Local SEO: 3 Steps EVERY Small Business Needs To Complete
by Jeff Millett
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SEO can seem terrifying and impenetrable for many small businesses.
It’s not that SEO is particularly hard, but it does require time, training, and experience to truly understand its methodologies and purpose.
In this article, though, I’m going to try to take a few basic tasks that every business owner needs and break them down into easy and actionable steps.
These first three steps can help you to not only better understand the process in order of priority but to also improve your search rankings, putting you ahead of your local competition.
First Step: Make Your Site SEO Friendly
Your website, while probably very lovely, may not be search friendly. In other words, the information on your website may be valuable, the services you provide may be top-notch, but, if Google and other top search engines cannot determine what your website is all about, they cannot properly index it within their search results ―leaving your site to float helplessly in cyberspace with little to no traffic.
Fear not! Your website can be tweaked to become more search engine friendly rather easily.
Starting with your website’s metadata, you’ll need to include your target keywords and phrases in your meta titles, meta descriptions, and page titles.
These simple HTML tags can go a long way toward helping a search engine understand what your website is all about in order to catalog and rank your site properly.
Here’s what you need to do …
First, you’ll need a meta title that contains your main keywords. Since you’re a local business, it should be your service + your city/state.
Secondly, you’ll need a meta description that is both intriguing and keyword rich.
This is not a very complicated process, but it’s one that isn’t done by enough small businesses. If you’re not entirely sure how your website’s metadata measures up, then a quick SEO analysis may be in order.
Next, you’ll need to create content.
This is what keeps people coming back to your pages and what will eventually help you get ranked. As a central part of your local content strategy, you’ll need, at the minimum, a good description of your business, a detailed service page, a landing page for each city or region in which you work, and a few testimonials as well.
The more content you can add, the better. Content is a huge part of the human side of SEO, and one that you absolutely cannot ignore.
Finally, make sure you have a blog.
You might not feel like you’re the world’s best writer, but a good source of new content is a must-have for any business. Even if it’s “Water Saving Tips” for your Phoenix Arizona plumbing customers to read—these types of articles are also easy to share on social media pages.
You want your blog to be a reason that people visit your site. If necessary, hire a writer to help you to create new content. It’s an investment, but it’s one that can pay off when you start to bring new potential customers to your website.
Remember, your blog articles should link back to your main page and your service pages, when possible, as there are some small but definite SEO benefits when doing this.
Second Step: Create a Google My Business Listing
Google My Business is not just a directory—it is the directory.
If you are ignoring your Google My Business listing, you are actively hurting your business. Seriously, claim your Google My Business listing right now! Every local business should do this, and there is no excuse why you can’t do it—Google has fine-tuned their registration processes, making it incredibly simple and a rather quick task to complete.
For optimal engagement and better rankings for your Google My Business listing, you’ll need to add images, hours of operation, and other pertinent information. Google My Business is one of the most business-friendly tools out there, and it is incredibly helpful to your customers. Don’t ignore these features, even though they may seem somewhat trivial in nature.
Once you’ve claimed your listing, it’s important that you take the next very important step of “Verifying” your location. While you’d think that Google could do this through some kind of a space-age, geo-target, laser directed, satellite system, the reality is, ironically enough, that this mega-company will actually just send you a postcard.
Once you get the card in the mail, you can verify that you are really the owner of the location and that your business really is located where Google thinks that it is.
IMPORTANT: This is an easily ignored step, but it’s necessary if you want to get everything out of your listing.
Once you’re done setting up your listing, it’s a good idea to contact your current clients and let them know that you have a Google My Business listing. Your clients can then leave a review on the listing, allowing new customers to get to know you and helping you improve your online reputation. While many simply allow the reviews to come to the listing naturally, it’s much smarter for you to contact individuals who you know will leave you good reviews. Remember, this isn’t cheating—you’re just asking satisfied customers to help you out.
Third Step : Link Building (Very Important)
Once you’ve optimized your website and fine-tuned your Google My Business listing, you’ll need to start making sure your site carries the weight it deserves.
SEO does rely upon a system of building authority to decide how a site will rank. This authority is increased when other websites link to your website. As a local business, you’ll still be depending on this cycle.
Now, search engines like Google don’t expect you to get a link back from the NY Times or Forbes.com; however, they do expect certain sources will link to you, and they’ll use these sources to verify that your business is important to the community.
The best types of links for local businesses and service providers come from local Chambers of Commerce, local business directories, local news affiliates, and other similar locations. Additionally, contractor’s associations and professional directories are very helpful, too.
While all this taken together might seem like a lot of work, these are small steps that any small business can take to get a leg up on the competition.
Stay Focused: Keep Your Eye on the Prize
SEO will continue to be a major part of your marketing strategy, and something on which you will need to keep working, but starting these steps can make a huge difference in getting you web traffic.
Complete these three, small, actionable steps, and your site will be better able to compete, increasing your local presence online and bringing new customers to your business.