Once it was almost impossible to outrank a national brand in search results; luckily, with the release of 2014 Pigeon update, small businesses got their chance to shine in front of the local audiences.
Google started favoring businesses which are in close proximity to users in location-specific searches (for instance, restaurant near me). As a result, small business websites were granted a ranking boost and began appearing at the top of the search results whenever one of the “neighborly searchers” looked up relating products and services.
This sounds pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? Direct your SEO efforts towards the local audience and you will dominate the marketplace. But what are the steps that you actually have to take?
List your business in online citations and directories
According to statistics, 4 out of 5 people use search engines to conduct a local search. Evidently, not listing your business (properly) in local directories like Yelp, Citysearch, or Merchant Circle can damage your visibility. How do you find the most relevant listings for your area? You will find them in your local newspaper’s website or Chamber of Commerce – you are bound to find a place to get listed on.
Furthermore, get your business NAP (name, address, phone number) on some of the biggest citation data aggregators such as Factual, Acxiom, Infogroup, etc. and make sure your data is consistent across all listings. Wrong phone number, a misspelled word or abbreviations can create havoc, since Google might not be able to determine which listing information is the correct one. As a result, the search engine might present your customers with false information, or worse, not present them with your website at all.
Google My Business
It may be ‘just another directory, but it’s a pretty important one so we believe it deserves a separate section. If optimized correctly, it can get you incredible exposure.
In order to get your business listed, first visit google.com/business to go through a verification process. As opposed to most other listings, GMB is known for its a bit more complex process since it wants to make sure the business is legitimate. The description should be optimized with a brief, but to the point description, business hours, categories, types of payments, photographs (preferably 3) etc.
For those who do not have a physical location customers can visit – there is an option to hide your physical address as you are setting up your GMB listing.
Optimize on-site elements
In 2016, Google granted users with additional space in the main search results area, meaning you get about 50 more characters for the meta description, so you are advised to use them wisely. In the SEO world, writing these website elements is considered an art – you want the text to be brief and to the point, but at the same time unique and creative – does not seem so simple now, does it? If unsure how to approach the optimization and ensure positive results, it is always best to find experts like Websitesthatsell SEO services who will make sure your titles and descriptions do you justice and rank you high for your location.
Optimize for ‘near me’ (and mobile) searches
In the past several years, ‘product/services + near me’ searches have been on the rise, and their popularity is expected to grow. The 21st century customer is always on the go, looking for quick solutions and effective solutions; namely, this trend has been heavily influenced by the increased use of smartphones and other mobile devices.
Though many claim Google will figure it out on its own, a study has shown that those who have a higher raw count of backlinks with the location in the anchor text enjoy better rankings. What is more, the percentage of backlinks with anchor texts optimized for a geographical location correlated with the success of ‘near me’ searches. Obviously, “localizing” your link building efforts will ultimately boost traffic, drive more customers and increase your ROI.
Collect positive online reviews
Did you know that more than 80% of users report trusting online reviews just as much as personal recommendations? With this in mind, surely you will want to collect a few of positive ones for your business, as well.
How? About 70% of customers will leave one if you simply ask for it. To help you track and collect reviews, you can take advantage of reputable software like Reputation Loop, Trust Pilot, Vendasta and similar ones.
Still, the platform you want to get most of the positive reviews on is Google My Business, as they are the ones that will appear in search results, but don’t forget about your Facebook page – many people tend to turn to social media to see what their friends and family think of your products/services.
Even though there are speculations which indicate future is not so bright for local SEO, its benefits cannot be so easily disregarded.
The future is mobile; the crowd is getting restless and will look for instant solutions to their immediate needs – but your customers are no longer looking around to see what’s surrounding them, they are focused on a 5’’ screen, and if you’re not on it, they will pass by your business without even knowing it.
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