Many small companies simply do not have the bandwidth to manage a fully optimized website, blog, social media campaign, PPC ad strategy and overall SEO effort while actually running the business. With a long list of options to start with, business owners must often make choices as to which online marketing activities they will engage in. In order to make the right decisions, it is important to understand the benefits associated with each program or activity. If it isn’t already, local search marketing, sometimes referred to as local SEO, should be at the top of your list—if you are interested in being found by prospects, that is.
What Is Local Search Marketing?
Local search marketing is essentially the local version of SEO. It is the means by which your company can be found by someone looking for a specific business within a specific geographical area. For example, a person who performs a search for “dry cleaners in Carlsbad” does not want to see a list of dry cleaners in Philadelphia, only those within a certain radius of Carlsbad. Similarly, if you are a dry cleaner in Philadelphia, you do not want your ad or site to be returned in a search for dry cleaners in Carlsbad but if you are a dry cleaner in Carlsbad, you do want to be shown. Local search marketing creates these geographically appropriate search results. This allows you to target your audience and maximize your marketing dollars and resources.
Key Elements of a Local SEO Program
A really good local SEO program includes multiple components. Some require more up-front work but then minimal upkeep while others will be more consistent in volume on an ongoing basis. To really put local search marketing to work for you, you should plan to:
A citation in the world of SEO is any mention of your company’s name, address and phone number (NAP) on the Internet. This can be on a website, a PPC ad, a directory listing, online yellow pages or more. Even if your company has no website, you can still have NAPs all over the Internet because others have mentioned you somewhere. Every citation has the ability to improve your credibility as a viable business with Google—if you have taken the time to ensure that all of your citations are consistent and correct. As you work through your citations, focus first on the most reliable sources and go down the list from there. It is the quality of the citation that matters more than the quantity.
Claim Your Listings
Similar to citations, mentions of your company are likely found on multiple directories or local places pages online and they can help or hurt you depending upon their completeness and accuracy. Unlike citations, however, which are simply your NAP, many of these listings will allow you to post images, business hours and basic service or product information. Do not skimp and leave any of this information blank. Filling out all elements will immediately separate you from the competition in both the eyes of Google and your potential customers.
Videos allow you to establish yourself as a leader and trusted resource, especially if you offer good “how-to” content. It’s a great way to show what you know without just saying you know it. YouTube’s 4+ billion daily views automatically give you a broad audience but videos are also returnable in search results and when properly optimized for local search, they can greatly enhance your SEO. Videos are also one of the most shared forms of content allowing your name to get seen more frequently by crawlers. Host your videos on YouTube with geo-rich descriptions for maximum benefit.
Be the Social Butterfly
Videos are not the only content ripe for sharing. Every share of your social posts registers with search engine crawlers, letting them know that folks are looking at you. Garnering these shares is another way to boost your relevance to them, in part due to the improved domain authority that results from the engagement. Every share is also registered as a valued link, creating the type of link network that Google is looking for. Indexing speeds for pages with high levels of social activity are also faster, letting your site be shown before others.
Customer reviews can be extremely powerful in swaying people to engage or not with you. People looking for local businesses are especially in tune to peer reviews. Your review program should include methods both for garnering reviews but also for responding to reviews (yes, the positive ones and the negative ones). The number of reviews and the ratings factors heavily into Google’s search algorithms directly affecting your search result placement.
Optimize Your Website
At a minimum, your website should include a good amount of geographically rich content, indicating the areas you serve. If your range extends to multiple cities, create a landing page for each one of them that focuses on that specific locale. By building an online reputation as an authority, creating a healthy link structure and engaging with your audience, your company can improve visibility to your local prospect base. The more you are found by the people you want to be found by, the better chance you have of turning those prospects into customers.
Make it Mobile
In everything you do online, ensuring that your actions and content can be seen and navigated on mobile devices is a must. This is no longer an option, especially for local businesses. It is estimated that three-fourths of consumers in the United States access location-based services on their mobile phones and over half of all smartphone users look for local businesses on their phones.
Local businesses of all flavors can benefit from local SEO. This includes brick-and-mortar businesses with websites devoted to lead generation. It also includes companies that operate both e-commerce and physical storefront locations. Research shows the move back toward a preference for local businesses among many consumers. Armed with this knowledge, there is no reason to ignore the local aspect of your search engine marketing any longer.