According to Google, roughly four out of five consumers use search engines to conduct local searches. Yet many small businesses don’t even have a local listing online, and businesses that are listed online haven’t fully optimized their online presence.
As small business owners, you can’t ignore the importance of the internet anymore, you’ll have to put in more effort than an outdated website and a Facebook page.
The good news is that it’s really easy to position your local business for online domination, and in this post, I’ll give you a step by step guide to getting it done so you can boost sales and customer loyalty through the web.
Let’s get started.
1. Keyword research
The first step to ranking on local searches is knowing how your customers find businesses like yours, and for that, we have to do some keyword research.
Keyword research simply means discovering the words and sentences your customers use to find your business online. You’re simply going do some research on how your ideal customers find a business like yours on search engines like Google.
For example, if you sell furniture in Miami, Florida.
Then a keyword phrase like, Miami Furniture might be what your customers use to find you or if you’re in dry cleaning then a keyword phrase like, Dry cleaning in Miami, is what you’ll want to rank for.
Keyword research might get more complicated if your competitors are ranking for those keywords, so sometimes you’ll have to go for longer phrases with less competition.
Say in the case of the Miami Florida Furniture, if the business deals more on furniture for businesses they can add that to their keyword phrase.
Office furniture in Miami
This is useful because there are less competition for longer more specific keywords, also know as long tail keywords. Hence you can rank higher on Google and more people will visit your website if they believe it’s relevant to them. Knowing the keywords they use will give you a big advantage.
These businesses are optimizing their websites for office furniture in Miami
How to conduct keyword research
So how do you know what keywords your customers use on Google?
There are a lot of tools to use but I’ll recommend the Google keyword tool which not only gives you a terms search popularity but also, its level of competition and related terms you can use instead.
All you need is the Google keyword tool, open your AdWords dashboard and click on the drop-down menu. Then select the keyword planner tool under the “Planning” section.
If you don’t have an AdWords account now is a good time to create one.
Insert the search term a customer might use to find your business in the search box, and it’ll give you information based on competition and relevance.
It’s okay to start as broad as possible, it’ll produce longer search terms you can use instead, you’ll need those if there’s a lot of competition for broad terms.
Once you’ve picked the winner, that is low to medium competition and high search volume, It’s time to get busy.
Which takes us to the next step:
2. Place Keywords in strategic positions
Once we’ve discovered what terms your customer use when, we’ll have to make sure you’re well positioned to rank for these terms. To do that our keywords will be placed in a few key positions:
i. Your website’s URL
Even if your domain name does not include your keywords, and rather uses your businesses name, you can still input keywords in URLs of important pages.
Like your home page, about us, services and testimonial pages.
Using the Miami furniture example,
Their URL could be
ii. Your Title
Another place to put your keyword phrase to rank better on local searches is in your title.
Office Furniture in Miami Florida
Notice how keywords are in the title. This not only tells your customer that you’re the right fit for them but Google also notices and will boost you for this search term.
iii. Your Meta description
Meta descriptions are simply those short blurbs you see in search results on Google
Meta descriptions like the one above are very important. Not only do they show relevance to the users when they’re created effectively but good ones will give you better rankings on Google. Notice how the keywords office furniture are in bold in the meta description?
You can edit or create meta descriptions on your website’s pages using a simple to use and free WordPress plugin like YOAST SEO.
Just be sure to include your keywords in the space provided.
Meta descriptions also show up on social media links, so keep it relevant and short.
3. Create locally relevant content
All this talk of the keyword doesn’t mean you should stuff lots of keywords on a single page. That practice doesn’t boost your rankings and will only make you come across as spammy to your customers and we wouldn’t want that since business relies on trust.
Instead, you should improve your business's search ranking by creating awesome locally relevant content.
The best way to do that is to create content that’ll help them solve a problem or satisfy a desire.
Using the Miami office chair example again, a lot of their customers will be fellow business owners in Florida and since they just bought furniture, they might need written or video content on proper furniture maintenance.
The key here is solving customer problems.
Content also extends beyond the company blog.
It also includes other relevant pages that need to be optimized as well, for example, testimonials and Q&A pages can also be made locally relevant. Don’t forget to optimize your images with locally relevant alt-text.
4. Go mobile
This is 2018 people, and mobile is dominating the web. Google even ranks websites that are optimized for mobile higher than others, so it’s not something you can put off any longer.
It’s time to start looking into getting your website mobile responsive so that your customers can have a good experience when they visit your website.
No one would like to pinch and drag just to read the information on your website. Your customers simply won’t bother and move on to your competition. So get optimized for mobile now.
You can check if your website is mobile friendly with Google’s very own mobile-friendly test.
5. Get your website listed in online directories
Local directories let Google and other search engines know that your business is in the area. When it comes to getting listed online, the key is consistency.
You need your business name, address and phone number (NAP) to be the same everywhere. If you are not consistent with your NAP, you are sending Google mixed signals and you might not show up in search results or not rank as well.
Here’s a list of the top directories you can get your business listed on:
- Google My Business
- Super pages
- Best of the Web
- City search
You can also check with your local newspaper’s website and your Chamber of Commerce to see if they have a local business directory you can get listed on.
6. Optimize your Google My Business page
Even though Google My Business (GMB) is still a directory it’s very important. I’ll go into it in more detail.
Google My Business is not only free but can drive a lot of customers your way if you can appear on their prestigious local three-pack.
Like these guys.
You can optimize you GMB page with:
- Business hours
- Products and services offered
- Payment methods accepted
To really boost optimization, you’ll want to include images, such as your logo, products, and location. Give as much information as you can.
7. Get online reviews
Reviews not only show social proof, but customers trust reviews left by other customers better than anything you can write about your business.
A survey conducted by Bright local in 2014 revealed that 88% of buyers read reviews to determine the quality of a local business.
Another survey conducted by Bright Local revealed that 84% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
If you’re shocked by this information because you haven’t been actively seeking reviews for your business, there’s good news, that same survey indicated that seven out of 10 customers will leave a review for a business if asked by the business.
So, it’s not too late to get out there.
If you want to fast-track review collection there are a few tools that can help you.
You can use social media tools like HootSuite, SocialPilot and Tiny Torch. They let you monitor and receive alerts any time your brand is mentioned so you can take part in the conversation and respond to customer reviews. Which shows that you care about your customers and their opinions.
You can also use reputation marketing software such as Get Five Stars and Reputation Loop to get more reviews.
Your review collection effort should be focused mostly on high impact mediums, like your business’s Facebook page and Google My Business page.
People use Facebook to check what their friends and family members think about a business, so good reviews on Facebook can help build trust, generate more reviews and ultimately make sales.
Getting more reviews on your Facebook and Google My Business page should be a priority since they show up when someone searches for your business. In fact, according to Google positive reviews will improve your business's visibility and might even get you a spot on the local pack.
Always ask your customers to leave reviews, don’t overwhelm them with options though. A simple Google or Facebook review will do, and if you’re a restaurant a review on Yelp.
8. Optimize your social media profiles
You need to make sure that all your social media profiles are synced with the same information. They should contain your business’s name, location, and your URL.
You don’t have to be on all the social media platforms either. Simply pick the platform your customers regularly use and promote your business there.
If your customers are business owners, LinkedIn will be better than Instagram, and if they’re teenagers Instagram might be a better choice.
Always keep your ideal customers in mind.
Don’t forget to list your Facebook page as a local business, so that people can check in at your location.
9. Connect with other local businesses and influencers
One of the ways Google determines a website should rank higher than others is the number of websites linking back to it or backlinks in SEO speak.
More backlinks equal higher rankings, and the more quality websites pointing back to you is even more proof to Google that your website should be ranked higher.
How to get backlinks:
i. Create a partner page
One easy way to get backlinks is to create a partner page.
This method involves simply creating a page with the logos of your business partners, the businesses you sell to and buy from, and link to their websites from that page.
Then you reach out to your partners featured on the page and ask if they’ll do the same for you. Using local backlinks will boost you and your partner's rankings so it’s a win for all of you.
ii. Connect with bloggers
You can also reach out to local influencers like bloggers and get them to link to you from their blogs, you can offer an incentive such as coupons and special offers for their readers.
You can use a tool like Moz open site explorer to get an idea of where your competitors are getting their backlinks from.
Then try to get some yourself.
Simply input your competitor’s URL in the Moz Site explorer search bar, then click on the inbound links button and you’ll get a list of websites linking to them.
10. Use local structured data markup
Structured data markup or schema markup, are added to a website’s code to provide search engines with more information about it, such as important pages, reviews, products and so on.
ProBlogger does it well, featuring their most important pages right on the search result page.
Even though Schema markups are important, only 31.3 percent of websites are using it.
Give your local business an added advantage with structured data markup.
You can use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool so you can see if your website’s markup is well implemented.
Google also provides a Data Highlighter to markup content with your mouse, no coding required. Though you’ll need Google’s search console on your website for this to work.
While optimizing your business for the web might seem like a daunting challenge at first, once you get into the groove I believe everything will become easier. The trick is to just get started.
In summary, to improve your business’s presence online you’ll need to:
- Perform keyword research to know which terms to target
- Place the keywords in strategic locations
- Create locally relevant content
- Optimize your website for mobile devices
- Get your website listed in online directories
- Optimize your Google my business page
- Get online reviews
- Optimize your social profiles
- Connect with other local businesses and influencers
- Use Schema markups
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