Optimizing your local small business so that it can be found within the search results is incredibly important to helping potential customers find information about your business, and driving foot traffic into small businesses.
Local listing optimization is more important than ever because mobile users expect local business contact information to be easily accessible and accurate - and when it's not, they blame the brands for these shortcomings. Well-optimized local listings can also show up higher and more often in local search results, which helps take up more real estate for your brand and offerings within organic search for relevant key terms.
In fact, local businesses being able to be found online by consumers is so important that Google has even launched an initiative called “Let’s Put our Cities on the Map,” which has a “singular focus of getting local business info online and on the map.”
According to a recently published article from the official Google blog, “Four out of five people use search engines to find local information, like business hours and addresses, and research shows that businesses with complete listings are twice as likely to be considered reputable by customers. Consumers are 38 percent more likely to visit and 29 percent more likely to consider purchasing from businesses with complete listings.”
It makes sense that consumers would pay more attention to those businesses who have taken the time to make their information easily accessible to busy searchers who have a myriad of options at their fingertips. Despite this though, Google reports that only 37 percent of businesses have claimed a local business listing on a search engine.
Why is this? some believe that local search engine optimization (SEO) can be a little tricky, especially when there are so many different places in which your small business could exist and be found online today: search engines, local listings and reviews sites (like Yelp), social media outlets, and directories just to name a few. With all the competing local listings information out there, it can be tough to know where to start or where to best invest your time and effort to get the most bang for your buck.
We’re going to give you our top five suggestions for getting started with your local SEO so that you can maximize your time and effort, get your small business on the map, and get results.
1. Focus on Your Keywords
While Google may not be as generous as they once were with giving keyword data to online marketers, keywords still matter. We’re not saying to go and insert “Minneapolis” 100 times within your website or your local listings; instead, just pay attention to the opportunities to smartly integrate locally focused keywords so that consumers and search engines can continue connecting your small business to the area you’re in and the places that surround you.
In a 2014 local ranking factors survey conducted by MOZ, experts still gave quite a bit of weight to “on-page signals” when it came to localized search results such as optimized meta data (namely, title tags), city/state being present in the H1 and H2 tags on relevant pages, and having the product or service keyword within the page URL.
Another factor to keep an eye out for is Google’s new(ish) “neighborhood algorithm” that was launched in 2014, which helps local businesses rank not only for searches that contain their relevant city and state, but also for the informal “neighborhoods” in which they reside. Some examples of this would be “tacos near upper east side ny”, or “barbers in the crossroads arts district kc”.
The pairing of these two important local SEO ranking factors means that when optimizing your website, social media profiles and Google My Business page for your small business, be sure to place keywords that describe your business’s local area in the places that matter. For instance, if you are a shoemaker in Kansas City who has a shop in the West Bottoms, you won’t want to just optimize your site and social profiles to say, “I’m a shoemaker specializing in quality leather shoes. Instead, you may want to have a title tag that says “Leather Shoemaker in Kansas City West Bottoms,” and you’ll want to include both of those local key terms in your social profile descriptions and Google My Business page as well.
You may also consider building out a specific page on your website for “quality leather shoes in Kansas City,” and make sure that page integrates keywords that will help local searchers find your shoes in their Kansas City neighborhood.
2. Claim & Optimize Your Small Business on Local Directories
Local directories are sites like Yelp, Yellow Pages and UrbanSpoon, which allow consumers to find out information about your small business, locate you, and read and write reviews of your products and services. How do you know which listings to claim or where you already exist?
We suggest using Moz’s free GetListed tool, which will check your listings across Google, Bing and other search engines to identify inconsistencies in your local listing SEO. Be sure to contact professionals to help you claim, verify and optimize local listings for your business to avoid costly and time-consuming mistakes that are difficult to fix later.
The most important information that your local directory listings profiles need to contain can be remembered as “NAP+W”: Name, Address, Phone number, and Website. We also recommend adding a picture or logo whenever possible, as this helps with engagement and credibility.
The last, super important thing about local directories is to make sure that all of your listings are consistent. According to Moz, the #1 negative ranking factor (i.e. that which will prevent your local small business from showing up in the local search results) is a “listing detected at false business location.” The third biggest negative ranking factor is a mismatched NAP.1 So, making sure that all listings are up-to-date and contain consistent information is hugely important when talking about local SEO. This is where having a dedicated inbound marketing agency to help keep listings up-to-date and optimized can come in handy.
3. Ask for Reviews
Still on the topic of local directory sites is reviews. Ratings and reviews are important for two reasons:
They can influence your rankings within the search engines.
It is well-known that Google is more apt to serve up those small businesses that have the highest reviews over ones that either have no reviews, or have negative reviews; this makes sense if we consider Google’s goal to deliver the best possible search results to consumers. That said, having customers and clients leave reviews on your social platforms and social directories is critical if you want to rank well within the local search results.
They increase your small business’s trustworthiness and clout in the eyes of consumers.
Today we know that consumers are highly knowledgeable and favor brand endorsements by their peers far more than any form of traditional advertising. In a recent survey conducted by Dimensional Research, 88 percent of respondents admitted to being influenced by online reviews.2 Furthermore, a report published by Google showed that more than half (55 percent) of consumers considered whether or not a business had positive reviews to be “extremely or very important” when choosing which business to select. Bottom line: having positive (and honest) online reviews can play a very important role in persuading searchers to choose your small business over the guy-next-door.
BONUS TIP: Having trouble getting reviews? Encourage your consumers or clients to leave reviews in exchange for something; we find that giving small discounts (i.e. “get 5% off your meal or next visit if you leave a review and show it to me”), giving them a shout-out on Facebook, or simply printing off little postcards or tri-folds to remind visitors to leave a review if they enjoyed their time, can really help to motivate people.
BONUS TIP +1: For more information on how to gather reviews for your small business and keep your online brand reputation in tip-top shape, check out our article, “How to Manage Your Business’s Reputation Online”.
4. Optimize Your Social Media
Speaking of endorsements and “being where the other fish are,” it’s so important to ensure that your social media platforms are active and optimized for local small business success, because not only does a social media presence help improve business credibility and show off your brand personality, but social signals can play an important role in determining ranking positions for local listings.
When optimizing your profiles make sure that your full business information (including the NAP+W;name, address, phone number and website) and your hours of operation are filled out, and that both your short and long business descriptions have those keywords we talked about in tip #1 (i.e. city/state/neighborhood keywords). Together these signals will help social users find your business through search and social recommendations. You can (and should) also encourage customers to leave reviews on your social media sites - specifically, Facebook and G+; this will help bulk up your following and trustworthiness in the eyes of both consumers and search engines, which can lead to improved rankings, more brand exposure, and more customers for your local small business.
5. Make Sure Your Site is Mobile-Friendly
Earlier this year, Google confirmed that mobile searches have now overtaken desktop searches, with 80 percent of searches that contain the local qualifiers “nearby” or “near me” coming from mobile devices. Furthermore, Google reports that 88 percent of all local searches are done via a mobile device and that 18 percent of local smartphone searches lead to a same-day purchase.
Back on April 21st of this year, Google released what has been lovingly referred to as “mobilegeddon” by SEOers and tech gurus alike. This algorithm update was Google’s way of officially putting their stake in the ground in the land of mobile-friendliness, favoring those websites that were mobile-friendly (and thus, user-friendly) and negatively affecting those that weren’t. As a result, many small businesses and large businesses alike lost search traffic
Today, if your site isn’t mobile-friendly you’re not only missing out on providing a good user experience to potential and current customers, but you are jeopardizing your small business site’s ability to rank well (or at all) within the search engines, especially Google.
BONUS TIP: Not sure if your site is mobile-friendly or not? Google’s mobile-friendly testing tool will help you find out, and will give you suggestions on how to improve your site’s mobile performance. We have helped many small businesses convert websites to responsive designs, which means they are easily accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop devices.
BONUS TIP +1: It has also been recommended that to help your site be considered mobile-friendly in the eyes of Google, you can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to help guide you in tweaking your site until you hit a minimum score of 80/100.
There you have it, folks: our top five ways to optimize your small business for local SEO. Implementing these methods can help you to show up more often (and higher up) for localized search queries, drive more traffic to your website and social platforms, increase brand credibility and clout, and ultimately lead to higher sales and conversions. It may take a little extra TLC to get there, but we promise that it’ll be a labor of love that pays off big time for your local small business.