People naturally want to work with people in their area. It gives them an instant feeling of connection, rapport, and the sense that they’re helping their community. For businesses with a storefront, finding someone local matters even more to customers, so they don’t have to travel far.
In 2017, 97% of consumers reported looking for a local business online. Combined with 3.5 billion searches per day on Google (you read that right), we can comfortably say that people in the market for your service have searched online for what you offer. Local SEO is key to making sure that your business actually comes up in those search results.
What is Local SEO?
Local search engine optimization means tying your business to a specific area via your website and key directories. This matters because Google tries to deliver local results, knowing that people want to find businesses close to them.
While it will take time and effort to rank #1 on Google for “Photographer in Toronto” for example, you can come up for “photographer” (or the service you offer) in your local neighborhood by applying the tips below. Then over time, you can increase your reach online from your local neighborhood to your entire city, state, and beyond.
Tip 1: Make sure your website is responsive
Responsive websites can resize themselves to fit different screen sizes. This is crucial because most searches today cross multiple types of devices, from desktop to mobile to tablet. Search engines like Google look to return the best results, and they consider the responsiveness of your website to be a top priority.
Most local searches are qualified using mobile devices because they accurately pinpoint the user’s location. If your website is responsive but is hard to read or cutting off information on mobile, then mobile users may be turned off—and over time that will lower your rank on Google.
You can check if your website is responsive by using Google’s mobile friendly test. Besides being technically responsive, you want to check that your website looks good and is easy to use on mobile. Borrow some devices with a wide range of operating systems and screen sizes from your friends and navigate through your website. If your site looks bad on them, you may want to freshen it up.
Tip 2: Set up a Google Business Page
A Google Business Page is fast and easy to set up—it seriously takes about 10 minutes—and is one of the best ways to show up in a local search. You may have noticed that when you search for a service or business, the search result shows a Google Map with a list of businesses before the other results. Those businesses are all tied to a Google Business Page, and 15% of users searching for a local business click on those results. Even if a user doesn’t click on that initial list, having a Google Business Page ties your business and website to a location and helps verify that your business does operate in that area.
If you have a home office and don’t want to publicly display your home address, you can hide your address from your Google Business Page and enter an area that you service instead.
Tip 3: Earn consistently positive reviews
Once you have your Google Business Page, you need to get consistently positive reviews from your clients. Start with all the people you’ve worked with in the past. If you’re just starting a business, consider asking friends or doing a pro-bono project for the 5-star review. The more positive reviews you have on your Google Business Page, the more likely you’ll show up in a search for your services in the area.
The key to reviews is to keep adding new ones. Don’t just get a bunch of reviews on your profile and then never ask a client again—you want people to be consistently leaving positive reviews to improve your local SEO.
Tip 4: Include rich data on your website
On a website, HTML tags tell the browser how to display the information included in the tag. For example, <h1>Avatar</h1> tells the browser to display the text “Avatar” in a heading 1 format. However, the HTML tag doesn’t give any information about what “Avatar” means—it could refer to the movie Avatar, or it could refer to a type of profile picture called an avatar. This makes it more difficult for search engines to intelligently display relevant content to a user. Luckily, schema.org provides a collection of vocabularies people can use to mark up their pages in ways that Google can understand.
When you tag your address with rich data from schema.org, you’re able to tell search engines that your business is geolocated to a specific area. You’re confirming that “yes, this is my address”. This helps your website come up in local searches for your service or products. Visit schema.org for more information on rich data and how to apply it to your website.
If you have a home office and don’t want to share your home address on your website, you can use your zip code or city.
Tip 5: Get on well-known directories
I say “well-known” directories because a lot of the spammy or old-looking directories online are not influential enough to help your SEO. However, directories like Yelp, Facebook Business Page, LinkedIn Business Page, and the Better Business Bureau are all influential enough for Google and Bing to consider their listing as an indication that your business is active and serves a particular location. They also offer the bonus of having a healthy number of internal searches, which can drive traffic and inquiries to your business.
Tip 6: Keep up the regular SEO stuff
In addition to the local tasks above, you need to continue regular SEO stuff like creating content, bringing traffic to your website, building inbound links, and improving user experience.