Digital8’s Joe McCord on how to improve local SEO for your small business

Making a splash in any industry can be a challenge, but increasingly, getting noticed online is proving to be difficult for small businesses in such a cluttered digital landscape.

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One of the best ways to ensure your company website is hitting all the right notes to maximise appearing in search results is through local SEO.

Local SEO is important, especially for small businesses that operate on a regional level, as opposed to a national level.

Though national SEO primarily focuses on ranking in searches for the entire country, local SEO focuses on narrowing the scope of search parameters, instead aiming to appear in search engine result pages within a specific local area.  

There are several steps businesses can take to improve their search engine rankings (order of appearance on result pages) that can ultimately boost the number of visits they get to their sites.

What is local SEO? 

Starting with the basics, SEO stands for search engine optimisation.

So local SEO is a type of search engine optimisation strategy that assists small businesses in becoming more visible in the local search results on Google. 

Local search simulation 

This is one of the most powerful Google local ranking factors that, if used effectively, will help your business rank highly.

A good strategy is to always begin by researching keywords using the best keyword tools available.

Knowing what your customers are searching for can help you target your content towards them.

The fact that Google abolished its local search filter makes it hard to simulate Google local search results from a different location. 

Though things have gotten a little complex, you can try things such as incorporating the ‘near’ parameter in your URL.

After you have put the query, the SEOs will add the ‘&near=cityname’.

Using this trick produces results that would have appeared if you were in or near that particular location. 

Create a Google My Business account

Optimising your business profile is one of the most effective ways to improve your ranking on Google Maps.

It’ll also help you gain strong visibility in Google search local results.

To gain access to your company profile and get started with these optimisations, you’ll have to come up with a Google My Business account. 

You’ll need to supply all the requested details in the Google My Business account dashboard.

The same details will then be added to your business profile.

This newly created business profile will then show up in Google Search local results, Google Maps, and Google Search Knowledge. 

Seek reviews from happy clients 

It’s important to ask your happy clients to write positive reviews about your business.

Besides optimising your Google My Business presence, it’ll also lure more local buyers into purchasing your products or services.

Research shows at least 88% of online buyers treat reviews like personal recommendations.

At the end of the day, we’re more likely to trust ‘social proof’ than we are a company post talking about how great they are.

Seeing is believing, after all. 

Getting reviews from clients can be tricky, but the best way to approach this is asking every time you close a sale.

You can also deliver them a post-purchase text or email asking them to write reviews about your products or services.

It’s also important from an SEO and professional perspective to respond to the reviews that you already have on the website. 

Have a responsive design 

As a way of working on your local search engine optimisation, you want to make your website as mobile-friendly as possible.

With a responsive design, your site can adapt to any device used by your customers. 

As a local enterprise, you should understand that most people will use their mobile phones to access dealers near them.

Therefore, for potential clients to find information about your business, your website should be adapted for mobile devices. Make it as easy as possible for them to engage with you.

Consider improving the user experience by giving your site a sleek, attractive design and simple features for easy navigability.

This will make customers interested in your page, so they will keep coming back whenever they need products and services from your business. 

Optimise for voice search

Looking to the future, voice search is expected to grow rapidly.

Thus, in local SEO, it is crucial to optimise how people ask various questions when they talk into devices, instead of what they type when searching for information. 

When using voice searches, customers tend to use long-tail keywords (think longer phrases) as opposed to when typing search queries (which are often more direct and to the point).

Therefore, it’s important to tailor your website to fit a more conversational tone of clients speaking into their mobile and desktop devices.

For instance, you need to adjust it to account for traditional question prefixes such as what, when, who, why and how. 

Backlink profile

Backlinks are some of the most important local search ranking factors that your local business needs to thrive.

Local enterprises should try to attract links from relevant, local, and authoritative websites to impact their websites positively.

Getting good backlinks can be difficult. However, it is crucial to note that when it comes to other sites connecting to yours, quality plays a central role.  

While getting backlinks to your business site from other highly authoritative sites is an important factor to get priority placement in search results, it can be time-consuming to earn.

If you prefer, you can find an SEO agency to work on acquiring the highest quality backlinks for you. But to avoid getting caught out, make sure they’re using ethical, white-hat strategies. 

Learning the elements and factors that affect local search engine optimisation ranking is an important way to commence your local search marketing expedition.

Competition is fierce and the internet is expansive, so to compete fairly, you need to use the tips mentioned above to make your business appear in Google’s local search results.

The points above are some of the most commonly used google local ranking factors and must be used to gain a competitive edge.

As you can tell by now, local SEO isn’t easy for small- and medium-sized businesses, but it certainly pays off when done effectively.

NOW READ: Ahead of the Local Pack: Don’t underestimate the power of Google My Business

NOW READ: The five all-too-common mistakes that jeopardise SEO strategies

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