Years ago when people wanted to find a particular business in their area, they would go to the Yellow Pages. Today, people have set aside those massive phone books and have opted to find the products or services they’re looking for through local search engines like Google Places, Bing, and Yelp.
Whether they’re looking for restaurant, a flower shop, or a tattoo parlor, customers want to be able to quickly find the business nearby. Search engines have already began taking note of this. Search engines like Google, Yahoo!, and Bing use geographic location as a local search ranking factor when listing businesses on the first pages.
But how does local SEO work? What factors do search engines take into account when ranking local businesses?
Here’s a checklist of search ranking factors that you should make sure your website has in order to improve your local SEO and be more visible in local searches.
Mobile Friendly Website
Google is giving preference to websites that are mobile friendly. This means that if your site is not optimized for mobile usage, it will be docked in the rankings. Although most new website like ThriveHive sites are mobile friendly, it is important you check using Google’s Mobile Friendly Test.
Another major factor contributing to the emphasis on local search is the use of mobile devices like smartphones. When someone enters a query into a search engine from a mobile device, the location is automatically picked up and factored into the search, and the users are then given results based on their location. And seeing as mobile internet usage has surpassed desktop usage, your business must start implementing local search strategies to compete in the search engines.
Standardize Your Business Name
The name of your business is arguably the biggest factor that will determine how well your website ranks in the search engines. And because people will look to find your business through an online search, it is essential to keep the name of your business uniform on all platforms.
For example, don’t use the title ‘Sweet Shoppe’ on Yelp and ‘The Sweet Shoppe’ on your Facebook page. Not only does this interfere with the search engine’s rankings, but it also confuses potential customers.
Make sure to choose only one name that you will enter into all directories, both online and print.
In most cases, your business name will be unique enough to stand apart from other businesses. However, if your restaurant is named ‘Mickey’s’ you may find yourself competing with a plethora of other ‘Mickey’s’ out there. To differentiate your business, you should use ‘descriptors’, which are additional tags used to identify our business. For example, your restaurant could be entered in databases as ‘Mickey’s Irish Pub Chicago’. Not only will this differentiate your business, but when people search for ‘Irish Pub’s in ‘Chicago’, your site will be at the top of the rankings.
A primary focus of local search strategy should be the creation of local listings for your business. This is a virtual profile of your business which contains key details such as the name of your business , phone number, address, e-mail and any other pertinent information. This information is then compiled into numerous online directories (e.g. Yelp, Google+, Foursquare) where users can find your business, but that are also factored into the equation of search engine. Make sure to submit your business to online directories including Google+, Yelp, and the online Yellow Pages.
You should definitely start by setting up a business page on Google+. This tool complements your existing website by giving your business a public identity and presence on Google. Business pages on Google+ are easy to set up—check out our easy to follow post on how to set up a Google+ page for your business.
Use Keywords based on Search Queries
Put yourself in the shoes of a potential customer in your niche. Ask yourself what they’re biggest priorities are, and what they would likely search for. Knowing your customer is the best way to market your business to customers. Beyond just brainstorming ideas, there are a number of online tools you can use such as Google Trends, AdWords, and Soovle.
Google Trends is a tool that allows you to search for a keyword, and look at the number of searches for that term over time. You can even narrow down the geographic location and length of time to get a more accurate reading.
Google AdWords is a tool that is designed for business and website owners looking to advertise for their website, to find the keywords that are most suitable to their marketing goals. AdWords will give you very detailed insights into the total volume of searches.
Soovle lets you see what other things people are searching when they type in certain words. Like if they’re shopping for “flower shop in Louisville” or “exotic flower shop downtown Louisville”. By finding the words that are searched together, you can use those terms as targeted keywords in your website content.
Another way to find out good keywords is to find out how people are finding your blog. ThriveHive users can easily do this in our platform. This information is also available through Google Analytics if you have that set up on your website.
Optimize Content for SEO
Creating unique and valuable content is the foundation for online marketing success. A website’s content will determine the number and activity of your website visitors, based on the keywords that your site is ranked for in the search engines.
This is why content marketing is such an important aspect of online marketing. Fortunately, content writing and marketing does not have to be a difficult task. There are plenty of free marketing ideas for small businesses to reference online.
Write Relevant Content
When creating your articles or blog posts, make sure that your content pertains to your business. It should be helpful information that anyone across the industry should find helpful. Also, you should include information about local events and area partnerships, as this will really help to draw in local users. If you’re looking for ideas on blog posts, check out these 130 blog ideas to for your business blog.
Use Geographic Targeted Keywords
Relevant keywords should be included in your content that pertain to your industry, but also what will be typed into search engines. If you have a bakery, then use relevant keywords as it pertains to the general industry (e.g. bakery, wedding cake, cupcake shop, etc) and for local search (e.g. Somerset county bakery, downtown Somerville cakes, New Jersey bakery, etc.)
Include relevant links to previous content that you have published on your website or blog. For example, if you write a blog about a wedding that you made a cake for, link to the wedding cake section on your Products Page or link it from ‘Specialty Cakes’ on your products page to a blog post about all of the specialty cakes you have made.
Once you have taken the proper steps to optimize your content, there are a few more techniques to implement before you publish your wok for the world to see in terms of on-site SEO.
When creating pages and posts on your website, make sure that the title and <title> tag includes relevant keywords for each blog post.
Just as with the title, headings also play a role in search engines. Just make sure that these headings such as <h2> and <h3> fit within the context of the article.
Optimize Images through File Names & Alt Tags
An often overlooked technique for optimizing SEO is optimizing images. The purpose of optimizing images is so that they can get found online in Google Image Search. This is done by naming the file name and alt tags of an image include relevant keywords. For example, if you upload a picture of a burrito at your Mexican restaurant in LA, change the title of the image to ‘Los Angeles burrito’. Use these terms for Alt Tags in your images.
Not only is social media a great way to market your business, but it is also a key factor used in the search engines. Your business should have several social media pages, including Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Social media pages help your business rank higher on Google searches because of their domain and page authority. There are many ways to use Facebook for your business including using images in your posts to increase organic reach and get more likes on Facebook posts.
For more help with your business SEO and for more local SEO tips, check out our Local SEO Guide.