Digital Marketing Crew
I’ve written this guide specifically for business owners, managers and traditional marketers (working for a client) that realistically do not have the skill set or time to put towards figuring out complex SEO techniques.
If you had that know how you probably wouldn’t be searching the web for answers.
The majority of articles out there on local SEO or general SEO tips go into highly nuanced or time-consuming techniques: keyword research, rich snippets, competitive analysis, create an infographic… the list goes on.
Now, before I get ahead of myself, 100% these are some of those most powerful and important things you would want to focus on if you had the time, money and expertise to do them effectively and consistently.
To give it to you straight up: if you’re in a position to hire an agency or freelance digital marketer that knows their way around SEO and can work on these more advanced tactics for you- make the investment. It’s worth it.
Because quite honestly your top competitors already have and it’s one of the best places to put your marketing dollars. If you’re looking for a trustworthy SEO company to help you get the results you deserve we’d love to talk to you.
Until then, dive in and get yourself better positioned in your local search results with our top 5 SEO tactics.
Not a daunting list, right? But, if you’re having thoughts of putting this off, here are some stats that should get you fired up about how you can get your local SEO in shape this coming year.
Whew! Let’s go get a bigger piece of the action, shall we!
I am going to assume you’ve already claimed your GMB (Google My Business page), if not then I suggest going over to GYOB.com which is Google’s Get Your Business Online resource. Once you’ve completed that set up, download the GMB App to your mobile so you can keep your business profile fresh and up-to-date.
While you’re at it, go log in to Facebook and set up your Facebook Places listing. At a minimum, you want to do this so customers can check-in to your business.
This is pretty straightforward but easy to overlook. We are currently updating our NAP listings in various directories as we’ve moved to a new office in NYC’s Financial District, in our case we’ve got to go through and update our existing listings.
First, you want to make sure your business name, address, and phone number are listed on your website, typically in the footer.
Then you’re going to check all the places and profiles your business is listed currently and make sure it’s an exact match.
You may have had a number of different staff add to the business listings over time, so it’s a good practice to do a manual search and note all the places where your business comes up and correct them if need be.
If you really want to learn more about why NAP and Citations are important for local SEO head on over to Moz and check out their article.
There they give an in-depth rundown whereas I want to keep things light and actionable for you here.
Now that your current listings are up to date, it’s time to build citations for your business. I recommend you focus on these main data aggregators & directories:
The Big 4 Data Aggregators:
Key Directories: This is dependent upon your industry, your niche and where your competitors are showing up. A good place to start is with directories like Yelp, TravelAdvisor, MapQuest, YellowPages, CitySearch, Yahoo and EzLocal.
If you don’t have a lot of time to do the research I would recommend hitting those to start with and, again, make sure the information listed is an exact match.
I also warn those who might pay for a service to be listed in directories, you’re almost guaranteed to get emails once you start this process from Manta, Yext or similar companies.
They will send you an urgent message that your business listings are not up-to-date, and they can take care of all of them for a fee.
While this is true, often it’s pay to play and once your subscription runs out you may see these listings disappear. Not cool right?!
The other note about those services is that a fair number of those listings are redundant, the major search engines pull data from the top data aggregators we mentioned, which is why we recommend focusing on niche listings that matter to your community.
There are an overwhelming amount of listings, so pick your battles.
Google has stated that they do not consider social media interactions when calculating web page rankings. However, there is evidence that social signals do play a roll in increasing visibility.
What’s important for our focus is the prominence of a business, which is a local search ranking factor.
Don’t get caught in the game of trying to be active on every social platform you see your competitors on, or that someone suggested you should jump on because it will change your business. Chances are, it won’t.
Finally, link your social accounts so you can cross-post, which will save you a ton of time and allow you to post quality content on multiple channels with an extra thumb click or two.
I covered getting this page set up, but keeping it fresh and updating your GMB page consistently deserved its own section. Often once brands set up their page, they set it and forget it.
You’ve really got to treat this profile like you would your other social profiles, only in this case the content you post has to be a little more selective and the frequency not as high.
What’s important to note is that people who are landing on your Google Business page had intent, they were searching for something related to your business and they found you! This is notably different than social media where your posts end up in a user feed and they have no interest in your product or service.
Here is a short list of the items to keep up-to-date and the features to take advantage of:
Google has a feature which is currently free, where you can post an update to your profile. This can be an event, an offer or a special.
It’s incredibly easy to use and you can add a call-to-action button, prompting the user to Book, Sign Up, Learn More and even Buy Now. The post will stay up for 7 days.
For example, a local hair salon might post a 15% discount on a cut and color service. If someone is searching for a salon near them and one has an offer while the other does not, who do you think wins?
There are six categories of photos on your GMB page and it’s important to carefully select these images and whenever possible refresh them. They make it really easy to update these from the app, the options are:
Like with all things Google, they will give preference to the GMB that indicates that it has a current, active and completed profile. Google’s goal is to deliver the page that has the highest chance of meeting the search inquiry.
The big take away key here is for you to indicate that you’re engaged with your audience.
Reviews are one of the most important elements of your online presence. Here are a few ways to effectively capture positive reviews within the GMB guidelines, and while you’re at it don’t forget about Yelp.
There are a number of factors that Google uses to weigh reviews with regards to how they impact your ranking in the local GMB pack (the first 3 results they show). The top factors are:
90% of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business.
72% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.
68% of consumers go to social networking sites to read product reviews.
Every one-star increase in a Yelp rating means a 5-9% increase in revenue.
Yelp has a strict no solicitation policy when it comes to reviews so our advice here is to deliver outstanding service, go above and beyond, and look to be the best in class in your industry. Happy customers will inevitably write happy reviews.
Google is more flexible and we highly recommend that you make getting customer feedback part of every sales/client facing interaction that you and/or your staff have.
Here are a few of our preferred methods for you to put into action, along with some tips that raise the likelihood of success:
A client care follow up call, short survey and (upon customer approval) email the client with a link to your GMB page making it easy for them to leave their feedback.
This also gives you the advantage of screening potentially negative reviews before they make it online and allows you the opportunity to remedy the situation and ultimately satisfy your client.
Pro Tip: Having a question as your email title will increase your chances (a question other than please leave us a review).
I’m going to be captain obvious here and tell you the best way to get reviews from your customers is to just ask.
The hard part is having this become standard practice in your organization and part of your culture.
An easy way to do this is to start with when a customer compliments you on your product or service you or your staff should immediately act on that prompt and ask if the customer wouldn’t mind sharing that review on your GMB profile.
Make it part of your employee training and handbook.
You have to make it easy for your customers to leave you a review so place links in your email signature, social profiles and of course your website.
You can also create a link that will take the customer directly to your GMB profile and automatically populate a 5 star review, the customer can change it, but it certainly increases your chances that they won’t if they were happy with your service.
Click > here to use that handy tool.
To practice what I’m preaching I am going to ask if you’ve found this article helpful please head on over to our Google Business page and leave us a review. Click here.
We don’t have many and the team is committing to making a habit of asking in 2018, it’s never too late to start!
Lastly, be sure to respond to all reviews, whether they are positive or negative, and under no circumstances should you engage in a dispute on a public platform.
In keeping with our promise of only sharing tips that are easily applied, we are going to focus on website optimization tactics that can be done with very little webmaster know how.
Your website is the hub of your business online and so we can’t stress enough how important it is to optimize your site to the fullest extent possible!
If you are more experienced and comfortable with making updates to your site then check out our complete Website Design Optimization article series and when your site is in a good place you can use our guide to increase your website traffic planner.
I won’t get into keyword research here as it’s on the cusp of tactics that some would deem to be too difficult. Keyword research is covered in the article we listed above. For the time being, we are going to recommend you select a keyphrase (more than one word) that is relevant to the page you are optimizing. Also, include your keyphrase + location.
Note: WordPress, Shopify, SquareSpace and Wix all have plugins/apps and DIY tools that you can use to easily edit these elements.
DO NOT: edit your URL’s unless you know how to properly do a 301 redirect or your page will result in a 404 Error – Page Not Found.
Avoid over optimizing, don’t do this for all your pages. Pick key landing pages and/or pages where it really is relevant for the location to be included if it will help your potential customer. For a complete guide on the topic of on-page search engine optimization have a look at our article: 13 Most Important On-Page Factors
As with your directory citations and Google Business listing, you want to make sure that your official business Name, Address and Phone Number is listed on your website. Typically you want to display this information both in the footer and on your contact page.
If you’re not familiar with how to create a new page for your website, an alternative would be to create a blog post on an event or piece of news that would be relevant to your community. Optimize the body content, title, meta and URL accordingly.
For an individual page targetting a specific region, here are the key things to be aware of:
If you want to learn more about how to properly structure these types of pages, head on over to Search Engine Lands article on Local SEO Landing Pages, it’s an older article but the information is still on point.
This is important for your customer experience. They’ve made it this far, they’re on your contact page and they are looking to get in touch or visit your business in person.
You want it to be as seamless as possible for them to interact with your Google Maps listing and get directions. Follow this support article from Google on how to add this to your site in 6 easy steps.
Even the most tech-challenged business owner should be able to implement the majority of these local SEO tactics. In my opinion, if your business services a specific local area, city or region then local search engine optimization is the most important aspect for you to focus your marketing efforts on.
Thank you for reading and if you have questions about any of the information in this article or want to get help with your local SEO, digital marketing or website we would love to hear from you.
Justin Shaw is the founder and Managing Director of One & Zero, a NYC-based web design and digital marketing agency that helps small businesses and entrepreneurs create profitable websites and online marketing strategies. He’s been featured most recently in USA Weekly, NBC, Wall Street Business Network and Media Leaders.
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