Local SEO Tips For Small Businesses
Looking for some local business SEO tips?
Well, today is your lucky day. I have decided to reveal all my SEO secrets.
Search Engines’ ultimate objective is to give the users what they want with the least amount of clicks and modified searches.
In certain scenarios, providing users with local results is something that really helps them achieve this.
If you live in a suburb in Perth and are looking for a restaurant to arrange your date night, a search for the term “restaurant” returns the best rated restaurants nearby and not the ones with best ratings in California.
The importance of Local SEO for Brick and Mortar businesses can’t be emphasised enough.
If you have not done Local SEO, your business is not very likely to be getting a lot of new clients. I have compiled a comprehensive list proven strategies to help you improve your rankings in the local search.
This is a long read, you can also…
Oziti: Smart Online Marketing.
SEO & PPC Campaign Management services.
I will try to update this list every month.
- Make your webpages locale-aware: Set the correct i18n locale for your respective country. For example, an Australian domain should have en_AU.
- Make sure your website is responsive: This is even more important than ever since Google rolled out it’s mobile friendly label update.
- Improve your website’s usability: Make sure your site’s usability score is at least 90/100. If you are not sure about it, use a website like fivesecondtest.com to get real, unbiased opinions
- Ensure that your website’s design does not look dated: A website built with an old design is less likely to get ranked high in the search results.
- Improve your page speed: Google provides you with an excellent tool to make it easier for you – pagespeed insights
- Validate your website’s html for w3c compliance: Use validator.w3.org to validate your markup
- Use rich snippets if they are applicable to you. There’s a huge range of snippets available for a variety of products and services. If you are not familiar with rich snippet markup, use a generator like: Microdatagenerator. You can test your snippet using Google’s Structured Data Testing tool.
- Encourage your clients to leave positive reviews.
- Set up Bing and Google webmaster tools and get into a habit of checking it frequently for the errors reported by these search engines.
- Create an XML site map: If you use a well known system, chances are there’s a plugin available to do this automatically. Alternatively, you can use xml-sitemaps.com to generate it for you.
- Submit your xml site map to bing and google webmaster tools. This helps Search engines crawl your pages easily.
- Create an HTML site map and place it in the footer section of your site to make sure every page can be reached easily by the crawlers.
- Ensure the geo-targetting for your website is set to the country where you operate in.
- Install Google analytics on your website to have a thorough understanding of your demographics. It still is one of the best and most comprehensive analysis tool out there and it’s free to use.
- Show your visitors where to start: If you have a complex UI, drop some tooltips for your first time users that point to the most important areas of your website.
- Have your address and phone number show up distinctly on your website. Use a number with local code if possible (as opposed to 1300 or 1800 toll free numbers).
- Use Schema.org’s markup while adding your address to your website (as opposed to the plain code). By doing this, you are helping the Search Engines identify the precise meaning of each line in the code.
- Use your real address with state and postcode (and not PO Box) on your website and associate it to your google my business account.
- Choose your hosting wisely. Do your own extensive research about what real people are saying about the hosting company you are about to subscribe to.
- Improve your User Experience: It is a very important aspect of modern day SEO. You don’t want your visitor finding it hard to navigate across your site.
- Create a blog and publish posts about the work you do.
- Engage with your followers on social media and blog
- List your business on g+ and Google’s my business.
- Register and submit your business to as many local directories as possible. This can be a time consuming process but a couple of months later you will see every minute you spent on it was completely worth it. You can also use au.ubl.org for automatic submissions to smaller directories. Submit your site to local directories under the right category (be as specific as possible). Do not spam and if your category is not listed on a site, avoid listing your website.
- Create a subscription list for your blog so that people can subscribe to get notified via an email about your new posts.
- Offer rewards to your returning or loyal customers in the form of discounts. This encourages loyalty and increases return customers.
- Subscribe to your local holiday calendar via Google calendar that you know when the major days of the year are. Make the most of each holiday to promote your products. There are about 10 public holidays in Western Australia. You can subscribe to a google calendar with these holidays and stay updated on all these days.
- Create graphics for all the public holidays of the year in advance so that you can plan your promotions without having to worry about the graphics. It will take you or your designer about a day at maximum and reap good rewards.
- Focus on building your brand identity, write awesome content that people love and get drawn to. DO NOT write for the search Engines. Also, don’t worry about stuff like keyword density, text to code ratio both of them have very little value now if you are trying to write for the search engines.
- Do not allow guest blogging unless it’s something very relevant and adds valuable information to your website. Major Guest Blogging networks were penalised by Google in 2014.
- Advertise in the real world. You can get a good size space on the train and bus for about $200 in Perth and it stays there for at least a month. Apart from creating an offline brand presence, it also helps you rely on the search engines less. Google is great but it takes a few months (if not years) to reach a sweet spot and you don’t want to be relying on a single source of traffic for your business. Several business have crashed because of Google’s penalties. It is good to remember that your position in the Search Engines is very precarious.
- Be clever with your offline advertisement. People will take note of a clever advertisement while travelling since their attention span is not as short as while on the computer.
- Advertise on local media outlets like Radio and roadside benches.
- Host or sponsor a contest or an event in schools, colleges or on facebook. This can be extremely useful to you if you are in a teenage niche. They have a huge power to make your brand go ‘viral’.
- If you offer a technical service, try helping noobs in the help forums. Bonus tip: If you are a genius and are amazing at what you do, you should contemplate creating a forum section on your website and answer people’s questions there.
- Do a thorough research on your competition and recognise them. If done properly, it will show you how the brands you are competing with have managed to build trust and reputation from Google.
- Use the webmaster guidelines offered by Google itself.
- Read Google’s guide for Web Fundamentals to find out the best practices for developing a modern website.
- Check your copy for duplicate content using a website like copyscape. You can also use it to run a check on the copy provided by your copywriter.
- Remove or add more details to the pages with very less content. Google prefers the pages with a huge amount of content (link to the article that compares the results for long content vs short content.). If you don’t have time to do this, hire a good copywriter.
- Conduct a survey that asks the users if they have any idea what to do when they first land on the first page. It’s very important to give your visitors a very clear message. A lead generation form or a call to action button should be placed above the fold so that your visitors don’t have to go finding it on your page.
- For Ecommerce websites: Promote your main products above the fold and count the benefits one will have by buying it. If your product or service has a Unique Selling Proposition, make it the highlight of your landing page.
- Remind the user that your product is a solution to a problem. If it’s a gadget, take some time (or hire a good technical copywriter) to write the product descriptions in great details. People love reading tech specs of their new purchase.
- Display your product reviews and service testimonials. If your client is really happy with the tv you just fixed for her, hand her your business card and ask politely for her to take some time to write a review or testimonial on your website.
- Hire a professional photographer to take the pictures of your products that other users would like to share online.
- Make the process of checkout as easy as possible. A lot of people do some research before using your services or buying your product, you don’t want to lose that traffic.
- Don’t take meta tags lightly, write a unique title and a unique description for all the pages and posts. Keyword tags are not relevant anymore but if you wish, you can add them.
- Create a separate page for each keyword that you wish to rank high for. This does not mean that you should use your keyword multiple times on this page. Just have that keyword in the url, title tag and meta description. A reminder: Write the contents of this page for humans and not the Search Engines. Generic content written for the Search Engines has no value and your visitor will end up going back to Google to look for a better result.
- Create a utility that would help people in finding a solution for a problem. I know it’s easier said than done but this is where you have to get creative. For example, a real estate website can offer a small utility like mortgage calculator. Such utilities hold a lot of value in terms of social currency.
- Use ahrefs.com, open site explorer or google’s webmaster tools to keep an eye on your back links. Back links are still a very strong indicator of your webpage’s credibility and play a huge role in your position on the search engine pages.
- Do not ‘buy’ the back links. There are several companies out there offering thousands of backlinks for just $10 but it’s not worth it. Eventually it ends up costing a lot more than $10, your site gets penalised, you lose time or resources finding and then disavowing all those dodgy low quality links just so that you can get back where you were before you paid for these links.
- Do not link to low quality websites which are not relevant to your users.
- Acknowledge your user’s emails and always reply. Over the years, I have found that nothing beats transparent and quick communication. It has saved me hours of work and a lot of delayed deadlines.
- Provide as much information to your SEO consultant and web developer as possible. Both these guys are the MVPs of your brand’s online presence. Try to have a meeting before making a big change across your site just to make sure that everyone in the team is on the same page. Once again, it will save you hours of time and thousands of dollars.
- Do not load a big library on all your pages if you are not using it.
- No index all your taxonomy pages to avoid content duplication. Any content accessible via two different urls on your site is marked as duplicate content by the crawlers.
- Test your website in browser shots for all the desktop browsers. it doesn’t take long and you get to see how your site looks on hundreds of browsers across several operating systems.
- Know your audience, support the related technologies. For example if it’s a pension consultancy or financial consultant website, have bigger text.
- Have minimal forms. (checkout our comprehensive guide for UX enhancement if you’ve missed it)
- Use Google webmaster tools to find out what search terms your website is appearing for.
- Recognise some long tail keywords and optimise your pages for those keywords.
- Get a designer to make some awesome visiting cards for you. Offer special deals via a QR code on your visiting card.
- Blog about the latest news in your niche. Also keep an eye on the social media for your related tags to find out what’s going on before anyone else does.
- Use header tags to label different sections of your copy. This improves readability by roughly dividing your copy into sections. It also helps crawlers identify what your page is about.
- A large majority of your users will visit your website using a handheld device. Be considerate of them and optimise your website for all devices. The best way to test your mobile visitor’s experience is by visiting your website on your phone browser. See what the usability of your site is like while visiting it using the handheld devices. Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool gives you optimisation tips while visiting it using a mobile.
- Use a heat map tool to find where your visitors are clicking. We were able to increase a client’s advertisement revenue by 1600% simply by examining their heat maps for a few weeks.
- If you run advertisement programs on your website, use text ads. Text advertisements have been established as a lot more effective in terms of generating revenue compared to the ones with images or videos.
- Create a help book that you can offer to your users in print or as an electronic version on your website. You can use this e-book to create a mailing list.
- Be careful while changing the url or slug of your page. If you are migrating an old site to a new one, ask your developer to keep a spreadsheet that maps the old urls to the new ones. That way, a 301 redirection can be applied to your pages which is quite handy if you want to pass on the SEO juice from your old pages to the new ones. It is perhaps the best way to migrate a website. Another approach is to match the urls of your new site exactly (case and slash sensitive) to that of the old website.
- Make sure you are using breadcrumbs. If you haven’t heard of this before, you’ve probably seen it (at the beginning of this post). Ask your developer to implement the breadcrumbs as it helps people know where they are on your website.
- Set permalinks to the Search Engine friendly ones. If you blog a lot and on diverse topics, consider adding category to the post url. This makes it very obvious to the search engines what category your content has been filed under. Also, when your website appears in the search results your link is displayed with categories.
- Work on building your brand. Prominence is one of the key factors for brick and mortar businesses. Search engines should be able to trust your brand enough to deliver for the query entered by the user.
- Optimise every page of your website for a well researched keyword with precision. This does not mean stuffing your keyword into your content. Optimise the copy to satisfy a user so that his question (every search starts with a question on a cognitive level) is answered thoroughly.
- Size your content to the viewport: Make sure your user does not have to scroll / pan horizontally while navigating across your website on a handheld device. It’s a usability issue but as I have mentioned in my post, SEO is directly proportional to the usability of your site. if you use wordpress, ask your developer to ‘add a filter to remove the dimensions attributes’ from the images you’ll be adding to your blog. Very often, it’s the images with these attributes that are the culprits for making your page disqualify for the Google’s mobile friendly test.
- Use the images optimised for the web (lossless compression & the right size). It is good to have a high resolution camera but adding a 10 MB image to your webpage is not needed. If you want your clients to be able to access a high res version, include a download link to the those files at the footer of your post or page. Also, don’t forget to add an alt tag for all the images.
- Do not worry about your page rank. Page ranks for the websites are not updated any more (unofficial information). The last page rank update was released in December 2013. Mozrank ( http://moz.com/learn/seo/mozrank ) is considered the viable replacement for the page rank by the SEO community.
- Use nofollow attribute where ever applicable. Lean more about nofollow in html here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nofollow#Example
- Do not use reciprocal linking tactics. It does not work and can hurt your long term strategy.
- Make use of the Press Releases. Make sure they are at least 500 – 800 word long. Distribute them to several different outlets.
- Devise a clever Content Strategy with the help of your SEO Consultant. After all, Content is king.
- Do not get discouraged, publish quality content on a regular basis. Especially if you have a brand new website.
- Keep a close eye on your competitors. Keep a note of what the ones above you are doing to stay there, how quick their page is loading, how many back links they have got and what is their general content strategy. Also, take a note of the websites that you have managed to get past in Search Engine Results and notice where they went wrong and why Google or any other Search engine decided to choose you above them.
- Contact the bloggers from your niche to link to your website. If your services or products have got a Unique Selling Proposition, they will link to you. If you don’t think your products or services have got any uniqueness, offer some free services to a charitable organisation or a local sports club that you like.
- if you are moving to a new market and need to translate all your content into a different language, hire a native translation expert for the language. This will ensure that your translated content is of the same quality as your original content.
- Make use of the canonical urls for the paged items to avoid the content duplication.
- Use folders (as opposed to sub-domains) to structure your multi-language internationalised site. It makes sure all regional sub-sites are contributing towards the main domain in terms of link value.
- Make use of the hreflang for language and regional pages. See more details on this topic here.
- Use SEO communities like SEO Moz and news sites like Search Engine Watch to stay up to date with what’s new in the SEOsphere
- Create special graphic images to go with your content on the social media to maximise the chances of your content being shared. Social media users have literally got 10 other items on their feed demanding action. Make sure your social media post looks stunning and grabs user’s attention.
- Use at-least one image to go with your page or post. Many users like to see a visual representation of your content so it is advised to choose this image wisely.
- Link to your best performing content from your homepage.
- Use Robots.txt file to block access to the private or dashboard directories. Use this template from perishable press — http://perishablepress.com/wordpress-robots-rules/
- Use .htaccess file to block the spammy referral websites.
- Take backups regularly. Some hosting companies automatically keep the backups of your server. If yours doesn’t, there are some good plugins that let you schedule a backup for your site. The last thing you want is to lose all the hard work on your server because of someone’s mistake.
- Check your site for dead / broken links and remove or update them when found as soon as possible.
- Acknowledge and reply to your contact requests or service and product related queries as soon as possible. Do not assume or expect your potential customer to be patient.
- Make it easy for people to share your content by placing social media buttons at easily noticeable positions. Do not place a lot of social media buttons. Recognise your audience and place the ones that you believe are relevant.
- Internal links are important. Interlink your content. Take a few minutes every two months or so to link your older content to the new content.
- Create graphics to visualise the data or points you want to emphasise upon. Info graphics are great for this. If you have time and resources, you can even create an explainer video to explain your process to your potential customers.
- Create goals in Google analytics and perform split testing on your landing pages. This is especially useful if you are getting hundreds of visitors on your landing page. Keep experimenting until the conversion rate is increased to a satisfactory level.
- Use Google’s Keyword planner and Trends to check what people have been and will be searching for.
102. Offer good service. keep your clients happy. Word of mouth is still one of the best source for new clients.
I hope you found this article on local business SEO useful. Please share it with your network of friends.
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Update: We decided to create an ebook for this article because of it’s popularity. You can download your copy below. The e-book has three extra tips & nice looking graphics.
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