Unless you’re a large national chain, people probably aren’t looking for your business’s name in their local area. There are plenty of potential clients in your region who regularly overlook your shop or store when searching. Ignoring this demographic is a huge loss for your business – enter local SEO to the rescue.
Why not help them find you?
Use local search engine optimization (SEO) to bring customers to you or reactivate customers again. SEO has several aspects. However, for brevity, we will condense these into five steps. Don’t worry; we’ll examine each topic thoroughly, starting with market research and ending with content marketing.
There’s a lot to talk about, so let’s get started.
Local SEO Checklist to Boost Your Business’ Visibility
1. Create a Strong and Recognizable Brand
Before capturing a target market, you first need to know who is in it. It’s what successful multinational corporations have been doing for decades, and you would be wise to follow it.
Let’s look at the international success of McDonald’s as a case study:
- In the Philippines, McDonald’s serves spaghetti as part of its menu.
- In Japan, the food chain releases seasonal items for every major observance.
- In India, it does not serve beef or pork products.
- In Canada, it includes poutine in the food options.
- In France, McDonald’s offers potato wedges in addition to french fries.
Apart from those mentioned, McDonald’s also customizes its menu to match local tastes and cuisine. They even adopt nicknames made by locals, such as McDo and Maccas, and incorporate these into their local branding and identity.
Online, strong branding is determined through elements of domain authority, such as high-quality backlinks. Backlinks are links from another website to yours. Having many quality backlinks shows your content and expertise are valuable to others (more on this below).
Know Your Target Market
To create a strong, recognizable brand, you must know your audience. In-depth market research is the best way to narrow down and learn more about who that is.
Use the following prompts to start building a persona or target customer profile:
- Does this person live close to my business?
- What is this person’s socioeconomic status?
- How does this person find what they need online?
- Which social media platforms does this person use?
- What does this person do during their free time?
Continue this process and add more prompts until you understand your customer’s searching and spending behaviors.
You can then add to or refine your personas by conducting surveys, sending clients questionnaires, or holding focus groups.
Look at Your Competition
Follow up market research with competitor analysis to understand what the big players in your area are doing. Together, these two will help you craft your business’s ideal image and brand.
Google Sheets is a free and effective way to track competitor analysis data. Laying out all the information for comparison makes the entire process smoother.
Refer to the prompts below for points to note when researching your competitors:
- What are your competitors doing right?
- What strategies are helping them succeed in the local area?
- Where are they most active in the community?
- What products or services do your competitors not provide yet?
- How can you make your business stand out?
The goal of competitor analysis is to find a gap or niche that hasn’t been filled yet.
2. Appear in Business Listings, Directories, and Social Media
Local SEO has the power to increase business traffic by 300%. The first step to take is setting up business profiles in strategic places.
Why strategic? There are many options, not counting those aimed at particular industries. Signing up for as many as possible might be tempting, but that will only hurt your business.
Why should you manage the number of profiles you have?
- A business profile or listing has to be up-to-date. If you forget to update or input the correct name, address, contact details, and business hours, it’s a missed opportunity.
- Opportunities to connect or interact might be overlooked. Negative reviews and comments are a chance to do right by the customer and show exceptional service.
- Not all websites, platforms, and applications capture your target demographic. Just because you can have unlimited profiles doesn’t mean you should.
Claim Your Business Profile
To better serve users and businesses, major search engines have added local listings to their list of services. Setting up a profile improves your visibility on their applications, especially on maps.
Here are the five search engine listings you should have when optimizing your small business’ local SEO:
- Google My Business
- Bing Places
- Yahoo! Local Listing
- Apple Maps
- DuckDuckGo Business Listing Directory
Although Google retains the highest market share, at 84.81% as of September 2022, there are reasons to have profiles elsewhere. For example, Bing has grown to 9.15% usage in the past five years. Yahoo!, on the other hand, now sits at 2.46%, while DuckDuckGo is at 0.86%.
Bing, Yahoo!, Apple, and DuckDuckGo might not be prime online platforms. However, this also means less competition and greater visibility.
Create a Social Media Account
While people don’t often use social media for search purposes, it is a great source of suggestions from peers. Having a profile on any social platform makes it easier for friends to introduce or share your business with their audiences.
The five most used platforms are:
- Facebook for Business
According to DataReportal, Facebook is the largest platform, with 2.936 billion users. Meanwhile, TikTok is the busiest app, with users spending 95 minutes per day watching videos.
However, YouTube has 2.476 billion users spending 74 minutes browsing videos daily. This gives it the best of both worlds. There are other demographic details to think about, of course. Finding the right apps to use takes time and careful research.
Sign Up for Online Directories
Aside from search engines and social media, free and paid standalone directories also provide services.
Online directories may not be the most popular choice. However, they at least guarantee that their visitors are looking for local businesses or experiences. Every directory caters to different industries, so reviewing each before signing up is best.
Even directories narrow their customer base to a single industry, food service.
3. Draw Attention with the Right Keywords
Keywords are like flags that writers and marketers use to describe a piece of content to search engines. Their presence helps search engines verify if an article, image, or video matches the search query before including them in the search results.
Through keyword research, we know which ones work best and how to use them effectively. To minimize frustration, let’s review the exact types of content you need for local SEO.
Use Local SEO Keywords
Local or location-based SEO keywords are place names attached to other keyphrases to trigger your content in local search results. When choosing keywords, consider the scope of the area.
States and counties are too large. Most people searching for those terms will be far away from your business, which makes them wasteful and unnecessary in local SEO.
Look at the following keywords, for example:
- ‘California hotel’
- ‘Colorado ski resort’
- ‘Ohio inn’
Tourists and visitors to those three states will immediately eliminate and ignore suggestions not located in their travel destinations.
Ideal locations are municipalities, cities, and towns. Increase your reach by selecting an additional two to three adjacent locations as keywords.
Compare the keywords below to the examples above:
- ‘San Diego hotel’
- ‘Aspen ski resort’
- ‘Akron Ohio inn’
The important thing when doing local SEO is that whoever finds you online should be close enough to visit your business.
Mix and Match Keywords
Besides location-based keywords, many types can get you the results you want.
Here are ten other types of keywords to consider:
- Short-tail keywords are composed of three or fewer and are typically general or generic. For example, ‘cat food,’ ‘fried chicken,’ ‘kids running shoes.’
- Medium-tail keywords are three to four words long. It means they offer slightly more specific results but are still somewhat generic. A good example is ‘pet clinic near me.’
- Long-tail keywords are made of at least four words, meaning they are clear and distinct in their intent, like ‘community center room average rent cost.’
- Most searched keywords refer to search terms with the highest volume. When researching keywords, narrow down results to only those relevant to your industry.
- Trending keywords are based on real-world trends. News and social media are reliable sources for these. However, trends might not always apply to your business.
- Broad match keywords are modified versions of other keywords. The goal is to be similar enough that search engines will include your content in related searches. For example, ‘blue lake house’ is a broad match of ‘lake house’ or ‘beach house.’
- Headline keywords are ones purposefully chosen to add to headers. These actions or buzz words immediately grab attention, like ‘gain,’ ‘incredible,’ ‘learn,’ ‘most,’ and ‘free.’
- Customer-centric keywords are based on your target market’s wants or needs. For example, a Korean fried chicken restaurant should use ‘Korean chicken,’ ‘Korean fried chicken,’ or ‘fried chicken’ as keywords, but not ‘roast chicken.’
- Low-volume keywords are phrases that indicate specific user needs. These have less competition and are ideal for ranking higher in search engine results pages (SERP).
- High-volume keywords are broad, general search terms that have the highest traffic. However, ranking for these is unlikely due to competition from more prominent brands with more resources.
- Comparison keywords like ‘best,’ ‘most,’ and ‘latest’ are ideal for use in content about your products or services. People care about quality; that’s why ranking lists are a common type of blog post. Use this to your advantage.
- Informational keywords respond to a need for explanation. Usually, they would be part of a question, such as ‘what is local SEO’ or ‘do bears live in Yellowstone.’
- Instructional keywords signal guidance for the searcher. Terms like ‘step by step,’ ‘how to,’ and ‘tips for’ are excellent examples.
4. Advertise All of Your Different Locations
If you have multiple locations, create a separate page for each one. As mentioned above, local search is effective because people look for places, businesses, and experiences in their immediate area. Maximize the local SEO benefits for each location.
Returning customers might be familiar with your brand but not know you have a branch in other cities. Conversely, potential customers might not know about your brand despite having a branch in their city.
Like with everything else in this article, there are guidelines to remember when making local pages:
- Limit the number of local city pages to two or three
- Add easy navigation to and from each city’s page
- Make each page unique and distinct from the others
- Incorporate local elements into each page’s design
- Upload your own photos and local content to each page
- Provide a space for customers to leave comments and reviews
- Use responsive design to rank better through mobile-first indexing
Search engines don’t like duplicate pages within a website. Avoid penalties for your website by putting an honest effort into making each page truly local.
5. Grow Your Standing in the Community
We’ve touched base on the many local SEO solutions, and the last step is marketing. On the surface, marketing doesn’t look like it could be part of SEO, but it is. Specifically, marketing falls under off-page SEO.
Now that you’ve done everything from research to local city pages, it’s time to get people’s attention. What better way to do that than connecting with potential clients?
Make Locally-Inspired Content
Find activities and opportunities that could be linked back to your business. Cite ways in which your products or services are a solution to people’s problems. Once you have identified a subject you could work on, it’s time to create some content.
The optimal kind of content will depend on your goal, but in general, the following three work fine for most purposes:
- Blogs are an easy way to put out information. They’re relatively simple to make and publish and are overall convenient. A landscaping business, for example, could post blogs on lawn care, gardening tips, and growing flowers.
- Videos allow you to make content that is engaging and entertaining. They also have the added benefit of connecting you with large audiences on social media platforms. For example, woodworking is a popular genre on YouTube, with millions of views per video.
- Graphics are another straightforward type of content. Visual maps, flowcharts, and infographics are all excellent choices for sharing ideas and solutions with your audience. Grooming tips based on dog species in vet clinics are a prime example of graphics.
Connect with the Community
Take locally-inspired content a step further by engaging in activities that generate publicity. What this means is actively addressing the community’s needs.
Take these three cases, for example:
- A real estate developer donates time and resources to housing initiatives. Not only is it a newsworthy story, but it also establishes the developer as an active community member.
- A water park outside the city is offering free trials for swimming lessons. This serves as a way to advertise the park as a summer destination and their swimming lessons.
- An exterminator sends a staff member to give a presentation on cleanliness at a high school seminar on health and wellness. The exterminator’s name and logo are included in pamphlets handed out to students.
Collaborate to Earn Backlinks
Another way to leverage content is through collaborations with local influencers, community leaders, charities, radio stations, podcasts, and many others to gain backlinks.
There are many ways to earn backlinks:
- Write a guest post for a news outlet. It’s an opportunity to share your expertise and advertise your business to a large audience rolled into one.
- Feature as an expert on a podcast. Unlike news, podcasts can be consumed hands-free. Podcasts also follow a more free-flowing and candid format.
- Be a guest speaker at an event or seminar. Attendants of educational talks are often interested or invested in the topics covered. They might even be looking for advice or solutions to their problems. Be that solution for them.
- Work with influencers to promote your business. Exposure is a worthwhile exchange for goods and services. However, if there is one thing influencers know to do, it’s going viral. Craft viral marketing campaigns with their help to get as much publicity as possible.
- Get in touch with reputable product reviewers. Not everyone has money to give away products for free, so this may not apply in most cases. However, it is an effective way to attract attention, especially on YouTube, where viewers can see the testing process.
However, not all backlinks are good links. You may receive backlinks naturally over time, and it’s in your best interest to see where they’re coming from. Random, unrelated websites linking back to you can lower your site’s authority, and that’s bad for SEO.
If you want to manage your backlinks but don’t know where to start, here’s some good news. Many tools speed up checking backlinks, making it easier to start removing backlinks that hurt your content instead of helping it.
SEO is a complicated concept to grasp and even harder to master. Hopefully, this article has made learning about it a little easier.
Many elements and processes, like market research, keyword research, and content marketing, will need further study. With any luck, you now know what you need to know to get started on using local SEO to its fullest.
Marina Turea works as content manager at Digital Authority Partners and is experienced in content marketing. She is a true professional with a proven track record of working closely with and helping both B2C and B2B types of businesses and companies to grow their online visibility, leads, and revenue.