Many small businesses that serve local markets are seeing real value in improving their ranking in search engines like Google. Local searches for small business information have become common practice and Google now recognizes (and promotes) this activity.
Because of the importance Google places on delivering local search results, small businesses must be smart about local SEO strategies. As you probably know, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the practice of implementing strategies that will increase the possibility of people finding your website when they use certain words or phrases to search for information.
In the past, small business owners have overlooked the need for improving their search engine ranking. I can understand why. They reasoned that local residents know where their small business is anyway; they’re not searching the Internet. Besides, isn’t Google better at finding things on a global scale? Aren’t SEO strategies designed to attract visitors from around the world?
Well, yes…and no.
As a small business owner, you’re probably more interested in finding new customers from your local area. For example, no one from Surrey, England is going to be interested in your coffee shop in Surrey, BC (unless, of course, they’re planning a holiday; in that case, you want them to find you on Google!).
So how do you know that local people will find your coffee shop?
Things have changed (again)
Online marketing strategies that accommodate each Google local search for small business information are now very important. When someone from within the same geographic region as your small business searches for information related to your business, Google gives higher ranking to websites of businesses closest to the person searching.
For example, if someone is looking for your awesome coffee shop and they search for “coffee shop” using Google, most of the top results will include coffee shops that are closest to them—and hopefully your business is in those search results!
More and more people now search for local business information online. Many of those searches are made using mobile devices like smartphones. People are looking for basic information like directions, a map, a phone number, or business hours. Your small business website needs to be optimized so people can find you quickly, contact you, and become customers.
There are many factors to consider when planning SEO that is optimized for local search for small business websites. The first place to start is Google My Business. If you have not already set up a company page with Google, you need to begin here.
Another important local SEO strategy is ensuring your company name, address, and phone number are exactly the same on your website, your social media sites, and any online directories you are listed in. This strategy is often referred to as NAP consistency (for Name, Address, Phone).
Those two strategies are very important, but they can be a bit time consuming. You might want to delegate them to your website developer or SEO specialist. Instead of outlining a comprehensive local SEO strategy here, I want to focus on one key area that you can implement in your online marketing efforts. In fact, it is the most important factor in getting good local search results (see the pie chart in this article for evidence).
Fresh, Quality Content for Sale
No doubt you’ve heard the saying, “Content is king” (often attributed to Bill Gates). A significant part of your online marketing must include quality content that provides value for your customers.
That should go without say, really. Think of a physical, bricks and mortar shop. If you have a flashing neon sign capable of attracting visitors from 3 blocks away but you don’t have quality products in stock or your products are overpriced, you won’t be able to convert those visitors into loyal customers.
When it comes to your website, you have a powerful tool for providing valuable content for your customers.
One of the reasons we at Lighthouse Marketing use WordPress as the primary platform for local business websites is its power to create valuable content in the form of blog posts.
As you create new content in your blog posts that is targeted to serve your customers’ interests, the value of your website (and your small business) will increase. As online visitors and search engines begin to see this value, your small business website will continue to be ranked higher and thus found more easily by every new local search.
Six Content Tips to Improve Google Local Search Results
1. Use keywords that relate to your industry.
As you write, include these keywords in the post title, description, headings, and of course, the main content. Whenever you can, include your city name and any relevant local information like events, parks, and other local markers. The popular Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress can help you use keywords in an SEO-friendly yet naturally sounding way.
2. Link to authoritative websites that relate to your local business.
Make sure these links are closely related to the specific topic you’re writing about. They should also be professional, recognized sources that already rank high in search engines.
3. Encourage visitors and existing customers to interact with your content.
Don’t just give information; ask for their opinion and input. Use the default WordPress Comments area of your blog. Ask them to share your content with their friends and business associates. And then return the favour on their website.
4. Find other local businesses in your area that complement your topic.
Find creative ways to promote their local business. Then ask for links to your website and give them a discount on services if it helps. Or comment on their blog posts. Do whatever you can to kickstart local online business networking opportunities. Online local networking can be easy and effective.
5. Seek out links from local media.
When you are finished writing something valuable or creating a helpful video or graphic on your website, see if it may be of interest to local media. This will help to get your website noticed locally. If you can’t get mainstream media coverage of your content, sometimes a popular blogger can influence hundreds of potential customers. Find local bloggers that write about your industry. Share your content with them and ask them to comment on your post. They might even review your business products and services and then link to your website.
6. Be patient.
Add a little more content each day, as much as you can. If you miss a few days, do it whenever you get a chance. Your business is your baby, and kids can take a while to grow.
One final word of caution
If you get emails or comments on your blog from people claiming they can boost your local search ranking or improve your SEO, AVOID THEM! Treat them like slimy salespeople because they usually are (yes, I just shouted. Sorry, but spammy marketing really annoys me!). Just delete those emails and comments. Some of their short-term tactics might actually have a negative impact on your local search results.
I hope this has inspired you to keep creating valuable content for your market. There are many technical SEO strategies available to improve local search for small business websites, but good content is most important.
And if you’re like that local coffee shop I mentioned earlier, feel free to share your online marketing struggles or success stories below.
About Lighthouse Marketing
Lighthouse Marketing Inc. is an 18 year old company specializing in visually appealing, mobile friendly website design. In addition to our existing website services, the past 3 years has seen dynamic growth in the area of SEO services, particularly with regard to local search. Our evolution to a full service SEO company means that we now offer complete online business solutions that involve Google local search as well as an effective social media strategy.