UPDATE: This local SEO post was originally published on 25 October 2018 and updated on 20 May 2020.
As a small local business, it can seem impossible trying to compete with the big brands in the global internet arena. But you actually have a trump card up your sleeve — the fact that you’re local to an area. As it turns out, local SEO (search engine optimization) can be a powerful tool for attracting customers from your immediate area via the internet.
Local SEO can make you a big fish in the small pond of your neighbourhood or service area.
Local SEO entails making changes to your website and online profiles in order to:
- Get in front of the customers looking for goods and services in your local area.
- Achieve higher search engine rankings for the keywords those customers are using to search online.
- Increase your real-life customer traffic, whether or not you have a physical location that customers can visit.
Local SEO is very similar to standard search engine optimisation — but with a local focus. The goal is not to attract customers from everywhere, just from targeted areas. To explore global SEO, read this excellent post.
5 low-cost ways to attract local customers
People looking for products and services nearby do the same thing the world over — they Google it. Here’s how to make sure search engines send you more local leads.
Check your local citations.
Claim your Google My Business listing.
Refine your web pages.
Ask for reviews.
The internet isn’t reserved for big businesses with big budgets — mom-and-pops and startups can use it too. Keep reading to learn more.
1. Check your local citations
A citation is a specific mention of your business name, address and phone number on various online directories and websites. Including your business in them can help you get quality local links pointing back to your site, which signals to Google that your business is real and local to the area.
Choose a directory or category listing that is relevant to your industry or business on listing sites such as:
Make sure your business name, address and phone number are consistent across all of them and matches what’s on your own website. Consistency is key and helps to build up Google’s trust. Any variations in your business listing can confuse Google and harm your search engine rankings.
2. Claim your Google My Business listing
One of the most important steps in mastering local SEO is to claim and verify your Google My Business listing. Once known as Google Places and Google Local, Google My Business is a free business listing that helps your business to be found by locals searching for goods and services nearby.
Google My Business is easy to set up. Plus it has a range of features to improve your chances of ranking.
To get started, visit Google My Business and:
- Write a detailed and unique description for your business, once again making sure your business name, address and phone number are correct.
- Use good-quality images for your profile and cover photos and add a local phone number if possible, as well as your opening hours.
- If your business has multiple locations, you can set up multiple listings, provided you have a physical address in those locations.
You can keep your listing fresh and engaging by adding posts, answering questions and getting reviews.
Don’t make the mistake of setting up your listing and then forgetting about it. What a lot of people don’t realise is that anyone can make an edit to your listing, including your competitors, so it’s important to keep checking in to make sure the information is still accurate. And don’t forget to set up profiles on other search engines such as Bing and Yahoo!.
3. Refine your web pages
There are a number of ways to get the most out of your website for local SEO purposes. These include:
- Adding keywords that match local intent.
- Creating engaging content about your local area — blog posts, infographics, videos etc.
- Ensuring your location and contact information is consistently displayed across every page of your website.
According to Google, nearly one third of all mobile searches now include local intent, whereby a user modifies their keyword search to specify a local area. For example, they might type in ‘Plumber Sydney’ instead of just ‘Plumber.’
More than half of people who search for a nearby business visit a local store within one day.
So start by brainstorming some long-tail keywords (made up of more than one word), such as your service or product + town or area. Get into the mindset of your customers and tap into what they might Google when they need your help. For example:
- ‘24 hour emergency dentist near me.’
- ‘Affordable teeth-whitening Gladesville.’
If the suburb your business is in has a high saturation for your kind of business, try targeting smaller suburbs nearby. Aim for one primary phrase per web page, as well as a handful of synonyms you can use throughout the body copy.
A handy tool for keyword research is Keywords Everywhere, a free browser extension for Chrome or Firefox. It shows you the search volume and competition for every keyword phrase you type into Google.
For those who don’t feel comfortable doing this on their own, there’s GoDaddy’s SEO Services. Eighty percent of GoDaddy clients who follow the experts’ recommendations achieve a Page 1 ranking within six months of signup.
4. Ask for reviews
Many small businesses rely on word of mouth, which is why positive reviews and star ratings are worth their weight in gold. Powerful and persuasive, they have a direct impact not only on search engine rankings but on potential customers’ decisions.
85 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends or family.
So don’t be afraid to ask your customers for a review or to leave their feedback on Google. Remind them how simple, quick and easy the process is. But you shouldn’t incentivize response in any way, as businesses have been caught out paying for fake accounts to create ‘social proof.’
Make sure you respond and thank everyone who leaves you a review on Google, even those who leave negative ones. Take it as an opportunity to show Google that you’re real and demonstrate to people how responsive, courteous and professional you are.
5. Cultivate backlinks
Using a tool like the Moz Link Explorer or Ahrefs, enter your competitors’ URLs and see what links they have pointing back to their sites. This will give you a list of local community websites to approach for building backlinks of your own.
Another idea is to enter your local community business awards to get more valuable local links back to your website. This has the added bonus of increasing your local visibility.
You can also approach bloggers who work in your industry and offer to write guest posts on a topic related to your business expertise. In exchange, you get a link back to your website, which serves to improve your credibility in the eyes of search engines.
Local SEO wrapup
The internet is a crowded place, and competing with big businesses online might seem like a big task. But local SEO is an effective and smart way to put your business square on the map and give you a competitive edge where it matters.
Simple local SEO practices such as claiming your Google My Business profile can help tip search volume your way. You can then build your authority by adding locally relevant keywords and articles to your website and encouraging customers to review your business or service. All this will help increase your online profile, get you noticed by Google and bring more customers through your door.