For many years, smart local businesses could gain an edge by concentrating on SEO. Competition in most niches and locations was relatively low, but the traffic and branding benefits of a high search ranking made the work valuable. In recent times, however, ranking has become more difficult. More businesses have woken up to the potential of local SEO, while alterations to search listings have limited the number of location-related results they show. There is, however, still plenty of potential for businesses willing to put in the effort, with some tips and techniques available to help outrank the competition.
Create a Google My Business Page
Google My Business is a free service that lets business owners create a personal listing. A typical local search page will include many relevant results from the local area. Your Google My Business listing can appear in a prominent position, along with a star rating, directions, contact details, and website link. Complete your profile in full, adding images, opening hours, and any relevant information that assists searchers.
Get More Reviews
Reviews can offer benefits for SEO, branding, and sales. Customers can leave reviews on your Google My Business page, adding a star rating to your listing. If you have a large number of positive ratings, you should see an increase in click-through rate. When searchers click on a listing more than other alternatives, you can potentially see an increase in rankings. Additionally, it is important to claim your site on other review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, with many of these pages appearing in the search results.
To get more reviews, be prepared to ask customers directly. Most clients would consider adding a review if a business asked them for one, but wouldn’t think about it without prompting. You can add links to reviews sites within your email footer and even on business cards. Also, create a brief guide showing how to post a review on Google, offering it to clients who promise to leave a testimonial.
Optimize Your Site
Most site owners understand the need for on-page optimization, but there is usually far more they can do. For example, they can include keywords in the title and description, use relevant search terms in the page text, and add the business name and address to the page header or footer. You can go even further by including schema markup. Listing the address with geographical coordinates makes the location clearer than is often the case with text alone. Other essential elements like business opening hours can help the search engines show the most accurate information.
Citations are an intrinsic part of local SEO, but it is important to aim for the sites that are relevant to your industry and location. When an authority site tackling your industry or location mentions your business, your credibility can snowball. A number of these powerful citations can often be enough to rank for most keywords. Ensure your business details remain consistent across all sites, with inconsistencies leading to SEO problems. Local news sites are a great source of links as they are often harder to acquire than the average directory citation. Look to build relationships with writers on appropriate sites, crafting interesting news stories, press releases, and events that could lead to mentions.
Focus on User Engagement
If a large proportion of visitors access your site from Google and then leave, the search engine will assume you are not providing a relevant solution to their query. Bounce rate is an important factor in SEO, with a greater focus on precisely answering user queries. To ensure your site doesn’t suffer from a high bounce rate, focus attention on user engagement. Think about the typical searches that people make and how you can offer a solution. Place important content above the fold, removing distracting banners or large headers that don’t serve a purpose. Ensure site navigation is intuitive, allowing easy access to every important page on the site. Finally, consider using heat map software, so you can follow the journey your visitors make.
With the rise in competition and the limited number of results for the prime search terms, finding an edge is important for local businesses looking to rank. Many sites use SEO agencies or have sites that are authoritative and mature. With the right techniques, however, a less-established site can rank quickly, gaining the benefits of branding and traffic. SEO is a constant challenge, with frequent algorithm changes and a lot of competition, but by using a focused approach, it is possible to make your site the most visible for the keywords that count.