Search Engine Optimization is an intricate, methodical, and important element of any online business, or any corporate entity for that matter. Without SEO, your website will just be buried below the rotting pile of search engine results and you’ll get almost zero conversions. With the help of a few local SEO tips though, your unfortunate situation can turn around.
As a business, you know that the opinion of your customers or clients about you matters. Not only can you forge trust between one another, but you also can open doors to future clients to like you.
When users google local services, they will see a map of the nearest outlets to get the services they searched for. These results are often separated from Google’s main organic results.
So if your company has received good reviews, even if your website’s not yet optimized for search engines, you will yield top results, and often, positive conversions. Let’s look at a few tips that will help you boost your business’s online presence locally.
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1. Get Winning Reviews
So you want a good cup of coffee but since you’re new to the city, you don’t know any coffee shops close to you. Naturally, you google for coffee shops around your location. If there is a lot nearby, how do you choose? It will be impossible to try all the coffee shops to decide which you will like most.
The better alternative will of course be to read what other people think of the coffee shops in your area, and pick the ones who got the most positive feedback.
As a business owner, what does this mean to you?
Well, the opinion of your clients are important for you, especially if they are positive. Reviews on sites such as Yelp.com play a major role in local SEO and establishing trust in potential customers. How do you get these reviews? By asking your customers to leave a review if they liked your service or product. The more, the better. Remember that anyone can leave a review; it doesn’t have to be a customer.
You should also know that whenever Google finds a website that mentions your business name and your address, it counts as an "upvote" or a backlink to you. This will help you because it increases your trust rating from Google.
Microsoft’s search engine Bing is also one factor to consider. Currently, Bing offers services for places of business (which is similar to Google Maps/Places). Using this service you can:
- Add a local business. Bing allows small and local businesses to be listed on their maps. If you are a small store, this is recommended for you.
- Add businesses with multiple locations. This category is effective for smaller chains like franchises. Being able to connect your branches through Bing Places will help your customers from different parts of the locality to connect to you, and, if you’re lucky, you might even get valuable conversions. You can add up to 10,000 locations using this option.
- Put businesses without a physical store on the map. This option is perfect for businesses that take the service to where their customers are e.g. plumbers, home-tutors, and other home-services.
Yahoo also allows you to list your business in more than 50 directories. You can include offers and extra details to encourage clickthrough. It charges $30 a month to be listed.
2. Start your own Blog
If you want to dominate the local market offline and online, you need to offer up a lot of information, like a local phone number, local address, email address, and maybe live chat if really needed. But the real magic happens when you have a blog for your business.
Having a blog helps you to target the right keywords as it establishes trust on your website. Use blog posts to establish trust from search engines and people. You can do this by creating blog posts targeted towards your relevant keywords even if their monthly search volumes are not high. You can also do simple techniques like including the city name to your domain (or subdomain).
This makes your website more identifiable with the local audience and will make it easier for you to get local reviews. This way, you can reach a small number or relevant audience with less competition. And over time, you’ll find out that these pages rank well.
One more thing that you need to remember about starting your own blog is not to be selfish — you should also blog about your niche in general. You can write several articles about yourself but you can also review your competitors, be fair in evaluating. And never, ever bash them. Average Internet users are now intelligent enough to notice that your blog is talking about no one else but you. And that shouldn’t be the case.
3. Use the Right Keywords
If you scour the Internet for SEO tips, they will always mention that keywords are what make your website rank where it is supposed to be. You have to pick the right keywords to rank for because no matter what you do if you don’t have any reference for the searcher to find you, you will not be found.
If your target audience is within Los Angeles, it is only intuitive to add “Los Angeles’ in your keyphrase. For example, if you are selling perfume in Los Angeles, then you should aggressively blog about your niche in an organic manner. However, despite your wanting to target keywords easily, you shouldn’t start writing articles that are poor in quality.
Common bad practices include:
- Keyword stuffing
- Article Spinning
- Using keywords for unrelated articles
These practices don’t benefit your rankings but actually jeopardizes them. If you publish content that is irrelevant or unoriginal, chances are, you will lose the trust of your audience and you get down-voted on search engines.
However, the best thing to do about this is to write without thinking of search engines. Your keywords should be fluidly inserted into the articles so that when the user reads it, it still makes sense.
- Put the keyword on the meta tags of your code (if you’re running on WordPress, then the Yoast plugin will make your job easier).
- Make sure that your keyword appears at least once in the title (h1 or h2 tags), in the body, and in your images’ alt tags. Remember not to stuff your keywords. It worked in previous search engine algorithms but not in modern ones.
- Remember that you should have at least 300 words for your pages to be ranked.
4. Create Locally-Specific Pages
Having a target location matters in search engine results. While you would want to boost your presence for the world to see you, your efforts (and efficiency) will have value if you target where your target business is.
If you are a used car dealer business located in New York City, you would want New Yorkers to find you more than anyone else in the world. If you want your customers to find you, you have to drill down your targeted location to a specific place.
This method is also advisable because you are able to limit your competition in the rankings. If you become successful in your SEO efforts, you will reach the upper results without spending too much time or effort.
Take our used car dealer example. If you will search for "Used Cars", you will probably get some results that are more difficult to compete with:
In the above example, the top results for the keyword used cars have page ranks of 8. That means it will be harder for you to rank your keywords.
But if you use "Used cars in New York", you will be getting results for pages with PR4, a number that will be easier to compete with.
The rule of thumb on this is that your pages should have at least 400 words stating your business and how it pertains to your location. Also, follow the tips in point #3.
5. Get Backlinks from Local Blogs
One of the recurring tips you will find on how to promote a blog is by guest posting. But under the context of local SEO, simply guest posting will not cut it. Suppose you have a brick-and-mortar business in Los Angeles and you want to get your name out there, but your website isn’t receiving any traffic at all. What is the best way to kickstart everything? I’m glad we’re on the same page: ask local bloggers to write a story/review about your business or submit a guest post to them.
For example, if you have a tech-related business in Los Angeles that’s just weeks old, or relatively new to the online scene, the best way to find tech bloggers is to, well, Google them. Search engines are designed to behave the same way as how humans search for information. This means that Google, Bing or Yahoo will show on their first pages results that they think are trustworthy. These pages, most probably, contain the good content you are looking for.
And how do they determine trust? Do search engines know what trust is?
Well, yes and no. In reality, search engines are just a bunch of algorithms designed to behave like humans. So they need the opinions of humans to determine trustworthiness. This means that if a website is in the top result of your search query, it is probably the content most linked to. If you get a lot of websites link to you, you will be able to rank higher.
But not all links are made equal; some links are more valuable than others. This means that not all websites that link to you are good, and you can cheat search engines by creating bogus pages that link to your content. That doesn’t happen, at least not anymore.
To rank higher, you must be trusted by websites that are trustworthy themselves. A backlink from a PR1 website is way different than the ones given by a PR8. The latter will probably be, in a wider sense, useless because search engines don’t trust them yet.
But how do you get links from higher PR websites? Publish interesting and sharable content and make your local connections link to you
6. Join Local Social Media Groups
This is an intuitive but highly underrated technique. Social media presence and engagement affect SEO and people’s trust. For example, let’s say you are a pet grooming company based in Tokyo. What do you think would be the best way to reach pet lovers in Tokyo? The answer is pretty simple: you start looking for groups on Facebook dedicated to pet lovers located in Tokyo.
If you live in a city, chances are high that there are dedicated Facebook and Twitter groups for your city. Think of this, as of 2014, there are over 1.35 billion Facebook users all over the world. It’s impossible to not be able to find a group for your niche.
It makes sense to join local social media groups because they are closer to you and could possibly give you conversions. This way, you can also start building your community, which could lead to returning customers.Here’s what you can do:
- Join their community, ask insightful questions, provide useful answers, and give valuable resources.
- Interact with members regularly, as much as possible, comment on their concerns and questions.
- Regularly share your articles on their pages (just take note of the rules, because some pages don’t allow link sharing in their groups)
- Try and share other articles from related niches too (so that you won’t be seen as someone who is just concerned about promoting your own service).
7. Slither Your Way Into Credible News Websites
Now that you have connected to trusted bloggers and local social media groups, it’s time to connect with credible news websites.
If you can have local media cover your business, you ultimately enjoy long-term and positive results on your search results and conversions. Once you get coverage from trusted and reliable media companies, you will be able to invite more business to your company.
But what’s the difference between blogs and news agencies?
Bloggers are usually made up of individuals to a small group of people providing relevant information about a certain niche. They commonly talk about guides, experience-based articles, and lists. On the other hand, news websites are commonly made up of a larger crowd, reporting about real-time events.
To put it simply: blogs can be informative, opinionated, or promotional while news websites deal mostly with announcements.
What you can do for your website is to start building relationships with the local media by encouraging them to try your products or services. In the media world, it is commonly known as X-Deals. For example, if you are a bakery, you can send your best bread to a local news reporter and email him to ask if he could review it for you.
You can also send emails to reporters about an event you will be hosting (that will, of course, be with charitable aims) and ask them to cover it for you. This will serve as an advertisement for your company. Some companies do this often because they know that most people trust the news, and if they are reported in there, chances are, the audience will see them as someone trustworthy as well.
Optimizing a website is difficult. You’ll have to use up a lot of time, effort, money, and, most importantly, patience to make your page go number one. If your pages don’t appear on the first page after a day, don’t fret. It’s part of a process. Just keep going. Good luck!