6 Keys To Getting Local SEO Started On The Right Foot

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Local search engine optimization (SEO) is crucial for brick-and-mortar or service businesses seeking to capture local customers who might be searching for you online.

By optimizing your website, as well as your business listings on external sites (like Google My Business or Yelp), you can gain visibility in search engine results when someone is looking for the product(s) or service(s) you provide. Without local SEO, your competition will score the business, while you’re nowhere to be found.

Consider the significant role local SEO plays in today’s day and age:

  • 92% of consumers have used the internet to search for a local business in the last year, according to BrightLocal.
  • Distribution of yellow pages has declined over the years, ending their door-to-door delivery in some regions.

The reliance on search for local businesses is likely to increase, especially as phones get smarter, making it easy to access on-demand content at one’s fingertips and on-the-go.

There are many factors that go into local SEO success. A majority of them are discussed in the easy to digest Local SEO checklist, but I’ll summarize some of the key points to help make you a serious local contender.

Your Google My Business Page

While Google+ may be rumored to be dead, the truth of the matter is that this is not true. Your Google My Business profile, and especially its associated reviews, surface regularly when people perform local searches.

The best way to improve and enhance your local SEO with Google My Business is to update it with information about your offering and claim a custom URL. Your “Story” will become the meta description in the search results. Put in whatever you believe accurately represents your business.

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It is also helpful to verify your contact information, such as your business email and the website, as this establishes authority. Your business name should be what people know you as and would search for you by, and it is imperative for the benefit of local SEO to use your full and accurate business address and phone number. This ensures that you have the correct listing on Google Maps.

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Another benefit of having a Google My Business page becomes apparent in the screenshot above. Reviews are a great way to boost visibility for your business, and reviews encourage patronage. I can tell you myself that when shopping around for doctors in the past few years, I have considered reviews to be the most important deciding factor in my choice of providers. Encouraging positive reviews is a critical part of the Google+ strategy.

It is also important to provide categories so that you come up properly on search results, and don’t neglect to list your hours of operation.

Finally, remember to include a photo to make your Google My Business page look like a serious online presence.

Establish Your NAP Across The Web

Your what? Your “NAP” refers to your business’ name, address, and phone number. Getting your NAP information included on external websites, such as business directories and websites related to your locale, is an important part of the local SEO process. Each mention of your business across the web is referred to as a “citation,” and you want as many relevant citations as possible.

How do you do this most efficiently? At the end of the day, it’s about consistency. You should ensure your name, address, and phone number are accurate everywhere you turn, from Angie’s List to CitySearch to InfoUSA to the Yellow Pages and wherever else you would expect to be found.

Don’t “keyword stuff” your business name. It should be what people recognize you as.

Schema Markup

For those unfamiliar, schema is a type of markup you include in your website’s coding that gives search engines extra information about your page content. For local businesses, it can be used as a way to ensure that a business’s location and contact information is represented appropriately in search engines.

Schema.org has created a local business section, which lists the various types of information you can add this markup to on your website. An easy way to generate a business schema is to go to the MicroData Generator, confirm your business type and contact information, and let the code be generated for you. This code will be displayed as “div” tags for your website and will not be visible. Just have your developer add it into the website code.

To check that your schema is performing up to snuff, you can use this Schema Scanner.

Nurturing Reviews

Word of mouth marketing will make and break your business. Whether you have a presence on Facebook, Yelp, Foursquare, Yahoo, or Google+, you are bound to run into reviews sometime soon — and hopefully, they’re positive ones.

One of the best things you can do for your business is to be proactive about customer service for both negative and positive reviews. The reason for this is the positive impression your customer service will create. Thanking customers for their patronage or apologizing publicly for a bad experience are great ways to show that you care about your customers and want them to be satisfied.

Responsive Website

Having a mobile-friendly website is imperative. Nearly 80% of local searches on mobile devices lead to offline purchases. If your website is ill prepared to handle mobile traffic, that’s something you need to fix yesterday.

You can use a site like MobileTest.me to see how your website renders on many popular smartphones. If it doesn’t look so great, it’s important to invest in responsive design. Your website is likely in need of a design overhaul anyway.

Local Citations

As mentioned earlier, local citations, which hopefully includes your NAP, are crucial for local SEO. Citations are a critical factor in local search engine rankings. To boost your footprint, get listed where you can. Here’s a list of 50 local citation websites that you can focus on today. This list is far from exhaustive, but it will give you a foundation for what to consider when building out a local SEO presence.

The good news is that most of this is really easy to do! Of course, if you are looking for a solution that makes things easier and keeps your work to a minimum with very specific directives, there are tools such as Synup which is local SEO focused, or UpCity which is general SEO focused.

By now, you should know that local SEO is a great asset to any local business. If you’re not doing anything about your search engine visibility, why not?

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