What if I told you that the world wide web is most engaging when it's extremely local? With research indicating that 97% of consumers searching for local businesses on-line, optimizing for these searches is an undeniably necessary element to your on-line marketing strategy.
Local SEO is the process used to ensure you are discovered by those searchers who matter most to your bottom line - those potential customers that are within your neighborhood, community, or region.
If you're a local business owner, now is the time to think proactively about the way your business is positioned on-line. Find out how your on-line presence measureS up in these 4 critical areas of local SEO performance:
Stage 1: Local Listings and Citations
Listings and citations should be considered the foundation for your local SEO strategy, and here's why: your prospective customer is likely to search for you with a location descriptor in their search (i.e, "dentist in Hilliard OH" or "florist in Upper Arlington OH"). With 50+ local directories available, listings are provided in places such as:
- Yellow pages
- Search engine maps
Citations are a bit different from a mere listing as they are "mentions" of your business name and address on authority websites. These mentions are considered authoritative to search engines because it shows that your business is recognized within your community - considering that it's hard to fake a listing on a chamber of commerce site, or be written about by a local blogger if your business isn't trustworthy. Examples of citations include:
- A listing on a local Chamber of Commerce website
- A listing on a community association website
- A listing on a local news site
- A mention in local review blog
Optimize here by ensuring that each listing and citation is both accurate and consistent. Take the time to ensure that your name is properly identified (i.e., Adept Marketing vs. Adept Marketing, Inc or Marketing Adept), and that listings include your current address and phone number. Consistency and accuracy across listings and citations will have measurable results for your search performance.
Stage 2: On-site Optimization
Your website should be optimized effectively to communicate your specific location to search engine crawls. Go behind-the-screen of your website and ensure the following elements are in place:
- Your business address and phone number should be displayed prominently within the header of your website.
- Your business location should be included in your title tags (i.e, "Family Dentist in Worthington, Ohio").
- Include direct links in the footer of your website. Each direct link should include your location and point the location page of your website. (i.e., "Accountant in New Albany, OH")
- Use rich snippets to identify the location and contact information of your business in order to display accurate information within the search result.
Once you have the foundational technical elements in place, further optimize your site for local search by providing extremely local content on your site that provides real value for your prospective customer. A quick way to provide local information on your site is to pack your location page with valuable content, such as:
- Driving directions from major routes and highways
- A list of surrounding restaurants and eateries for your costumer to take advantage of after visiting your business
- Parking directions, if needed
- Content about your building and why you've chosen your location
If you are a business with multiple locations, each location should have a specific location page optimized for its' own geographic location. Again, fill your location-specific pages with unique content specific to your target customer. Consider placing location-specific reviews on this page, information about the managers of the location, and helpful information for driving directions and parking.
Stage 3: Business Reviews
Yes, reviews matter to local search performance. Serving as social proof, they communicate your relevancy to search engines that constantly want to serve trustworthy and helpful results to the searcher. More than this, though, is the distinguishing factor that reviews can have on conversion - searchers are likely to choose businesses that have both a higher volume and higher rating of reviews.
In terms of SEO, it matters how you get these reviews. Review sites are quite skilled at detecting and penalizing businesses who solicit on-line audiences for reviews, including linking to review sites and sending out emails to ask your customers to leave a review.How do you generate quality reviews on-line?
You leverage the off-line relationships you build everyday. Here are a few suggestions to remind your customer that you value their reviews:
- Hang review signage at the point of purchase in your business.
- Offer customers a print out with simple directions to review your business on-line
- Have your sales staff mention reviews at the point of purchase
Reviews and social proof matter for local SEO, but they are also great quality indicators to continually evaluate your services and products to ensure that you are consistently creating happy, satisfied customers with each interaction and sale.
Stage 4: Community Involvement
Community involvement is a simple way to generate links and citations from authority sites in your geographic region, as well as to enhance your off-line presence in your community. Community involvement is really a combination of efforts for everything important to local SEO (mentions, citations, on-site optimization, and social proof), allowing you to communicate your relevancy to both your community and your industry.
On top of that, it's just plain fun to get involved in your community in meaningful ways! While these tactics are leveraged for local SEO value, they are valuable and fun relationship-building opportunities in your community. Consider implementing the following local involvement tactics:
- Sponsor a community wide event, such as a local parade or music festival
- Create a scholarship for college students pursing a degree in your industry
- Become a partner in education by sponsoring clubs at local schools and community colleges
- Take a day to volunteer with your business at a local non-profit organization, and update your social channels to share that information
By focusing on off-line relationships, you will enhance your on-line reputation for your community. Community involvement activities allow you space in press releases, news article write ups, and social postings across a variety of channels.
Local SEO will continue to be a critical on-line strategy for local businesses.
With 97% of searchers looking for local businesses 0n-line, you can't afford to ignore your local search performance. Taking advantage of these four recommended approaches to building your local relevance on-line will ensure you are properly positioned to dominate local search results and capture the attention of your target market. That's the value of an extremely local world wide web.