“Four in 5 customers use search engines to find local information”. This is the most important reason why your business needs Local SEO.
If you’re not convinced yet, have a look at these glaring statistics:
- 1 in every 3 desktop users who search for a local business visit the store within that very day.
- Business Address and Location is the primary information that is sought by local customers.
- One in every two customers searches for local businesses while they are on the go.
- 78% of local mobile searches result in offline sales
In the past years, local SEO has become increasingly important due to the rapid growth in local queries that came with the boom of smartphone users. Mobile searches drive more conversions than desktop queries for local businesses.
Local SEO is essential for all those businesses who have some, most or all of their customers in a specific geographic location. But, most small to midsize businesses feel that the SEO costs would exceed their marketing budget and resources. You spend a monthly retainer on SEO and there goes your marketing budget.
Many small businesses lack big budgets but have the will to succeed. The results of your marketing efforts are not necessarily driven or affected by your “spend”. In fact, some of the most effective marketing activities need little or no investment. All you need is some creativity and know-how.
Implementing such cost effective and feasible marketing strategies can help you grab your share of financial rewards.
Let’s get started.
Set your objectives straight
Businesses and websites exist to pursue some objectives. Irrespective of the business size, model or market, you should be aiming to achieve certain goals. These goals could be customer acquisition, lead generation, branding and so on.
This is a critical step in local SEO. This decision will help mould the functionality of your website and most importantly will guide you in setting a budget, creating your marketing plan, coming up with ways to target your audience, capitalize on social media networks and so on .
Do the groundwork
Local SEO revolves around data. It’s about how well your data is aggregated and distributed across important web properties. It’s also about how accurate and consistent this data is!
This data is the best way to reach your targeted audience.
This is why you need a NAP audit right now. Your NAP, being your Name, Address and Physical Address, is the first interaction of your business with your prospective customers. Therefore, it needs to be accurate and up-to-date.
Target Data Aggregators (You can get listed here free of cost)
Data aggregators are upstream data providers. These companies provide basic or sometimes, enhanced information to Google, local websites and directories. If your information is wrong in any of the major aggregators, then you’re in for some trouble.
Once you’ve fixed these inaccuracies, it would be wise to claim and verify listings across other major directories as well.
To ensure that your information is consistent across different platforms, you first need to pick out inaccurate data. Trust me, this is way easier than it sounds.
If you want to do it manually, make a spreadsheet and start recording the details.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Run a Google query of your Business’s phone number (the different phone numbers you have) and copy paste your NAP details from each of the results (URL) in the SERPs.
- Do the same with your Business Name. Enter your current business name or any other name you might have used in the past and pull out your NAP details from each result (URL) in the SERP
- Pick out your citations from every web directory that you have been mentioned in.
Make sure that you keep a record of the collected URLs on a separate sheet.
This task is simplified through Automated tools. They pull out all the mentions or citations of your business across the web and categorize the inaccurate ones. Local RankWatch, for example, lists all your citations from the local search ecosystem, picks out the incorrect ones and lets you know what you need to correct.
Citations are mentions of your business across the web, irrespective of whether they are linked to you or not. They include your NAP details along with other important information like the hours of operation, email-id, link to your website, category, photos, videos and so on.
Citations are one of the best ways to promote your business to your targeted audience. Most web directories provide for building your listings free of cost.
Similar to links in SEO, citations determine the relevance, importance and authority of a business in Local SEO. A business with a greater number of accurate and consistent citations is likely to rank better than others.
Also, citations can be grouped into “structured” (citations over business listing sites like Yelp, Yellowpages, Superpages, etc.) and “unstructured” citations (a mention on your uncle’s blog, news blogs etc – to get these, write amazing content, do guest blogging, mention your name and address in your social media profiles). Google prefers the former type. So you should work on getting those.
How to get started?
Start with the generic and most important ones:
- Better Business Bureau
- Local Chamber of Commerce
Once you’ve listed your business on these websites, you can now concentrate on industry or niche based websites. For example, if you’re a manufacturer, you should target directories like ThomasNet.com.
Work on making your website awesome
Your website is the only thing on the internet that you can control. Make the most of it so users keep coming back to you.
Take Keyword Research seriously
There can be nothing more awful, horrific and costly than targeting the wrong keywords.
In order to launch a successful local internet marketing campaign, a qualitative market research is a must. If done right, it can effectively cut down on your acquisition costs and risks.
Concentrate more on long-tail keywords and try to give a local angle to your keywords.
1. Blogging is an effective way to promote your business and it does not hit to your pockets.
2. Create content which is optimized for local keywords like your location and the services that your business provides.
3. Ensure that you have a unique title tag and meta description.
4. Remember, Google ranks webpages and not websites. Try to include 2 or 3 keywords on each page.
5. Include fresh, relevant, local and eye-catching content. Promote your blogs on your website by creating a button with a link to your blog section on your homepage. You can also paste a link to your blog in the navigation section.
6. Do not forget to keep posting or tweeting about your content across social media profiles.
7. Include FAQs, interview local experts, review local businesses, share useful local resources like a local map, a to-do guide, places to visit in the city, etc.
8. Also, don’t forget to use Schema markup to create structured data. Schema is a type of microdata that helps the search engines interpret the information on your web page better in order to serve the most relevant results to the users.
9. Including this schema data (your NAP, hours of operation, pricing, ratings etc) on your homepage will help search engines crawl better. Thus, it will improve your online visibility.
Work on getting Reviews
88% of customers rely on online reviews before making a purchase decision. They trust these reviews as much as personal recommendations.
If you have awesome reviews about your business, your chances of conversions are higher.
The influence reviews can have on your business goes beyond explanation. Good reviews can get customers flowing into your business and bad reviews can destroy it. Also, they give you feedback from your customers and ideas for improvements in your products and internal process.
Thus, Reviews can get you increased visibility and credibility at almost zero cost.
In order to get reviews, you can ask your customers to share their experiences with your products/services/business. A follow-up mail asking for reviews would also work fine for you. Use Social media to occasionally post or tweet and ask for reviews subtly.
Ask your customers for feedbacks by asking a few simple questions where they don’t have to think very hard. Post check-in offers, it’s a good way to entice your customers to visit your store and leave a positive review later.
Local Link Building
Local links can get you a great deal of targeted attention and traffic. Most of these strategies also don’t dig a deep hole in your pockets.
Links will always remain important for organic search visibility. Local link building is often overlooked by marketers, but it can shoot your business to the top of SERPs for regional and local search terms.
Here are some ideas for local links that can get you started:
- Host a charity event
- Interview an important local personality
- Tie up with local media
- Create a useful local community resource – local map, local guide (things to do, places to visit, cultural attractions and so on) or a local calendar.
- Join relevant and important local directories
You don’t always need a hefty marketing budget to reach your targeted audience.
As mentioned above, Local SEO is one of the best ways to promote your business online to get more traffic and conversions.
If you go by each step listed above, most of your tasks are done.
Dominating the local search results and attracting targeted local customers is not difficult if you have the basics covered.
Make sure you have accurate citations across the web space, keep building consistent citations at relevant websites and directories. Aim to get good reviews, have a strong social media presence and make sure your website looks great.