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 online through search engines like Google, Bing, and Yelp. Whether they’re looking for a restaurant, a flower shop, or a tattoo parlor, customers want to be able to quickly find businesses nearby. Search engines have taken note of this and use geographic location as a ranking factor when listing businesses on the first pages. So 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.
As mobile internet usage has surpassed desktop usage, your business must start implementing local search strategies to compete on the search engine results. In addition, 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 Google gives 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. Check to see if your site is mobile friendly using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.
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 in 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 your 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.
One primary focus of a 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, website, and any other pertinent information. Listings on major directories such as Google My Business and Yelp are essential, and will help your business to show up in smaller niche directories. The more directories your business is consistently listed under, the more Google will trust you and the higher you will rank in local search results.
For more guidance on getting listed, download our free guide: Business Listings eBook
Put yourself in the shoes of a potential customer in your niche. Ask yourself what their 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.
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.
Creating unique and valuable content is the foundation for online marketing success. A website’s content will determine how many visitors it gets, how long they stay, how well they engage, and how often they return—which are all factors Google takes into consideration when ranking. The higher the quality your content is for the keywords you are targeting, the higher you will rank. This is why content marketing is such an important aspect of online marketing. For help with your content marketing strategy, check out this post.
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, download our free eBook: 130 Ideas to Rock Your Business Blog.
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 (also known as internal link building). 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 work for the world to see in terms of on-site SEO:
An often overlooked technique for 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 including relevant keywords in the file name and the alt text or alt tags of the image. 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 engine ranking. Your business should have several social media pages, including a Facebook Business Page, Instagram business account, LinkedIn Company Profile, and if applicable, a Twitter, Snapchat, or Pinterest account (for help determining the right social media platforms for your business, check out this post).
Social media pages help your business rank higher on Google searches because of their domain and page authority.
Use these eleven tips to help your business get found online by customers near you.