Local SEO For Small Business – The Essentials

Attention small business heroes! How’s your local SEO skills? Are you a local super SEO, leaping Google Map rankings in a single listing? No? Local SEO for small business is the sneaky, faster way to make your way to the top of the search results. Unlike regular SEO, which can take months or even years to dominate, owning your local niche can be done in a matter of weeks – and you can even be your own local SEO hero. So, what are the essentials?

Google My Business – Google’s location specific hub.

Every year the SEO industry does a global survey on what makes great local SEO for small business. The results create a ‘best practice’ for local business SEO.

Google My Business signals account for 14.7% overall importance

Google My Business is where you manage all your business activity in one hub. Your My Business dashboard allows you to update your info, create content and monitor activity across Google Plus, some Google Analytics data and manage reviews of your business. Setting it up is both fast and slow. You will need to prove that you are a legit business and located at the address you’ve entered. This can be easy if you have full signage on your street address or difficult if you need to await the notorious Google postcard. A card will be sent with an authorisation code to the address you specify. It can take two weeks … or nine weeks … or it may never come. Google promises to make this process faster and more streamlined soon; to date, it’s still a hassle.

Verification may be slow and painful but setting your business up is relatively easy. The key is to add everything it asks and do it precisely. Keep your address and phone number format the same as it appears on your website’s contact page or footer. Add details of the areas you service, opening hours, payment details and plenty of attention grabbing photos.

Take time to make a nice, in depth, keyword rich profile for your business. Pay special attention to the categories you select – these make all the difference. If there isn’t a category for your business type, you may struggle to see real results from your listing. This can be problematic for local businesses that do something a bit different.

Local business struggles

  • If you’re sharing a building with another business already well established on the map, you may have issues ranking. You can try adding a room or suite number but it may not help. This is especially problematic for ‘specialist centres’ like medical professionals. Where several businesses provide a similar service at the one address, you could find that your listings are automatically combined.
  • Keep your phone number, name and address consistent all over the internet. Don’t add spaces where spaces need not be. Keep the wording exactly the same across everything you do online. Google is but a computer; make it easy for it to see your address and confirm it as identical to the one on your website.
  • Home-based businesses face the problem of listing their address online. While you can obscure your address on the actual map, Google needs public information by way of review sites and Sensis data (the company that owns Yellow Pages) to verify you’re at that location. Without that data, you will struggle to rank on the map.
  • Having an active Google Plus account can help you grow your small business local SEO presence too. Having said that, the future of Google Plus is still in question. While it’s a great idea to invest in a profile, be careful investing too much time and money as it’s rumoured to be heading for the scrap heap in the future.
  • Do NOT try to trick Google by adding keywords to your business name or any other ‘sneaky SEO’. It might benefit you in the short term, but overall you will end up banished from the map.

If you’re struggling with these, you’re not alone, Media Heroes can help! We can work with a partner at Google to sort out your issues. Learn more here.

Two algorithms – one result

SEO accounts for a whopping 40.3%

Local SEO isn’t just about the algorithm that controls where you appear on the search results ‘map’ – it’s a combination of that local algorithm and the main Google ranking algorithm. That means that you need to be consistent across both if you want to get traction in either!

You’ll need to optimise your website for your location and local keywords and provide all the standard SEO signals, including a solid inbound link profile, to Google. You can’t escape having a well optimised quality website!

SEO is a complex beast. It’s getting more difficult every year. There are hundreds of factors to consider when creating a powerful SEO presence. Talk to us if you need help!

Google My Business local business reviews

GMB reviews account for 8.4% of your map ranking

Once you’re up and running, you must encourage all your happy customers to review your service. Encourage them to leave long reviews with specific details about their happy experiences with you. This will not only increase your relevance for your keywords but it will encourage those reviews to stay top and visible – even if a negative one should come along.

Technically, you can’t incentivise a review or ask them directly to do it. It’s tempting to have a QR code there at the counter, but Google may flag reviews that appear ‘unnatural’. The best way to do it is to ask customers in person or via email to search your name, click on the map and then give you a nice long review and five big fat stars. These are an important factor in ranking and one only you and your team can encourage.

List your small business in local directories

Local signals account for 13.6% of your local ranking

Not all directories were created equal. Some are helpful resources for potential customers, some are SEO spam. List your local business in credible directories like True Local or Hot Frog and take a free listing in Yellow Pages. Find local business directories, city wide directories and industry directories that will happily list your business, its address and phone number. For the bigger ones, you can then ask customers to pop over and review you there too. It all makes a big difference.

What else can you do?

Social – 5%: Keeping your Google Plus profile updated, growing your Facebook and Twitter followers and using a variety of well engaged social media tactics help grow your local rankings.

Personalisation – 8.5%: Personalisation directly affects how your site appears in search results. If the searcher has an affinity with your brand (social follower, regular site visitor, etc) they’ll see your site ranking higher in search and local results.

Behaviour signals – 9.5%: In keeping with Google’s ‘evolution of SEO’ local rankings are impacted by how your audience behaves on your website. If they bounce away straight away, that’s not good. If they ‘mobile click to call’ your Adwords listing, that’s good.

Local SEO for small business is still about user experience and thorough optimisation. Google needs you to abide by its recommendations for optimisation so that its computers can understand your goals. As time goes on, Google will be placing far more emphasis on user experience than on keyword placement – so focus on making your customers happy, too.

Need advice about local SEO for small business? Contact the experts at Media Heroes today!