Most business owners understand the importance of SEO, the importance of your business website ranking near the top of search engine results. However, they often only focus on large-scale SEO, and don’t think about the importance of local SEO, getting your website to rank near the top of local search results. For most businesses, the majority of their customers are local people, so achieving higher rankings in local search results means more business for them.
Why You Need Local SEO
Search engine results aren’t just based on world-wide rankings. Search engines factor in local locations when displaying results of internet queries. When people are searching for a business, they’re often searching for a business in close proximity to their location, so they may include the city, state, and zip code when searching for businesses. If you haven’t optimized your business website for local SEO, your business may not show up in those results.
The Difference Between SEO and Local SEO
Traditional SEO relies on link building to improve the credibility and trustworthiness of a website. The respected earned links improve rankings in search results. However, local SEO does not rely as much on link building, but rather on local citations and reviews of your business. These two things are critical to achieving higher rankings in local search results.
Steps You Can Take
1. Claim Your Business
Claim your business in every directory in which it appears. The most important place in which you absolutely must claim your business is Google My Business. When you claim your business in a directory, make sure the information already listed is correct, and add photos, a description, contact information, website, and hours of operation. Also, categorize your business correctly. It’s important that customers be able to view as much information as possible about your business online. Without that information, many internet users will totally ignore your business.
2. Make Sure Citations Match
This is a big one. Make sure that your citations, your business name, address, website, and phone number, are completely consistent wherever it appears on the internet. This is to ensure that there are no duplicate pages of your business information that may have incorrect information and draw visitors away from your actual website. Make sure you delete any duplicate pages as you go along.
3. Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly
This is the single most important thing you can do to improve your website. Most internet traffic now results from cell phones and tablets, rather than desktop computers, so it’s absolutely imperative that your website display correctly on the smaller screens. If people can’t view your website correctly on a cell phone screen, they’ll likely move on to another website that’s easier to view.
4. Encourage Local Reviews
This is a great way to draw attention from locals, when they see reviews by other local residents. Businesses with positive reviews are more likely to attract new customers than businesses with no reviews at all. When you do transactions with customers, encourage them to leave reviews of their experiences on websites like Yelp. You might even want to offer a small incentive, such as a small discount off their next purchase after writing a review.
5. Local Link Building
While it’s true that local SEO is more focused on correct citations and business reviews, earned links can still play an important part. However, the method of earning those links is a little different. You need to focus on local link building, which can happen through local exposure of your business. For example, offering to sponsor a local event, such as a 5K race, can get some name recognition for your business. You can also reach out to the local press for coverage of your business, perhaps for a new product line or a special opportunity.
A somewhat more modern approach to link building is to offer to do an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit, a website that has millions of readers and forums for all major cities, states, and countries. This is a great way to spread the word about your business through avenues not normally considered in marketing.
6. Use Schema Markup
Schema markup is a special vocabulary in code that allows you to “mark” your web content with special tags that will display certain kinds of information in the Google search results. For example, you can include pricing or what your website is about in the markup. This is helpful for people looking for a little additional information besides your business contact information.
Every business owner should already understand the importance of optimizing their websites for SEO. However, if you only focus on large-scale SEO, you might be missing out on the opportunity to target your local market, with people who can physically visit your store or business location. Ranking for localized keywords can generate much more revenue for your business as opposed to ranking for broad terms which only serve the purpose of providing information, and not satisfying buyer intent.
John Stone is an SEO Consultant based in Sydney. Through years of experience, he became a devout believer in the notion that form should always follow function and that developing the ability to think outside of the box is a prerequisite of being a successful entrepreneur.
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