Imagine this scenario. You are a local small business owner that understands that appearing in the search engine results when people search for your products is very beneficial for your bottom line. You have a website, but your site is not being shown to users when they perform a local search. There is a way to help the search engines show the users your website. You need a local SEO strategy.
WHAT IS LOCAL SEO?
There are lots of different definitions for ‘Local SEO’, but the one that I like best is simple.
Local SEO is the process of making it as easy as possible for prospective customers to find information online about your business, regardless whether they search specifically for your company (by company name) or for any firms that provide the desired goods and/or services nearby to their current location.
What is means, in practice, is best explained by these two scenarios:
Users know the name of your business but don’t know the exact address or your hours of operation. The then do a search online to get this information.
Users know the type of business (hairdresser), but they don’t know what is available to them in their local area. They do a search for “hairdresser near me” and they expect to be shown a list of hairdressers in their local area.
In both cases, you as the business owner want your information to be displayed as prominently as possible.
Getting your business displayed is what Local SEO is all about.
THE 7 MOST IMPORTANT RANKING SIGNALS FOR LOCAL SEO
To get your business website shown in the search engines, you need to make sure that you give the search engines all of the information they need to properly understand your business.
We have listed the top 7 local SEO factors that you need to have. We will be talking specifically about the Google search engine, but Bing also uses very similar criteria.
GOOGLE MY BUSINESS
Correctly claiming and completing the required information during the Google My Business registration process will have the largest impact on your business listings. This is the cornerstone or the foundation that your online presence will be built.
Make sure that you have the N-A-P (name – address – phone number) correct and this information reflects exactly what you have on your site and other sites (think Yelp, FourSquare, Facebook, etc).
This data needs to be correct as Google uses this information to determine where your business is located and also to mail you the verification code that you need to complete the Google My Business registration.
We have a complete step-by-step guide explaining how to claim your business listing in Google.
Think of links from other sites to your website as votes. The more votes you have the better but, and this important, NOT all links are viewed equally.
Links from major sites (Facebook, Yelp, FourSquare, etc) are given more weight than a link from your mum's blog.
You should also have links from your local area. Think links from the Better Business Bureau, local business directories, etc.
Links from other companies in the same field of business are excellent as well. Think of suppliers or the distributor you deal with on a regular basis. A link from the manufacturer of the product you sell showing you are THE place to buy their product in your local community.
That explains what you should do to help the search engines properly position your site in their rankings.
what you should NEVER do.
NEVER buy links from any site. Google expressly states that any bought links will result in a severe penalty to your site up to and including dropping it from Google entirely.
There are lots of ads on Fiverr.com and the such by people offering to get on the 1st page of Google if you just buy their links. These links are at best a scam, but more often than not they are going to destroy any of the hard work you have already put into your site.
You also need to be aware of what is called a backlink profile. That is just a fancy term for what words you use to link back to your site. These need to be varied and natural.
If you are a hairdresser, it would be natural for your site to have links pointing back to it with terms such as ‘hairdresser’ ‘www.yourdomain.com’, ‘domain.com’ ‘your business name’ etc. There should be a good mixture of these terms.
You do NOT want all or even a large percentage of the terms to be the same. This looks unnatural, and you absolutely don’t want to have a lot of links that use terms that people search on such as ‘best hairdresser in your city'. Doing this will get you banned for what is called keyword stuffing.
We have a whole detailed post on backlinking if you wish to get into this topic in greater depth.
The saying goes that “content is king”. That is only partially true.
Content needs to be engaging, relevant and a proper length to be any value to you for SEO purposes.
Writing engaging and relevant content is not as hard as it sounds.
Good content is at least 750 words long – the longer, the better (this post is approaching 2,000 words) and appealing to the reader (and therefore to the search engines).
It needs to engage the reader and answer questions that the user has. Going back to the hairdresser scenario again, what are the most common questions you get from clients? These questions and the answers can make for a wonderfully engaging topic for your blog.
If your current clients are asking those questions, you can bet that your potential clients are asking them as well.
Be the source for them to get the answers they are looking for.
Who would you go to – a business that you know because they have already answered some of your questions or one that you have had no prior exposure dealings to?
Become the local expert for all questions about your product or service. Your efforts will be well rewarded!
Keywords are nothing to be afraid of. They are simply the words that users type into the search engine to find the information they are looking for.
In the hairdresser scenario, the keywords may be something like:
- How long does it take to get my hair dyed?
- How long does a hair dye last?
- What is the current trendy hairstyle?
- Can I dye my hair at home?
In basic terms, keywords are what potential clients would use to find your business. Either specifically (your business name) or by service (hairdressers in North York).
By providing engaging and relevant content focusing on these terms you business will be a rise in the search engine rankings and appear to the client when they are looking for your business or service.
The fundamental mission of the search engine is to provide the best answer or business to the user.
One of the most efficient ways to help the search engine is thru user reviews.
Would you refer a friend to a business that has terrible reviews? Well, neither will the search engines.
Encourage your clients to leave reviews of your business on your Google My Business page or Yelp or Facebook.
Do NOT, however, offer a reward or incentive to get positive reviews! This is directly against the search engine policies and can get you banned if discovered.
No business will ever have completely 100% perfect reviews from all of its customers. Don’t fret about the occasional lower (3 or 4 star) review. Use the opportunity to show what a great business you are and engage with the user that has left the review.
What makes a great business is not the reviews but how they engage with the user once a problem has been identified.
Citations are nothing more than other places on the internet where your business is mentioned or listed.
This can be in your business directories, the local Chamber of Commerce, Yelp or even your local newspaper.
It is very important that all of your online mentions have the same name, address and phone number. This helps the search engines confirm that you are a legit business in that location.
This is why when we start working with a new client we automatically want to do a complete full local citation audit.
Remember when a user searches on their mobile device their location and the proximity to your business that the search is conducted will influence where your business gets displayed in the search engines. Don’t confuse the issue by having incomplete or wrong information.
Promoting your business on social media is very important for your online visibility. You should be promoting yourself on Facebook at the very least. Depending on the type of business you may also want to look at Pinterest, Twitter or even SnapChat.
Social media activity will help increase the chances that your engaging and relevant content will be liked and shared therefore increasing the awareness of your business.
Promote your social sites in your business, in your print advertising campaigns and even on your business cards and invoices.
The most important thing to pay attention to when signing up for these social media accounts ensure that you use the same business name, address, phone number and website. These sites are here to help you promote your business. Don’t make them into obstacles by proving wrong or incomplete information.
Local SEO doesn’t need to confusing or overwhelming. Remember it is a tool to help you rank higher in the search engines for terms that you feel are pertinent to your business.
While it is true that local SEO can take a while (up to 6 months) to see any significant forward movement in the search engine rankings, it is a critical investment for your business to succeed in an ever increasing digital marketplace.
Feel free to contact us at any time to discuss how a local SEO expert can assist your North York business to succeed.