Do You Want To Improve Your Local Search Rankings?
The answer to that rhetorical question is most undoubtedly YES. Every business owner, brick-and-mortar or virtual, wants the same thing; to rank higher in local searches to gain more customers. The question then becomes, how does one accomplish this and how much does it cost? The how to will be in the next section, but we’ll address the cost here. That depends on the size of your budget coupled with the amount of time you have to put into your SEO campaign. Your choices are simple, you can follow the guidelines below or you can hire a digital marketing company to perform your SEO work.
How Can You Improve Local SEO?
I’m going to cover 10 critical steps to ensuring that your website is completely optimized for local SEO. Before you embark on this journey, make sure you have already taken the time to optimize your website for speed. Major search engines like Google will penalize your ranking if your site is slow. You also need to make sure that your website is mobile friendly. These two items are critical; don’t overlook them!
Here are 10 Steps You Can Take to Improve Your Search Rankings:
If you’ve spent any time researching SEO, you’re well aware that there are several different methods and tools available to perform keyword research. If you are in a highly competitive niche (such as Digital Marketing) it will be very difficult to rank for several popular keywords, but you will find that it is much easier to rank for the long tail keywords that are related to the head term keywords. If you aren’t in a unique niche, you should initially focus on long tail keywords versus the more difficult head keywords that others are already dominating. Once your domain authority increases and you gain more backlinks, you’ll be able to go after the more difficult keywords.
Here are a few free keyword search tools that you can utilize for your SEO campaign:
It’s important to seek to understand the search language that you potential customers are using when they are searching for a business like yours. In many cases, long tail keywords will be searched for because more and more people are using voice searches from mobile devices. For example, if you were looking for a digital marketing firm in your hometown, you probably wouldn’t search for digital marketing, you would search for “digital marketing firm near me” or “digital marketing firm in Franklin, VA”, etc. You might even ask a question such as “what is the best rated digital marketing company in Franklin, VA?” These search terms are long tail versions of the head keyword “digital marketing”, but they are in a natural language format that many people are using when searching the web. You should take some time to think through the variations of the keywords and their long tail counterparts that you would use to find a business like yours. The keyword tools I listed above will also suggest several variations of each keyword that you search for. I suggest that you create a spreadsheet (or other digital document) to track the head keyword along with all of the long tail versions that you want to rank for.
Here is an example of what I am talking about:
|Head Keyword||Long Tail Keywords|
|Local SEO||Local SEO Services – Local SEO Checklist – Local SEO Guide|
|Digital Marketing||Digital Marketing Strategy – Digital Marketing Company – Digital Marketing Company Virginia Beach|
As you can see from the example above, the Long Tail keyword variations all include the Head keyword. These keywords will be inserted into your website’s content.
2. Optimize Your Website and its Content
Let’s first item that you need to ensure it correctly configured is the Meta Title and Meta Description of your website and each of its posts/pages. If you are a WordPress user, I highly recommend utilizing the Yoast SEO plugin as it will make editing these items quite simple. Your Meta Title is what most sites (especially social media) uses when your content is shared on their platform. It is important to craft a Meta Title that is interesting to your potential readers; you want to entice them to engage your content. Your Meta Description is what search engines will display within the Search Engine Results Pages (SERP). Take time to make each Meta Description unique for each page and/or post on your website. With that being said, you need to take the time to craft a description that is inviting with an overall goal of getting people to visit your website and engage your content. It is helpful to utilize “call to action” language at the end of your Meta Description to draw attention to your content.
Assuming that you are a business that operates within a general area (such as the Hampton Roads area of Virginia), you will want to include your company name, phone number, email address, and physical address within your content in places where it would naturally occur. This information helps the search engines understand where you are located as well as visitors to your website. Many people want to conduct business with those who are located near them. Having this information in the right locations on your website is critical to ensure that potential customers are able to find it.
You should also include these items within your content:
- Information about you and your staff (names, pictures, education, experience, credentials, certifications, role within your organization, etc. are all important items to consider).
- Advice, useful content, answers to common questions in your niche, and any other pertinent information that is relevant to your specific area of operation.
- Question and answer pages with plenty of helpful information along with customer testimonies (you can import your Google My Business reviews into WordPress).
3. List Your Business on Google My Business
Google My Business is an important part of SEO because it enables potential customers to find you based on the information that you provide in your business profile. Every business owner should take the time to list their business and fill in all of the pertinent information. This free tool that Google offers is very helpful when people are searching for businesses like yours in your local area. This tool has many benefits; the two most important ones are a link to your website and a place for customers to leave feedback. Bing also offers a service called “Bing Places for Business” which is integrated into Google My Business. All you have to do to list your business on Bing is to complete your Google listing then follow the instructions on the Bing Places for Business website to import your Google My Business information. In order to make this work, you must sign into Bing using the same Gmail address that your Google business is attached to.
4. Create Your Local Listings
There are several other places that you can list your business besides Google and Bing such as: Facebook, Yelp, Foursquare, Hotfrog, us-info, ShowMeLocal, & Navmii. You can check your online status at Get Listed. These websites will increase your online presence and will represent a citation; citations are utilized within the search engine algorithms (as you are probably well aware, search engine algorithms are always changing). Please note: some of these listings are not free.
5. Consistency is Important
This may seem a bit obvious, but this is another important point to remember. Make sure that your business listings are all consistent. I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t be, but just in case you think of a reason to do so…don’t. Enter the same address, phone number, website URL, business description, etc. into all of your listings. Google and Bing like consistency. Perhaps that is why Bing offers a free tool to import your Google My Business information!
6. Reviews Are Important
How many times have you researched a business via Google or other search engine and taken a moment to read the reviews that were left by others? I would also imagine that you have probably read some reviews on Amazon when looking for a specific product. If you have spent some time reading reviews you are probably aware that some reviews are fake (i.e. manufactured by the vendor to boost their business). I can’t stress enough that you do not want to partake in this type of activity. Anyone who leaves a review about your business should be a legitimate customer who has had actual interaction with you and your services. Potential customers who are looking at your business will catch on if you have a bunch of fake reviews.
It is okay to ask those who you have served to leave you a review, but do not offer any incentives for them to do so. Instead, offer them a few different platforms where they can leave a review for you such as your Google My Business profile, Yelp, etc.
I also recommend adding links to your website when people can not only read your reviews, but can easily reach the aforementioned sites so they can leave their own review. If the platform allows for it, I also recommend responding to the reviews that you get with a thank you or an apology if you receive negative feedback from a customer. This will show potential customers that you are actively engaged with your existing customers regardless if they are satisfied with your business or not.
7. Social Profile Optimization
Make sure that all of your social media profiles have your business information listed. Perhaps you have a huge following on Twitter and/or Facebook; if so, it will benefit your online business presence if you list your business at these locations. In regards to social media, I also recommend that you share any updates, blog posts, etc. to all of your accounts. When sharing your posts, don’t just copy/paste the entire article; only post a portion of it with a link to the actual article. This will help to drive traffic to your website versus people reading your content on your social media account.
If you have a physical location, be sure your Facebook business page is listed as such so people can check-in at your business. This helps to spread the word around about your business because check-ins are automatically shared on Facebook. Think of it as free advertisement because everyone who follows the individual who checked in will see it and have an opportunity to interact with it.
8. Local Outreach
This may sound a bit archaic, but it works. There are other ways to engage your potential customers besides your website and the associated items that I have mentioned thus far in this article. I also highly recommend that you engage your local Chamber of Commerce and/or city business directory and get an address list of local businesses in your area of operation. Once you have this list, pear it down to the businesses that would potentially benefit from your business services. Afterwards, you have a couple of options. You can utilize mail-merge within Microsoft Word (or other platform) or you can spend a few afternoons driving around your service area and hand delivering letters or flyers to the businesses in the aforementioned list. This strategy works quite well as there are still tons of people who are not searching the internet for everything that they need. Some people still appreciate someone who takes the time to pay them a personal visit. You will not regret this engagement; it is well worth your time!
9. Responsive / Mobile Optimized Website
If your website isn’t mobile, tablet, and PC friendly, you need to make that change ASAP. As each day passes, more and more people are utilizing mobile devices to access the internet. If your website isn’t setup to be displayed properly on all platforms, you are absolutely losing business. I can’t tell you how many websites I have bounced off of because they weren’t mobile friendly. I prefer to use a PC to access the internet, but I am not always sitting in front of one when I need to look something up. Depending on what platform that your website was built on, this change might be relatively simple or it could require a complete redo.
10. Track Your Progress
How will you know what you have accomplished if you don’t keep track of your progress? I highly recommend that you track your website traffic and engagement via the Google Webmaster tools and Google Analytics (both are free and relative simple to setup; all you need is a Gmail account and access to the backend of your website). These tools are simple to learn, but if you are having trouble setting them up and/or using them, there are plenty of YouTube videos that will answer all of your questions. The answers are out there, you just have to look!
I get it, you are busy and this list may seem a bit daunting. If you can’t handle sitting down and doing all this work in one day (most people don’t have the time!), I suggest that you schedule some time each day to perform the tasks in the list above. I also recommend that you perform further research on any of the topics listed above. The internet has a huge amount of information on just about any topic you can think of; engage as much of it as you can until you have learned what you need about any topic. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a continuously evolving art form that requires patience and persistence.
Do You Need Help?
If you want assistance with any of the items listed in this article or anything related to digital marketing, please feel free to contact Skyfall Digital Media using this link (Click Here). We offer a full line of services that will ensure that your website reaches its intended audience.