The Benefits of Local SEO (Including Google Maps, and Basic Keyword Research)

The benefits of local SEO

So what is local SEO and why is local SEO important for your small business?

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a formula used by search engines to determine the authority of a site, when ranking it within certain search results.

Why is local SEO important?

Many businesses aim to rank high up in these lists for national searches and then wonder why they cannot compete with the bigger brands. Well, the big boys have a team of content marketers who will spend hours each day on building a solid SEO base. As small business owners, we don’t have that luxury, so what can we do to counter it?

That is why local SEO is important for smaller brands.

This is ranking high up in searches that involve local keywords, such as your town/city, a nearby monument or even an area known by a nickname.

The benefits of local SEO for geo-targeted rankings are massive for any small business. Imagine you own a business in a small town and all around you are little competitors. They may be little but they are all taking a small amount of customers away from you.

Now imagine you could start to take pieces of the market share away from them and into your business. It all adds up quicker than you think. This is why small businesses need a website, and why it needs to leverage the benefits of local SEO.

Here are the basics for building your local SEO rankings and giving your business the platform it deserves.

Google Maps

In Google Maps, there are many factors that can both encourage and deter your local rankings. Here are four to help you on your way:

Physical address is in the same city as the searches

This is common sense. If a person is searching for a Hairdresser in New York City then there is no point of you targeting these clients if your premises are in London. No-one is travelling that distance for a standard haircut.

Once you have recognition in style magazines, or at fashion awards, you can begin to branch out into other areas, but until then, keep it simple.

Correct category

Be sure to select the correct category. They should all be relevant to your niche to ensure the greatest customer conversion. If you put yourself in the wrong category, then anyone who stumbles across your site will not click on it as you are not what they are looking for.

Your Google address matches your website’s address

Google will look to see if the address they have on record matches the same address as the one on your website. Be sure to use the exact same format, commas included, for an extra authority boost.

Verified Google Plus page

As the business owner, you need to verify your Google page to confirm that it is fact an official page. You can do this by following this video:

Google reviews

In brief, reviews offer potential clients social proof, and they are a huge part of what makes a website effective. Clients need assurance and approval that their actions are right, and reviews fill those gaps. The language in the reviews will match the language of your target audience, thus creating extra long-tail keywords. Besides, it is your current customers who are doing the work for you.

Well-written reviews from your customers are a great way of telling Google how you go about your business. Write reviews on your Google profile page; by typing your business name into Google and on the right hand side clicking ‘write a review’. Pointing your customers here will amplify the benefits of local SEO, as well as make your customers feel heard. Win-Win.

Furthermore, consider asking previous customers to leave you an honest review.

You can offer a small encouragement to do so: ‘10% off next purchase’ or ‘a free consultation.’ Remember that people can act different in person compared to online, so make sure to iron out any concerns before asking.

Citations (Yelp, Yahoo, Foursquare, etc.)

When entering your address into sites such as Yelp, LinkedIn, Foursquare, and others, be sure to use the same format of address each time. This includes on your website and social media pages. You will see that I mention this throughout this article as a reminder of how important it is.

So, if you abbreviate your office’s name, then do so throughout. Otherwise, they will fail to match up with each other.

Be sure to check out other local business directories in your area as they too might offer a surprising amount of traffic for your chosen niche. Hey, it all adds up!

Here is a list of The Top 50 Link Directories as Recommended by Hubspot.

So what are you waiting for?

On-page optimization

When choosing your keywords be sure to include your local city alongside them wherever you can, but be sure to keep it natural. Once upon a time you could get away with spamming your location across the page (I’m talking back in the 00’s). But these days, Google is much more efficient in recognizing the real from the fake.

Meta tags and meta descriptions

Meta tags are a way in which search engines search for information about your site. Meta tags provide keywords for each individual page as well as meta descriptions, which is potentially what you see underneath a website’s link in Google.

Meta descriptions should include keywords in an organic fashion, but also include a compelling reason for the user to click on your site. Direct relevance is a must as well as uniqueness between each individual page. The description should be no more than 160 characters with 155 being the optimal length.

Things that help improve your business's local SEO infographic

Blogging

As a modern entrepreneur, creating relevant local content is a great way to give your site a quick ranking boost. These articles can become ranked within appropriate searches but they also offer information to local customers who need help with a problem, advice, a tutorial, or further information on your niche.

Over a small period of time, well executed articles build trust, making new customers feel as if they know you already. This is one of the prevailing reasons why local SEO is important. Whatever content you decide to post, make sure that it is relevant to your customers and to the local to the community.

Guest posting

A tried and tested way of building strong backlinks, straight to your site, is through guest posting. Not only is it a platform for you to build brand awareness by sharing the same audiences, but also a way in which you can create a backlink to your site.

Another advantage of guest posting is that you can often make yourself appear as an authority figure within your niche.

Backlinks

I have mentioned guest posting as a way to form organic backlinks, but are there any other methods? Well yes.

If you have done any previous research on backlinks you would have no doubt seen the amount of advertisements offering ‘Quality Backlinks for only $x’.

Now I cannot stress this next point strong enough.

NEVER buy backlinks! I repeat, never buy backlinks. Google has strict guidelines for ranking websites and when one of these sites has broken the formula it will receive a SEO penalty. These penalties range in severity, from a drop in traffic to removal from Google altogether.

If your website is your livelihood, do you want to risk it all because of a quick ranking? Also, buying backlinks doesn’t guarantee large local SEO boosts. As you can see from this article alone, there are a multitude of factors that go into the ranking algorithms.

The most organic ways of building backlinks is through guest posting. Within the article you are writing include a link back to a relevant page on your own site to generate a little ‘SEO juice.’ This is when a website with more authority than your own links to your site, as is the case with a guest post.

Videos

For additional SEO benefits, consider embedding a YouTube video within the page that you want to optimize. Remember, Google owns YouTube so it is always given priority over other video hosting sites.

Make sure that your video is keyword optimized in both the title and its description, as well as containing a relevant call-to-action. If you want people to buy a certain product, tell them. If you want your customer to call you, tell them. Always assume that they don’t know what to do next. This will avoid any confusion and cut bounce rates.

Sticking with our Hairdresser keywords it would be wise to use a title like: ‘New York City Hairdresser – {Address} – {Phone Number}’. As mentioned, include a suitable description that has a link back to your site, as well as your address. Write this in the exact same format that it is on your site.

Recall the directories that I mentioned earlier? Be sure to include your video there for extra exposure, as most directories will rank sites higher based on the amount of quality content they upload. Makes sense right?

If you are willing to take the time to fill out your business details with key information, it only makes sense for the site to rank you higher as you offer more value to your potential customers compared to your competitors.

Summary of the importance of local SEO

To summarise, local SEO is a long process when correct, but takes both time and effort.

The steps mentioned throughout this post are only the beginning of building a local presence, but will still help you to rank higher. This is even more so if your competitors do not have any SEO in place.

Kris Cook is a small business internet marketing consultant who works with local businesses looking to grow online. Kris has been successfully marketing small businesses for seven years now and loves every minute of it. He is keen meeting like-minded business owners and a technology enthusiast. You can find him on twitter @KrisCook13.

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