Local SEO: The Ultimate FAQ
Local SEO is an important tool for businesses that have a storefront and interact with their customers face-to-face. While there are many moving parts to the intricate puzzle that makes SEO as a whole and local SEO, here we break down many of the frequently asked questions surrounding SEO. Please note that while this FAQ is in-depth and hopes to answer any possible questions, Google and other search engines are constantly updating their search algorithms which could lead to part of the information displayed here becoming irrelevant.
Make a blog for your business and add content consistently. Use this content to share on social media such as Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook. Grow your reach for your blog by adding topics that resonate with locals. Create a blog post about a local event, news that touches your community, or new products and services that you are offering.
Try creating an editorial calendar for your blog to avoid being inconsistent, and place posts about two weeks before they need to be found. Schedule your blog posts on your calendar, and then either get to writing yourself or choose a competent writer to fill your blog with useful information on the topics you have identified. Google indexing typically takes about two weeks for blog posts, so if you are posting about events, you need to be mindful of this.
Most users who search for local or nearby businesses are doing so on a mobile device. This makes having your website optimized for mobile usage imperative. Failing to do so will tank your ranking. Check load times, photo optimizations, and the overall look of your website on mobile and desktop versions. If your page fails to load quickly, even if you are the top result, users are likely to bounce from your page to the next option. In the world of instant gratification, failing to load quickly on a mobile device can cost you more business than any number of other SEO mistakes you might be making.
Depending on your site’s complexity, you may need to invest in a responsive design that changes function when being viewed on a mobile device. Test out your website on a mobile device and see if drop-down features are usable, if the text is legible, and if all forms can still be filled out on each page to decide how to optimize your site for mobile users.
Test your site and any new features you add to ensure they provide a great experience for site visitors. If a page takes too long to load, an interface is bugging out, or the site is hard to navigate, users will not want to visit your site. These users will end up causing a higher bounce rate for your site, which will negatively affect your SEO.
SEM stands for search engine marketing and is for paid marketing which will stop producing results once the marketing campaign ends. While using SEM can show a boost in traffic, it should be used in conjunction with a great inbound marketing plan and SEO, and not on its own. SEM vs. SEO is pretty much the same as paid vs. organic growth. The best results come from gaining customers and business organically, but SEM can show a slight boost if it helps you achieve more reviews from newly acquired customers.
Black hat SEO may cause an immediate burst of traffic to your site, but it will hurt you more in the long run. The aggressive strategies used in Black Hat SEO do not follow the rules of search engines and may cause you being removed from Google and other search engine results altogether. For instance, purchasing a massive amount illegitimate backlinks will show a red flag to Google that can tank your site before it ever gets off the ground. Do not fall for the cheap tricks offered by Black hat SEO operations and agencies. You will see instant gratification but then be devastated.
Link-building is when another site links back to your site. A good way to boost links is by offering guest blog posts, or sharing valuable content that other sites will want to share and link back to you. The more valuable content your site provides the more likely others are to share your content and provide backlinks. Creating a share feature on blog posts and content allows users to share your content via social media as well, which will create additional backlinks.
Citations reference your name and phone number along with your business URL and help determine the legitimacy of your business. Having accurate citations builds your reputation with search engines and boosts your rankings. Citations do not have to have a link back to your website in order to be valuable, simply having your nameplate is enough for them to be figured into the local SEO algorithm. In order for the citation to help the SEO of your site, it must match the NAP, name, address, and phone number that you have listed in Google My Business. Here are a few examples of where you can get citations for your site.
- Question and answer sites.
- Profile Pages
- Guest Post Bylines – these will usually also result in a backlink which is another valuable piece of the local SEO puzzle.
Responding to reviews will help your visibility, but should be done so in a mindful way. When you receive a negative review, do not try to argue with the customer but instead offer a solution. Often the best plan of action to a negative review is to respond in an offline or private manner. Monitor your reviews by getting a review monitoring service that will notify you whenever a review is left so you can respond accordingly.
Review velocity is an analytical view of the rate at which you receive reviews on sites like Yelp and Google. Depending on the type of services or goods your business offers, the review velocity algorithm will change slightly as far as when reviews become no longer relevant and what is seen as an influx of new reviews which could break the search engine’s rules.
To get good reviews, you will want to have a review funnel set up. Something such as a follow-up email offering a discount for leaving an honest review, and having a link to leave a review can help your chances of receiving reviews. Create a process that makes leaving a review painless for your customers so they will be more likely to leave a positive review.
Here is what Google My Business will require in order for your profile to be complete. It is important that the information you provide to Google My Business is the same as what is displayed on your website and gives an accurate depiction of your business.
- Business Name
- Phone Number
Getting your business listed on Google Maps takes a set of prerequisites in place. First, your Google My Business profile must be complete. You also need to have positive reviews listed on Google. Having photos and videos added greatly increases the likelihood of showing up in Google Maps search results for those customers searching for a local business like yours.
Once you are listed on Google Maps potential customers will be able to find you much easier. It is also shown that being listed on Google Maps builds trust with customers and shows that you are a legitimate business. Customers are much more likely to go to a location that is listed than one that is not.
These are all tools that will help your business but are not required in the Google My Business profile.
- Monitoring and responding to reviews
- Maintaining a positive review rating is easier when you are able to monitor and respond to reviews that you receive. Using this tool will simplify the process and help you stay on top of your reviews.
- Adding photos and videos
- Listings with photos and videos are more likely to rank higher and be listed on Google Maps search results for local businesses.
- Analytics for when and how people find your site
- See where your traffic is coming from and what times people are viewing your site. This can be a good tool for adjusting hours if most of the searches are being done outside of your normal operating hours.
- Creating a Google My Business Description
- A Google My Business Description should showcase what your business is about and is at a maximum of 750 words. Be sure to read all of the requirements of the description as it will be reviewed by Google. You cannot place any short-term promotions or links in this description.
List your business on Google My Business and utilize all of the features they have available to increase your search ranking. This is a tool provided by Google for businesses. In order to show up on Google maps, your business must have all information filled out in Google My Business options.
Providing useful and valuable content means not to fill your website with fluff, or have your entire site be an ad for your business. Demonstrate your value to your community by adding content that helps readers and is relevant to your business. Research the issues that your customers are facing and create content that hopes to solve their problems. If people in your area are searching for “keto-friendly coffee shops” and you are a coffee shop that offers keto options, add a page to your site about it.
On-Page SEO is built into your website and how you communicate to Google what your site is all about. It is the act of upgrading individual site pages so as to rank higher and acquire progressively important traffic in web indexes. Both the HTML source code and the content of each page on the site plays a factor in on-page SEO. Any content that cannot be linked or is not accessible by “robots” that check the validity of your site does not help your on-page SEO. Pages that can’t be linked include password-protected pages, certain slideshows, and unsharable content.
Keep up social media engagement by posting consistently and providing valuable content that engages your customer base. Ask questions that are not a short answer. Invoke emotions by adding original photos and recalling a memory. Share customer stories that touch your customer base and cause them to interact with you. Search your company name on social media sites to see when people are talking about your business, and share any positive posts you find.
A good inbound marketing strategy tailors content specific for your customer base that piques their interest. Avoid spammy posts and instead, add value to their day. For example, if you run a local cleaning business, don’t tell them to purchase your cleaning services on every page, post, blog, etc. Instead, show them how to reduce cleaning costs and offer advice to help them maintain their home and business. This shows your readers that you care about them and not just their business.
Having effective keywords and phrases for local SEO will be different from Global SEO due to the need for localized phrasing. This can mean adding your city as a keyword, as well as surrounding towns and surrounding events.
For effective local SEO, all of these pieces need to fit into place.
- Targeted keywords and phrases
- A good inbound marketing strategy
- Social Media engagement
- On-page SEO
- Providing useful and valuable content
- Listings on Google My Business
- Reviews of your business on Google
- Citations and Link Building
- Avoid Black Hat SEO strategies
- Optimizing your website for mobile use
- Having a consistent blog