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Small Businesses: 9 Local SEO Tips that Get You to the Top

Most small businesses can’t imagine getting over-the-top results from a small marketing budget. However, with online marketing, the smallest details matter, which is why these local SEO tips can get a local small business to the top of local search engine results. Of course, that top position in local search results won’t come overnight, but it does come with regular efforts (detailed in this checklist) and utilization of the latest local SEO tactics.  

Local SEO can get local businesses local customers who are interested in purchasing local products and services. Unfortunately, online marketing myths always seem to follow these successful marketing tactics; this list of do’s and don’ts of local SEO can give businesses the positive practices that reach local customers and the negative myths that inhibit marketing results.

Do optimize the business Google My Business site.

A Google My Business (GMB) listing is an important part of a local SEO strategy. A complete and optimized GMB listing isn’t just an effective way to get marketing results, it’s free.

To optimize a business GMB listing, the business must first verify the listing. This can be done by requesting and entering a code sent by Google. To get the most out of the listing, the business should completely fill out the GMB listing (with these instructions for an optimized Google My Business from Search Engine Journal). For best results, small businesses should take this local SEO tip seriously and add their logo and product pictures, plus the business address (if applicable), website URL, business hours, and service area. (A local SEO service can also optimize the listing as part of a comprehensive local SEO strategy.)

Don’t believe that a bigger service area on Google My Business gets more results.

The Google My Business service area has become the source of many business’ misconceptions. Many businesses believe that if they make the service area bigger, they get higher rankings in all the cities and towns. Research has proved this myth not to be true. While online visitors can see the service area, a bigger service area does not guarantee higher rankings in the service area.

Do make review sites a top priority.

Review sites are becoming an important part of customers’ buying process. Even for local businesses that provide services, customers are using Yelp and the Better Business Bureau to choose the best business. Search Engine Land recently published a study that reported that more than 80% of all consumers trust reviews as much as an in-person recommendation. Bright Local published a consumer review survey that said that consumers would only choose businesses with more than four stars.

These local SEO statistics make this local SEO tip a priority for businesses. Instead of leaving reviews to chance, businesses should claim their listing, make sure all information is accurate, and ask satisfied customers for reviews. The ask can be done in-person or in follow-up communications (ways to ask for a review are included in this list). There are many opportunities for asks; a business should review their standard operating procedures and include the request in future employee trainings.

Don’t forget to monitor reviews.

Unfortunately, many small businesses don’t see review sites as an on-going local SEO tactic. This misconception is a risky stance. Instead, small businesses should monitor review sites (or contract with marketing pros with an automated review site monitoring system) and respond to negative reviews.

While it might be tempting to respond with angry comebacks to negative reviews, small businesses should respond with empathy and ask to take the conversation to a private conversation. This not only takes the discussion off-line, it also gives businesses the chance to resolve the situation to the customers’ satisfaction.  

Do make sure the NAP is consistent.

The building address is a significant part of every online small business listing—more important than many businesses realize. It is not only important to include the address, but there is also value in ensuring that every name, address, and phone number follow the same format on every site. The business name should be identical in every listing. A business’ suite should be abbreviated the same or written out, along with the road and other address information. The same goes for the phone number. While the NAP may seem like a minor detail, it is a minor detail that is worth utilizing in a business local SEO strategy.

Don’t forget about link building.

Link building is the practice of building links from other websites to the business’ website. In the past, this practice was linked to the black-hat SEO tactic of buying links. Often this black-hat tactic resulted in links to sub-par websites, which sabotaged SEO results for small businesses.

Modern link building revolves around getting links to reputable websites, resulting in reputable results. (Link building can be outsourced to marketing professionals for efficient results.) To search engines, link building is a third-party verification of a website. The third-party verification plays a role in how a website is ranked on search engines.

Do add local information to a business website.

If a business wants to be seen by local visitors, the business should include local information on the business website. The local information should be included in the original website copy and in optimized content regularly added to the site (produced by the business or content professionals).

In addition to local information, website content should never be produced without keyword research. Keyword research ensures that a website content is optimized for visitor search intent. Simply, this means that the content should be crafted with keywords used by the business’ target audience. This targeted online marketing approach increases website conversions because users visiting the site want to purchase the product or service.

Don’t bore website visitors with local, local, local…

While localized website content is an integral part of a local SEO strategy, it’s important not to alienate visitors by overdoing the localization. There are examples of this local SEO mistake all over the internet. Many businesses list cities or draft content with so much localization it sounds like an amateur produced it.

Do be social.

Social media may not be the first marketing tactic that comes to mind with local SEO, but it is an important part of every local business marketing strategy. Business social media channels reach customers interested in the business, and builds loyalty and engagement with customers. In addition, social media sites are crawled by search engines and, if utilized effectively, can result in an increase in website visits. For a full return-on-investment, business should select social media sites utilized by their target audience and regularly post relevant information.

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