For small businesses, appearance in local search can have a profound impact on revenue and growth. The strength of local SEO, the major factor behind local search rankings, plays a large role in that appearance. Gaining a top ranking takes some investment (particularly in a competitive niche or region), but by making sure the basics are in place, you’ll be setting the foundation for future success. The following 4 elements of Local SEO are crucial to have in place in order to drive traffic from Google.
Addresses and Business Info
When someone searches Google for a pizza shop, a hardware store, or any sort of local business, Google will use their locational data to return results that are closest to them. This is particularly true for searches from mobile devices. While Google operates on a highly complex algorithm, it still needs certain sets of data provided by websites in order to feature them in these types of search results. The most obvious of these data points is a business address. Business address(es) should be included on the homepage of your business website. Along with this, Google also can pull your business phone number and hours of operation for display in search results.
Google Plus for Business
The fastest way to get into Local Search results with Google, particularly in map results, is to register for a Google Plus for Business page. Google is constantly changing the registration process and the options available when setting up a page, but as of this writing there are 3 categorizations of businesses – Storefront, Service Area and Brand. For small businesses, the first two options will likely be the most relevant. A storefront is a business that serves customers from a fixed location, while a service area is for businesses that travel to customers, which is typically for professional services like locksmiths, plumbers, etc.
Properly setting up a Google Plus for Business page includes registering your business location with Google (either through mail or over the phone), filling out all relevant store/business information (hours, parking, etc.), uploading pictures (which display in search results), connecting your Google Plus with social media profiles and other Google properties (ex: YouTube). Once properly optimized, your Google Plus page will appear as a preview on the right sidebar of search results for your business name. The next step you will want to take is encouraging customers to leave a review on your Google Plus profile, which will display on this sidebar and in all local search results as well. Reviews are one of the prime factors that influence whether someone is likely to click through to find out more about your business.
Basic Link Building
For Google, links are the equivalent of positive referrals. In the search engines ‘eyes’, the more quality references you have online, the more likely it is that you have a quality website/business. While this is an oversimplification, the basic rule holds that the more links you have from respectable sources, the higher Google will place you within certain search results. Relevancy of those links is highly important. So while it may be cool to have thousands of links to your shoe store from video game blogs, those links are not going to be as powerful as a few links from shoe manufacturers or a local newspaper.
For local businesses the best possible source of links are going to be either industry related or location related (from your area of business). For the latter, those that are accompanied by an address are even more powerful. There are 4 sources for these links that are typically achievable for any business.
- Business Partners – Reach out to those you already do business with.
- Industry Relevant Directories – Only choose directories tied to an actual legitimate business or organization and are focused on a singular industry. Avoid ‘SEO directories’, those sites that give anybody a link for a fee, like the plague.
- Location Relevant Directories – Directories for companies in your city or region. A great example is the Better Business Bureau.
- Local Journalism – Getting featured on a local newspaper or magazine’s online site is not only great advertising, it’s great SEO. Reach out to authors or editors who cover your industry or may have interest in your store or products.
These 4 sources are just a starting point. Continued link building centered on original content, and/or promoting the unique aspects of your business, is one of the best bets for gaining quality links.
Basic Keyword Research
Now that Google knows who you are, where you are and has some references (links) proving that you are indeed a legitimate company/website, it’s time to perform one final piece of due diligence; understanding how people will find you online. When we talk about keywords, we mean the search queries that people will use that may lead them to your business. Some of these are obvious… For example, a stone and tile supplier would want to be found for searches related to granite and marble. However, through keyword research, you may also discover that there are a good number of people searching for granite vs. marble.
At the most basic level of SEO, to display in search results for certain keywords (or search queries) you need to have those keywords listed somewhere on your website. Where it gets confusing is where to list them – in a page title, within an article on your blog, as a product page, etc. A professional Keyword Research analysis can help clarify which keywords should be given more focus and where. For self-starters, some simple ways to discover new keywords…
- Search through Google and see what the search results look like. If you see competitors listed for a search term, it’s likely a good one to target. Also look for results that display local businesses and/or map results.
- Read forums to see what common questions are and create content to answer those questions.
- Type in a word or phrase you know is relevant and see what Google displays in the auto-suggest results. These suggestions represent what is popular or trending.
- Explore Google’s AdWords tool, Keyword Planner for search volumes, keyword suggestions and localized data.
If you have any questions about Local SEO or keywords feel free to ask in the comments below or reach out to us directly at 206. 659. 8955.