How Brick and Mortar Stores Win at Local SEO
Local SEO can seem overwhelming, but if you keep to these basics, you’ll see results
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the practice of implementing strategies and content to help your site rank better on search engines like Google.com. If you can get your website to rank #1 for a search like “lawn companies near me”, you’ll get more people to your site, and hopefully, more business! Local SEO is the effort of trying to rank well for words from people in your area. If you’re a lawn company in Cedar Rapids, you’re more interested in being at the top of the search results when someone searches ‘lawn companies near me” while they’re in Cedar Rapids compared to someone searching that in Montana. If you’ve searched for SEO tips yourself, you may have quickly felt overwhelmed by all the tips and tricks out there. You may have even thought most of it was spammy. But it doesn’t have to be. Google and other search engines have gotten better at detecting spammy SEO tactics and are making it easier and easier to rank better with honest approaches. Below are 5 strategies you should implement, and you will see noticeable improvement with how your site ranks in your area.
Make sure your website speaks local
This may seem like a no brainer, but there are areas of your site you’ll want to make sure have the city (and maybe state) that your business is located in. Your homepage and contact pages are great pages to have your city/state somewhere in the content. If you can put it into a headline, that’s even better. Many businesses put their business name, address, and phone number right into their website footer, so that it’s on every page. This helps search engines recognize that your website’s business is located in that area, and will rank your site higher when people search from there. Having your city in the title of your homepage is another great place to help rank locally.
Beef up your Google My Business listing
Google My Business is becoming your most important digital asset. This is a free directory listing that will show up specifically for local based searches. They show up on Google Maps as well. If you’ve searched for local restaurants, you’ll see how these business listings are elevated by Google.com more so than the website listings themselves. You should work to make this listing both attractive to users and relevant to your business. Go to Google My Business and either claim the auto-created listing or create one if you haven’t already linked this listing to your email account. Make sure you upload your logo, shots of your building, and other relevant photos to your business (photos of food for restaurants, photos of lawn projects for landscapers, etc). Then go to the info section of your listing and fill it up with as much relevant information you can. Having this listing beefed up and speaking to your business will help it rank above less filled out listings when people search for your services.
Don’t forget all your other online directories
Google My Business may be the most important directory listing, but it’s far from the only. Facebook, Bing Places for Business, Apple Maps are other very important listings to make sure people can find you. Having these up-to-date helps you twofold. One, it helps users find your business who use these other services. Two, they act as “free links” to your website, which helps create authority for your website and will actually help improve the rankings of your website. It’s very important that your business information (business name, phone, address, website) you put in all these directory listings are consistent with your website. Having different phone numbers, or even formatting of addresses (Street vs. St) can confuse search engines and hurt your rankings. There are literally hundreds of other directory listings out there, so don’t be afraid to use services like YEXT or BrightLocal which can help you manage these if you want to take this local SEO practice to the next level.
Develop a plan to grow your reviews
Long term, you’ll want to develop and grow the number of reviews your business has. Most businesses should work to grow reviews on their Google My Business listing and Facebook. The reviews on Google My Business can actually improve the rankings of that listing, so it’s always my number one review area to focus on. Try asking trusted and happy clients to give you a review or work it into your standard invoicing process. Potential clients will read these reviews and see how awesome you are. Plus, the more reviews you have, the more protected you are from that random bad review — or possibly, even a malicious competitor. When people do leave you reviews, make sure to interact with them professionally and timely, as these are public.
Be on the lookout for link building opportunities
Link building is the concept of growing links from other websites that point to your website. Google and other search engines use these as signals that your website has authority. If all these other sites are linking to your website, you must be pretty important. This is one of the best ways to improve your websites rankings, but also one of the hardest. Don’t buy links. This is against Google’s rules, and eventually you’ll get caught and have your website penalized — ie, dropped in rankings. Instead, add link building into your PR strategy as a whole. Work with local newspapers to write about you and link to your website. If you have some other business you partner with, work out an arrangement where you link to their website in a responsible way and have them do the same. This is a quality over quantity game. A few good links from other reputable or even local websites is way more powerful than hundreds of links bought from spammy websites.
Local SEO is not a sprint. It takes time. However, if you implement and work on expanding these practices, you’ll inevitably see results over the long haul. There’s a lot of equity in getting your website to rank well with these practices and once you’ve established high rankings, it will be a lot easier to maintain them.
Jonathan Krueger is a trusted member of the Spark team and serves as our digital marketing consultant that runs shrewddigitalmarketing.com. He specializes in digital advertising for small to medium sized businesses across the US.