How to Optimize Local SEO
If you are like me, you do local searches all the time. To find the phone number for that little shop you like. To find a nearby coffee shop. To find a plumber, florist, tree service, home decorator, dentist … the list is endless.
But, is YOUR business optimized to take advantage of all the people who search just like you do? In all likelihood, the answer is no. Whether people are typing in a search box or talking to Google, Siri or Alexa, there are several hoops your business has to jump through, and continue to jump through regularly, to show up in local searches.
Where to start to optimize your local SEO/local search
The first thing you need to do to get your business to show up in the results of a local search is to be trusted by the search engines. If getting an inanimate artificial intelligence (AI) to trust you sounds eye-rollingly frustrating, it kinda is. But there are a few things you can do to up your odds.
- Make sure your business name, physical address and phone number are on the contact page of your website and that they are correct. One common mistake is having an office number in some places and a cell number in others. If need be, get a Google number you can use everywhere and forward as needed. If you have hours of operation, those should be there too.
- Verify that EVERY listing for your business has the SAME information as your contact page. If there is a discrepancy, the search engine algorithm is going to ding you for being untrustworthy.
- Claim and update your business listings across all platforms. The top ones to start with: Google My Business, Bing Places for Business, Yahoo!, Yelp* Facebook
- Make sure your listing is consistent across all the sites. This includes your hours of operation. I have personally had situations where the hours operation were different on Google than a company’s website. That is just frustrating for me as a human. I can always call to find out which is correct. Artificial intelligence will just drop you in the search for it.
- Double check that your URL is typed correctly on each of your business listings and that it goes to your website when you click on it.
- Choose the right category and keep it consistent! Whatever it is you do, HVAC, mechanic, dry cleaning, family doctor, etc, make sure it is on your website in words that the crawlers can read (meaning not just on images) and that you use the same words in your business listings.
- Use as few categories as possible. More is not better. Too many will lower your search ranking. Unfortunately, there is no clear answer to how many is “too many.”
- If you have multiple locations, claim each individually and have them listed separately on your website.
- Monitor and respond to all reviews as quickly as possible. Reviews are a two-way conversation. Thank people for positive reviews and work to solve negative ones. If you can make it right, ask customers to revise their negative review upwards.
- Review all of the data on your listings at least every quarter.
Note – if you have more then one business it is ideal to have separate phone numbers, websites and, if possible, physical addresses.
The next thing to do to optimize local SEO
It would be nice if going through all the steps above was enough to get you on the first page of a search. But sadly, no. The web-crawlers have other places where they might catch you being inconsistent or unlisted.
- Local directories. Are you a member of a chamber of commerce, trade association or business list? You should be because it’s great for your credibility with search engines. UNLESS your information is outdated or incorrect. Then it counts against you. And just because you gave an organization the right information does not mean they put it in there system correctly or that it didn’t get corrupted during an update. Check all of your membership listings for errors and make sure the URL they have listed for you is actually linked to your website.
- According to Yellowpages.com they get 60 million searches a month. That is reason enough to make sure you are listed with them. You can create your free listing here: http://m1.adsolutions.yp.com/free-listing-basic-benefits Just make sure the information you provide is consistent with everything else (do I sound like a broken record about that yet?)
- Marketing lists and business aggregators. Data is big business and there are businesses that have your business data on file to sell. A few of the big players are Infogroup, Acxiom, Localeze and Factual. Even finding out how they have your business listed can be a practice of running in circles. And getting them to change or delete old or incorrect information is even harder. But knowing they are out there and may have inconsistent information for your business is useful.
Your website and local search
All of that might seen a little overwhelming but we aren’t quite done. You’ve audited all of the possible places you can think of where your business information might be and made sure it is consistent and updated across the board. You’ve claimed all your business listings. You’ve responded to customer reviews and complaints. But if your website is static, search engines are going to wonder if you’ve gone out of business. Here are a couple of tips to keep your website alive and current:
- Blog. I know. It feels old and done. Who really reads blogs anymore? But search engines still love them.
- Run a survey. It can be a fun way to learn what your customers are thinking and it gives you a chance to use words and copy to be picked up by web crawlers.
- Create new landing pages for different offers and run ads to them. The powers that be claim that spending money with them doesn’t change your search ranking. Malarkey. If you have an ad budget for online ads, create good copy and point them to individual pages so you can test what’s working.
- Refresh the copy across your website. This doesn’t have to be done every month. But at least a couple of times a year, someone should go through your site and make sure that the copy is still in line with where your business is. You will be surprised how little changes in your marketing direction will quickly make your website sound out-of-date compared to your current messaging.
Audit your Local Search Ranking
You’ve done all this work. Let’s see if it’s made a difference. (Note – it can take a few weeks for the search engines to catch up with your changes)
- Clear your cache and browser history
- Open a private/incognito window and bring up your favorite search engine (Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo)
- Search your industry and your city (not your company name). Do you come up?
- Search your business name + location. What do you see?
- Look at each of the entries for your business. Is the information correct? If not, figure out how to fix it.
Bonus: Look at your competition’s listings. What are they doing (other than spending lots of money) that might be getting them listed above you?
No time to do all of that?
If you are wondering how you are supposed to do all of that and actually run your business, I can help. Having been working on increasing local SEO for my existing clients I’ve become quite the expert on it. Send me an email and let’s have a conversation about how I can help you get your company to rank better when your local customers do a search. RussB@RgBDesignGroup.com
*I have recently started hearing about Yelp pressuring people to spend ad money with them and when business owners refused, Yelp has moved all of the business’ five-star reviews to “not recommended.” In multiple conversations Yelp has claimed the timing is coincidental. But there is enough noise about it in the SEO space to make it worth noting.