For businesses that cater to a physical location Search Engine Optimization takes on a completely different meaning. Local SEO is the determining factor to their online success and without clearly defined instruction on how to achieve it many storefronts are left with “For Lease” signs dangling from their windows months after opening. In an effort to support these small to medium drivers of local economies I thought I’d provide a quick easy-to-follow checklist to ensure that their Local SEO is on point and pointing customers to their place of business.
8 Steps to Local SEO Optimization:
1. Optimize Your Google+ Local Page
Google+ offers the greatest tool to online local businesses hoping to get their presence noticed (on Google Page One!) yet even to this day, with over 350 million Google+ users, so few have claimed and verified their local business on Google+. This is your first priority – get ‘er done.
2. Establish Your Google+ Authorship
Since you’ve just optimized your Google+ Local account (because you’re listening to everything I’m telling you, right?) you should take it one step further and set up your Google+ Authorship. Once you do so, you have to start blogging on behalf of your business and within weeks you will start seeing your smiling picture beside links to your content on Google for searches being performed for your businesses’ keywords. You can’t get a much better local online presence than that – especially if you plan on running for mayor one day!
3. Get on Free Local Directories
There are many free local online directories available to you. Some are more evident than others and so to make sure you’ve zeroed in on the most valuable ones you should simply perform a search for keyword variations of “your industry your city” (i.e. “real estate Honolulu” or “Honolulu HI realty“) and scan the first two pages of search results to identify free directories you can place your business on.
4. If You Must Buy Links, Buy Local
While recent Google algorithm updates like Penguin 2.0 have many businesses rightfully fearing the link buying process for improving their website’s search rank there are still tried and true link buying opportunities that will certainly do more good than harm. In this instance, securing links on paid directories and local information sites directly related to your local business are often worth the monthly bill. Chamber of Commerce websites, local online news authorities, regional charity websites (buy links via donation and write it off!), and even popular local blogs are worth consideration for link buys. Forget overseas link builders (having your catering service listed next to Mumbai escort services won’t boost your rank) and do your own local link buys the right way.
5. Make Sure Your Social is Localized
Make sure that the address fields on your Social Network profiles (don’t forget FourSquare for those users that love to “check-in”) are complete and that these profiles convey the local presence of your business. Many people perform local business searches strictly within their Social Networks so be sure to provide your address, a map, directions, and images of your physical location as it relates to your surrounding community so potential customers can better find you when “on the street”.
6. Perform Consistency Checks for Your Current Address
Take stock of every single free and paid directory where your business is listed (even consider ones that you yourself may not have posted) and perform a comprehensive check to make sure that your address and contact information on each is correct and consistent. Beware of those directories that insist that you must “sign-up” to have your contact information corrected – you have every legal right to demand that the contact formation provided is indeed correct.
7. Get Involved in Local Events to Gain Local Online Press
A local business should consider getting involved in local community events (volunteer participation, sponsorship, etc…) not only to spread good will and word of mouth but to earn online press coverage which often comes with accompanying links to one’s website in reference to the story. Get involved and Google will likely improve your search rank indirectly.
8. Encourage Happy Customers to Review
The above online resources for local businesses often come with a neat little area for customers to leave reviews for your business. For the purposes of this topic, Google Reviews are the most important and should be given the greatest weight. Next to providing a great product/service experience to customers the next best tactic to garner great online reviews is to ask your customers to provide their input online immediately after they’ve “experienced” your offering. Satisfied customers are often more than happy to do so if you provide them with clear direction as to where you would like them to leave their two cents. This can be done with a simple post-consumption follow-up email.
Conclusion – Local SEO is the single most dominant factor for businesses hoping to improve the online presence for their physical business within a locale. Follow the above 8 Steps to the tee and your storefront will read “Open for Business” for many years to come.