If you are a local business, reaching your customers online is critical to your revenue. Whether you have a physical location or visit your customers at their place, you can use local SEO tactics to improve your visibility in your community. We will cover the three main steps to get more web traffic with local SEO by leveraging your status as a local business.
First, let’s define SEO.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s the process of boosting your visibility on Search Engine Results Pages (also referred to as SERPs) when individuals search for products or services related to your business. You can gain visibility without paying for ads. Free search engine optimization uses several tactics to build visibility over time.
What is local SEO?
Local SEO involves tactics that improve search engine visibility in local searches specifically (versus national searches, for example). It is similar to general SEO but includes Google Business Profile and other listings sites that show your location, services, and contact details to people nearby who are searching.
By the way, you can start being found in search before you create your website. It’s a good idea to do this!
How local search works.
Google can detect from what location someone is searching. When people search for a store or service near them, it can show your contact information in that box near the top of the page with three businesses highlighted. Searchers can click “More businesses” to see all the entries for that type of business. Your company can show up here if you have a Google Business Profile account. Here’s what appears after someone near Marlborough, MA, searches for the term “plumber.”
Ideally, you want to be “everywhere” in search results.
Below the Google Business Profile section, you can also show up for social media accounts, your website and blog pages, and any niche listing sites where you have submitted your information. Showing up over a wide variety of listings is an excellent signal to the public that you are active and open for business.
Three steps to increase your visibility through local SEO
There is a misconception that SEO is a one-step process. People build websites and want to “add SEO.” It’s not rocket science. But it does take time, effort, and strategy. Being consistent and taking simple steps is the key to steady growth.
Here are the 3 essential steps for increasing your local web traffic.
- Set up your Google Business Profile account to take advantage of local search.
- Get reviews to boost your rank there.
- Optimize your website structure and include keyword phrases that your customers might use while searching for your product or service.
Let’s go over that in detail.
1. Get verified by Google and optimize your Google Business Profile.
Google Business Profile (formerly known as “Google My Business”) is a free platform and a critical tool for visibility in local searches. This account also controls Google Maps.
Getting verified by Google is simple.
Here are the steps to get verified by Google.
- Create a Google Business Profile using a new or existing Gmail or Google Workspace account
- You will submit your business address and phone number to Google. Note: If you work from home remotely or are a service area business, you don’t need to show your address publicly, but you will need to submit it to Google so they can make sure you are an actual entity.
- Wait for a physical verification code to arrive in the mail.
- Enter the verification code in your GMB profile.
Optimize your profile.
After you receive verification, complete your profile. Here are ways to optimize your GBP profile:
- Follow the guided questions Google will ask.
- Add as much information as you can that applies to your type of business.
- Add your logo, profile images, and other images related to products and services.
- Get reviews. They are a huge ranking factor for your Google Business Profile because they are an essential trust factor for people looking at your business online.
- Add Questions and Answers (the GBP version of Frequently Asked Questions)
- Add short, simple posts about topics, deals, or announcements every two weeks to a month.
To save time, you may want to enlist the help of a professional like mhcDesign to help you in setting up your Google Business Profile properly and for continued optimization.
You can follow these steps and best practices to set up and optimize your profile.
2. Get customer reviews on Google and other review sites.
Your customer feedback and reviews affect your business visibility. Google weighs Google Reviews more heavily than other review sites when determining your place in Google Business Profile. Still, it does look favorably upon reviews left on other social media and review sites such as Facebook, Yelp, LinkedIn, NextDoor, and niche sites like BuildZoom. If people are more likely to leave reviews on those sites, certainly encourage that as an option!
Ask for Reviews
Having positive reviews increases your credibility with both Google and consumers. You can politely ask customers to leave a Google review after using your goods and services. Be careful to check the policies for requesting reviews on Google and other listing sites. Check for stringent rules regarding requests and make sure you comply. Yelp is one review site that closely polices your adherence to their policies.
When You Get a Review
Thank reviewers and respond professionally, whether the review was positive or negative. Responding to negative reviews with helpfulness and restraint is a chance to shine for review readers. If a review is wrong (for example, they confused you with a similar business), say so politely and move on. That will be more convincing to other readers than countering with an argument.
It is possible to ask Google to remove an inappropriate review, but they set the bar high. Check Google and other review sites for guidelines. The best way to counter a negative review is to get many positive ones.
3. Invest in your website.
Invest time in your website or hire someone to help you. Even though you can be found in a Google Business Profile listing and on social media, a website is critical for local SEO. With good content and well-structured design, it presents visitors and Google with the complete picture of your business.
Surprisingly, more than 28% of small businesses in the U.S don’t have a website. And a significant percentage of the remaining companies have poorly designed websites.
Build a well-structured website with helpful, engaging content. Here’s a quick checklist of website qualities that help your search results. You can do many things on this list via the dashboard of your content management system (for instance, in WordPress, Wix, SquareSpace, etc.):
- A correct heading structure (h1, h2, h3 in the proper order)
- Metadata — each page’s title and description submitted to search engines
- Logical site structure and keywords in a page’s URL
- Appropriately titled images with “alt text” (This is primarily for people using screen readers. But it also provides search engines with relevant information.)
- Strategic links between your pages
- Keyword phrases that your customers might use while searching for your product or service
- Service area businesses can build effective “location” or “town” pages for their services
- Mobile-friendly design (people can navigate and read easily on the phone)
- Quick load time for pages
- Quality content people will read
- Well-designed pages to help visitors engage with your content
Note that creating helpful, engaging content is an effective way to boost your business authority and your place in search at the same time. Google rewards you when people spend time reading your content.
If you know your way around your website and like creating content, these are easy ways to start building your visibility. If that’s not your cup of tea, you may want to hire a professional to do it strategically. mhcDesign builds websites that play well with search engines, and we also work with businesses to improve their websites and visibility in search.
What’s first on your list?
Start chipping away at this list, beginning with what will get you the quickest results. For example, generating reviews would be low-hanging fruit if you already have a Google Business Profile. If you have many reviews but are missing good images, add images. If your GBP is pretty good — not missing items and has some reviews — look at your website structure and mobile layout to see if they are in order. If the structure is good, work on the content.
Start chipping away at your local SEO tasks. Use this guide to get started.
The best time to act is now.
Whatever you do, just pick something and begin! Don’t wait. Do what you can because the sooner you start, the sooner you progress. Consistently taking small steps will pay off before you know it. If you need help speeding up your results, reach out to us at mhcDesign to learn how we can help.