For small and medium businesses who want to compete on the same playing-field as much larger corporations with greater resources at their disposal, having a strong local SEO strategy is crucial.
Irrespective of what industry you’re in, you’ll always have at least one competitor who has been around longer and has allocated more budget and resources to building their visibility on the web and in search engines.
It may feel futile to try and compete with them in the realm of SEO.
But local SEO plays by slightly different rules to the regular kind. You don’t need to have reams of funding at your disposal or hundreds of links pointing to your site to be visible and relevant to a local audience – you just need to understand the unique characteristics of local SEO, and apply a few simple strategies to cater to them.
In this article, we’ll explore four cost-effective strategies that small and medium businesses can use to give themselves the best chance of ranking locally.
Verify your business’ Google Plus page
Your first step is to link your business’ Google Plus page with Google My Business . Google My Business allows SMEs to update their information across Google Search, Google Maps, and Google Plus in one fell swoop, to ensure that a potential customer can find you wherever they are and whatever device they’re on.
Local searches lead to more purchases than non-local searches, and verifying your Google Plus page makes it possible for you to monopolize the majority of the search results pages for your brand name, especially for the Local Business Card on the right.
Business owners need to realize that anyone can edit your business listing and this includes your competitors. Once you have provided Google My Business with all your details, it is very important to login to your Google My Business dashboard regularly to ensure that no one has attempted to make any unwanted changes to your listing.
Take advantage of the many interesting features available to businesses on Google My Business such as Google Posts , booking button feature, messaging, Questions & Answers , and more. The possibilities are limitless, get busy!
Launching your website is only the first step. Implementing a marketing strategy that includes Pay-Per-Click advertising is an important part of small business success within the digital landscape.
Virtually every small business can benefit from implementing a pay-per-click marketing strategy to build its web presence. The idea is to identify targeted, relevant keywords, understand your target audience and develop a strategy that will drive the right types of leads.
Selling a product or service that is difficult for consumers to find locally makes your business a great candidate for PPC advertising campaigns. People often rely on internet searches to locate unusual or rare products.
On top of this, many local searches with high purchase intent take place on mobile, as consumers search for a business or service “near me” while they’re out and about. As PPC advertising dominates a greater proportion of screen space on mobile, having paid search ads in place will give you the best chance of appearing in front of consumers in these moments.
Learning to combine the strengths of both search and social media, pay-per-click will effectively round out any small business’ paid advertising strategy. Understanding the difference and when to use each platform will increase visibility and decrease cost.
Host user-generated reviews
Google sees reviews as a major factor for ranking on the new carousel design; however, more than anything your reviews are for Google users who see your company on a SERP. Peer-to-peer reviews are powerful because they give your potential customers a good sense of what it’s really like to use your goods or services.
In this regard, the internet has leveled the playing field for small businesses across the globe through the power and exposure of online user-generated reviews.
Search engine spiders like content that is unique and frequently updated, and user reviews are an easy way to create more of this. Content generated by users is often unique to the user, therefore, it is different from the generic content mostly used by e-commerce sites which is the same thing as the manufacturer description.
This, combined with the fact that the words and phrases used by reviewers are often the same as those used by searchers, increases the chances of ranking well for search queries that are relevant to your product.
When you consider that 88% of shoppers consider product reviews before making any purchase, it’s a safe bet to assume that more and more consumers will be searching for the name of your product along with the word ‘review’, or related words like ‘ratings’.
Get your visitors started by simply putting a button on your webpage to facilitate leaving a review, prompt visitors to leave a review after purchasing something or visiting a particular landing page, or talk directly with people in your store or company about leaving a review.
Optimize your images
Optimization for local SEO is not limited to text. Due to the increasingly blended nature of search results, you can now see images on the search listings page, so it’s important to optimize your imagery for search engines.
Ensure your images are search engine-friendly. It all starts with the file name. There are a billion and one images out there, so you don’t want to use a generic image file name like ‘image12345.jpg’ that will guarantee your business gets lost in the pile. Instead, you want to use something descriptive to make it easier for your images to compete in rankings.
Search engines can’t read images, so it is up to you to use alt tags to help describe your image to ensure it pops up during relevant queries. Write a concise, relevant description that contains the appropriate keywords. Don’t forget to write content above and below the images on your website, using keywords where appropriate; the more the text is related to the image, the better.
Most importantly, if you want your images to rank for localized keywords, make sure you add local keywords wherever you can for blended results optimized for a specific local area.
In short, there’s no elevator to rise to the top of the search engine rankings, especially when there’s a massive competitor lingering on the scene. But with a strategy that leverages your geographic location, you can selectively overcome your competitors in specific key areas.
Give yourself an advantage by narrowing your topic and keyword focus and increasing your location-specific relevance. You might not rank for as many keywords as the big players, but you will be able to surpass them in relevance for your chosen focal points.
If you want to dive further into local SEO strategies after reading these tips, the following articles will take you more in-depth:
How to create a kickass link-building strategy for local SEO
6 ways to market your local business online (beyond Google Maps)
How creating relevant experiences can boost your clicks on local search ads
How to optimize Google My Business listings for multi-location businesses
Pius Boachie is the founder of DigitiMatic , an inbound marketing agency.