So you’re convinced that SEO is worth it for your local business, but how do you actually beat your competitors to the top of the search engines? Well, that’s what we’re going to cover.
There’s two parts to local SEO that you should know. The Google My Business section and the organic listings… See image below
The top 3 positions with the map, directions and link to website (and a phone number if you’re on mobile) is Google My Business, which show up for local searches like “Restaurant near me”. Below that you get the 10 organic listings.
Google My Business (GMB) is important because it’s the first thing a searcher sees. Around 50-60% of clicks go to one of those 3 results in Google My Business. The rest goes to the 10 organic listings below. Even better is to rank in both.
How do websites rank?
Ranking in the search engines is based on hundreds of factors. The algorithms are always changing, but despite all the change search engines always want to provide their users the best experience. So how do you show Google that your business provides the best experience?
The longer a user stays the better
If a user stays on “Website A” for 5 minutes, and “Website B” for 10 minutes, it means that “website B” captured the users interest more than “Website A”. Keep your reader on your site. How do you do that? With lots of helpful and interesting content. That’s why the kings of SEO Neil Patel, and Brian Dean’s blog posts are so stinkin long. Long form content works incredibly well.
If a user types in “Flower shop in Seattle”, then they want a flower shop… in Seattle, or nearby. You tell the search engine that you’re a flower shop in Seattle by writing about flowers and Seattle throughout your site. Google’s smart enough to read through your content and put things together to figure out if they should rank your site.
Backlinks are other sites that point to yours. The more authoritative a website is, the more valuable the backlink. One backlink from a popular website (like Forbes) is more powerful than 1,000 backlinks from websites with zero visitors.
Backlinks from bad websites are worse than having no backlinks, which is why you should NEVER buy links. They should also be relevant. If your blog is about fashion then you shouldn’t get backlinks from websites about food unless they’re another local business or somehow connected.
Now the basics are out of the way, let’s get busy ranking your site!
SEO Action Steps for Local Businesses:
have a decent website
It doesn’t need to be amazing, but it shouldn’t be so gross that people just leave the moment they show up. Remember time spent on your site is a big ranking factor so you need to draw people in.
Local directory listings
You want to give Google signals that you’re a local business. This means having your name, address, and phone number plastered all over the web. You do that by getting your site on as many (quality) directories as possible. LinkedIn, Facebook, Foursquare, Bing, Apple Maps, Google Maps, and all the others.
This is time consuming and error prone, and you need to build trust by providing the same exact information everywhere. So doing it manually is off the table. Unfortunately most tools to do this are not good. The only tool I trust is YEXT. It’s expensive, but worth it.
What is Yext?
Yext gets you a lot of quality backlinks for local businesses via directory listings. They’re also a powerful Google My Business management tool, allowing you to monitor your traffic and other analytics right from their dashboard.
Yext also has exclusive partnerships with Amazon and other popular sites, meaning there are quality backlinks from Yext that you can’t get anywhere else.
Other directory site management tools will put your business on worthless or worse-than-worthless sites that will bring your site down. Yext vets their directory sites and only work with the best.
Fill out Google My Business completely
Google My Business has insane benefits. First it gives users a call button on mobile, meaning a user can be on the phone with you in 2 button presses from the moment they type in their search. People actually trust Google reviews, so if you have lots of them your reputation goes up.
Post regularly on Google My Business
GMB offers a “twitter-like” posting feature, and the ability to upload photos and even videos. By keeping your content up to date, and posting regularly, you’re showing your active on their system and they’re more likely to rank you. It’s also an additional way for people to engage with your content.
If a user clicks on your GMB profile and sees you’re offering something, or an educational article, they’re more likely to click. Posting allows you to take advantage of their calls-to-action like scheduling appointments.
Get more reviews
Reviews are proof that you’re the best. The more positive reviews, (and even a few negative ones sprinkled in) prove that you’ve been around and are good enough to get business and keep getting more.
You can get a lot more reviews from your business by using review management tools like “Review trackers” or “Grade.us”. Grade.us allows you to turn bad reviews into feedback forms so you can try and fix a problem before a bad review is posted.
The best review management tools allow you to send texts or emails to clients requesting a review. This way getting reviews is built-in to your workflow. Shortly after I visited my mechanic I got a text from them asking for a review. I left a 5-star review. I chose them because they had over 100 5 star reviews and were the top result on Google, and I probably drove past 7 mechanics to get to them.
Google Local Services (if available)
Google Local Services is essentially Pay-Per-Click advertising by Google. Typically pay per click involves a ridiculously expensive process of creating a web page that sells your service, then paying money when people click your ad, and the entire process has to be perfect or you’ll lose the customer and gain nothing.
With Google Local Services you’re still paying per click, but the results are much more cost effective because your business has been verified by Google.
Write long, detailed, educational content on your site
There’s probably a lot to talk about in your business. If you’re a roofer then talk about the different types of roofs. Why is a flat roof so great? How do you prevent water from collecting? When should you have a flat roof over a metal one? What should you do after a storm? How much should a flat roof cost? Link to other parts of your website and create a library of content to provide a comprehensive experience for your clients.
Dedicated pages for your services
Specific pages are better. Commercial roofers don’t want to show up for “roofing near me” because most of those searchers want residential. Same thing applies to all businesses. You want to show up for people who are looking for your specific service. Dedicated pages allow you to zero in on your niche and create a comprehensive library of content for that niche. Give the reader everything they could possibly want to know about that topic.
This builds trust with your readers, establishes you as the authority figure in your industry, AND helps you rank at the top
Testimonials & Reviews on site
Testimonials and reviews are great ways to add relevant keywords to your content. They’ll often include location specifics or services you provided, and they keep users on your site and build trust at the same time. There are tools available to pull reviews from sites like Facebook & GMB directly onto your site.
Blog about your projects
If you’re able to, blogging about projects is a great way to get and give more backlinks to other local businesses. It also helps to localize your website. If you do a project in a nearby city, then that entire blog post is about your service in that city, which helps Google determine that you’re relevant for searches related to that service in nearby cities.
It also builds trust because people can see how you work and get an idea of what to expect when doing business with you.
You likely operate in multiple cities. Creating a web page for a specific city can be helpful, especially if you have enough clients in that city to justify creating a city page. You have to be careful because you run the risk of having “duplicate content” if you repeat yourself too much, and then your entire site would be penalized and lose rank. But if you use a good amount of testimonials and city-specific information then city pages can be a powerful way to rank for multiple cities.
Your end goal is to create the best experience for your prospects and clients. Use your website (and online presence in general) to educate your readers, build trust, and establish yourself as an industry leader.