Let’s go over some of the most important features of a small business’ website that needs to rank when people are searching for a product or service they offer locally.
Local SEO Strategy
The term used for this type of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is Local SEO. Obviously all websites don’t fall into the category of only serving clients locally. And, just because you optimize your website for local SEO doesn’t mean it can’t rank nationally or world wide.
We will cover in layman’s terms, ‘easy wins’ any small business owner can achieve on their own or pass along to their SEO service (or hire us).
If you need a Local SEO service, we’d love to speak with you about how we can help your business reach it goals by putting your website in front of people when they are searching on Google.
Before we dive in, I wanted to mention your website should look good on all devices and be very easy to navigate. Consider making the action you want visitors to take on your website very clear.
Do you want them to call, text, or email your business? What about giving them something they would find valuable ‘free’ in exchange for their email? Or do you want them to complete a form so you can follow up? We used to offer a free website SEO/ROI audit, and now charge for it as it proved to be something truly of value. If you would like, feel free to request your SEO audit.
The Basic Elements of Local SEO
SEO can be broken down into 3 general categories that do overlap a little. But, usually it is pretty clear which is which.
The 3 types of SEO are:
3 Types Of SEO Optimizations
I will define these below and discuss the elements of each and how you can use them to your advantage.
When you hear the term ‘on-page’ in regards to SEO that means this optimization occurs on your website. Usually ‘on-page’ SEO is visible on the front end, live version, of your website.
These are optimizations that actually occur elsewhere online, not on your website itself. I have found many DIY small business owners were very unfamiliar with this concept.
Technical SEO are optimizations you can make on your website, but usually these optimizations do not show on the live, front end version of your website when you or anyone else is viewing it. Don’t worry…it’s not as bad as it sounds!
Keywords simply refer to the words most commonly typed into the search bar on search when someone is trying to find a website on a specific topic. Don’t forget about the ‘voice’ search movement either! People talk and type slightly different and you want to account for both.
Do some research on what terms people are actually using! Do not just use what you personally believe people would use! This is a surefire way to shoot yourself in the foot. There are plenty of tools to assist with identifying keywords. Read our blog on keywords if you would like to learn more about keywords and free tools/ways to find the best ones for you.
Use Keywords In These Locations:
- H tags
- Page Titles
- Meta Descriptions
- Alt Tags (done properly)
- Image File Names
- Schema Markup
- Citation Listings
- (And Elsewhere)
Google My Business
Put optimizing your Google My Business at the very top of your list if you want to rank locally! There isn’t much to Google My Business but it is super important you nail it to get the most out of it.
When you see a business listed in the ‘Map Pack’ at the top of the Google search results, this data is pulling from their Google My Business listing. Hopefully that fact alone makes it very clear just how important it is.
Learn more about Google My Business Optimization.
Bing Places is much like Google My Business, just Bing’s version. It is important to complete your Bing Places profile, as well as your Yelp profile, because many non-Google search engines and devices pull from this data instead of your Google My Business profile.
Citations are directory listings for your business that are found on other websites. Google My Business is 100% the most important citation for your local business. You can even consider social media accounts for your business as citations in a sense.
To qualify as a citation your business’ NAP should appear on the directory listing’s site. You also want to include items like your website and business hours. It is vitally important all business info you supply to these citation sites is 100% accurate to what you have on your website and in your Google My Business. Any variation will only cause confusion in the search engines and they will be hesitant to show your site since they have conflicting data regarding your website. Search engines don’t want to show inaccurate info to their searchers! Makes sense right?
WhiteSpark is a great resource for citations. We build citations for our clients as part of our SEO service. We even build key citations as part of our website design service because not doing so would be setting our clients up for failure.
Reviews are crucial! Anyone can fetch reviews without any computer skills at all so no one has an excuse here! Reviews on your Google My Business listing are ‘worth’ the most. Facebook and Yelp reviews are usually considered the 2nd and 3rd best place to build up your reviews. There are industry specific citation sites where reviews may also be valuable to your business depending on what type of business you are.
Example would be Avvo for lawyers. Reviews are often left on citation or social sites, yet another reason to complete your profiles.
The best and easiest way to get reviews is by using NiceJob. We’ve used plenty of other review fetching services over the years and NiceJob is hands down the best. Their reviews back that up!
Google ranks web pages, not websites. This is another thing most people are unaware of. To greatly increase the chance your website ranks for specific search terms, have a dedicated page on your website for each term you want to rank for.
When you take a second and think about it, a lot of this stuff is common sense and yet it’s still completely ignored by most small businesses and they pay the price without even knowing.
How can you possibly know about all the leads that should have contacted but didn’t?
Embed Your Business’ Map
Going back to the fact the search engines rank web pages, not websites, why not build out content for specific areas you want to target and rank for the most. Consider making a page for each city you serve, or maybe every county, neighborhood, or ZIP Codes.
At the very least embed a map on your website’s homepage and about and/or contact page. If you serve customers at your business location, as opposed to their home or business, also include a ‘click for directions’ button. If you embed the map from your Google My Business listing, it will pull in your reviews and the click for directions link.
I practice what I preach! This is a blog and it got you to my site didn’t it?
Blogging is becoming more important than ever in my opinion and I am about to tell you why. Another thing I definitely want to mention here is that you can swap out video content for blogging if you prefer. Whichever you are more comfortable with will work or do both for even greater benefits to your web traffic.
My reasoning as for why blogging is becoming more and more important is because of the way people are surfing the web these days. Less is more. What I mean by that is less content on your core website pages will often provide the user of your website a better experience. This is referred to as UX or user experience in the web development world.
Since ‘less is more’ on your core website pages such as your homepage, services pages, about us, contact, etc. this eliminates the ability to really provide a bunch of details to the search engines. What I strongly recommend you consider is keeping these core pages focused and streamlined to provide the user with the info they really need in the form of images, videos, headlines, bullet points, and the like.
Your blog is where you can expand on the content in greater detail for those that would like to have all of the details. The search engines will appreciate it and reward you in the search results. There is a little more to it to actually make this work the way we want it to. All we need to do is ‘connect’ the appropriate blog post to the related core page on your website. We do this by linking the pages together which is our next topic to discuss.
Internal links refer to clickable text that take the website viewer to related page. This is notated most commonly by placing an underline on the clickable text and making it a different color than the rest of the text on your site. Just a little FYI, when you ‘style’ text as described to show it is a link, this is called CSS. It is the type of code that allows you to style the look and feel of your website in regards to colors, shapes, and the way elements on your website are displayed in general.
You do not need to know any code to create these links using most CMS (Content Management Systems) such as WordPress, Squarespace, or Wix. We highly recommend choosing WordPress for a number of reasons. Check out this linked blog post if you would like to learn why we recommend WordPress. That was an example of an internal link by the way!
Any of these CMS’ will provide you with a text editor to easily create links between pages on your site. You can also ‘link’ pages using buttons, but for the purpose of connecting these pages to tell the search engines they are related and to consider the content on each as the same. Canonical URLs come into play here, but that is getting more advanced than we want to get in this beginners Local SEO tip blog.
External links are very similar to internal links with the difference being that an external link will take the user to another website, not a different page on your website. You may want to do this to provide more value to the users of your website.
By selectively linking to pages on other websites with high-quality info on the topic your web page is about, you tell the search engines these pages are related. Please make sure these links open in a new tab! You don’t want to people to be completely off your website after clicking!
It is much more valuable to have another website link back to your website using an external link on their related website. These are referred to as backlinks and are a more advanced SEO concept.
Is Schema markup an advanced SEO strategy? In my opinion no, but maybe it is as so few websites properly use Schema markup.
Schema markup came to be when the big wigs at Google, Bing, and Yahoo came together years and years ago to create an agreed upon code language that could better help them interpret the content on web pages. Even though it is a ‘code language’ you do not need to know code to implement this.
You can use a Schema markup code generator to input your values into text boxes, then simply copy and paste the code generated into the appropriate place on your website, which is going to be between the head tags of your website for site-wide schema such as Local Business or a specific web page such as on a service page using the markup for that service.
If you have a WordPress website, you can use one of several free plugins to implement site-wide or page specific schema markup.
More Complex Local SEO Strategies
There are more complex SEO strategies to consider such as back linking and I certainly skipped over some basic best practice type elements of your website that play a role in SEO like site speed.
SEO encompasses 300+ elements and some apply to certain types of websites and not others. It is best to use a professional SEO service to ensure you are not missing out on leads!
Optimized is a Local SEO company. That is our niche. If your business serves clients local to your business’ location, we’d love to speak with you. Remember, our initial consultations are 100% free. We aren’t pushy salesman either. We simply want to help your business reach its goals.