I have worked with small businesses, midsize, and enterprise and the need for SEO within the foundation of your strategy remains constant for all. The choice to target locally stems from the goal to outrank websites for vital keywords within your local city.
The core components to create a solid roadmap still play a role, such as:
- Keyword planning
- Google Trends
- Seasonality (if applicable)
- Competitive Research
As we shift the goals to target locally we must ensure we are enhancing Google My Business, directory listings, reviews, and of course, on-page SEO.
Step One: My Google Business
Set-up and Properly Manage Your Google My Business
Google My Business (GMB) has been pivotal in driving traffic to local businesses.
A great quote I just read…
“Remember that Google doesn’t lead search engine market share – it dominates.”
Amidst a plethora of tools, GMB supports your local SEO efforts by allowing you to enhance your listing based on locality.
Let’s begin with a few basic questions to ask yourself when reviewing if any of your business listings are founded in best practice.
- Is your listing claimed? If that is a ‘no’ bookmark this page and claim your listing today – it’s free!
- Is your website linked?
- Do you have quality content within the listing that is relative to your website?
- Are you incorporating citations? Citations are mentions of the business name address and phone number (NAP: Name, Address, Phone Number) on placements like online directories and websites. Ensure all your listings and info are consistent and spelled correctly.
- Have you properly segmented your business category? Google updates the list of eligible categories your business can fall under. It’s advisable to check periodically for new categories that would enhance the accuracy of your listing.
- Does your listing allow for reviews and are you engaging with them?
So the gist here is you need to optimize your GMB listing as you would your website. The more information you feed to search engines the more information they have to rank your business for keyword related searches.
If a local business is not optimized for GMB and properly listed on the remaining search engines mentioned above, it is losing money – period.
Agency Tip: To truly understand if your hard work is paying off you must always benchmark and review the data. We love Agency Analytics to track specific keywords both locally, nationally, and globally.
Step Two: On-Page SEO
Ensure Your Website’s On-Page SEO Is Structured Around the Right Keywords and the Cities in Which You Operate Business
Your website is the nucleus of your digital strategy. If local SEO is your main focus you must ensure the content within your site is aligned not only to the keywords you are targeting but also the cities in which you operate.
Agency Tip: Target keywords with low competition and high volume. Treat your keyword research with a proper excel or data table to harvest all of your options and expand into the discovery of long-tail keywords.
When you are in the midst of building or optimizing your sitemap be sure to give special attention to the location pages. Each page should nest the specific city, the services in which you offer, and possible challenges or pain points that you solve – this will play into future organic search by the user.
For example, one of our clients is a self-storage facility with six locations locally that will never be able to beat out the competition within the paid auctions. So, we continue to beef up our local SEO by constantly testing and surveying our customers to find new and niche search queries or challenges one would have in order to seek self-storage.
In a recent survey, we revealed that due to the climate of the economy a lot of folks are moving back home and in need of temporary storage. That prompted some new verbiage and keywords on the site, supported by consistent social posts/advertising to a more specific age group.
If your business is focused on one location, you can incorporate geo-modifiers in your URLs and titles. Optimize your service/product pages to appear in city-specific searches using your location as part of your keywords.
For multiple service areas, you will need to publish location pages to target the areas you want your business to appear for in city-specific searches. Location pages should have unique content for each city and include the NAP details of each location.
Step Three: Content
Publish Content for All Stages of the Buyer’s Journey
For review, the stages of the buyer’s journey are as follows:
When we are developing a content strategy for our site and blog we must consider all stages.
For self-storage the user will begin with a challenge:
- Awareness: I need storage because a family member passed away suddenly.
- Consideration: affordable pricing, proximity, availability, security.
- Decision: how can we display testimonial or segment this particular challenge on the site? When another potential customer with this specific need comes to the site we will want to make sure they understand we can take care of their loved one’s valuable items. And while it may not be so emotionally tied, it’s that humanistic understanding that will breed the content.
Publish Local Content
For our self-storage example, this could include spot-lighting local partners that provide a service you do not; such as moving trucks, moving services, funeral homes, divorce attorneys, estate auctioneers, and storage insurance.
Agency Tip: don’t forget you can create posts within your GMB listing. If you can stick to a consistent posting schedule that is even better!
Posting images can increase search views, engagement, and bring users inbound to your site as well. Images of products, the interior of the building, exterior, events, finished projects will also help to increase traffic by grabbing attention and engagement.
For this particular client, we are ironing out workflows and training the staff to get excited about posting pictures weekly. As you can see below this is a big opportunity to optimize the listing which is important for a small fish in a big pond.
Step Four: Citations
Build Out Local SEO with Citations
SEO can feel overwhelming as there are many facets but at the end of the day, you must think like the user. The user is going to educate themselves on all of the options before making a decision. One great place a user will find during the discovery process is an online directory.
By listing your business in the largest and most relevant directories for your city or region you will increase coverage. Outside of the obvious choices, a good strategist will search locally and dive deeper.
Agency Tip: Below is a combo of queries you can use in your discovery
- [location] directory
- [location] business listings
- [location] business directory
- [business type keyword] directory [location]
- [business type keyword] business listings [location]
- [business type keyword] business directory [location]
For our self-storage client, we found that competing directories Sparefoot.com and Storage.com would help us to enhance our visibility and increase business.
On top of getting in front of more clients, your business information is essentially distributed to dozens of other directories that will help to establish the validity and credibility of your business. Sparefoot.com is not simply one directory but rather a partner to 30+ third-party sites that it advertises within. Also note, the major directories from each region and industry will vary.
Take the Time to Understand the Local Search Ecosystem
The Local Search Ecosystem is the brainchild of David Mihm and was first developed in 2009. The LSE shows how business information is distributed online, who the primary data providers are, how search engines use the data, and how it flows. (source)
The gist here is to establish all free listings that are relevant to your industry and properly vet the paid directories. Ensure that they receive a lot of traffic and the cost per acquisition will make sense for your business. And remember that Google exists to curate relevant information for your specific search query, so easy links are not the goal. The goal is to create significant ties to your city and industry and position your company on sites that attract relevant traffic.
Step Five: Local Link Building
It is common for local businesses to review their backlink profiles and see that a majority of links are made up of directory listings. When you review your links from a 10,000 ft. view, simply ask yourself – are these relevant to my service and location?
You can also build out your authority with linkable assets within your blog. Every local business should have a blog. I know it is time- consuming and might feel like you are throwing pennies into the wishing well never understanding the return – but it is pivotal to your SEO strategy. And don’t forget with proper tracking you will begin to understand how your blog is supporting your goal.
When we sit down to conceive a proper content strategy for our blog we keep in mind a few things:
- Keyword Clusters
- The potential customer
- The current customer
- And the “amplifier” – see image below for expansion.
Step Six: Review Management
If you are searching for a local restaurant you are going to look at the reviews. If you are in need of a service that is touting “customer-first” and asking for your trust to move forward the best closer is a real testimonial from a current customer.
Reviews will increase decisions and this translates into customers – when you have positive reviews of course. And expanding on that thought, we as business owners and store managers must take the time to reply and engage with all customers – whether the reviews are good or bad – the feedback is insightful and helps the business grow (and rank higher!)
Developing a Strategy to Harvest More Reviews
Review acquisition is a strategy in itself so let’s phase it out if you have yet to launch one.
- Phase One: create a nice email template with two links allowing the customer to decide if their experience was good or bad. If good > send the user to Google Reviews link. If bad > send the user to a landing page environment so they can let you know how their experience could have been improved. While this may seem tricky it is not. What we are doing here is allowing ourselves an opportunity to listen, learn, and correct. Remember you cannot take down a review once it is posted.
- Phase Two: collect and clean a proper email list of your most recent customers and send them out. Do not send out a mass email, this process should be manual and send about 5-10 emails each day (spread this out every 4 business days). Google will flag your IP and if you have an influx of reviews in one day it may count against you.
- Phase Three: continue building out your reviews with future customers.
- Train employees to ask for a review after the completion of a sale.
- Email satisfied customers thanking them for their business with links to a few different review sites.
- Send out client surveys and health checks with a conditional score that will route them to a review page.
SEO has become increasingly competitive and the sooner you establish your strategy the better. If you are looking for an SEO partner contact us today.
Blue Noda is a web design and growth marketing agency that has re-built the agency model.