What is local search engine optimization (SEO) and why is it so important to small businesses?
While SEO optimizes your website so it will rank higher in search results, local SEO ensures your business shows up when people search for companies like yours, specifically in your local area. Local SEO is an important marketing tool for any small business targeting a local customer base.
Basically, to increase customer visits to your location, you need to be doing local SEO.
Local SEO is becoming more important because more people now search for businesses, products and services on mobile devices. When a prospect searches via smartphone, Google takes the phone’s location into consideration when displaying search results. That gives businesses using local SEO an edge.
Local SEO can offer many benefits, including:
- Putting your small business on equal footing with your biggest competitors.
- Reaching the specific target audience you want—nearby prospects.
- Grabbing prospects at the exact moment they’re looking for what you’re selling.
- It’s free!
Here's how to implement local SEO for your business.
Step 1. Claim your business listing on local search directories.
Begin with Google My Business; then move on to other directories such as Bing Places for Business, Citysearch, MerchantCircle, Yelp and Superpages. Also add any region-specific or industry-specific directories you can think of, such as Angie’s List. You may find a directory has already created a barebones listing for your business; go ahead and claim it (it’s free).
Step 2. Claim and optimize your directory listings.
Start with the basic information prospects will use when deciding whether to visit your business—address, phone number, hours of operation and website URL. If you have more than one business location, you will need a separate directory listing for each; this helps improve your search engine rankings.
It’s critical for your business name, address and phone number (NAP) information to be completely consistent across the various directories. In other words, if your business is on 42nd Avenue, don’t spell it Av. in one listing, Avenue in another and Ave. in a third. Inconsistent entries confuse search engines and lower your ranking.
Once you’ve got the basics covered, go back to the listings and add details to convince customers to patronize your business. This might include photos of your location or products, menus, current promotions or seasonal hours.
Finally, make sure to categorize your listing under the proper type/s of business. (Most search directories allow this.) Proper categorization helps to deliver more accurate search results to users.
Step 3. Optimize your website for local search.
For even better results, you’ll want to implement local SEO on your website, too. Start by including your business address in the footer of the home page, on the Contact Us page and anywhere else it’s appropriate. Then add location-specific keywords (such as your neighborhood, city, county or state) in your website’s meta tags, title tags, descriptions and content.
Step 4. Keep your information up-to-date.
To get the most from local SEO, you need to maintain current listings on local search directories. Once a month, review your listings and make sure all the information is still accurate. Update as needed—for example, add recent photos or new specials. (Your web hosting company may be able to handle this for you as an added service, so you don’t have to visit hundreds of local search directories and update them by hand.)
Refreshing your content gets search engines’ attention and improves your standing in search results.
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