Getting to the top of local search results isn’t as easy as it used to be. Back in the day, all you had to do was claim your business on Google My Business. That was enough to make you stand out from the competition. Well, now EVERYBODY does that, so you need to be a bit more creative.
Local SEO has grown increasingly competitive. And to make life even harder, Google displays only three businesses in its local pack—a significant change from the seven listings it used to show. Does that mean local SEO is impossible?
Back in the day you could only earn 1600 points on the SAT; now anyone can hit that number because there are 2400 possible points. The same is true here. If you are doing everything perfectly according to the Google from last year, you still won’t do well. You need to take the verbal and math sections, but you also need to write the essay. And just writing that essay will put you hundreds of points ahead.
Here are a few of the cutting-edge local SEO strategies and tactics that will help your business rank high in local search listings:
First, Do the Groundwork
Your website is a valuable asset to your business, and it needs to be optimized to rank high in search results. This includes some (but not all) of the following on-page optimization techniques:
- Performing keyword research and inserting local keywords into your title tags (while avoiding keyword stuffing).
- Incorporating your NAP (name, address, and phone number) into the HTML of your website. It needs to be consistent throughout your pages and on local citations (more on this later).
- Implement schema markup to help search engines display your information. You can use this structured data tool to get you started.
- Creating amazing content specifically for local SEO. For example, if someone is searching for a place that can fix their smartphone, they want to know if your business can fulfill their need. Provide content that answers their questions, and you will be the person that they turn to.
Remember to optimize your website for mobile, as well. More local customers are finding your business through on-the-go mobile searches, as opposed to desktop searches, and mobile speed matters to them. Make your site easy to navigate, and you will keep mobile users on your page instead of bouncing back to search results.
NAP Consistency Is Key
It’s already been mentioned that your NAP needs to be consistent on your website, but it also needs to be consistent and accurate across third-party sites, as well, if you want your local SEO campaign to be successful. NAP consistency is a powerful external ranking factor and having yours on websites such as Yelp and Citysearch will help your small business rank in local search if they display the same information across the board.
Citation building should be part of your local SEO strategy. Citations are simply a mention of your business anywhere on the web, and these make it easier for search engines to find your business (if your information is consistent, that is). While Yelp and Citysearch are popular platforms, they aren’t the only ones out there, and you will want to do your research on which ones are right for your business.
Be warned, though—inconsistent or duplicate citations will hurt your local rankings and can be a huge pain to fix. This is why it is so important that all of your information is exact, and that you have no bad data out there. Your Google My Business information needs to be accurate, and everything else should match this listing.
Don’t Overlook Link Building
Local link building should be a part of your search marketing strategy if you want to improve your SEO and get more traffic. This tactic is often underutilized by small business owners because they feel as though they don’t have the time or resources to do it themselves.
While it may not be easy, it is certainly worth it. Local link building can set your small business apart from the competition by increasing your local authority and driving tons of direct referral traffic to your business.
Yes, it may take some time, but you may already be on your way to building links if you are writing high-quality content for local audiences. There are many clever local link building tactics that can be used to get more link juice. If you want to rank organically in Google’s local pack listings, backlinks are key to making it happen.
Spend Time Getting Reviews
Online reviews are essential to your local SEO campaign for multiple reasons. Not only are they a strong ranking signal for local search, but they are also critical to a business owner’s online reputation.
When faced with the decision to visit a two-star restaurant or a five-star restaurant, the choice is obvious. Therefore, you need to spend time acquiring reviews and keeping tabs on what people have to say about your business online.
This isn’t as hard as you may think. In fact, a survey from BrightLocal found that 70 percent of consumers will leave a review for a business when asked. All you need to decide is which review platform you should use and how you will ask customers to review your business.
Keep Up with Local SEO News
Like traditional SEO, local SEO is not something that you “set and forget.” It’s a continuous process, and one that small business owners should be on top of if they want to remain competitive in local search.
Google is constantly making changes to local search, and SEOs need to adjust their strategies accordingly. If you aren’t going through a digital marketing agency, then you should stay up to date on the latest changes (such as the “Possum” update that occurred in September).
Local SEO was once optional for local businesses, but the competition is growing tighter each year, and it is becoming more of a necessity for small business owners. Local SEO is a different beast than national SEO, and it needs to be approached differently to be successful.
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