Ranking in Google is dependent on what: Google feels that a user is looking for, not how many times you have stuffed a phrase onto a page. In an age where Google returns results based upon a persons query and his location, local businesses have a real opportunity to position their businesses locally.
- What is SEO?
- So What’s Different About Local SEO?
- Sounds Great, How Do I Get Started?
- When Should I Start Claiming Local Business Listings?
- Does Social Media Play a Role in Any of This?
- Are Reviews Just Something I Have to Wait Around and Hope For?
- Does Local SEO Really have a Reliable Future?
What is SEO?
Taking SEO ( Search Engine Optimisation ) at its base level, SEO is about optimising a website for search engines to be able to: Crawl, Understand and position the websites pages in the search results. The most basic element would be the right keywords and phrases on page, titles and descriptions that engage a searcher, and a intuitive site structure.
This doesn’t mean that when someone Googles “couch,” that they want their couch to be on top. Such an endeavor would be a waste of resources in terms of time and money. However, being at the top of the list, or at least the first page, when someone Googles “black leather couch” is a very real possibility when the right efforts and practices are put into place.
Updating information, ensuring all links work, solving errors and dead pages are vital. Any company that claims that the majority of their clientele is from foot traffic so an investment towards SEO would be fruitless is creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts.
The end goal of SEO is to do two things: get customers to a businesses website and make the website easy to use. If a customer can’t figure out what they want to in the first few seconds on a website, they generally look elsewhere. Keeping everything functional and intuitive can save headaches on both ends.
So What’s Different About Local SEO?
Local SEO is driven by the same ideas and practices as traditional SEO with a vital difference that actually gives the edge to small businesses. The businesses location
As mentioned above, Google returns results based upon the users intent. Part of this intent is understanding a users location. In Desktop, Google uses a searcher’s IP address to identify where the user is and return relevant results. In mobile they use GPS
To see this in action, search: Library
Local SEO serves to reinforce you businesses locality, thereby returning your business in search results where possible based upon your location.
This seems like something everyone would want to take advantage of, but there is one exception. Businesses the work from a central location where location isn’t a factor, think Amazon or other types of e-commerce, will benefit little from Local SEO, unless they can create data points within their sites that satisfy a local intent with service area pages.
Sounds Great, How Do I Get Started?
When it comes to search engines, there really is one king of the jungle: Google. Being the top result in Google for normal searches is the dream for a business of any size. So of course it makes sense that Google Local is where to start. Businesses will need to create and verify their Google Local business page. Before jumping in, it’s a good idea to make sure a business is actually popping up on Google when appropriate: Create a Google Local Business Page
But businesses shouldn’t stop there. Dozens of search engines exist, and services like Yelp are changing how customers decide where to shop. Not utilizing other business directories can be a huge mistake, and being in at least the top 10 nationally and all your localised ones is recommended. Each section in a directory needs to be filled out accurately and consistently. Contradicting information can make it so search results on various search engines are not working in your favor. When preparing to put information out there, a company should make a list of information to use for their business pages, including:
- Phone Number
Otherwise known as NAP – Never deviate from this!
This will help ensure that all data is accurate and consistent. If a company finds fields to fills out that they weren’t expecting, they should add that bit of data to their list and be sure to fill out the listing completely. Vides, photos, directions, hours of operation, all of these things give search engine more data points to understand, and the user will have more information as well.
Though this is under the “Getting Started” section, it’s worth noting that keeping everything up to date, from coupons to change in hours, is essential to informing the potential customer and search engines.
When Should I Start Claiming Local Business Listings?
Right away. The internet isn’t a place where things are going to stagnate until a business decides to get involved.
By getting involved sooner, companies take control of their online presence. Branding, messages, and overall image are best kept in control of the business. Even something as simple as person trying to help out by posting the hours can may inadvertantly post incorrect hours which can cause conflicting information for search engines.
Claiming local business listing as soon as possible gets your business information out there. In a world of GPS technology and Google Maps, there is absolutely no excuse for a customer to get lost on the way to any business. If a company doesn’t know how to tell people where they’re located, customers will assume they aren’t capable of many other things and will avoid the hassle altogether.
Does Social Media Play a Role in Any of This?
Of course! Google is constantly updating and tweaking its algorithm to help its users find what they’re looking for in the most efficient way possible. Twitter, Facebook, and even Youtube are all places a company should be making themselves present.
Print ads these days almost always have two things: a barcode to scan with a smart phone, and a list of how to find the company on Facebook and Twitter. The tags “Be sure to Like us on Facebook” and “Be sure to Follow us on Twitter” are not just to show off how many Friends a business has. These things offer some major marketing opportunities. Some small businesses even use these social pages like a website, having all their special promotions listed as well as getting customer input on products and services.
In fact, everything should be interconnected. If a company posts a new commercial or promotion on Youtube, a link or the video itself should be on the website and a link should be on Facebook and Twitter. Think of it like everyone out there has their own stamp. Some stamps are bigger than others and some use colored ink. What every company is trying to do is put their stamp in as many places as possible while making sure they’re easy to find around all the other stamps. If a person takes notice of one stamp, they’ll start spotting that stamp more and more. Soon they’re telling their friends, and their friends are telling their friends, and one of them is involved in the local newspaper. More importantly, companies like Google notice.
Caveat: Social Shares and Likes, does not mean better organic ranking.
Are Reviews Just Something I Have to Wait Around and Hope For?
It’s no mystery that reviews matter in a big way. If a customer types “local pubs” into his mobile phone, he’s going to get a lot of results. The first thing he’s going to look for is which ones are closest, the next thing is which ones have the highest reviews, and the final thing is how many reviews do the highly rated pubs have. A five star pub with 2 reviewers isn’t going to get the attention of a four and a quarter star pub with over 100 reviewers.
Reviews are Crucial in the Local Pack
So where should a business start if they want to get as many positive reviews as possible? Asking seems an obvious choice, and a darn good one at that. It’s one thing to habitually ask everyone who comes in to a business to leave a positive review, and another to encourage those truly having a good time/experience to review a business.
A business should utilize their online presence as well. Asking Followers and Friends to review a company is not an unfair request, and creating surveys is a great way to get feedback. A company that knows the types of customers it attracts will have more success in getting customers to communicate the value of the service or product.
Responding to Negative Reviews
If a business truly wants to get the communities feedback, mail and email are great ways to send out information and coupons to get potential customers interested. Every business owner knows that a new face is a new opportunity. Increasing flow through these measures can be essential, especially for companies that don’t rely on return customers as much as they do getting the word out that they know how to perform a particular service professionally and exceptionally, such as HVAC, roofing, and plumbing businesses.
A last piece of advice as it pertains to reviews, never create fake reviews. There is nothing to be gained from such a practice. Paying people to review the company or finding a service to create reviews is not only dishonest, but easy for a customer to notice. A reputation is one of the hardest things to earn and one of the easiest things to destroy.
Does Local SEO Really have a Reliable Future?
Things change, and businesses have made large invested to ensure they don’t get left behind. From newspapers to radio to television to the internet, only the businesses that adapted survived. Recent trends also support the idea that technology grows at an exponential rate, meaning the next big thing may very well be closer than we think. To answer the question, no. But businesses don’t operate in the future. It could be five years or a hundred years before Local SEO practices become irrelevant, but they are very relevant today. Any businesses not willing to invest the time and energy to get Local SEO right can bet their competitors are.
For some people, these types of things go way over their heads. The smartest thing a person like that can do is invest in someone to do it for them. There are services dedicated to ensuring their clients succeed with their SEO practices. Innovation is no longer key and being chummy won’t guarantee success, but developing a presence behind a great service or product makes Local SEO an easy and practical option for almost any business.
Contact Us to Discuss our Local SEO Service