SEO is often discussed with reference to large companies, corporations and businesses competing nationally or even globally. But SEO should be affordable, available, effective and useful for everyone competing online. This post will offer some SEO advice and strategies for local businesses.
Local businesses can be very competitive, depending on the industry or sector that you operate within will determine the amount of SEO you will need to improve your online visibility. The other major factor is location, which local area are you targeting? London will be far more competitive than say Southampton or Salisbury for example.
There are, however, some basic rules which underpin all SEO strategies and there are some rules which are specific to local targeting.
On-Page SEO for Local Businesses
Putting aside the on-page elements that should be optimised on all sites no matter what, such as Meta, H1’s, content, etc; I will focus on the elements which are unique to local targeting.
Company Address: The full company address should be present on every page of the site; this can in fact be used in two prime locations. The header is a great place to put your business address, it is one of the first page elements that will be seen and is useful for reassuring site visitors that you are local. The second place which is more mandatory than the header is the footer; this is more discrete and should be on every page. Include the post code, and the full address in the footer as well as the name of the company.
How to Find Us: A page often overlooked is the “how to find us” page. This page can contain more than simply your address, but can include directions from the nearest motorways, train and bus stations as well as integrating Google maps. Adding additional content to this page is another useful tool for building its relevance to your location as well as being useful to potential customers.
GEO Tags: GEO Tags looks like the image below. They are simple bits of code that you can generate online for free from places such as https://www.geo-tag.de/generator/en.html
GEO Tags help to tell search engines where where you are physically located and what areas you cover. They should be put onto every page of the website in the <head> section of the source code and as such are invisible to site visitors.
Keyword Strategy: This is vital to any SEO campaign, but do not overlook the obvious easy wins when implementing this. Include the location in the page title for example “Estate Agents London” or “Locksmiths in Southampton”. It almost, but not quite, goes without mention to use the keyword in all the usual places. Work keywords into the content naturally, a few good examples have been detailed below:
“Are you looking for a Locksmith in Southampton? Well you have come to the right place…”
“Finding the right Estate Agent can be difficult, it is a competitive industry, you only need to type ‘Estate Agents London’ into Google to find out how competitive. But here at The Estate Agent Company offer a personal service…”
“We are a leading and well established Furniture Shop in Manchester”
Domain Name: This is still a very useful feature for locally targeted businesses, less so if competing nationally, but a nice keyword rich domain can go a long way. More important than having the presence of a keyword within the domain is the suffix. Using a “.com” or “.org” address is not as useful as a “co.uk” address if you are a UK based company. Google definitely look at this to help determine the area you are targeting.
Content: Content is still king! Lots of high quality, relevant, optimised unique content goes a long way. If your website is new and the domain is still less than a year old, you simply cannot beat adding new fresh well articulated content to the site regularly. This will give you an edge that in many cases your competitors will not be exploiting. Every new page affords you the opportunity to target a new keyword or build more content to support and advance the promotion of existing keywords.
Adding a blog to the site; such as WordPress, is a great way to add regular content without needing to pay a web developer to create new pages for your site every week. Plus it’s free and easy to use! Link back to your main website’s top pages from new content with relevant keyword rich anchor text to help improve the relevance to the keyword being targeted.
In a moderately competitive industry and geographical location, having dozens of pages of content will often allow you to out-trump a competitor site with two or three pages. This carries many advantages, one of which is that it will make you look like experts at what you do and can attract traffic from different sources.
Testimonials: If you are proud to offer a great service or high quality products, low prices etc and you get good feedback from this, ask if people of companies that use your services would write a testimonial for you. This carries a lot of weight as site visitors will see that you are recommended by other businesses. The advantage for the company writing the testimonial is a link to their website and some additional online exposure. This activity builds trust and demonstrates that you do what you say you can do.
Off-Page SEO for Local Businesses
The amount of “link building” that is performed for local businesses can have a varied impact on rankings. From my experience in many less competitive industries such as local independent beauty therapists, for example, you will find that 99% of businesses have less than a handful of back links. What this indicates is that in order to be perceived by Google as being more relevant than a well established business with very few back links, you need a different strategy than just churning out links.
That is not to say that getting a load of nice natural links isn’t worth doing, however if you have only a small amount of time to spend on this activity I would suggest that the following areas are focused on first:
Business Profiles: Similar to the local business directories below are the business profile sites such as Yelp, Qype, Brownbook, etc. These often allow you to add more content, images and have a unique URL on which to advertise your business. Business profiles are vital to the SEO strategy because they allow a link and compound your relevance to the area you are located within. These listings can be verified by an owner which improves their authority, and never underestimate the value of traffic or business from these sources.
Local Business Directories: These are sites such as Yell.com, Thomson Local, Cylex, etc. There are hundreds of them, but only the top 20 should be focused on initially. These are useful for the link and also to allow your business to appear in as many places as possible throughout the internet. Google will look upon this in a positive light which will help to increase both your online presence and authority.
Google Places: Always, without fail, excuse or exception, create a well optimised Google Places account! Verify the account and keep it updated regularly with company updates, discounts, or any other frequently changing information relevant to your company. This is such an important aspect to your off-page SEO strategy that it should never be ignored.
Facebook: Another big and obvious one this, but it is surprising how many people do not create a Facebook page for their company. This is a great way to engage with your customers, get “likes” and also build up a contactable customer base online. This has huge advantages for businesses who offer last minute deals to fill appointments or sell stock. Keeping the page updated regularly will also help.
Blogging: Actively engaging within your in industry on blogs and forums is a fantastic way to build links, gain new contacts and network with people. Doing this regularly and consistently will help to build a strong link profile from multiple relevant sources from websites within your industry. It is also of huge benefit to write guest blog posts for other sites; this will usually result in a link back to your website as well as help to get exposure in other areas of the internet.
Reviews: Encouraging your clients or customers to write reviews for your business online is a powerful tool for building credibility both with potential customers and search engines. You can incentivise this though offering a discount or automatic entry into a prize draw. People really do read reviews to find out who can and who can’t be trusted. Try to avoid the temptation to write your own fake reviews; aside from being against ASA (Advertising Standards Agency) regulations this can often be detected by search engines.
So there are a few techniques that have proven to work time and time again for me in my encounters with kind of localised online marketing. Every business is different; the aim is to devise a strategy that works for you and what you do as well as how you work. If you have any questions about how to promote your local business with SEO, please leave a message in the comments section below.
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A nice article, Alec. I really like that you stressed on the importance of content (fresh and high quality) even in the local search. For me this is THE factor on which Google keeps building their core algorithm. From it derive (or at least should derive) all the external signals – quality links, social signals, which should practically be signals showing the quality of the content (although Google is definitely not doing the best job in this sense).
I recently helped out a local pub with updating their website. The two things I did to help target local searches were to buy a new domain name with their location in and claim an existing local listing on google places. They now get half their visits from google places.
I will definitley recommend the other techniques in this blog to them! Thanks.
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