With an estimated 90% of purchases taking place in physical stores, it can be difficult to cash in on your local audience. It's especially tough for online businesses to improve their local presence if they don't have a physical storefront that your community can see as a part of their landscape.
So how can you fit in and stand out among the businesses in your neighborhood?
This month we asked the experts: What is your best tip for improving local SEO?
Here's something you will never find in a course or openly shared by a local SEO 'guru':
1. Leverage existing user-generated content (e.g., customer reviews from Google, Yelp, Facebook, any other source) and
2. Turn them into images (this can be done for free in Canva with a set of nice typography and graphics)
3. Geotag these images using your business' exact GPS coordinates, then
4. Upload images to your GMB as photos and use as GMB updates
To go one step further, include your business' name, address, phone number (as per your GMB listing) on the image. That is, physically add it onto the image.
My tip would be to get your local citations sorted. Citations are online mentions of your business name, address, and phone number. They are usually presented in directories and social platforms, so having business citations in local directories will give your local SEO a nice boost.
The key to making sure local citations work is by making them consistent. Your business details need to be exactly the same across all citations otherwise it can cause confusion for both Google and potential customers. This confusion can negatively impact local rankings and misdirect customers.
Before you create local citations, decide how you want your business information to be formatted. A good rule of thumb is to match how the information appears on your website. This will result in consistent citations and the best possible results.
If you haven't already, get your local business listed on Google My Business. This is hands-down one of the best ways that you can improve your local SEO. Once your listing is verified, Google will recognize your business in the local area and begin to rank your business higher in local search results.
The next best thing you can do is optimize your site content around relevant local search terms. Do some keyword research on your local competitors to see what kinds of terms they're being ranked for. Then pursue those same or similar local keywords with your blog content and integrate those keywords on your site in a number of areas.
With those steps taken care of, we'd recommend that you start to engage in link-building activities whenever possible. The more quality back-links that you receive from relevant websites, the stronger your domain authority will become.
According to Google research, queries with the modifier "Near Me" have exploded in the past few years, especially with the rise of voice search and smart assistants. Other modifiers include "near me now", "near me tonight/today", "open near me", which signal strong purchase intent.
Be sure to use these terms in your page title, headers, and body copy, where applicable. While the data does suggest users are querying less zip codes and other local modifiers, we still include them on local city pages.
While these certainly help bring in long-tail traffic to the site, alongside other local modifiers like county and neighborhood names. While it is certainly true that near me queries are hot and on the rise, there is also tremendous growth in queries that do not include the phrase, because users are coming to expect that search engines return results that are local, without explicitly stating so.
I see link building for local SEO as extremely important. But merely building directory links on local newspapers isn't going to be enough - it needs to be more strategic and with a direct focus on relevancy.
Are there other local businesses that are non-competing and are perhaps in an adjacent industry that would be willing to link to you? Are there any local associations, local council/government websites or even local colleges/universities that would link to your site or to a specific resource?
Not only are the links relevant in terms of locality (which will improve your rankings), if you get your targeting exactly right, you'll also be able to drive very relevant, direct referral traffic.
See what keywords people use to search in your area. Use those keywords on your website. It helps keep up with the trends. Google has many great webmaster/SEO tools to track keyword trends.
Check out where your competition hangs out. If they're part of an online community focused on your industry, you should be there too! Interact and pick up some tips from them. (You'd be surprised at how willing competitors are to sharing knowledge)
Have customers give you a shout out on social media! A quick @ can get a few clicks, for sure. Enough of seeing that and people start looking at you as an authority on your profession. Search engines notice too.
Name drop alternate names or smaller areas in your city, not just the city name, proper. Someone may search for "fondue restaurant Clinton" instead of the broader "fondue restaurant Hells Kitchen". (Hell's Kitchen aka Clinton).
Streamline the "Big 3" - page title, URL andH1s.
Local SEO can often be lower in competition levels, with a large number of the local businesses not even running SEO campaigns or looking to optimize for search, so simply having page title, URL and H1 all mention the location and service that you are offering can go a long way to improving your ranking.
The average SERP for a local search (plumbers, accountants, trades) is full of poorly optimized pages, so taking advantage of this with some simple on-page optimization that is clearly aligned around your head terms can make your website stand from the crowd of websites that have holes in their basic SEO setup and are ranking because no-one else has a website that's optimized at a basic level.
Set up a system to get keyword orientated reviews.When you have worked with a customer who has been outstandingly happy with your service ask them to leave a review and mention the service or product that they loved in that review. Google will often use reviews to understand what local businesses do and serve those in the Map pack, highlighting to a searcher that your businesses does what they are after, and does it well.
I can not stress enough, the importance of managing your online reviews for local SEO.
Customer reviews have a greater impact on acquiring new customers than many businesses realise. Google recommends businesses should "interact with customers by responding to reviews that they leave about your business. Responding to reviews shows that you value your customers and the feedback that they leave about your business."
So we know that Google wants you to respond to online reviews. Now this should go without saying, but you MUST respond to both positive and negative reviews. Businesses need to realise that it is an opportunity to further engage with customers. Remember, online reviews and review sites are public, so keep this in mind when you respond to any review.
Good reviews are wonderful and you can maximize the benefit, on the other hand, you can minimize the damage of a bad review. Having a strong online reputation is a cornerstone for local SEO.
One easy tip for improving local SEO is to create content based on local-events or news. For instance, if your restaurant participated in a local food festival, write a blog post about it. Or, a real estate agent can create content about events or changes in the area. Creating hyper-local content is a great way to grab the attention of your local audience online and increase your search engine ranking for that location.
In order to improve local SEO, the most important thing you can do for your business is to make sure you're utilizing unique quality landing pages for the areas you service. This will help you optimize around the towns you're focused on and give you an edge over your competitors who are not using this strategy. Most importantly, the landing pages must be original content and focused on keywords users are actively searching for maximum benefit.