10 Tips for Local Businesses to Improve SEO
This is a rhetorical question, but I’m going to ask it anyway. As a local business would you like to increase footfall to your brick and mortar business?
Well of course you do. You may have a steady stream of existing customers but how do you utilise one of your key business assets, your website, to bring new enquiries, sales and ultimately grow your business?
By following the steps I’ve listed below, focussing your efforts and scheduling time, there's no reason you can't build a formidable SEO (search engine optimisation) strategy to outshine your competition.
Perhaps you’ve never done much with SEO before, or always considered it too hard or expensive, you're not alone. However, with these ten steps which you can put into practice straight away, you will improve your website's visibility in the search engines and attract more traffic.
1) Research your keywords
This should always be the first step you take when taking your business online. By researching keywords, you can find out what it is your potential customers are typing into search engines, to find the products and services you offer.
Let's look at the example of a restaurant in Manchester. The keyword 'manchester restaurant' will be an important keyword phrase for you. Or if you're offering first aid training in Birmingham, something like 'first aid courses birmingham' would make a great main keyword phrase.
Take advantage of the free Google adwords tool. It's simple:
sign up for Google Adwords
click tools across the top
Select ‘Search new keyword ideas'
Enter your product or service into the top box
Click ‘Get ideas’ a bit further down
On the next screen, you’ll want to select the keywords tab near the top of the central column
and hey presto a list of relevant keywords comes up.
You don't need to pay attention to the competition or suggested bid columns yet. You're looking for the keywords with healthy search volumes relevant to your business. Try adding your location into the search bar i.e. 'accountant manchester'.
Bear in mind that the shorter and more targeted your keyword is, the more competition there will be and the longer it will take you to rank for it. These 'short tail' keywords will be your most important phrases or 'head terms'. It's usually easier to rank for more specific terms known as 'long tail' keywords. With that in mind, think about both those leading 'head terms' and the 'long tail' phrases relevant to them.
The main focus when researching your keywords is to understand the language your customers use when looking for a business like yours.
2) Optimising your site and content
Creating a reasonable amount of high quality content is the most valuable thing you can do to help your local business's rankings. This content is critical for both search engines and users, and will have a dramatic effect on your ranking abilities.
Don't stuff your content with keywords, this is an outdated practice and will potentially harm your ranking. Instead think about the topic you're talking about as a whole. Talk about it in depth with well constructed, error-free sentences. Try to give the user a fully detailed account of what it is your product does, how it benefits them and why it’s relevant to your business.
By customising the meta titles of your site's pages, you're helping the search engines to better understand what it is you do. Don't use the same titles across all your pages, instead use your keyword research to create titles relevant to what the page is talking about and what your customers are searching for. When your content is shared on social sites, it's this title which is usually displayed, so it needs to be enticing and relevant for real readers.
Updating your page's meta descriptions may also help to drive increased traffic, as these are published below the titles in search engine results pages (SERPs). Once again they need to be relevant and enticing to humans.
Remember to keep your content sounding natural. You should try to include your location as this will let visitors and search engines know where you are. If you're a mechanic in Liverpool, it doesn't make sense to rank for just 'mechanic' or mechanic London'.
For local businesses, the contact page can often be the second most important page after the homepage. Make sure you include the following:
Company or business name
Primary phone number
If possible be sure to use a physical address rather than a P.O. Box as this enables Google to list your location in various business tools.
Other content such as testimonials, customer stories, Q&A sections are also really great ways to get additional information onto your site. Bear in mind that all this content should provide valuable advice, information, or entertainment value to your audience.
3) Using Google Local
By setting up a Google+ account and creating a local business listing, you can, over time, bring your website into the local results on the first page of a search result i.e. ‘hairdresser in Manchester’.
Google+ local business pages allow you to verify your business address for it to appear in Google maps, add your company contact information & details and receive reviews from customers. It also presents an opportunity to add social interaction by creating posts, similar to Facebook.
4) Claim local listing
These can take the form of local business directories such as Yelp or review websites. You'll want to claim any listings for your business as your own, as these listings represent citations and citations are an important factor in Google's ranking algorithm.
5) Consistency across platforms
Be sure to use the same details for your business on your website, social media profiles and local directories or review sites. Keep the exact wording of your business name, physical address and phone number. Neither Google or Bing like inconsistency and getting it wrong can have a negative effect on your visibility.
6) Genuine reviews
Please, don't ever use fake reviews to promote your business. This will only cause problems later down the line as search engines and customers catch on.
Your Facebook, Google+ local and Yelp pages are the perfect place for your customers to leave their reviews in a genuine way. By offering a number of options you can increase your chance of getting results if for example they don't have a Google account to leave a Google+ review.
Don't fall into the trap of incentivising people to write positive reviews. Genuine reviews are far better. People who are incentivised to leave reviews may do so but their tone of voice will not be genuine and this tends to stand out.
7) Social profile optimisation
There are more social platforms out there other than Google+ which you can use to your advantage to get more out of your website. Ensure each of your business social profiles includes a physical location, your business name and a link back to your website. Remember to keep the details consistent.
Listing your business as a Facebook local business can encourage people to check in and increases the chances of appearing in Facebook search. This also provides good social proof. Pinterest is now offering Pinterest Place Pins which you can use to increase your exposure on this platform.
8) Generating local outreach
When starting out in business, one great way to drive attention is to get people talking about you and linking to your site. If the content on your site is relevant and high quality, there's nothing wrong with politely asking if other sites would be interested in linking to you.
You may be able to find local bloggers willing to write about you by typing 'your location + blogs' into search engines. Social media is another great way of finding authorities within your field and location. Don't be afraid to engage with them and make that connection.
9) Making the most of mobile
Mobile technology is now the future and it's becoming more and more important for business, especially local business to embrace this technology. Your customers are often on the move, looking for you on their device. By having a responsive mobile ready site you're improving the user's experience on your website.
10) Analysing and monitoring results
Keep track of your keywords and their position within search results. Are they going up or down? If you're moving in the right direction then you know you're doing it right. By setting up Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics you can get insights into the volumes of traffic your site is generating, how long visitors are on site, the user's pathway through the site and whether or not there are any issues which need to be fixed. Other tools you can use include the AWR Cloud and Moz Analytics but these are paid services.
So there we go, ten quick fixes to make sure you local business has the best footing to improve SEO and drive new traffic. It might look like a lot to do, but with the right planning and focus you'll get there. Schedule some time each week to look at a particular area and try to improve upon it.
Do you have any other SEO tips for local businesses?
Here at the Christian Michaels Digital Agency we offer SEO services in Manchester for any size of business. If you're wanting to increase the exposure of your website, why not give us a call.We look forward to hearing from you.