How many times have you been in a new city (or even your own) and searched for a local business? Chances are you have seen something like the results below. That’s the result of local SEO marketing.
Maybe you browse through the options but more than likely you will click on one of the top three places that Google provides for you. These top three options are called the local pack. This is Google’s way of giving you the best and closest options of what you are searching for. Want your business to rank in one of these three coveted spots? Keep reading.
Local SEO Marketing Tactics
Local SEO marketing is all about strategy. So what can you do to up your SEO game as a small local business? We’ve got the answers for you right here. Learn these next few strategies and you’ll be outranking and outsmarting your competition.
1. Be consistent. The first step to ranking higher in local search is to make sure your business information is consistent across all platforms. You will need to have your company name, address and phone number (or NAP) exactly the same wherever your business appears on the web.
If you have any discrepancies like street abbreviations or a wrong phone number, Google may not trust your site as a local business or they might not show you at all. This is why accuracy is so important in local SEO marketing.
2. Claim your business on Google My Business. This is a powerful tool that can help your local SEO marketing. It can increase traffic to your site by showing users where you are located, your business hours, and even photos and reviews of your company. You will want to claim and verify your business. Google needs verification so that they can see that your business is a legitimate company.
Since we are talking about local SEO marketing, location is everything. So make sure yours is accurate. Updating your business hours is also important so that potential customers know when you are open. If there are holidays when you are closed, make these updates as well to ensure that your customers are aware of your hours. This can also build trust with customers.
Adding photos to your Google My Business can also be beneficial to your company. Photos can help potential customers understand what your business is all about and can also increase trust. Imagine you are followed by someone on Instagram who does not have any photos. Would you feel that this account is trustworthy? What about an account with 300 photos? Seems more legitimate right? This is very similar to having photos on your Google My Business listing.
3. Ask for reviews. 72% of people trust online reviews as much as they trust friends and family that recommend products or services. Reviews increase your company’s credibility and they also help your website have better results from your local SEO marketing efforts. There are several factors that play a role in local search rankings but Google has stated that reviews do in fact contribute to SEO rankings.
Who would you trust – a company with 5 reviews or a company with 68 reviews? Probably the latter.
There are several ways to go about receiving reviews. If a client has had success with your company and you feel that they are satisfied, politely ask if they will give you a 5 star review. You can do this via email or even in person if you feel comfortable doing so. If clients or customers are satisfied with the work you have done for them, they will be happy to give you a good review!
If this feels a little too straightforward you can also try offering a discount or coupon in exchange for a review. Consider adding an email automation after a customer makes a purchase on your online store. After they receive their order, you can set up an automation so that they receive a feedback email. In this email you can ask how your company did, if they have any recommendations for what you can do better and of course you can add in a call to action to leave a review.
13% of users will consider buying from a business that has 1-2 stars on Google. It’s not enough to just ask for reviews. Manage and respond to reviews as well to increase customer engagement and to humanize your brand. If you receive a bad review, it’s important to start a dialogue. Prove to customers that you care about the experience they have had with your company. Show customers that their are people behind your brand that are willing to help and fix whatever problem they may have encountered with your business.
4. Get your company into local listings – the more the better! You can use services like Yext to get your company quickly listed in local directories on the web. This is a paid service but you can also list your site manually on sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, Yellow Pages, Four Square, BBB, Kudzu and more! Local business listings will ask you for a lot of data such as your business name, phone number, address, description, categories, and social profiles. You as a business owner need to provide as much accurate information as possible. Every time you create a listing in a new platform you must make sure it is exactly the same as the rest of your listings.
5. Watch for Google algorithm updates. Google frequently updates their algorithm and by frequently we mean 500-600 times a year! While most of these updates are insignificant and will not affect your rankings, Google occasionally rolls out an update which can have a huge impact on your organic rankings. Their main focus is to improve search results for users so that they can find exactly what they are looking for.
6. Include the name of your city or town with your keywords you want to rank for. If you are located in Atlanta, your business will want to add the word “Atlanta” to your keywords. Make sure your city or town is in your title and meta description as well as your H1 tag. Need a refresher on title, meta and H1 tags? Read up on on-page SEO factors!
7. Secure your site. Most websites that are ranking in the top spots on Google are secure sites. Instead of http, sites are prefaced with https which means that their site is encrypted. If your website is not secure Google may flag it and make it more difficult for users to access it.
8. Embed a map on your site. This shows Google as well as your customers where your business is located. It’s most helpful to add this map to your contact page and footer in order to boost local SEO.
9. Obtain high quality backlinks. What is a backlink anyways? It’s a hyperlink from a site that is well known by Google that links back to your site in order to increase your own rankings. Just like you look to customer reviews before you purchase a product, Google looks to other sites that link back to yours when considering rankings.
10. Blog for SEO. Write keyword heavy blogs that will rank on Google. Writing blogs can increase customer engagement and make those customers view your business as a reliable source of information. This content needs to be valuable to your users. It’s not enough to throw your keyword into a blog 40 times. You need to write blogs with the consumer in mind first and the search engine second.
11. Write local relevant content. Creating this locally relevant content will be useful for search engines to show your website in local results. The more local relevant content you have in your website, the higher chances you’ll have in ranking for local searches. Here are some points on how you can create local content for your brand:
- Include locations that you want your website to rank for on your website’s pages.
- As much as possible, avoid using thin copies for your pages.
- Use local keywords
- Customer testimonials are a great way to showcase your product’s or service’s effectiveness.
- If you can use local photos or videos, the better.
12. Be aware of black hat SEO. Just like on-page optimization, seeing results from blogging and backlinking takes time if you are using legitimate techniques. Black hat SEO is a term used to refer to SEO tactics that heavily focus on search engines and disregard quality content. These tactics might get you ranking quickly but you will ultimately be penalized by Google. This can include keyword stuffing (adding your keyword to a page where it does not make sense) or adding invisible text to your site. Black hat SEO can seriously harm your website’s credibility. In short, don’t risk it to get the biscuit. If you’re not sure if an SEO tactic you are using is ethical, double and triple check before you optimize.
Local SEO Marketing Case Study
Local SEO marketing sounds easy right? Have a consistent NAP (name, address, phone), choose keywords that include your city, get reviews, and make sure you are in local listings. But what if you do all of this and are still having trouble ranking in local SEO?
The company we are going to look at is a cleaning company located outside of the Atlanta area. They are a small company eager to beat out their larger competitors. The problem is that the physical location of their company is outside of the perimeter of Atlanta and they are trying to rank for Atlanta keywords. Ranking for keywords that include “Atlanta” makes sense for this company because they service the Atlanta area.
When we performed their initial SEO back in 2017 they began moving up in rankings until Google updated its algorithm. They introduced the Hawk algorithm update in August of 2017. This update had a drastic effect on the local seo marketing efforts we were performing for our client.
Before this update, our client was ranking in the local pack for two of their keywords. Several days after the Hawk algorithm was released, we started to see a decline in rankings. This update affected local SEO specifically. It was implemented to help small local businesses rank higher in SEO as well as weed out duplicate businesses.
Since our client is located outside of Atlanta but services most of the Atlanta area, we wanted to make sure their local SEO was outstanding.
There is not just one simple solution to this problem but with a little patience and a lot of effort, we were able to help this company reclaim their number one spot. So what did we do?
- Update copy and add keywords. We started here with updating the copy on their site. We had already optimized their site previous to the Hawk update but decided it would be a good idea to double check our work. Keeping content fresh and updated ensures that search engines (and customers) come back to your site. We added more copy along with the clients keywords to their homepage.
- Add areas your business services. Adding the cities, counties or towns you service can be beneficial and actually help your local SEO rankings. If you provide a service, like our client, customers want to know which cities they can receive your service.
Do not add a bunch of irrelevant zip codes to your footer. Google sees this as keyword stuffing and will penalize you. Adding zip codes to your site can be helpful when they are relevant like when people need to know exactly what areas you service. You can add a place for people to look up their zip codes as well. Search engines will also pick up on these zip codes which can improve your local SEO marketing results.
- Delete map. In most cases having a map on your website is a good thing. In our client’s case, it was only hurting their rankings. Since they were located right outside of Atlanta and their map reflected this, there was no way Google was going to rank them in the local pack in Atlanta.
Today our client is ranking in the local pack for six out of eight of their keywords. So our work here is done, right?
Wrong. Although their rankings drastically increased we still see room for improvement with a few of their keywords. Maintaining these number one rankings is also important to us as well as our client.
Tips and tricks to Improve Local SEO Marketing
Have a local address. If you don’t have a local address or if you don’t have a brick and mortar, you can get a local P.O. box and make this your address across all platforms.
Make sure your site is mobile friendly. Mobile first indexing is an update that Google rolled out on March 21, 2018. Over 50% of searches worldwide come from mobile devices. Although ranking involves many other factors besides mobile, it is still crucial to make sure you site is mobile friendly.
Be persistent. SEO can be a long process. Don’t quit! Sometimes businesses feel that they are throwing money to a lost cause with SEO if they do not see immediate results. If you feel discouraged, start an open dialogue. Most of the time your company will not see that immediate jump in rankings.
Still not convinced? Let’s look at another company who came to us wanting to rank in local SEO.
We’ll start with showing you a screenshot of their progress over time. In just four months, from February to May they jumped in rankings for almost all of their keywords.
Here you can see the progress our client made after we completed their on-page optimization. We also began blogging for them as well as acquiring backlinks.
This client had a website with a low domain authority because their website was relatively new. Domain authority is a metric used to predict how a website will rank. Since this client’s DA was low, we had to take a different approach.
In order for this client to rank, we had to find keywords that no one else was ranking for that still had search volume and were relevant to the company. This approach makes keyword research a bit more difficult, but we wanted our client to succeed. After our research was completed we helped our client choose keywords and then began our on-page optimization. The H1 tag on their homepage is “hispanic survey research” which moved up 91 positions in search. At position 9 they landed on the first page of Google search results.
The same happened with the keyword “survey research Atlanta” except this time the keyword was on the page as well as in image alt text. It is so important to make sure all of your images have good alt text. These need to be descriptions that include your keyword and not just your keyword over and over again.
We also added additional copy to their homepage as well as additional pages like an FAQ page and projects page. We then added a blog page and began writing blogs for SEO. SEO blogs should have at least 500 words and include the keyword you would like to rank for 3-5 times for every 500 words.
For this client, this growth was unreal but with some extra research into what other companies were ranking for, we were able to get them ranking quickly so that they could compete in their market.
Things to keep in mind
Ranking in local SEO is a process and there are several things you will want to keep in mind before you get frustrated.
- Rankings fluctuate over time. Your rankings will fluctuate. There’s no way around it. When measuring growth for a business, we like to look at the big picture. Some days your rankings may be down a few spots and some days they may be up. Don’t be concerned with the day to day rankings but look for overall upward movement. Over the course of several months, if your rankings are not trending upward, this may indicate a problem with your local SEO marketing strategy.
Here is a look at our first client’s SEO from July 2017, to present day. You can visibly see the spike in rankings but you will also notice that their rankings have been fluctuating for the past month. This is perfectly normal and something we monitor daily.
Here’s a closer look at the last month’s fluctuation in rankings. It may look a little crazy but overall we’re seeing positive upward movement.
- Be mindful of algorithm updates. Stay up to date on the latest happenings and Google’s algorithm updates. If you notice a drastic change in your rankings, check to see if Google has made any major updates to their algorithm.
- SEO takes time. We cannot emphasize this enough. A lot of businesses become frustrated with this process. It’s not easy playing the waiting game but trust us – slow and steady wins the race.
- Don’t neglect small changes. Making minor changes to your site may seem unhelpful to your SEO but together these small changes can make a big impact. Add that keyword to your copy one more time. Proofread your copy so that you catch all of those spelling errors – your site will come across as professional and reliable. Check to make sure you have a site map so Google can properly crawl your site. All of these small factors combined can make a huge difference to your SEO.
- No business is 100% alike. Our first client took over a year to rank locally and our second started seeing results after just three months. Your local SEO marketing plan is going to look completely different from other companies. You want a personalized and targeted plan that works for your business so don’t be afraid of stepping outside the box because chances are this will help you beat out the competition.
- There’s always room for improvement. If you start out optimizing your site for 3 keywords, once you start ranking for these keywords you can optimize your site for more. Many large, established companies rank number one for multiple keywords. Take the famous chocolate brand, Godiva for example. They hold the number one ranking for over 100 keywords. Start small and as you grow, remember to keep developing your SEO strategy.
Ranking in local SEO can be a challenge. There are many factors you, as a business owner, need to take into account. If you are feeling overwhelmed, let the professionals at our Atlanta SEO company tackle your local SEO marketing for you. Contact us to learn how you can get started.