While certain SEO fundamentals, like maintaining a regular and high-quality content strategy, still apply to local businesses, entrepreneurs also need to take measures to optimize their online presence for a local community. If you’re looking for simple ways to get involved and strengthen your local relevance online, try some or all of these 15 actionable ideas:
First and foremost, use onsite title tags and metadescriptions to maximize your geographical relevance. For example, if your homepage’s title tag currently reads “Unique coffee shop,” change it to read “City, State unique coffee shop” or something similar. Use variations of your location, such as Seattle, Seattle Washington, and Seattle WA to avoid duplication and optimize for multiple potential queries.
This is a long-term strategy that will improve your ranking in local search results and win you more local customers as well. Blog about things that are currently happening in your city that might have to do with your business or industry. For example, if you own a coffee shop and the city is making renovations to a park down the street, talk about how it’s going to benefit your community! And of course, use lots of location-specific keywords.
Sometimes referred to as “NAP” (standing for name, address, and phone number), your onsite contact info is vitally important for SEO. If Google detects even the slightest formatting inconsistency, such as displaying “Rd” in one area and “Road” in another, it could penalize you with a lower ranking. Ensure its consistency across all your pages, and on your offsite profiles as well.
Titles and Descriptions
The first things to look at are your titles and meta descriptions. Are they narrowly local to your area? If not, then you need to change them so that they are.
Example: If you have a page for Kansas City Events in 2013, you want that to be specifically portrayed. You don’t want a title like “Local Events in 2013.” You want it to say specifically: “Kansas City Events in 2013.”
Meta descriptions may not be a ranking factor the way they once were, but more often than not they are what’s seen on the search results page. The terms you use will show up as bold text in the title and as the description on the search results page if they match the words that someone was searching for.
Google will penalize you if you have too many pages that only exist to boost page rank, but it’s a good idea to have one page that details your physical location. You can include this on a contact page, but it’s better if you title your page in line with your physical location. Include map integration, and multiple ways to contact your business.
Optimizing your images is something you should be doing as well. That goes for every website, but it can work wonders for local businesses.
Next time you’re at an event or out on a job, take photos. Use them in your blog posts. Before you upload them to your site, make sure that the filename, description, and ALT tags mention your local area.
Using Google Maps can be tremendously helpful for your local site. But most businesses don’t realize just how much you can do with them. Do you offer a service of some kind?
Let’s say that you specialize in kitchen remodeling, okay? Now that you know you should be taking photos on every job, you should have lots of photos of your work to show. This is where it gets good! (I do have to mention that this does cost a bit of money, but you’ll see why it’s so worth it.)
You can use a map of your local area to highlight jobs you’ve done. Each one gets its own placement on the map. Each one will have a thumbnail of the photo for that job and a link to a post or page that goes into more depth about it.
So essentially, you’re creating localized pages for each job, which gives you that many more pages of localized content on autopilot. Each map icon of each job also gets indexed as a page in Google!
The posts that are created for each icon are done so in GEO-Tagged microdata format, which Google, Bing, and Yahoo! all love. So how’s all this possible? It’s done with a WP plugin. (Sorry, you’re kinda outta luck if you aren’t on WordPress). It’s called WP Map Folio.
You probably already have a Facebook page, but you need to go the extra mile. Even if you don’t plan on updating every profile regularly, it’s important to claim as many profiles as you can. Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn are the power players in social media, but don’t neglect your other options. Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Snapchat can all help improve your local authority.
Google Local Businesses recently combined with Google+, so if you already have a Google+ profile, you’re halfway there. Fill out your profile completely—Google is a stickler for details. Make sure your name, address, and phone number are all consistent, and post your business hours so your potential customers can easily see them when they search for you.
After Google’s recent so-called “Pigeon update,” the importance of local directories has significantly risen. In fact, some directory pages on Yelp! are actually outranking company pages in branded search results. Check out every local directory that’s relevant to your business, such as Yelp!,Urbanspoon, and TripAdvisor, and make sure your business has a presence there. It’s also a good idea to make sure your information is up-to-date.
First, make sure you do not pay for reviews or force your customers to write them up. It’s quite evident which reviews are natural and which reviews have been purchased—make sure yours are natural. But it is perfectly acceptable to encourage your customers to write up reviews about you on these sites. Include links to your specific profile in your physical establishment as well as on your social media profiles to attract more potential reviewers.
Similarly, you can ask that your patrons submit reviews for direct use on your site. Video reviews and testimonials are great ways to spice up your website and include more visual content to be crawled by Google. You can also share them on social media and use that as a platform to encourage more reviews.
Writing high-quality press releases is a great strategy to build links quickly and get some extra public attention for your business. When you go to distribute a new press release, make sure you’re targeting all the local channels. You can even submit directly to local news stations and other local websites for consideration. Just make sure your release is newsworthy.
There’s no shortage of community pages and forums. Find one that’s relevant to you, such as a neighborhood association page or a group of small business owners, and utilize it. Contribute relevant links pointing back to your site on an occasional basis. You can even post promotions and coupons to the group, as long as the community allows it.
There’s no shortage of bloggers in the world today. Look for popular bloggers in your area, and write to them. Ask them to consider writing up a review of your establishment, or to at least mention you in the body of their blog. Be friendly and cast a wide net—the worst they can do is turn you down. Guest blogging for SEO remains a vital opportunity, particularly for local SEO.
If your site isn’t optimized for mobile yet, you need to take steps to optimize it. You do have a couple of options; you could either redesign your website to be responsive (so it automatically resizes based on the device accessing it) or you could develop a specific mobile version of your webpage.
One of the easiest ways to attract local attention, and thus valuable backlinks, is to make your presence known at popular local events. Attend such an event and post pictures and updates on your social media profiles—it’s even better if you can use a hashtag associated with the event itself.
Do everything you can to get involved in the community. Find out what your neighborhood values, and cater to its residents. Make an appearance at every local event you can, offer free giveaways and promotions at community gatherings, and get to know your community leaders individually. They’ll take care of the rest—posting, sharing, and talking about your site online and building your authority collectively.
You don’t have to be a technical genius to get the most out of your local SEO strategy. What it really takes is a commitment to your local community and a commitment to regularly updating your online presence. Through relevant link building, relationship building, and community involvement, you can gradually build an online and offline local empire, winning the loyalty of your current customers and positioning yourself for new traffic with a higher search engine rank.