SEO (search engine optimization) has dominated digital marketing in 2018 and will no doubt continue to do so in 2019. SEO is equally important for small businesses as it is for the world’s biggest brands.
For small businesses with a local presence such as a physical storefront, or simply a customer base in a specific geographical area, local SEO is particularly important. Figures show that 97% of customers search for a local business online. This means that having a strong online presence and ranking highly on search results can make a huge difference in capturing customers and revenue.
In this article we will cover top tips for improving your local SEO to help you to grow your business in 2019.
What Is Local SEO?
Local SEO is the practice of improving your online presence to rank in searches on Google, Google Maps, and other search engines and directories around a specific geographic location. This could be a city, suburb, district or general geographical area. Refining local SEO can help businesses to generate sales leads and attract customers in their local area, and when done well is extremely effective in standing out from the competition.
Whether for local, national or global SEO, using the right keywords is extremely important (though not the whole picture, as we’ll cover later in this article). With 40,000 Google searches conducted every second, the purpose of SEO is demonstrating to Google that your site is the most relevant to the search query.
The number one factor that Google looks for in determining relevance is keywords. Therefore finding the strongest keywords which will mean your business reaches the most number of customers. This means reaching not only any users, but those most relevant to your business, who are most likely to purchase your goods and services. For local SEO this means a combination of location-based keywords and other keywords relevant to your target audience. You should determine these through keyword research using tools like Moz, SEMrush, Answer the Public or Ahrefs.
Online listings are an extremely important part of local SEO, and Google My Business is arguably the most important platform. It is essential for all small businesses to ensure they have a current, complete and accurate listing on Google My Business to improve their ranking on Google Maps and other apps, as well as Google search results more broadly. Having lots of reviews on Google also increases your ranking, so be sure to encourage your customers and contacts to give you a positive review.
Other online listings are also important for local SEO. Having a presence on these directories can not only drive more organic traffic to your business, but it also strengthens your online presence and therefore improves local SEO. It is a good idea for local businesses to register for as many online directories as possible: the most popular directories such as Yelp.com, Better Business Bureau and Yell.com in the UK should be a priority, as well as any influential directories specific to your area or your sector. Make sure that you have complete and up-to-date listings in each. It is also important for Google ranking purposes that the information in each listing is exactly the same, and exactly matches the name, address and phone number shown on your website.
On-page optimization is an important process, and involves making sure all pages and posts on your site are doing everything possible to encourage Google to rank your site highly in results. When Google is deciding which results to rank first, it will check (“crawl”) pages to determine which are the most relevant to the search. The search engine looks at certain parts on the page in particular when deciding how relevant it is to the user’s search.
One of these key aspects is the SEO title: that is, the title of your page or post which appears on the Google search results, which is also the title shown at the top of the page’s tab on a web browser.
The second important element is the page or post’s title as it appears at the top of the page (also known as the H1 heading), and the page’s permalink or URL. Be sure to include as many primary keywords as possible in all three of these elements, and long tail keywords if possible. Other important elements to prime with keywords are subheadings and alt-tags (alternative text descriptions) on images.
As previously mentioned, Google looks not only for post relevance but also signs that your site is authoritative and reputable in determining rankings on its SERPs. Backlinks, or links back to your site from other well-known and reputable sites, are a key way to demonstrate that your site is authoritative, and along with keywords one of the two top ranking factors on Google.
You can build backlinks by creating valuable, useful and informative content which is relevant to your audience. By producing valuable content, you will encourage other sites to link to your site, although this is rather a long-term strategy. You can actively build backlinks through a PR strategy involving approaching online publications and sites and pitching guest articles or other content. These types of link building techniques are highly effective in both boosting local SEO and driving organic traffic via other sites and blogs.
Citations and within your site can also demonstrate to Google that your site is reputable, improving your rankings. Include citations (links from your site to sources) for any information, quotes or figures you give, as well as products and companies you mention in your content. Building internal links within your site (links to other pages and posts within the same domain) will also improve SEO. This is because internal links make it easier for Google to navigate or “crawl” your site.
Implementing these local SEO tips and techniques can make a world of difference. By building a great local SEO strategy you can bring more traffic to your site, attract potential customers, boost revenue and grow your business in 2019.
Guest Post: About the Author
Tom Buckland is a digital marketing and Amazon seller consultant specializing in technical SEO. He’s the founder of Cardiff-based digital marketing agency HQ SEO in the UK and loves helping businesses profit through smart digital marketing strategies.