The statistics supporting the importance of local search optimization are extremely compelling, with 46% of all searches on Google focusing on local, and 72% of people who do a local search then visit a store within 5 miles.
To reach potential customers, small businesses need to focus some of their marketing effort on local search engine optimization (SEO). In this article, we look at the highest-value activities which can help your business rank well locally in Google (and Bing).
For small businesses, reaching your ideal customer online is a matter of following local SEO best practices. Below we list the top SEO strategies for effective local business marketing.
Claiming the top online listings should be your first action, the most important being your Google Business Profile, and closely followed by Facebook Business Pages, then all other relevant industry-specific profiles, whether that be AirBnB, Checkatrade, or Vouchedfor.
One of the top tasks is to ensure you identify your top local keywords (such as ‘plumber in Florida’) and then have individual pages targeting these specific search terms on your website. Tools like Keyword Keg will suggest keywords and give monthly search volumes for each keyword.
Once you have identified your top keywords, the next step is to ensure they are included on your website. It is best practice to have each page on your website target closely related keywords, so if you were a plumber in Florida you could have the following separate pages targeting separate keywords:
The NAP is a key ranking factor locally, and Google likes to see consistency across all your various profiles, directory listings, and citations. You should also include these details placed in strategic locations on your website (footer, contact us page, etc).
There are many good quality online directories; these will give your website a link (with SEO value) plus increased exposure to a new audience. See this list of 25 places to list your business for free where you should register your business (with consistent name, address, and phone number).
People like to read about others’ experiences with a business, so positive reviews can greatly increase your online conversion rates, especially on trusted sites such as Google Maps, Trip Advisor, Checkatrade, and TrustPilot. Google recognizes this and good online reviews can boost your local search rankings.
Don't let negative reviews tarnish your reputation. Read our guide to handling negative reviews on Google, Facebook, and Yelp.
The next step is to consider the factors that will improve your local reach.
Load time is very important when it comes to improving your rankings online. Google places a lot of importance on your loading time, and with good reason. Most people tend to give a website around three seconds to load, and if yours is taking longer, then your bounce rates are going to rise steadily. You can make some basic changes to your website to improve your loading times. Consider the following:
All of these items will speed up your website. Aim for a loading time of two seconds to watch your bounce rate analytics transform for the better. For more information, read How to Speed up Website without Changing Web Host.
With Google's mobile-first index, if you haven’t optimized your website for smartphone users, you are making a huge SEO mistake. According to Statista, mobile devices (excluding tablets) generated 58.99 percent of global website traffic in the second quarter of 2022. Local searches are primarily done using the smartphone and built-in assistant, and that means you need to focus on optimizing for mobile devices. To see how well your website works on different devices, check with the Google Webmaster tool; this will give you a breakdown of what you need to fix.
The problem with having images on your website is that search engines don’t view them in the same way as humans do. Image alt-text is what people see when an image fails to load, but is most commonly used by those with vision issues. Alt-text is essential to optimizing the images on your website and in blog posts and will help your search engine rankings.
Ensure your images are worth including on your website by:
Aim for images to have minimum impact on your page load times. This may involve compressing and resizing them so that they aren’t affecting your bounce rate.
According to Moz, link signals are still the number one local organic ranking factor. Outreach to build links back to your website is a standard strategy for building website authority. However, you can take this one step further by using localized tactics for those links. The impact of linking to small local websites for your link building may be small initially; however, these websites will add layers of local location information for Google. This can provide your business with an additional localized impact, so don’t discount smaller publishers and partners that are geographically nearby. Incorporated with larger, well-known websites, you will have an effective strategy that works both ways.
When it comes to social media, local businesses have a lot of opportunities to connect with customers and create relationships. Here are a few tips for using social media to connect with customers:
1. Use social media to share information about the business. This can include hours of operation, new products or services, or special deals.
2. Make use of social media platforms that are popular in the local area. This can help businesses connect with potential customers already using these platforms.
3. Respond to comments and messages from customers. Show that you’re engaged with your customers and interested in building relationships.
4. Promote events and special deals through social media. This can help draw attention to what your business has to offer.
5. Monitor social media for feedback and complaints, and address any issues quickly. Handling social media complaints effectively can help protect your business’s reputation.
Localized SEO is an important factor that needs to be part of marketing if you have customers looking for a local service. If your business does not appear in searches by local consumers, then you are missing out on sales. Take the time to develop your local SEO, and your digital footprint will be significantly stronger.
At SMA Marketing, we understand the importance of local SEO as integral to small business digital marketing strategies. Our analytics-backed approach to local SEO incorporates multi-channel link building, content marketing, website optimization, and social media promotion focused on attracting your target customers.
Download our free Local SEO Website Checklist to review key elements of creating a website that incorporates local SEO best practices.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published in August 2019 and has been updated with fresh content.
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