For small businesses with a local or regional customer base, local SEO is a powerful tool to increase visibility in your market. You've heard of SEO, but never "local SEO"? There's a good chance you may be already engaging in some local SEO practices without even knowing it. And if you aren't, there's no better way to focus your online marketing efforts on the largest potential audience than a well designed and executed local SEO program.
It takes time, to be sure. I've said to many a client and many a lead, that SEO is not a one-time effort, it is an ongoing program that must be monitored, analyzed, and adjusted regularly. Local SEO is certainly a "work smarter, not harder" situation, and having the right tools and knowledge at your disposal can help you do just that.
Performing a thorough audit will allow you to learn as much as you can about the status quo. If you know how the site is performing in local SEO when you begin, you'll be able to set goals based on improving metrics that matter. A solid local SEO audit should look at many of these aspects:
Every site is different, so choose the areas that make sense for the site you are working with, and evaluate current standing and historical performance.
The end goal is important to define, and will be different for each company. Your local SEO program goals must support your business goals, or they will not succeed in growing your business in the right ways. Here are a few examples:
Design your local SEO program to support these well-defined goals, and you are off on the right foot.
Using Google Analytics is pretty standard fare these days, but just installing that code snippet doesn't nearly go far enough. Be sure you have goal funnels setup and defined properly in Analytics, and build reports to provide at-a-glance performance evaluation for each. This article on Moz will teach you all you need to know about defining funnels and much, much more. Just looking at traffic doesn't go far enough... how do you know if it is the right traffic? Sure, your overall visits are up, but you need to consider if the visitors are actually potential customers. That is where local SEO can kick in.
One of the most powerful local SEO tools is the review. Studies have shown, over and over again, that when consumers are searching for a local business, consumer reviews matter. For every customer who you have the ability to email, ask for the review once they've experienced your product or service. This is exactly what I do here at Swish. Here is an example email I'll send to a client once a web project has concluded:
I wanted to thank you again for doing business with Swish. Now that your website has been launched, and we've moved into the marketing portion of our relationship, I was hoping you could take a few moments to write a couple of reviews for us, so that I can continue to bring in fantastic clients in the future. I'd appreciate if you could click on the following 2 links and write a short summary of your experience, along with leaving a rating. Feel free to use the same review for both:
Google Local: https://plus.google.com/+Hello...
There are dozens of directories that you could be listed in for local search, but its a pretty safe argument that starting with Google Local and Yelp is a strong effort. The point here, though, is to ask for the review. Make it as easy as possible for your clients to do so by sending them the links.
More and more, social networks are being treated as credible sources for news, events and referrals. Whether you agree with that or not, search engines are indexing social content using it to inform their local search rankings. If you don't have, or don't use, social properties as part of your local marketing, now is the time to start. It pays to learn the nuances of each major network, get an account, and begin efforts to market with them. This includes Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, for the most part. I know it's scary, but you likely have potential customers looking for a business like yours on social right now. Social networks track location on many users, which helps them identify local businesses based on actual location.
All marketing, really, is about building trust with strangers. Enough that they are willing to become a lead or a customer. And if the relationship you build with them is valuable, they will become an advocate for your brand, referring your business to other strangers who can experience the same trust and relationship. That trust building begins with first impressions, and you can help to shape the first impression of your business with a well-structured local SEO program. It is based on brand visibility, customer reviews, and how well your business is promoted in the places where potential customers are searching.
Local SEO is not a one-time effort. Like typical organic SEO, its a program. Typically it starts with an audit and then is shaped into a program that can and should last for months, with regular evaluation of performance, and tweaking to improve results. Local SEO is one of our favorite services, because we almost always see fantastic results for small businesses.
If you'd like to discuss how you can improve your small business' visibility in your local market, let's setup a call so we can find a program that works for you.
Chad is a 19 year veteran of the web industry. A developer by trade, he is now at the helm of his 3rd digital agency.