Before the internet, people had to know who you were, where you were and what you were about through local advertising to encourage them to visit your store. Local SEO is not much different – you want search engines to zero in on you as the best business in your sector in your local area.
Even if you run a sizable chain of stores with a widely recognized brand name, not everyone is going to know where each of your stores are located, particularly if one is new to that area. No matter what your business, large or small, you want to ensure your local store is the store of choice for your local residents.
This is why, even to major retail chains, local search is so important. Local SEO helps you:
- Enjoy local visibility – With the number of ‘near me’ searches (e.g. “auto repair shops near me”) on the rise, local SEO doesn’t just benefit your general Google rank. It gets you present on a local level too.
- Edge the competition – If you have stores in busy urban areas, then you likely have some stiff competition. Whether it’s a local shop or another retail giant such as yourself, a strong local SEO strategy helps you stand out from the rest of the pack.
- Connect the online and offline retail spheres – If you have a strong local SEO presence, a customer might use their smartphone to find one of your stores, order and pay for a product online, then collect in-store.
The benefits of local SEO
Local SEO is not just about ranking when it comes to industry-specific keywords but ranking well when people search those keywords for your specific local area. Google "coffee shop" and you may find Starbucks pops up as the top rank. Search "coffee shop Lower East Side" and a carefully optimized coffee shop from the Lower East Side of Manhattan might trump Starbucks and occupy that top ranking. That’s a critical first step in luring the local dollar away from a rival.
Let’s look at the best ways to get optimal local SEO ranking:
Regular website and social media posts and imagery
- Post frequently. The first thing you should consider as a local business determined to keep your ranking high is the frequency of your posts. In a competitive sector you should be posting something daily, something that can be done more easily and efficiently if you create several short posts at one sitting and schedule them to post a few days ahead.
- Google loves videos and pictures – they’re almost better than text. Ask regular customers if you can video them giving a cheerful review of why they come by so often. Post that 30-second clip on your blog page.
- Highlight local issues or events. Sponsoring someone doing a charity bike ride or marathon? Do you use solar energy to power your business or other means to reduce your carbon footprint? Write about those! Not every blog from your coffee shop has to be about coffee, as long as it is relevant to your business.
- While posts on social media such as Instagram and Facebook tend to be <nofollow> links, social media does get clicks and it does have good results. Announce your blogs, share your photos and videos on social media and get the traffic through. It is amazing what a good reputation on a Facebook page can do for your business. Local business is about relationships at the end of the day, and communicating with your customers online is almost as good as having a chat with them at the counter – it will keep them coming back.
Get your name out there!
- If possible, get your location as well as your business name into your site title. Instead of "Café Bella," use ‘Café Bella Dallas’. This simple technique has been shown to boost a company’s rankings by as much as 1.5 spots on a search. Not a bad little trick for such great success…
- Link building has always been important and may well always be, as the Google algorithms are all about searching the popularity of a site and inbound links are core to that. While having links from high domain authority (DA) sites such as a local newspaper or as part of a business news story on Huffington Post / Business Insider is good, where local SEO is concerned for a local search result, your community's website or town blog could be equally important.
- If you haven’t got a store locator, get one now. A well-optimized store locator is a must, especially for organizations with a raft of stores. A store locator platform means customers can easily find where your stores are in their area, get NAP (name, address and phone number) info and know what times you open and close. But they do more than that too - they act as dedicated pages for each of your stores and present a great opportunity to fill them with bespoke local content. Regularly update them with news, sales, offers, promotions, events and more and you will be giving your customers useful content. You’ll also be helping your local search ranking. Another useful way to enrich these local pages is to optimize the heading tags of each one with local keywords - ones you might not be able to get into the title tag or meta description.
- Local links help search engines map you better on the internet. Have a look what’s happening online in your local area - there are bound to be plenty of local newspapers, blogs, forums and community websites you could tap into. Approach some of these resources and see if you can get talked about - as a PR move, it’s a great way of getting some local attention. What’s more, these networks are all important in search engine results. Getting a link back to your website from a local paper or blog is what’s known as an external link, and it’s a valuable way of boosting your search ranking.
- Google loves reviews! If you have few or no reviews on Google, consider running a campaign with your existing customers to tell the search engine what they really think of your business. Search engines aren't happy with one stale review from 2010, but it does like 3–4 new ones a week – frequency and velocity, as well as how many stars, count in its local SEO search results. Don’t be too worried if someone gives you a negative review – respond quickly and politely, as your response counts too.
- Meta tags are another important factor. As you enter your meta tags for "nail salon" and all the industry-pertinent related tags, you should also include your town or neighborhood name. What’s your vicinity? Is it your neighborhood and the surrounding towns? Is it the entire county? List those regional names as well as the services you provide.
- Cut the duplicate content. Google hates copied text from other locations. If it is important news, rewrite that news yourself.
- The first thing you need to do is register with Google My Business. Fill out all the fields as well as you can – the more info you can provide, the better it is for your SEO ranking. Where it asks for services, don’t be brief – give it your all. Add images. Post your hours of operation. And update it regularly. This tells Google you’re genuine and not some fake site set up to channel traffic in some way. If you’re genuine, grab that opportunity with both hands to promote yourself.
- Yelp, Foursquare, Zagat and Bing Places. Registering with these standard directories will also boost your local SEO as they are classed as ‘external location signals’ and help funnel the search engine to choose your business over someone else's on a specific search result.
Keep advertising traditions alive
- Another factor to consider is traditional advertising. In the pre-internet days you would have put fliers in people’s mailboxes and perhaps even paid your local newspaper for some advertising space. While that ad in the local newspaper won’t boost your search traffic, it may well boost your overall footfall and, importantly, people may start talking about you online / searching you. This serves to boost your profile that little bit more.
- Depending on who you are or what you do, a presence in the community has always played a role in boosting a business’s profile. If you make the local TV or radio news for supporting a community event such as a beach or highway clean or sports team, then people will hear about you – as well as the search engine.
The local SEO takeaway
We’ve covered a fair few elements toward boosting your local SEO. Let’s sum it up in a brief, 12-point list:
- Post frequently – at least every two days
- Upload photos and videos where possible
- Focus on local topics
- Maintain a strong social media presence
- Include your business location in your business name
- Have your NAP on every page, identical on every page
- Developing a store locator is a great way to give customers local info and maintain your search rank
- Links on local pages (e.g. community blogs, newspapers) are as important as a Huffington Post article about you
- Get those reviews from your customers. Get them regularly!
- Register with Google My Business
- Foursquare, Yelp, Zagat and Bing Places are other key directories to register with
- Traditional advertising and a community presence have always helped local businesses and always will!
If you can get these 12 issues nailed down you should be well on your way to competing on local search rankings for the all-important page ranking. The BRIDGE platform helps brands like yourself increase in-store traffic and drive more offline sales - get in touch to find out more.