You may have a solid grasp on basic search engine optimization (SEO), but do you know the finer points of a small business-specific strategy? In this article, we’re going to cover the basics of a local SEO strategy that helps small businesses with their rankings.
Understand Your Audience’s Search Needs
SEO is all about being the go-to resource for your audience. A roofer who publishes blog posts on topics such as “what type of roofing shingle should I get” or “how to patch a leaky roof” increases their chances of getting found online by potential customers. However, there are also local search queries, where internet users are looking for specific information about businesses, such as:
- Contact information
- Specifics of services
Adding this information to your website improves the user experience and increases the chances of turning visitors into customers. In addition, search engines like Google favor websites that contain this information. The more consistent information it can gather about you online, the more it will trust you and the higher it will rank you in results. In addition, the more information you have on your website that your customers are looking for, the more time they’ll spend on your site, and the more pages on your site they will visit—which also improves your rankings.
Leverage Your Locale for Backlinks
One of the benefits of a small business—particularly brick-and-mortar businesses—is that you’re likely to have other small businesses nearby willing to work together on a backlink strategy. Linking to one another on your websites and social pages is a great way to start building your backlink numbers and improving the authority of your website, while also building better relationships with your community business partners.
Another avenue worth exploring is local publications, such as newsletters or niche blogs dedicated to small businesses like yours. These publishers are highly likely to feature your business simply because you are a small business and that is the audience they serve. Such publications can also be a huge boon not just for some quality backlinking, but also for good press for your business and eyes on your website.
Geo-modify Your Keywords
Another especially important aspect of SEO for small businesses is location-specific keywords. For example, if you’re a plumber in New York, your website should target the search term “plumber [your town or city in New York]”. If you don’t include location in your keyword targeting, it’s still possible you’ll show up for your local area on search engines—as they do collect location data of its users—but you may not show up as high in results.
Do Keyword Research
Before you start throwing keywords into your headlines on a whim, it’s worthwhile to explore the location-specific keywords just as you would any other keyword. Use keyword research tools like Google’s Keyword Planner or SEMRush to see how often those terms are searched and how difficult it is to rank for them—compared to the broader search term. Also, Google the terms yourself. What comes up? How do the broad results differ from the location-specific ones? Make sure the page that is targeting that particular keyword is in line with the pages that are already showing up for that search— they’re ranking for a reason.
Do your research, and select keywords that are the right fit for your business and for the audience you’re trying to reach.
The Local Pack
Almost everyone has, during one Google search or another, encountered a box that looks something like the one below:
These are the local/maps results for the search query “pizza Brookline”. They form what’s known as the Local Pack, and it’s critical to the success many small businesses. The number one factor for the ranking in the Local Pack appears to be, as of recently, the proximity to the person who performed the search, but that doesn’t mean you can rest easy about it. Other factors which have an impact on how often you and how high you are listed for the Local Pack include:
- How many Google reviews you have
- Your business’s reputation
- Your website authority
- How many backlinks you have
- Whether your Google My Business Listing is complete and claimed.
Making sure you have all your ducks in a row from a search engine’s point of view is the best way to ensure you end up with a top spot in the Local Pack. In other words, follow the rest of the recommendations in this guide, and the Local Pack will follow.
Optimize for Voice Search
As voice-based searches are increasing, they are gaining importance in search engine algorithms.
Optimizing for voice is especially important for service-on-demand businesses like restaurants or repair shops. If someone is driving around your city and wants to find a business like yours, what are they likely to do? Ask Siri. Are those the kinds of people you want to be able to find your business? It could be worth exploring for some—but not all—small businesses. However, in the coming years, it’s likely to become a bigger factor in SEO as voice-based technology becomes more prevalent.