Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
Be in the kNOW: Local SEO for Small Business.
Getting a small business on board with a more streamlined approach to SEO can be a monumental task. Then, once implemented, updates need to happen here and there.
So, if you already have the “regular” search engine optimization (SEO) stuff down, what about when it comes to Local SEO?
If you just thought, WAIT — Local SEO is different!?, don’t fret!
You won’t necessarily have to “redo” your small business’s SEO or anything like that. For the most part, it’s adding some new pages and a few other things.
Before we begin, let me clarify the difference between SEO and Local SEO.
→ For those not privy, SEO has many names, but it’s not all the same thing!
For example, have you ever heard of Organic SEO, Global SEO, or Traditional SEO? If not, no worries. In general, SEO helps websites simplify information for search engines so they can better understand/crawl/index your website.
Why does that matter?
Because if pages/posts don’t get indexed by search engines, then how can they begin to rank in search results?
“Regular” SEO Search INPUT Example:
- How to do SEO
- What is the name of the 1st President?
- Which cats have smushed faces?
→ SEO results for the above inquiries, in general, can help to match your website with things like standard search terms, questions, answers, or topics. For example, if you searched “how to do SEO,” it would generate results based on the highest-ranking SEO article at that moment, as it doesn’t necessarily need to be location-specific. Make sense?
Local SEO Search INPUT Example:
- Best SEO Agencies near you.
- Best Thai Restaurant.
- Smushed Faced Cat breeders in Pennsylvania (I suggest searching animal shelters first)
→ Local SEO results for the above inputs, in general, could help to match your business with the above search terms, based on geolocation, if you owned a local SEO agency, a Thai restaurant, or were a cat breeder. In other words, Local SEO utilizes your business’s website (data), topics, and/or business purpose to help let your closest (by location) customers know that you’re nearby, open for business, and what you sell/do.
Next thing to consider is when to use “regular” vs. local SEO.
We use “regular” SEO when trying to get found, by anyone, through search engines based around a particular topic.
When you use Local SEO, it still has the search aspect going on. However, the difference is that it helps you better target audiences/customers within a specific geographic area based on your company’s physical address.
Where to Start – Claim Your Business
Requirement: Have a brick and mortar location.
Claim your business on the different search engines and popular business directories (Yelp and Yellow Pages: You can do each for free. Yelp will often call about services).
After claiming your business, it’s time to verify your biz. Becoming verified with Google can either be fast or take up to 2 weeks, depending on which verification method you choose. P.S. Most businesses verify with a postcard. Other companies may have the option to confirm by phone, e-mail, or search console. If you happen to have 10 or more locations to verify, a bulk verification option is available.
Bing has similar options for business verification.
Becoming verified allows your small business SEO to appear within that search engine’s map when potential customers search for related companies or products close to them.
A website with Local SEO
While you’re waiting for the verification to finish, it’s time to move onto your site. Disclaimer: Adding Local SEO can feel like a daunting task, especially when going in blindly (I’ve been there, and it sucks!). Let’s go in together and get you found.
Title Tags with Location
First, it’s important to note that title tags are essential when naming a page. More importantly, they give us (and search engine bots) ideas of what a page is all about.
Next, having your location (City and State) within the title helps people and search engine bots know that you are local. However, the tricky part is fitting this info with an appropriate title and keep it all under 60 characters.
(Going over the 60 characters causes titles to get cut off on the local search results page.)
So what if you are one of the lucky people with a long city name? Well, you can add the name of the city in your title.
Example: “John’s Hardware Supply – Rancho Santa Margarita.” (47 characters).
It’s acceptable to use your zip code or abbreviated state name after the city name too.
Not part of Local SEO, but still relevant. As with titles, meta descriptions give another look at what a page is all about. Being as descriptive as possible is essential. Also, be personable and keep things simple! Nobody wants to visit a super ‘dry’ and overtly complex page.
Another thing to note, meta descriptions don’t directly impact your ranking on search engines, but they can provide a good user experience if they accurately describe your page. Otherwise, as a default, a snippet of the first few sentences gets used as your description. Try to keep this close to 160 characters; anything over gets cut off with a ‘…’.
NAP in Footer
Don’t sleep on this opportunity! The name, address, and phone number in your footer will help current, and future customers make your businesses more accessible. It also helps to solidify your business identity.
Extra points for making your phone number clickable with: <a href=”tel:1-883-222-3333“>1-883-222-3333</a>
Store Locator for Merchandise You Carry
Not only is this one of my favorite ways of gaining additional traffic (and possibly earning a couple of backlinks), but it’s easy and straightforward for retailers to use!
Many manufacturers who make items that get sold in stores also have a website.
Sounds obvious, right?
The kicker: Most manufacturers also have a retail or store locator that allows website visitors/customers to find those products in the nearest stores!
The other kicker: Many manufacturing companies don’t usually (automatically) add new shops to their Product/Store Locator. They leave it up to the retailers.
To get set up, you’ll need to reach out to each manufacturer by going to their contact or affiliate page and submitting an application to be added to their locator.
Also, some manufacturers (with store locators) list their clients’ websites as a hyperlink, which can give you a backlink (if they don’t use the <nofollow> tag). Since most of those sites don’t use them, it can, in turn, help your website rank a little better and bring more highly qualified visitors to your website/store.
Create Pages for Products Carried
As business owners, we understand that simple things can be overlooked. For retail businesses, product pages tend to be one of those things.
You wouldn’t think so, but if you look around at some of your local businesses, you’ll notice a trend. The site has either been fully optimized with easily searchable products or not, and they are difficult to find!
Why optimize product pages?
It helps your customers find the products they need locally and more easily.
Here are some examples of good and not-so-good ideas when making pages. Let’s assume you’re a hardware store:
Making pages for different product lines and then describing them in your own words opens up the opportunity of being found easier after the search engine indexes the page.
Good pages to make (if you carry these products):
- DeWalt Hand Tools
- Dremel Multi Tools
- Armstrong Flooring
Not-so-good pages to create:
- 2 1/2″ Nails
- Big Hammers
- White Paint
See the difference?
Using a brand name that has a line of tools is a good practice. It makes it specific enough that it’ll be easy to categorize, and you’ll have plenty to write about!
Also using an established brand name helps with buyers intent.
From an SEO perspective, it could open more opportunities to be indexed by search engines based merely on the keywords related to those brands.
Next, after getting a verified business account with Google, you get the perk of being able to reply to customer reviews!
PSA: Make sure to respond to reviews!
Leave a simple “thank you!” for a star rating or a note for a more in-depth review.
As for negative reviews, it depends on the issue. Be sure NOT to ignore bad reviews because it makes the business look “absent.” Also, keep in mind that you don’t panic if you don’t have an answer right away! Be transparent and let them know that you are looking into the issue and that you’ll get back to them with an answer ASAP. You can even leave a contact email in your response if they don’t want to talk about it publicly.
P.S. Posting replies publicly isn’t a bad thing. However, there can be situations where you might need to consult with legal counsel before sending a response.
Replying to Reviews = Good Customer Service!
Ultimately, publically handling reviews professionally and positively is priceless (say that five times fast!). It shows customers that you’re paying attention and, at a minimum, care. It also shows that you have excellent customer service!
For some reason, many businesses don’t ask customers to review them online. If you want to know what your customers are thinking, ask them to send a review! How else will you know? However, make sure to avoid any incentive when asking customers to review your business (it’s against Google’s review policy).
Ultimately, comments and criticisms are one of Google’s ranking factors because they search for quality and relevance. Keep in mind that Google CAN tell if the review/comment is legit or not!
Local SEO for Small Business Overview
Setting up business accounts on search engines, getting verified, being added to store locators, and filling websites with valuable information can be a lot of work. Over time, doing all of this provides your site with another bonus of regularly updated fresh content.
Ultimately, getting each of these things done will give you a solid base and plenty of places to work on to advance your Local SEO efforts.
Until next time!
In the meantime, be sure to check out the Local SEO Checklist below, and if you’re looking for more info on how to improve SEO, check out our SEO section.
Stay tuned for other UGH! Media posts and more practical digital solutions for the small (or aspiring) business owner.
Local SEO Checklist