Spring is here, and with it comes the perfect opportunity to give your local search engine rankings a boost. If you are looking for some helpful tips on how to do this, then this blog post is for you! We will discuss 8 actionable steps that can be done to improve your local SEO ranking so that people in your area can find you more easily and become a customer.
What is "Local SEO"
Local SEO is the process of making sure that your company website is ranking higher on search engine results pages (SERPS) when people look up a service or product in their area.
It's important to note, though, that local SEO rankings are not the same as regular SEO since they will only show the sites that are most relevant to what someone searched for nearby.
Local SEO results are displayed on the Google Maps Pack (commonly called 3 pack, or snack pack) and on the right side of the search results on desktop.
Essentially the goal of Local SEO is to increase the number of times your company is shown to people who are most likely looking for what you provide in your community, city, or neighborhood.
Verify your Google My Business Profile (before the busy season)
Google My Business is critical for any Local SEO campaign. If you've been putting off claiming and verifying your Google My Business profile you need to get it done.
Start by going to Google My Business click "Start Now" in the upper right. Then follow the steps to look up your business or create a new listing (if one doesn't exist, which is rare if you've been in business for a while).
Add your current business information and continue following the steps as Google prompts you until you come to the verification screen.
Here Google will send you a postcard that contains a code. Keep a lookout because the postcard looks kind of like an advertisement. You'll also want to let your staff know it's coming so it doesn't get thrown away with other junk mail.
When you have the code go back to Google My Business and click "Verify". Enter the code and just like that, you're verified!
Once verified, be sure to fill out as much information as possible about who you are and what you do so people in your community can find your business easily on Google when they're looking for services.
Be sure to add pictures of your business, inside and out, as well as your products and services, any projects you've worked on, and pictures of your staff.
Tip: Don't change your business information until you've verified your business. If you change information about your business you'll invalidate the code Google has sent you and will have to get a new code. However, once your business is verified you have the freedom to change the details of your business.
NAP Consistency. Cleaning up old Name, Address, and Phone Number info
NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone Number.
Your NAP needs to be consistent on every page of your website and on all online listing services and citations.
If you've moved locations, changed your phone number, or your business name, you need to confirm that that information is correct across all instances of your NAP across as much of the internet as possible.
Before starting a NAP audit and cleanup, you need to know what information should be there. This might sound obvious, but differences in NAP can be as small as a Comma between your business name and LLC or not. This might sound petty, but your goal needs to be being consistent and uniform across all listings for your business.
This probably sounds like an impossible task, but there are services to make it easier.
One of our favorites is BrightLocal's Citation Builder. For a few dollars per citation, you can see and fix (usually) all instances of incorrect NAP entries as well as build new citations that will give your business a boost in the rankings.
At the very least, cleaning up your NAP and citations will result in customers being able to find you and contact you. At best, you'll beat your competitors who didn't put in the work to clean up their incorrect NAP entries.
Look for link opportunities in your local community
Use your local newspapers or news blogs to get backlinks to your website.
An easy way to get this done is to create a press release for your business and place it on the service area page or a landing page related to your local area or location.
Then send the press release to the editors. Some news outlets and papers even have a place for you to send your press releases.
Local Business Directories.
These directories won't move the needle as much as they used to. But they are still an important source of backlinks.
You can create a profile and submit your business to these directories, and some of them require a follow-up or verification. If this sounds like a lot of work, there are agencies and services who can perform this for you (Like Prairie Giraffe 😉 )
You may also be able to find some paid local listings that are worth the investment if you know what keywords and industries they target.
Here are a few directories you should consider listing your business in:
- Chamber of Commerce
- Facebook (Pages and Groups)
- Google My Business.
- Super Pages
- and many others
Sponsor Local Charities
Chance are there is no shortage of charities in your area that could use your help. And most of them are happy to send links and shoutouts to their sponsors and supporters.
Find local non-profits in your area that align with your vision and values, and make a donation. Simple as that.
You get to help your local community and get a backlink to your website. It's a win-win!
Partner With or Sponsor Local Businesses or Charities
Sponsoring local businesses or charities is another excellent way to get backlinks.
Who do you know?
If you own your own business, you probably know other business owners in your town or neighborhood.
Chances are you're already referring people to businesses you know and like. Take your relationship to the next level by asking the owners if they would be open to linking to your website and you could link to theirs.
Note: Trading links is technically frowned on by Google. But, if you're doing it with people in your town and not making it a regular habit, it can help boost your rankings.
Another way to get local links is to write about local businesses that may have worked with you on a project. This sends signals to search engines that you're active in the community you're claiming to be from, it also encourages those you mention in your article to link to you.
If you've written a good piece of content about a local project and you mention someone else, send them an email with a link to the article and see if they would be willing to link to it from their portfolio or "our work" page.
This is another huge win-win. You did the work of writing the article, but they give you the bigger gift of a backlink.
What questions can you answer?
Search engines aren't just for looking up pictures of dolphins and cats anymore.
Searches performed on Google cost Google money. They have to maintain the servers, power them, pay the engineers who design the software that powers the search engine. It's a lot.
So Google, Bing, or any other search engine wants you to see some ads (so they get paid), get your answer, then get off their server.
So if you can answer the question someone is asking better than anyone else in your area, they (Google) will reward you with the top spot. Because they want to sell ads and give people answers, FAST.
So how do you find the questions people are asking?
There are several ways you can see questions people are asking online, but a few of the simplest (and cheapest) ways of doing it are by:
Google's "People Also Ask" section.
This section shows up on search results right below the first few results.
Just search for terms or questions you know your customers ask, then go to the People Also Asked section and you can see 4 questions at first, but as you open those questions you'll see more and more questions appear.
You can get the exact questions people have asked Google, from Google, and then answer those questions on your own website.
Making you go from just another business with a digital brochure, to a valuable resource online trusted by both people and search engines.
Google Search Console
Most people have never heard of Google Search Console. It is a free service you can sign up for, which will give you valuable information about your website.
You'll be able to see when Google visits your site (Googlebot), what the search terms people are searching that bring them to your site, and more.
All of this data is great feedback on how well or not so well you're answering people's questions.
You can also see what questions are triggering your site, and then write content to improve on those results.
As I'm sure you've heard, "Content is King", but not just mindless wandering content. You need to be giving people content that they care about. Well answering questions is a great way to stop struggling to think of content ideas and actually start attracting customers you want to work with.
Does your website make you sound crazy?
This section is not so much about SEO, but about messaging. Messaging is the foundation of your website and marketing. If you don't know what to say, chances are you're not saying the right things.
Not having a plan of how we will talk to our customers and what our goal is when talking to our customers, means we're probably not saying anything of value, or we're just rambling on about ourselves.
Ask yourself, "would I talk to my customers face to face the same way I'm talking to them on my website?" If someone walked through the door and the first thing you said was WELCOME!!! "We started our company in 1987 when my grandfather had the idea that...."?
Chances are that is not the case at all. And if it is, I'm guessing that people are walking out the door ASAP without buying.
Intuitively, you most likely understand that people aren't in your store because you're awesome, and they don't want to hear about your rich history. They want to solve a problem. They go to the museum for rich history.
You're probably asking something like "How can I help you?" Because your business is there to solve a specific problem, for a specific type of person. Whether you're a camping goods store or a criminal defense lawyer, your core product is solving a problem people can't or don't want to solve on their own.
Here's how to do a quick audit on your own messaging to verify you don't sound like a rambling robot.
Go to your website and look at the words you use in the header.
Do you start with a problem you solve?
Moving down the page, do you highlight the benefits of working with you?
Another area people typically don't think of is the consequences of not working with you? Obviously, if you're solving a problem, there must be something negative a person can experience if they don't work with you.
Now I'm not saying to go negative and make your site depressing, but if you don't say what could happen if someone doesn't work with you, they probably aren't going to figure it out themselves.
People want you to help them survive and thrive. If you've talked about the benefits, there has to be a brief flip side to those benefits.
What will your customer's life be like if you solve their problem? After we've touched on the benefits and any consequences there may be to not working with you, you need to point them to a brighter future with you.
Don't just talk about how your mower has a 36" base that doesn't clog. Highlight that your mower saves them time and hassle not dealing with clogs so they can get back to spending time with their family in the best-looking yard on the block.
Dentists shouldn't just talk about the absence of cavities, they should be talking about the confidence that comes from a healthy smile, and how people naturally gravitate to people with better teeth.
Help your audience Survive and Thrive. Always. If you're not creating a brighter future for your customers, then chances are they don't need you, and they'll find someone who does.
(Local) Content is king!
Just because we're focusing on local SEO and diving into things like citations and Google My Business optimization doesn't mean you're off the hook for creating content.
But don't just make any content. Don't type words for word's sake, or hire someone on Fiverr to write about your business for $1 an hour. You need to invest in content your customers actually care about.
As we mentioned above, search engines and people want their questions answered. And people want you to help them Survive and Thrive.
So start focusing on creating content answering questions with localized keywords in mind and creating pages for your products and services.
Start with your products and services that are local to the area so you can rank for keywords like "SEO" or "local SEO". Start targeting these keywords in posts, blog entries, videos, social media content- anything!
Create pages for your service areas talking about the services you provide to those areas. Or talk about each of your locations.
It's tempting to just lump all your services on the same page. This is fine for your home page or a general service directory page, but you really need to be making a page for each service or product.
Chances are when I just said to create a page for each product and service you went cross-eyed and a part of your soul died.
Do not sit down and try to make all of these pages and content at once.
Start writing a page per week, or per month. Whatever you can commit to is fine.
The goal of cleaning up your Local SEO is to start making progress. Creating everything your business could need for SEO overnight is an unrealistic goal and it's actually a signal to Google that something is up.
Good Local SEO campaigns take months or years to complete because the goal is consistent forward movement.
If you can commit to a small chunk of time each day to making your website better, you'll be able to see the progress in a matter of weeks or months while those who refuse to commit will get left behind.
The sooner you start on this journey, the more opportunities and chances for success you will discover for your business!
Don't forget to reach out for help. If you need help with your Local SEO we're here for you. Contact us to schedule a conversation. We'll go over your website and local web presence and can give you some tips to help you move forward, or can get you a price for a fully managed solution.