SEO – Best Local Search Practices For Small Business

local seoWhat Is Local Search?

As search engines have evolved over the last 15 years, one goal has always been constant for them: Provide the best results to their users.

 

In a way, local search has always been around in one form or another. In the beginning it was basically about making sure that if your restaurant had a website, you put the address and contact info on there. That way the search engines like Yahoo!, AOL or Lycos could easily find where you were located. It just made sense. Then came internet yellow pages websites like yellowpages.com (now yp.com) who basically listed all the local information they had for businesses in various categories.

 

With the combined rise of modern search engines like Google and Bing as well as smartphones and tablets, it was inevitable that more of a focus be placed on local search. These days search engines take more than simple keywords and website content into account, whether you know it or not. Where you are performing the search and what you have searched for in the past are now major contributing factors to the results you see.

 

And the way results look now will change again and again as we witness all search morph into local search. However as always, the search engines are keeping one thing in mind whenever they make adjustments or change the kinds of results we may see: Provide the best possible results to users.

And the way results look now will change again and again as we witness all search morph into local search. However as always, the search engines are keeping one thing in mind whenever they make adjustments or change the kinds of results we may see: Provide the best possible results to users.

 

Local SEO

You’ve heard of SEO. A practice whereby a website is “optimized” first to provide the best possible user experience, and second to appear high and often in search results for various keywords targeted throughout the website content.

 

Local SEO then comprises those same methods but with more of a focus on local queries. Local SEO tactics are important for both businesses and users. Businesses and service providers want to have a highly visible online presence. Users want relevant results within their area. It is mutually beneficial then to ensure that if you have a local business or provide services to a local area, that your web presence is optimized for local search. Plus, over 43% of total Google search queries are local.

 

Take the example used in the image above: “orange county photographer”. Say you have an excellent website that displays your happy clients, examples of work you have done and even a blog where you write about photography. Yet your website never ranks for “photographer” or “photography” type keywords, including local variations. Sound familiar? It is likely because you have not followed the basic Local SEO best practices.

 

Local SEO Best Practices

Search Engine Optimization tactics have evolved over the past few years. Search engines like Google and Bing have their own set of recommended SEO practices. Let’s review a few of these local SEO tactics worth implementing on websites:

 

  • Keywords – Create a list of relevant keywords, map them to relevant pages on your website (no more than 2 to a page), implement them on your site via:
  • Local PagesWhether you have a brick and mortar location, multiple locations or service a particular area, creating a unique page for each and listing NAP (name, address, phone #) data is a priority.
  • Title Tags – Target keywords should always appear in Title Tags. For location specific pages, include the name and address of the location.
  • URLs – Try to make sure your URL contains the same keyword used in the title tag. Make sure you target only 1 keyword.
  • Content –500-600 words total are recommended and the keyword density should not be more than 1-1.5%. No keyword stuffing. Smaller sentences, embedded links and relevant content are a must. For local pages, include info about the location (manager, email addresses, images, directions, maps, etc.).
  • Listings – This requires its own section. See below.

 

There are many other local search best practices out there (there is a great resource on Michael Gray’s blog) but these are the basics you should have covered at a minimum.

 

Local Listings

A modern day approach to marketing your business or website online is to enroll on local listings websites like Google+ Local, Yelp, Foursquare and Bing Local. These websites offer many different ways of promoting your business. Patrons can check-in using apps which helps instantly spread the word. Reviews, customer feedback and ratings are all part of these local listings. An ancillary benefit to local listings is that in some cases you can have a local listing ranking as well as your website, depending on the search query. This means that your brand is taking up more “on page real estate” in the search results.

 

You will want to pay particular attention to the search engines’ own brand of local listing. For Google it is their Google+ Local platform (formerly Google Places). For Bing it is now Bing Places For Business. The search engines also want to see you listed on local listings sites that pull in a lot of user-generated content, like reviews and photos. This is where Yelp, Foursquare, CitySearch and all of the internet yellow pages sites come in.

 

You will want to encourage customers to visit your local listings, either through linking to them on your website or by telling them in person. Suggest to them that they review your business. Encourage them to share their experiences with your business and even upload images, etc.

 

The most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to local listings is consistency. All of your NAP (remember that?) data needs to be exactly the same for every location across every platform. If you have differing phone number or address info on a local listing site, make sure you fix it or delete it. Google and Bing take consistency very seriously and you will reduce your chances of having high-ranking local listings if local info is inconsistent.

 

There are companies out there who can handle creating all of your local listings (UBL and Yext are the two most popular). However your best bet is to either create them all yourself if you have time, or use your trusted SEO company.

 

Conclusion

Local search will only grow. Given that search engines are focusing on brands more and more, it’s important to ensure that you are progressing with them. As a small business owner, you need all the help you can get online. By making sure your local presence is locked in, you will be able to compete with even the largest brand competitors out there, no matter what the future of local search brings.

 

 

 

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Jurgita Glodenyte

   

Jurgita Glodenyte

Jurgita Glodenyte is an online/digital & social media marketer, manager, strategist, consultant, trainer and public speaker. Her goal is to give companies she works with the tools to make them successful in a technology based economy. Jurgita has written a few books on digital marketing & social media.
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