Local SEO can be quite the challenge for the small business owners out there who are trying to rank high in Google’s search results. As more and more small businesses realize the power of ranking on the first page, competition has become fierce in almost every market. Google’s ever-changing algorithms don’t make things easy either. The days of 10 search results, or top 10 businesses that would appear on the first page for a local keyword, are gone and have been replaced by only seven organic listings. Now small businesses must fight each other more than ever for the prime real estate that is these seven listings.
Some of these businesses may not have the budget to hire an SEO company, but luckily it’s possible for business owners to do a few things on their own to help their website compete.
Fill your “About” page with great content
By writing a solid “About Me” page, you are not only telling Google what your site’s all about, which can help it rank, but you’re informing prospective clients as well. Content is king to Google, and this is one opportunity to give the search engine what it wants. Tell the story of how your company was created, what it offers, what problems it solves, how you can be contacted and make sure to demonstrate why you’re better than your competitors.
Choose keywords wisely and test them often
If you have yet to pick your keywords/keyword phrases, here are some ideas on how to get started. The basic keyword phrase model for local SEO is as follows:
- “your service / product name” + “city name” + “state abbreviation”
So if you’re a yoga studio in Santa Monica, I’d suggest picking the keyword “yoga Santa Monica CA.” I’d also go for the keyword “yoga Santa Monica.”
If your business is in an area that’s part of a larger city, the local search keyword phrase model changes a bit. You don’t really need to add the state abbreviation if you’re targeting a big city- some people will still type in the state, but not nearly as many as if it were a small town.
- “location words” + “your service / product name”
- “your service / product name” + “location words”
So if you’re this same yoga studio in Santa Monica, I’d suggest picking the keywords “yoga Los Angeles,” “Los Angeles yoga,” or maybe even “yoga LA” (if there’s a decent amount of users searching it).
Get creative when picking keywords, and try to anticipate what people who are looking for your business might be searching. Use Google’s keyword tool in AdWords to see how much the terms are searched.
If your site is already live, you should test your top keywords regularly. The great thing about SEO is that if something isn’t working, you can make changes at any time. Check to see how your site is ranking, as well as how many people are searching with your keywords. I’d also consider long tails if a decent amount of people are searching the terms, as they may be less competitive. If you’ve picked solid keywords and your site still isn’t ranking, go back and make sure your site’s content pages, social media pages, and all related content reference your targeted keywords and location.
Be consistent with your NAP
Some of the most important information about your business to a search engine is your NAP data- name, address and phone number. In addition to including it on your website contact page and social media pages, it is important that this information is consistent. If you spell out the word “street,” make sure you do so every time you note your address- don’t abbreviate here and there. If your company uses several different phone numbers, pick one to use on the web. If your NAP data isn’t an exact match everywhere online, Google may not know to lump all your profiles and content together.
Be aware of the “centroid bias”
Instead of giving users a range of local results, Google often starts at the center of a city— the downtown area — and works its way out. Referred to as the “centroid bias,” sites of businesses that are located closest to the downtown center often take precedence in the SERP, giving them an advantage. If your business is located on the outskirts of a city, local SEO is going to be more of a challenge. To tackle this, there are two things you can do:
- If you’re closer to the center of another city, you can target searches there
- You can stick to the exact town/neighborhood or where your business is located and not waste efforts targeting the big city
Build some links
Once you have done all of the above to make your website and social media pages more SEO-friendly it’s time to build some links. You can do this a few ways:
Comment on local blogs. This does not mean to go to every blog with your target location in the name. Stick to you niche or industry, find a few blogs where there are good discussions taking place and contribute.
To find these blogs, take the list of keywords that your site is targeting. Then, go to Google Blog Search to search for local blogs that are related to your keywords. Find the best blogs and comment on some of the posts (not every post- nobody likes a spammer). Finally, link to different places on different posts, including: your site’s domain, your Google+ Local landing page URL and your Google+ Local Business page.
Guest blog on local blogs. Again, start with the list of keywords that you’re targeting for your site and use the Google Blog Search to find some blogs within your area and industry. If you’re having a rough time finding blogs that accept guest post, try just searching location: inurl:location “guest post.” Once your find a few good prospects, reach out to them via email. If they accept you, write them a fabulous article and put the links mentioned above in your byline.
Also, if it’s possible, put your NAP in the post if the webmaster will allow it.
Give testimonials to other local businesses. Just like you love testimonials and reviews, so do other local businesses, and often they are willing to return a favor. Think of some businesses unrelated to you industry that you just love- a spa, car wash, restaurant- anything. Most likely they all have websites. Write them an awesome review of their products or services on the condition that they link to your site. It’s a win-win!
Links from domains with location-specific words in their domain, i.e. “miamidayspa.com” will go the furthest for your local rankings.
For a few more linkbuilding ideas, check out this article on SEOmoz.