You’re a local expert in your field. Make sure your presence on the web reflects that.
In Google’s 2014 report “Understanding Consumers’ Local Search Behavior”, they showed that 80% of consumers include location in their search. Why? Because most of them are ready to make a purchase within a day.
How do you make it easy for motivated consumers to find you? Local SEO.
Here’s a local SEO blueprint any small or mid-sized business can use.
1. Work on Your Meta Data
It’s easy to get caught up in finessing the content visitors see once they get to your site. But to get them there, also pay close attention to the meta data on each page. Especially title and description.
Search results display a page’s title and description. And it’s what people use to make an important decision: to click or not to click on the link that leads to your site.
Make sure the title and description include local information. At a minimum, that’s your city or town.
But the description can also include a broader region, if that makes sense to your product or service. If there are notable details about your location, put them in the title and/or description. Examples: 24/7 service, proximity to public transit, or onsite parking.
A word of caution: titles and descriptions must sound natural. Strings of words that sound awkward and forced work against you in search engine algorithms.
Also be mindful of the number of characters in your description. In 2016, Google expanded the number of characters that display to 160. Stick as close to that number as possible for best results.
2. Get Listed
The size of your footprint on the web factors into search results. The greater your web presence, the more algorithms “see” you as legit and an expert. That helps you rank high in results.
To get there, get listed. There are often dozens of online directories for local businesses. Explore them all, especially those that relate to your industry or niche.
But for this local SEO blueprint, the focus is on the most critical “directories”.
Top of the list is Google My Business. It’s a free tool that makes address, phone number, business hours, and other local details easy for users to see on mobile devices and desktop. It also allows for easy interaction with customers.
Two similar and important tools are Microsoft’s Bing Places for Business and Yelp’s Claim Your Business. Both are free and, once active, add to your digital presence. That, in turn, helps put your business in front of people doing local searches.
There are other critical “listing” sites but what they are depends on your industry. For example, if you’re in the hospitality, food, entertainment, or attractions industries, add your local details to TripAdvisor, Expedia, etc.
3. Get on the Map
You can add photos and details about your business to Google Maps.
When you make full use of that feature, you gain greater visibility on maps of your area. Plus, there’s evidence that the more people know about your business, the more likely they are to become a customer. And a satisfied one.
It’s important to also list your business on Apple Maps. That is the default map app on iPhones, which is the device most often used for wayfinding.
On the topic of maps, make sure you have one on your site. Use a widget from Google Maps or another map app. It adds visual appeal and value to your site from the customers’ perspective and improves SEO.
4. Use the Right Schema Markup
Schema markup, or structured data markup, is a “shared vocabulary” that makes it “easier for webmasters and developers to decide on a schema and get the maximum benefit for their efforts,” according to schema.org.
Schema.org is a collective founded by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Yandex. Their mission is to “create, maintain, and promote schemas for structured data on the Internet.”
Structure data markup is a valuable part of a local SEO blueprint for two reasons.
One, it removes unnecessary obstacles between a user and information about your business. It’s core to search engines “understanding” context and content when ranking pages.
There’s no reason to not use structured data markup. Yet, only a small fraction of websites do.
That’s reason number two for using it. Low uptake isn’t from lack of value. Many sites and related digital properties don’t use structured data markup because it’s a fairly recent and emerging standard.
As a result, businesses that are using it, gain more than greater visibility with consumers. They can also gain an advantage over less SEO-savvy competitors.
If you don’t know if your website uses structured data markup, you can use this free tool to find out.
5. Get (Positive) Reviews
A local SEO blueprint would be incomplete without mention of the value of online reviews.
To collect customer reviews, you need to provide outstanding customer experiences and an easy to way to share feedback.
If creating positive customer experiences at every point of contact isn’t already core to whatever product or service you provide, change that now.
While it’s unrealistic to expect every review to be 5/5, you do want the vast majority to be positive. The ratio of positive, neutral, and negative reviews affects SEO and page rank.
This is true of search engines as well as “search sites” such as TripAdvisor. Better customer ratings = greater visibility.
And, the more places you have good reviews, the better your local SEO will be. That’s where making it easier for people to review your business comes in.
Back to the second item in this local SEO blueprint, major directories include mechanisms for customer reviews. Monitor them regularly. Small and mid-sized business benefit from responding, especially to constructive feedback.
Local SEO Blueprint Bonus Tip
Many aspects of local SEO are behind the scenes tactics. Once they’re done, you only need to review and assess them periodically.
But not so with content marketing. Publishing relevant and engaging content is among the most powerful SEO tool you have.
To maximize your local SEO efforts, refine your content marketing and guest blogging activities. Aim for 75% of content to be relevant to your location.
Using this local SEO blueprint, review your web presence. Close the most costly gaps first to get the greatest return on the investment of your time and resources.
Do you have questions about local SEO? Want help implementing outstanding SEO practices? Get in touch today!