While the importance of search engine optimization is clear for businesses that operate primarily on the Internet, SEO can also be a deciding factor in the success of local brick-and-mortar businesses as well. People use search engines like Google to make decisions about where to buy flowers, where to go to dinner, where to get their bikes repaired, and so on. And three quarters of search engine users never scroll past the first page of results. Here are four suggestions for getting ahead of the local crowd by getting on top of Google.
1. Get Your Business Listed (And Linked To) On Local Websites
SEO is all about backlinks, links that lead to your site from other sites. It’s the main factor Google uses to determine which sites end up at the top of their SERPs (search engine results pages). When it comes to local SEO, it’s particularly good for your ranking if you establish backlinks from local listings websites, as Google seems to weight these particularly highly when ordering local results. So you should go out of your way to make sure you’re listed on local directories, including Yelp, YP, Yellowbook, and DexKnows. These listings sites aren’t necessarily used by lots of web browsers, but they affect how your site ranks in results pages, so you’ll want to make sure your business is listed and linked to, and that you’ve officially claimed the listing.
2. Make Sure Your Information Is Consistent and Complete Across the Web
When looking for or establishing links on these local listings websites, you should ensure that the information they’re using for you is correct. Listing sites will keep an old address up after you change locations unless they’re informed of the move, or link to a dead website. In addition, you should build out the listings on these sites with photos of your storefront or your product, as well as any other details you can think to include. This will not only make it more appealing to web users, it will be more likely to catch the attention of Google’s finicky algorithm. You should also check to make sure your business is being included in the correct categories on each listings site.
3. Optimize Your Site for Google My Business
Google My Business is a directory like the ones discussed above, but since it’s Google’s directory, it’s more heavily weighted for their rankings system. It’s a must that you claim your Google My Business page. You can do this by visiting google.com/business, requesting a postcard with a PIN number to verify that you’re the real operator. Once you’ve got the necessary permissions to modify your listing, get to work optimizing it. Choose your categories carefully, and add as much detail as possible. Upload photos chosen to present the best possible version of your business and a high-quality version of your logo. If you do well enough, you’ll be included in the “3-pack” of top-ranked results that Google displays on local searches, guaranteeing a spike in business.
4. Encourage Customers to Review Your Business
Another factor that affects rankings for local business is the number and quality of their reviews on sites like Yelp. 84% of people treat online reviews like personal recommendations, meaning having negative reviews pop up when people search for you will dramatically reduce the likelihood that they’ll patronize your business. But if you’re confident in your products or services, you should be actively encouraging patrons to post reviews. Yelp and other review sites offer stickers you can place near your checkout area to remind people to post reviews. You should also consider investing in reputation management software to monitor online reviews and discussion of your company. Many of these products are relatively cheap and can alert you when reviews are posted, saving you time spent Googling yourself. Keeping on top of the online chatter is key to maintaining solid local SEO.
If you want your business to be in a position to compete with other local companies in your niche (or to attract any business at all if you’re in a particularly small niche) you need to be near the top of Google’s local results. Follow the suggestions above and you’ll see your profits increase as your profile grows.