If you own a brick-and-mortar store, an office, or serve your local community, then Local SEO could be a critical part of your digital marketing that has been neglected. Search Engine Optimization is the long game for getting your site to rank higher in search engine results, but what exactly is Local SEO, and is Local SEO right for you?
What is Local SEO?
Traditional SEO is a series of steps maintained on a website and its content that allows Google and other search engines to easily understand what the content on the site is about and connect that content to search queries. SEO is basically a language between search engines and your website content. It may seem daunting at first but we have broken it down into easier-to-understand language in our post Dogwood’s Guide to SEO.
Local SEO is an aspect of SEO that focuses on making sure that your website and business are easily seen and found right where you live and work. Local actually refers to the physical place you do business or where your target customers live. Does your business primarily serve those that live and do work near your location? If so, then Local SEO is right for you.
Local SEO wants to make sure your contact information is correct and consistent anywhere someone is searching for you. It shows that you are truly local to the area. Like traditional SEO, it shows that you are taking care of your site, is active and responsive, and care that those that search for you have a quality visit when they are there.
Is Local SEO Right for my Business?
Local SEO is for you if your business meets any of the following criteria:
- You have a brick-and-mortar storefront
- You have multiple locations for your business
- You want to connect strongly to those in your local community
- You want your business to show up in “near me” search results
By optimizing for SEO Locally,
- Your website and Google My Business listing will appear higher in search results
- Your customers will easily see where you are located, your hours, and other key details of your business
- Directions to your business will be shown in Google Maps and easily accessible
- You will foster connections with your customers rather than be just another search result in a listing
- You will build customer trust with the visibility of your reviews and your responses to those reviews
To me, Local SEO ensures that your first step in digital hospitality is a good one.
Local SEO Best Practices
Consistency is Key
When beginning your Local SEO journey you want to first find out where the majority of your customers are looking for you. While Google and Google My Business are the first and strongest you would be surprised at how many people could find you via other search engines such as Bing, Apple Maps, Facebook, Instagram, Linked In, Yelp, and many others. Making sure you have a strong presence on each of these platforms is key to Local SEO.
In all of the places your customers are looking for you, you need to make sure all of your information is correct and enticing. Your business name, phone number, website, and address should be correct and consistent as the foundation. In addition to those, you should have quality photos, videos, and links. The description should list your main services and the keywords you wish to rank for. Reviews and response times should be shown and in good standing.
Consistency on all platforms on your business’s name, address, and phone cannot be stressed enough for local SEO.
Your Google My Business Profile
We mentioned above that your Google My Business profile is the best and strongest starting point for local SEO. Make sure your Google My Business Profile is correct, up-to-date, and active. Spend some time visiting these posts to learn more about making the most of your Google My Business profile: Why a Google My Business Profile is Crucial and How to Improve Your Google Maps Ranking
The Back End of Your Website
To have a strong Local SEO presence you want to make sure the following is happening on the HTML side (or the back end) of your website:
- On all of your pages: title, meta descriptions, H1 & H2 headers, alternative text on images that include keywords
- Content that includes: directions and/or Google map location, references to local landmarks that help guide visitors to your business, and anything else that shows that you are truly local to the area.
- A correct Google Maps listings
- Correct contact information
- Correct social media profile linking
If you have multiple locations then you need to make sure all of the above happens for every location. We cannot stress enough how important consistency of your name, address, and phone number is across all platforms.
Your name, address, and phone number should also be included in crawlable HTML text on your site. This information is most commonly in the header or footer of a site.
Optimize Directories and Citations
There are three main data map aggregators that provide a large amount of data for Google, Apple, Yelp, Bing, and many more. They are Data Axle (formerly known as Express Update,) Neustar Localeze, and Foursquare. These all collect local data and search engines pull most of their information from them to confirm. If you leave out a suite number or misspell a street on any of them then Google may choose to not show you the location at all because it cannot deem what is true… Consistency is key!
Optimizing these directories and citations in addition to your Google My Business listing and any other outside profiles can reinforce to search engines that you are in fact local. Thus you may rank higher in local search engine results.
Connect With Other Local Businesses Through Inbound Links
Inbound links are very powerful in boosting your local SEO. Every other website that links to your site verifies even more with Google that you are, in fact, a real business. Inbound links to your website from other local businesses in the community strengthen Local SEO. Partnerships, guest bloggers, and Chamber of Commerce connections are ways to boost your inbound links. Hosting community events or promoting something local you love also reinforces to Google that you are a valuable asset to be shown to more people locally.
Be Active on Social Media
We believe every business should have a consistent social media presence. Yes, this is engaging to your audience but it also increases your Local SEO rankings. Be sure to add content to your Google My Business profile and then share that profile on your social media pages. This dual reinforcement will strengthen your Local SEO presence.
Don’t Be Overwhelmed
Chances are that you chose to begin your business in the area it is in because you care about your community. Local SEO is a great way to show digital hospitality to those nearest you. While it may seem overwhelming if digital marketing is not a strength in your skillset, most of the best practices for Local SEO are also best practices for your business in general.
Dogwood Media Solutions + Local SEO
Dogwood can help. In addition to traditional SEO services, we are well-versed in all aspects of Local SEO. We can help your customers find you whether your target audience is all over the nation, the state, or your city. Let us help. Let’s get the conversation started.
This content was originally published on December 7, 2020, and has been updated with newer content.