If you are a business with a brick-and-mortar location, local SEO is a term you should be familiar with. This guide will get you started with local SEO for small busines, and give you the building blocks you need for better ranking in local search. Once you are listed and ranking in local search, prospects and customers will find your location more easily driving more foot track to your store.
What is Local SEO for Small Business?
Before we start discussing local SEO for small business, let’s make sure we understand the term “SEO.” SEO stands for search engine optimization which essentially is creating content that will rank in search for queries relevant to your business. In other words, if you sell widgets, your company should be ranking for the keyword “widgets” and all related words and phrases. “Local SEO” adds an extra element to SEO.
When you rank for local SEO, your listings will appear at the top of SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) for widgets in your local or regional area. Therefore, if I am in your town and looking for widgets, I will find you near the top of the listings. Then I can call you and/or come into your brick-and-mortar store. When anyone discusses local SEO, the ultimate goal is getting the searcher to come into the local store.
Maintain Your Google Business Listing
Whether or not you have ever created a Google Business Listing, it is likely that you already have one. Or rather, that Google has created a generic one. To claim it and make it your own, you need to go to Google My Business. You can use any Google account you already have to log in or sign up. So, if you have a Google+ or YouTube account, you can use it here. If you haven’t claimed your business listing, then you will have to go through a verification process. Once your listing is verified and you are logged in, it is crucial to examine the information that Google has already inserted into the listing. Many of these Google-generated listings are outdated or have errors. It is best to update it and fill in information that is missing.
The Google My Business is where your business profile is located. You should treat this profile as a work in progress. You can add a lot of depth to this profile including images, links, special offers, and reviews. Active profiles are more highly regarded by Google, and will be more likely to appear higher in SERPs. However, there are other factors that affect where your business appears. Google has an app that allows you to update your profile from your phone. This gives you the opportunity to show candid images and keep your customers engaged. Of all the things you can do to improve your business listing on local search, this is the highest priority.
Google isn’t the only search engine that has business profiles. You can create a similar listing on Bing called Bing Places for Business. Remember, just because Google is the largest search engine, doesn’t mean that everyone uses it. If your industry prefers a different search engine, you need to find out if you can list your business there as well. The process for claiming your business on Bing Places for Business is very similar to Google’s. Just follow the steps to claim the business and populate as many fields as possible.
Getting in the Map Pack
You may have heard the term “Map Pack” once or twice from marketing agencies. This is the first organic–unpaid–section on the Google search engine. In our example, we’ve searched for furniture stores in Charlotte, NC and three retailers appear in this map section.
The Map Pack has evolved over the years. From a laundry list of locations and Map to 7 and other evolutions brought us to 3. Landing in this coveted local SEO for small business section is difficult. What’s more–you can’t pay to be here.
Some studies show that getting to the Map Pack is a combination of organic effort. Google reviews, Google Business Listing updates, and some other SEO authority on your website can all be contributing factors to your Map Pack journey. You’ve already tackled step one with your Google My Business listing. Great job! Now, you have to make sure your website data and Google Business data is updated frequently and accurately.
If your small business has multiple locations, make sure you’re making the website changes to identify each of these locations. When creating content for your website, one key is adding your location to the Meta Title or H1 heading on the pages. This will result in your page listing always showing your location. For instance, your page will show up as “My Topic Heading – City, State.”
Read more about website updates to improve local SEO for small business.
It’s All About the NAP
NAP is an acronym for Name, Address, and Phone Number. It sounds silly, but if you don’t have the correct name, address and phone number filled out in your Google profile (and any other place you post contact information), the search engine can’t provide it to searchers. For U.S. businesses, that means providing the full phone number with area code, and the zip code. This simple and basic information will make your company visible online. When anyone looks up your type of business in your locale, your business will appear in search.
There are also business citation aggregators that list your NAP. You should double-check information on these sites as they often feed information to search engines. Examples of such sites include:
Claim Your Online Listings
Besides Google, there are other places that you can find listings for your business or create new ones. You can do a search on your business to find many of them. But also look for online directories in your region, and websites including Yelp, Yahoo, Yellow Pages and others that create local directories. For each one of these listings, it is important to check the NAP for any errors including misspellings.
Get More Reviews
Customer reviews are highly regarded by people searching for your business. The more service-oriented a business you run, the more people will read reviews before trying it out. The travel industry is a great example of this behavior. People read reviews of hotels, vacation spots, restaurants long before they decide where they want to travel. Once they arrive, they continue to use this information to select activities, restaurants, and shops in the area they are visiting. This is exactly how companies benefit from local SEO for small business.
You can solicit reviews by letting people know that you are on Google in your brochures and receipts. Both good and bad reviews are helpful because a bad review can give you an opportunity to help alleviate the problem and impress a customer. But only genuine reviews will help your listing. Fake reviews will get noticed by Google who may ban you completely.
Building Good Citations
Citations are similar to reviews in that they add to the value of your listing. But instead of reviewing your business on your profile, a citation will mention it elsewhere and link back to it. Essentially a citation is a referral to your business with a professional mention. Depending on what kind of business you run, citations can be more or less influential. You can seek out citations from vendors and customers if it is relevant to their business. They can mention you in a blog post or on their website and link to your Google profile.
Online directories are very beneficial for building local SEO for small business. Each listing is another place for search engines to find you and list you in SERPs. Customers and vendors can offer citations on these directories. Besides the local or regional directories listed earlier, add your business to industry directories as well. Each time you include your contact information and NAP, you improve your local SEO.