This is Guest Post by Sahil Kakkar
Have a craving for pizza? Don’t know where you can find the nearest store?
All you have to do is run a quick Google search “Pizza delivery near me”.
Thanks to the Internet and the growing technologies!
Almost 98% of the customers now use search engines to find local products and services.
Also, 87% of customers who search for a local business visit or call the store within a day.
Local SEO is pacing fast in terms of helping you gain market share, online visibility and ultimately, customers. In order to dominate the hyper-competitive local search engine results, you need to optimize your business, website and strategies. You need to accommodate the needs of mobile-focused, modern and tech-savvy customers.
Those days are gone when you could simply get a location, put up ads all around and wait for the customers to get in your stores. Your hyper-focused marketing efforts shouldn’t only be aimed at showing up in the search results, but dominate them in the sea of competitors.
If you want to stand out of the crowd in your respective niche or category, you need to turn to some fundamental local practices.
I’ve made a list of 6 actionable tips that can help you dominate local search market.
Let’s get started.
You knew this one, didn’t you?
But content is not simply content, we are talking about local content here. It also does not mean information about your products and services.
Each blog post is another web page indexed by Google, which can also be seen as an opportunity to get ranked on the Google local SERPs for the targeted keyword and location.
In order to make your content as a traffic driving tool, you need to make it local, relevant and useful.
Let’s say you are a business that sells organic food, your content can talk about the benefits of consuming organic food, how it affects your health, the best organic food to have, how to strike the balance between taste and health, where can you find organic food in your locality, and likewise.
Also, you should parallelly keep working on other ways to engage the community – cover local events, local news, news within your industry, sponsor local events or charities and write about it.
You can also write about complementary local services. If you sell wedding gowns, you can write about the best wedding planners in the locality. This will also help you establish goodwill with local businesses and probably an inbound link soon.
Do not forget to optimize your content for your targeted keywords – try to include your City/Region in the title tag, H1 tag and URL. Do a thorough keyword research and cover all the long tail keywords which people might use to search for a business in your community.
If you have a hard time figuring out what geo-targeted content you should focus on, then try writing about your customer success stories or case studies.
Reviews are an absolute essential for every local business, whether or not they sell online.
They clearly affect local search engine rankings, click-through rate and consumer purchasing decisions.
I ran a quick search for Italian Restaurants in Pasadena, take a look at the result:
The first results clearly stand out having a rating of 4.3 with 37 and 35 reviews respectively.
Reviews account for roughly 10% of the local ranking factors. Also, review sites like Yelp drive a great deal of traffic and rank extremely well in the search results.
But I think it goes much beyond this, reviews are a strong trust signal for the potential customers. They give reassurance to users that they will be taking the right decision if they choose your business. That is why great ratings and awesome reviews give people an extra push to make their purchase.
Acquiring reviews is not a cakewalk. Even your most loyal customers wouldn’t seem to take the time to log in and write reviews for you.
Try to incorporate reviews in the sales process – give out flyers explaining them how to leave reviews, offer some token of appreciations, ask them how was their experience with you and if they would like to write about it, explain how your previous customers had a thrilling experience using your product/service, print some reviews and hang it in your store. Put a big “review us” tab on your website.
Take out some time every day to reply to your reviews, particularly the bad ones. Thank your customers for the positive feedback.
There is no point in having a business if no one knows about it. Directories across the web can help you expand your web estate.
There is no denying the fact that it is mandatory for every local business to be present over major local search directories like Google+, Yahoo and Bing. Apart from these, review sites (such as Yelp), generic, industry-specific directories also help distribute data points to the search engines.
Start by creating your Google My Business Profile. Make sure you enter accurate and consistent business details in your profile and claim it. Once you are done with this, you can start with getting listed in Top national generic directories (Bing Places, Yahoo local, Yelp and so on), Industry specific directories (Tripadvisor for hotels, wellness for health sector) and locally relevant directories (Chamber of Commerce).
Make sure your accurate business information is listed across all these websites.
Accurate and consistent citations can get you a great deal of targeted traffic. Citations are simply mentions of your business across the web, irrespective of whether they are linked to you or not.
The number of accurate and consistent citations of your business is directly proportional to your online visibility. Consistent citations across relevant web directories increase the authenticity of your business in the eyes of Google, improves search engine rankings, provides more backlinks, enhances conversion rates and opens scope for getting reviewed on important web properties.
Now, there are several reasons for the discrepancy in your NAP – the physical location of your business might have changed over time, it might have used tracking numbers at some point of time or your local phone number might have changed, data aggregators might have accumulated inaccurate information about your business and so on.
But, how do you clean this mess? To begin with, start with fixing your information with the major players – Data Aggregators (InfoGroup, Acxiom, Localeze, Factual). Once this is done, you can start by checking your business details over other authoritative websites like Google+, Yahoo, Bing, Yelp and likewise. Then, run through your citations over generic and niche specific directories like Foursquare, CitySearch etc.
Practically speaking, it can turn out to be a mess if you manually go and check all of your listings for accuracy and consistency. Needless to say, hell lot of time and effort.
The best option here would be to go with automated tools. These tools pull out all your mentions across the web and list the inaccurate ones under a separate head. Local RankWatch not only lists your inaccurate citations, but also offers to correct them, saving a lot of your time.
Your website probably marks your potential customer’s’ first impression of your business. So, you need to make sure that it is optimized for your local keywords. It’s best to focus on the fundamental things and let go of the little odds. Here are the things you should take care of:
- Domain name – Try to get a domain name that reflects your business and location. Also, try to keep it as short as possible.
- NAP – Put your business name, phone number, city, address and ZIP on every page possible.
- Copy – Treat this as your sales pitch. As mentioned above, try to include as much of local content as you can. Use local jargon – it will help you connect with your audience. Also, use the white space appropriately. Too many words will make the page look boring. Make sure the content is readable.
- Use keywords – Try to include as many locally targeted keywords you can, but keep it natural.
- Mobile optimized – Local search and mobile search are complementary in nature. People like to get their information on the go. Make sure your website is completely mobile-friendly. It will enable the users to easily check out your reviews, directions, contact information and so on.
Local link building can go a long way in attracting local attention. Also, it offers scope for developing relationships with the local community, improves search engine rankings and gets you more targeted and relevant traffic. The more local links you have, the better it is.
To begin, get into local directories (Google Local, Bing Places, Yahoo Local, Yelp, Angie’s list etc), resource lists (Local Chamber of Commerce, local newspapers and magazines, city-based directories) and review sites (BBB.org, Yelp, CitySearch, MerchantCircle).
Create a team of local strategic partners. How? Start contacting local business or companies who offer complementary products or services to your business. For example, if you are a wedding planner, you can probably partner with a business that sells wedding gowns. Leverage such relationships, keep sharing each other’s content and earn great links.
Local sponsorship (sponsoring conferences, talk shows, fests, fairs) is another great option for building links.
Generate local resources like a local map for tourist attractions, a local guide which talks about the best activities in town, cultural attractions, best pubs or hotels or a local event calendar which mentions the local sports events, festivals, etc.
Local SEO is not a one-time thing. In order to establish your presence over the local SERPs in the long run, you need to constantly work for it.
Go through this checklist, follow each step and see the results in your online visibility.
I would love to hear any other tip I am missing on in the comments below.
Sahil Kakkar is the CEO and Founder of RankWatch – a platform, which helps companies and brands stay ahead with their SEO efforts in the ever growing internet landscape.
Sahil likes making creative products that can help in automation of mundane tasks and he can spend endless nights implementing new technologies and ideas. You can connect with him and the Rankwatch team on Facebook or Twitter.