Even if you know basically nothing about SEO (search engine optimization), you still know that your business needs to show up in search results so new customers can find you online.
And for many businesses, it's essential to rank in a certain geographical area. If you run a dental practice in Knoxville, Tennessee, it doesn't help you much to rank for "whitening treatment options" in Seattle.
There are lots of things you can do to take control of your local SEO. Here are 5 of our best tips for getting your business found online by local customers!
1. Claim Your Online Business Listings
Believe it or not, there are more than 100 online listing sources where your business information could be incorrect. I know that sounds like a line, but it's true—business data is frequently pulled from original sources into new databases all the time, meaning that old (or just plain wrong) data can propogate across the web without any help from you.
Incorrect, inconsistent listings can hurt your ability to rank locally on Google, but fixing inaccuracies helps Google see you as more trustworthy. And, of course, it helps potential customers find you wherever they are searching.
Here are a few of the places your business may be listed:
- Google My Business
- Bing Places for Business
- Niche-specific directories like TripAdvisor and Zomato
- Facebook (Facebook auto-generates pages under certain circumstances)
- White Pages and Yellow Pages (including copycats)
In 2017, most of these listings are generated automatically based on public information, so it's not about creating business listings anymore; it's about claiming them and correcting them.
Many listing sites (and even some social media platforms) even allow you to verify your business using code that links to your site, so customers know that it's really you and the information is up to date.
If you're anything like most professionals, you're too busy running your business to manually update all of these business listings. This is where services like our local listings scan tool come into play. It can help you identify errors all at once, and then we (or whoever—no pressure) can step in and help you correct them on multiple websites simultaneously. No muss, no fuss.
2. Feature your contact info and location prominently.
Making sure that your location and contact information are visible on your website is not only important so that customers can find you, but also for your local SEO. As long as the information is in text form and not in an image, search engines will be able to take it into account for results pages.
"Prominent" doesn't mean it needs to be gargantuan or flashing red or anything, just that it's not buried at the bottom of the page and is easy for both customers and search engines to find (search engines read the code of the page top to bottom, so higher up is usually better).
3. Use keywords specific to your location and your niche.
If your business is located in Knoxville, be sure to include "Knoxville," "Knoxville, TN" and related keywords at appropriate places throughout the home page and internal pages of your website. Keep in mind that Google penalizes websites that overuse keywords, so it's important to incorporate them into your content naturally.
To create a list of relevant keywords, think about what people are searching for when it comes to your services. You also want to be specific—targeting keywords that apply to multiple industries and can be interpreted different ways won't bring in the best traffic. To counter that, just be sure you're using explicit, industry-specific terminology alongside any keywords that are open to interpretation.
4. Include local reviews and ratings.
While it's technically unclear whether search engines actually use reviews to determine what appears on SERPs, the traffic they bring certainly does impact performance. Moreover, once visitors are on your site, they can really improve your conversion rates as well as metrics that do impact SEO directly.
Place reviews wherever potential customers would benefit from a little "social proof," such as at key conversion points where they make decisions. Make sure you're engaging with reviews wherever they're received, especially the bad ones. Finally, use your website, email, and other tools to encourage happy customers to leave reviews. Start with whatever review source brings you the best leads, and feel free to rotate until you have a solid group of reviews on key platforms.
5. Encourage local inbound links.
Links to your website are extremely important, because Google sees them as signs of popularity and authority. The more inbound links you have to your website from trustworthy sources, the greater chance you have of ending up at the top of the search results.
If there are local blogs or review sites in your area that deal with your business, reach out to them and see how you might collaborate. Establish a positive and meaningful dialogue with your audience by providing reliable information that speaks to the value of your business, and prove yourself an expert in what you do.
Ask for links when appropriate and consider linkbuilding tactics like guest blogging, contributing to high-authority sites, and serving as a source in articles that will link to your website. Also, linking to high-authority websites yourself also has a positive impact on SEO. It illustrates that you know which sources are valuable and trustworthy, and search engines will consider your good judgment to be a sign of validity.
These 5 basic tips will go a long way toward getting your local SEO efforts up to speed. Depending on the nature of your business, there are other tools that you can use to successfully increase your website search engine rankings, and our local listings scan is a great place to start.
We'd love to help you check your listings for free—no email address required.
This post was originally published on 11/15/13 and has been updated for accuracy.