Local SEO is critically important for a huge number of small businesses, and competition has been heating up considerably over the last 18 months. The days of hoping you’ll simply pop up in relevant local searches are long gone – in 2016 you need a specific strategy to address local SEO, or you risk losing significant ground on the competition in your area.
As with any aspect of SEO, knowing where to even begin is a challenge for those who don’t spend their days dealing exclusively with this topic, and the landscape is also constantly shifting as new updates roll out and best practices evolve.
In this piece, we’ll blast through four common sense tips you can use to get up and running with local SEO in a hurry and start pulling ahead of your local competitors online. Let’s start by identifying the lay of the land.
1. Get familiar with the landscape of local SEO
When it comes to SEO, it’s famously difficult to separate signal from noise, and the number of small businesses who have wasted considerable time and money on advice from assorted “experts” is vast.
A little light reading goes a long way here – before you dive into any sort of local SEO plan of action, take a couple of hours to read through some basics on the subject and you’ll be starting off ahead of the pack. Start by going straight to the horse’s mouth with Google’s own breakdown of how to improve your local rankings.
The Local Learning Centre section of Moz.com is also an excellent, authoritative resource which you can tackle at your own speed to get a firm grip of the basics. Throw in the occasional read of local SEO topics on their blog and you’ll be bang up to speed on the latest developments in no time at all.
2. Make sure your site is optimized for mobile
The following figures from a 2014 Google study drive home its importance in a local context:
- 88 percent of people regularly perform local searches on smartphones.
- 50 percent of smartphone users visit a store within a day of their local search.
- 18 percent of local searches lead to sales, as opposed to 7 percent of non-local searches.
Put all that together and it’s clear that mobile users are actively searching locally, and prepared to take positive action almost immediately.
A poor mobile experience will cripple your local SEO and drive away people who are actively trying to give you money. Get this one right from the get-go.
3. Claim and finetune your Google My Business listing
Your Google My Business listing will be at the heart of your local SEO efforts and give you an authoritative presence across Search, Maps, and Google+. It also gives you an integrated way of attracting reviews and ratings, which can help improve your standing in Google’s revised local 3-pack results and add authority to your paid advertising.
If you haven’t already claimed your listing, get signed up and review the basics of the system.
Once you’ve grasped the basics, it’s time to get down to business. Use phase one of Moz.com’s excellent local SEO audit guide to step through all the relevant business info you need to enter, and pay close attention to the official Google My Business guidelines as you do so.
Be particularly careful to establish what your official Name/Address/Phone Number (NAP) information is at this point. This is a core set of information you want to be cited consistently online over time. (Hint: GoDaddy’s Get Found product enables you to manage multiple local business listings from one dashboard.)
4. Chase down citations and local links
With the basics out of the way, it’s time to go hunting for relevant local links and citations. In addition to direct local outreach via existing friends, customers and suppliers, you should also be sure to consult Moz.com’s list of prominent citation sources and breakdown per city in the U.S. – it’s a treasure trove of actionable info.
Bear in mind that you’re after quality when it comes to these local links.
Once you start thinking about content campaigns and link building avenues through a local filter, you’ll soon start seeing opportunities everywhere around you. Casey Meraz has a great list of 11 ways for local businesses to get links to get you off to the races.
The steps we’ve covered above are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to local SEO, but they’ll enable you to hit the ground running and provide a solid foundation for further future efforts.
Let’s go through them one more time:
- Do your homework: A couple of hours devoted to the resources we outlined will get you up to speed with local SEO quickly.
- Insist on mobile perfection: Bulletproof mobile performance is more critical than ever in a local SEO context.
- Give Google what it wants: A well-optimized Google My Business listing will form the cornerstone of your local SEO efforts.
- Chase down local links: Local link building is an artform unto itself, and you’ll need to tackle it in isolation for the best results.
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