique pages, even if they cover similar information.
On your location pages, talk about your business's differentiation. This might include:
- Unique selling proposition
- A menu or list of services
- Nearby locations (which provide another linking opportunity)
- Products or brands you offer
After discussing these details, provide directions from that location to your actual location. After this, end with a call to action.
These pages are critical to your local SEO tactics because they let you target several different geographic areas. They also add pages to your website that you can optimize for its overall SEO plan. This combination means more targeted, local traffic, which will benefit your business.
To make this happen:
- Sit down and list out the various cities that your customers or clients may come from.
- Create pages on your website that target those municipalities.
- Don't forget to add the counties you serve if there is more than one.
Remember, each one gets its own location page.
If you don't want to bog down your site visitors with multiple pages they see on your home page; these can be placed on your site without links on the main navigation bar. Instead, add links to the service page or the contact page that navigate to your local landing pages.
When someone lands on the location page via a local search, they will navigate to the main pages with just a click. You get the benefit of the location page, and the user receives a positive user experience while on your page.
STEP 2Embrace General Directory Marketing
Directory marketing refers to claiming and submitting completed profiles to online directories that have your business's name, address, and phone number (NAP), as well as descriptions and images when allowed. These completed profiles can be an essential part of building your local marketing strategy. General local directories of businesses in your area help you target people who live in that area and need what you have to offer.
Completing multiple directory profiles may seem tedious and unimportant at first. Adding directory listings is undoubtedly not as flashy as creating a social media profile or adding location-specific landing pages to your website. However, it's critical. If someone lands on a directory searching for your product and service and doesn't find your business, you'll lose them to your competitors.
When claiming your business's listing, keeping your NAP consistent is critical. The same address, including all of its parts like the suite or box number, the same phone number, and the name spelled exactly the same way, must show up on all directory listings. If you make a change, such as move locations or take on a new phone number, you must update that information.
Now, which directories should you focus on? It may not be possible to list your business in absolutely every directory that exists, but you need to ensure it is on these three:
These directories share information with smaller directories, so accurate and complete listings can push your business information onto other websites.
Other directories that are excellent for driving local traffic to your company include:
If managing your listings on all of these websites seems too challenging to manage while simultaneously running a business, consider engaging a local SEO marketing firm to assist. A business location scan can quickly scour the various listings for your business and ensure they're correct, so you can easily update those that need updating. Digital Information Management Services can help you take control over your directory listings and other online mentions so they remain consistent and effective.
STEP 3Add Professional Directory Marketing
After you've listed your business in as many general directories as possible, verifying that your address and phone number are the same across your other listings, then it's time to start looking into professional directories as well. Professional directories target specific professions, such as attorneys or CPAs.
Professional directories are particularly valuable for two reasons.
First, they give you another chance to increase your local visibility. Directories that highlight the local professionals in your field are often the first resource someone will check when they need your service. Being listed ensures they see you.
Second, getting a listing in a professional directory increases your reputation as a professional in your field. The professional listing builds trust and makes you look more valid when someone is looking for a company to hire.
Just like you do when you market in general directories, make sure your professional directory listings are accurate and consistent. They need to have the same NAP, with the identical spelling and punctuation, as your listings elsewhere. When the search engines crawl through these directories looking for the right businesses to display on a local search query, they want to see that a business is consistent and verifiable, and this means matching addresses and phone numbers across the various platforms.
Some examples of professional directories are:
STEP 4Market Your Physical Location
Discussions about local SEO may seem like they are not relevant to brick-and-mortar marketing, but they're actually very closely connected. There are two ways for you to market your physical location while improving your local SEO.
First, make sure your online marketing is pointing people to your physical location, giving them a reason to come in instead of just shopping online.
Remember, your ultimate marketing goal is for those searchers to come to your physical location eventually.
When marketing your brick-and-mortar location offline, use every opportunity to market your online presence. Drive people to your website through radio and TV spots. Use fliers to encourage people to connect with you on social media for exclusive discounts used in your store. The more tie-ins you can make between your marketing of your physical location and your online marketing efforts, the more traffic you will get. Google and other search engines reward traffic with increased rank, which can be invaluable for your local SEO efforts.
Second, use your online marketing to make the in-person experience better for your customers. Studies have shown that customers use digital platforms, like apps and websites, when shopping at a physical location.
Percentage of shoppers that clipped digital coupons while shopping in a brick-and-mortar store
Percentage of shoppers that use their phones to check prices before buying something in a store
Percentage of of shoppers ages 18 to 44 that use their mobile devices while shopping in a store
For example, in the 2018 Inmar Shopper Behavior Study, 50 percent of shoppers indicated they clipped digital coupons while shopping in a brick-and-mortar store. According to RetailNext, 2/3 of shoppers will use their phones to check prices before buying something while they are at the store. Salesforce reports that 83% of shoppers ages 18 to 44 use their mobile devices while shopping at a store.
While these studies focus primarily on retail businesses, other types of companies can also benefit from creating an online experience that ties into their brick-and-mortar locations.
What does this mean to you?
It means local SEO and your physical store marketing must be linked if you want to drive more traffic to your location and business. When people come to do business with you, they bring their phones with them, so you might as well ensure that they're using them to stay connected with you while at your location.
This link between local SEO and physical store marketing is another place where Digital Information Management Services can help connect your online presence to your local audience.
STEP 5Get Local Inbound Links
Inbound links have long been a strategy to improve your SEO, but they can help boost your local SEO just as much as your general SEO.
According to Hubspot:
Inbound links are incredibly powerful opportunities to boost your local SEO – every inbound link tells Google you're a legitimate company, and inbound links can also raise your domain authority.
Since this is a local SEO primer, we should talk about local SEO inbound links. One of the most helpful and effective is a link from your community's Chamber of Commerce. Consider becoming a member so that you can list your site on the Chamber's website directory.
If your local community has licensing bureaus for your industry, add your site and business details to them.
Do you have local manufacturers or vendors you work with? Contact them to ask for linking partnerships. Can you post an ad or guest blog post with a local news station or radio station?
The only limit to the number of local websites that could offer inbound links is your imagination. The more local companies and entities you can find to link to your site, the better it is for your local SEO efforts.
If you're an industry expert in your field, consider lending your voice to another business's blog. An attorney could provide a guest blog to an auto body shop outlining what to do after a crash, offering a linking opportunity and future business possibilities. A home improvement company could offer a guest blog on a local real estate agent's website outlining the best home improvement options to boost a home's value. Guest blogging gives you an inbound link, and guest blogging with local business owners can also improve your local community's networking.
If you have multiple locations for your business, you can use your inbound linking strategy to help you rank for all of those locations. For example, your company in Chicago could choose to sponsor a local charity event and add a link to the Chicago landing page. Your business in Kansas City could get listed with the KC Chamber of Commerce and add a link to your KC local landing page. This strategy can help your local SEO for each location and make you more visible to the local population.
STEP 6Get Mobile Friendly
As we move down the local SEO strategies list, getting mobile is closer to this “How to Local SEO” guide's end because it's one of the most important strategies.
People are increasingly using their phones to access the web instead of their computers.
Percentage of global population with a smartphone
Percentage expected increase in smartphone ownership by 2021
Hours US adults spend on their smartphones per day
Percentage of of shoppers that research products on their phone before making a purchase
As of 2019, there were 3.5 billion smartphone users across the world. Since there are only about 4.8 billion people globally, this means the vast majority of them, close to 73 percent, have a smartphone. And if that isn't impressive enough, consider the fact that from 2016 to 2019, one billion new smartphone users were added, and by 2021 the industry expects to have seen a 52 percent increase.
Having smartphones is just one piece of the marketing puzzle. The time spent on phones is increasing as well. In 2019, US adults spent almost three hours a day on their smartphones.
So what are they doing on those phones?
It is not just Facebook. Often they're researching before making a purchase. In fact, in mobile usage studies, 69 percent indicate they will research on their phones before making a purchase.
Unfortunately, having a website presence alone is not sufficient to reach these shoppers. Your website must be optimized for mobile, or it will struggle to capture them and keep their attention. All of your efforts to add local websites and improve your business directory listings will fall short if you don't have a site that people can access easily on their mobile devices.
Mobile-friendly design doesn't happen by accident. Work with a web designer or online marketing firm to tweak your mobile-facing site, so it is easy to use, clearly showcases the data you want to showcase, and loads quickly onto mobile devices.
STEP 7Focus on (the Right) Reviews
Inc.com recently reported that 91% of online searchers use reviews as they make a purchase decision. Reviews are critical to your overall branding strategy, but you may not realize that they're also essential for your local SEO strategies.
Percentage of shoppers that use reviews when making a purchase decision
In general, the more reviews you have, the higher your SEO ranking tends to be. A higher SEO ranking means more people will see you when they search for you. Google and the other search engines believe that a company with many reviews, whether positive or negative, is a legitimate company and worth listing high on the results.
Reviews also build trust with your target market. When people see reviews, they can gather valuable information about your business. It also solidifies in their minds that your business is a legitimate one.
But how does this help your local SEO?
First, review sites often zero in on local businesses or local branches of larger companies. This localization of reviews triggers a better response when local searchers are looking for what you offer.
Not only that, but most review sites give the business owner a chance to respond to reviewers. Replying to a review allows you to list your location and business name, generating more local search terms for the search engines.
Should you respond to all reviews?
Yes, if you can. For positive reviews, thank the reviewer for their opinion and positive review, working in the city and state your business operates in the response.
For negative reviews, please don't ignore them. They won't go away and make it look like you're not willing to work with an unsatisfied customer. Instead, validate the customer's feelings and apologize that they didn't have a good experience. If possible, offer a resolution, but if not, at least respond in a sensitive way to show future customers that you're open to constructive criticism. Believe it or not, negative reviews that you handle professionally can build your reputation with other customers and give you that chance to sneak in some local marketing.
STEP 8Optimize Your Social Media Profiles for Local SEO
How strong is your social media presence? Social media is one of the top ways to promote your local SEO while building positive relationships with your client base.
The social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, and even Pinterest, can all drive business to your company, but only if leveraged well.
Percentage of consumers in the 18-34 age group that used social media online reviews to judge purchase decisions
BILLIONS of active social media users globally
Social media marketing deserves a guide in and of itself, but how can you use social media with your local SEO?
It starts with optimized profiles. Analyze your customer base and determine where they spend their time when on social media. While Facebook and Twitter may seem like the most important places to start, you may find WhatsApp, TikTok, or Reddit draw more of your customer base. Then, set up and optimize profiles on those sites.
To optimize your profile, you need to:
- Create a custom URL – Don't just go with the random string of numbers assigned to you. Customize that URL and include local terms.
- Add keywords when selecting your company's category. The more relevant categories you can add, the better. If you have a salon, you can add waxing, hairdresser, and nail salon all as categories.
- Include your NAP. Remember the consistency discussed in the directory marketing sections. Your NAP needs to match the other places you have listings online. Again, this boosts your validity with the search engines.
- Fill in the About page. Don't waste this opportunity to add your email, mission statement, other profile links, and (always) local search terms. Use every character you're given, but make them count.
- Choose usernames carefully. Some sites, like Twitter, give each page a username. Be very considerate of what you choose. You want the username to reflect something local and be very brand specific. People should look at it and instantly know where you are and who you are.
Once you have your sites up, start posting. Look for content relevant to your local audience. Use local hashtags or keywords when you can to drive local traffic directly from the search engines. The more location-specific your social media pages can be, the better for your overall local marketing results.
Finally, remember to infuse your social media pages with some personality. People want to do business with companies that seem personable, not companies run by a robot. The more of “you” you can add to your pages and posts, the more effective they will be at driving that coveted local traffic to your business.
STEP 9Optimize Your Website for Local SEO
Now we're getting to the second most important way to optimize your business for local SEO, and that's your actual site. Here are some steps to take to optimize your site, so it ranks well for people searching for your service “near me.”
First, focus on the homepage. The homepage needs to clearly state who you are, where you are, and what you offer. Remember, while you're writing for the reader, you're also writing for a search engine bot, so make it very clear.
Next, optimize your metadata. Page titles and meta descriptions remain a relevant part of SEO, so they need to be locally optimized, including the geotags (city or state) you're targeting.
After that, create a page for everything you do, including every location you optimize. Then, add those pages to your site map. Where do you put the location pages? You could have a page for “Service Areas” that links to each location page or add them under the “Contact Us” tab. The more location-specific you can be, the better your local search results will be.
Now for the more technical aspect. Once you have your site up, you need to apply local business schema to each page. “Local business schema” is a structured data markup that tells the search engines, through code, where you are located and what you do. You may need an online marketing team or web designer's services to help with this step, but it's crucial.
Similarly, you need to have NAP citations on every page of your site. The contact information is often placed in the footer, but you need to make sure the website is structured so that the footer loads with its own code on every page. Also, make sure the NAP matches your other listings exactly.
Finally, make sure you use SEO best practices throughout the website. These aren't location-specific, but all local SEO tips will fall short if your site isn't correctly optimized for the search engines to crawl. Make it search engine friendly, add the local elements, and watch as it starts ranking well for local search.
STEP 10Optimize Your Google My Business Listing
When it comes to search, Google reigns supreme. Yes, there are other search engines, but none bring as much traffic as Google every day. That's why your Google My Business page is, perhaps, the most important part of your local SEO strategy.
When choosing what businesses to show after a search query, Google likes to share content it supports; your Google My Business listing is almost guaranteed to improve your overall local SEO.
first, make sure you have one. Log in to the Google Account you wish to connect with your business.
Then, type google.com/business and select “start now” to begin. Enter your information and business category.
Finally, choose your verification option. Google allows you to verify your business in one of several ways, including postcard, email, phone, and a few other options. Choose the verification option that works best for you, and follow the instructions.
Once your account is verified, your Google My Business site is live. You're ready to optimize it.
Go to the dashboard and complete as much information as you can. The more you add, including things like hours or the date you opened, the more robust your business will look.
Add photos because Google estimates companies with photos are clicked 35% more of the time than those without photos. Choose your cover photo carefully because this will show with most of your search results.
Now you're ready to look for help from your satisfied customers. Have your customers share reviews on your Google My Business page. Reviews will make you look more valid as a business. It also allows you to respond. Respond to your reviews authentically, but add your city and state and your main product or service in your response. Adding location data and the main product will boost your overall optimization on your page.
Google My Business is free. All it takes is a little bit of your time. If you aren't listed on Google, you miss out on significant traffic, so make this change now.
Use This How to Local SEO Primer to Launch Your Business to the Top
Learning how to use local SEO effectively is essential if you're going to outshine your competition. When people search for businesses that offer what you offer, they search using local keywords. Ensure your business stands out by utilizing the local SEO primer's tips to optimize for local search effectively.
To help save time, the LOCALSYNC Local Online Business Toolkit enables you to manage your Google My Business page, Social Media Profiles, Listings, Reviews and control your NAP information – all in one place. Try it out for free.
Are you looking for additional help with your local SEO strategy?
LOCALSYNC can help. We offer local internet marketing strategies that will help you optimize your site and social media platforms to reach your local audience well. We also provide digital information management to ensure your information is the same, everywhere it's listed. Use the tips in this “how to” local SEO primer, and then let us partner with you to push your website to the top of the local search results.