Do you run a local business looking for new leads from search? Has organic Search Engine Optimization been too overwhelming? Are you getting found for your company name and some search terms, but not when people are searching generally in your local market? If you know SEO, there's a similar, yet focused, process to build an effective local SEO strategy.
The Three Fundamentals of Local SEO
For the past 10 years, local SEO meant focusing on:
- On-site Content
- Google My Business listing, if you have an address or a service area
- Local Link Building
In 2020, local SEO has changed so much as COVID has pushed everyone online. It has become much more competitive yet the same fundamentals still apply.
The first thing to do is make sure your website is properly optimized so that Google's spiders can understand it. On-Page SEO makes sure that Google knows how to rank your content. When reviewing your website content, make sure to target the consumer intent, not keywords. Include local phrases and references to target the geographical area of your service area or market. Look at what is already working for others. Search the keywords you think may be of interest to find Google suggestions and "people also asked" search phrases. Look at your Webmaster Tools for searches with high impressions. Use Google Keyword Tool to see what Google says has been the most active search phrases and what phrases do they recommend. The goal is to combine all these search phrases to come up with your core keywords, then write around those. Don't worry about every single keyword possible. Look at the top 10 pages for a core keyword and see how they are written - are they short form, long form, multi-media, etc. Don't write just to write to hit a word count. Thin the writing so it is concise and hits all the aspects of the core keyword. Your menu pages should reflect the overall services and solutions you offer; blogs, news, and frequently-asked-questions should focus on the niche aspects of your business. Write to show that you are from the area, not a universal expert.
Good Link Building
Links have always been the heart of Search recognition. But we all know how difficult it is to get a good link to our website. Reach out to your existing connections first. Think about your suppliers, your networking groups such as chambers, and the places you frequent. A link from another local website is incredible for local SEO, and very difficult for a non-local company to get. Offer to add to their website or blog by looking over their content and seeing if you can add value. Don't just ask for a link.
There may be events or activities that you can co-sponsor with an allied business, and can cross-promote each other on your websites. If you see a local business that is hosting or sponsoring an event or group, ask how you can participate and if you could provide them with a blog or post about why the event or group is important to your business.
Write a review or testimonial for a vendor and ask that it be published on their website and in social media with your business name. Even without a link, the mention has value to your local SEO strategy.
Ownership and Optimization of Google My Business
Similar to on-site Optimization, you need to see what is already working for local companies and what stands out. Do searches and see what listings appear. See what they have for content, reviews, activity and then do the same but better. Make sure everything is filled out. Don't try to put keywords in your business name because, while it may work in the beginning, Google catches up and will penalize you.
Take advantage of the extra features that Google provides - they will affect the algorithm in some small ways. Also look to see if a a substantial number of competitors are using these features. If so, then it becomes a must-do to "stay with the crowd". Post as many photos as you can. Make sure the images and videos look professional and really high-light your product or service. If you are producing an item or visible service, do not use a stock photo. Even when you change the name, Google can recognize duplicate images and will penalize you if others in your category are using their own photos. Generate images that have a local flair to them. But, if you only have low quality photography, it's better to not post any images.
Content Strategy for Local SEO
So you will need to generate content, or at least optimize the content that you have. How to do it so it's efficient and effective? Some of the areas to focus / revise are:
- General content blogs
- Don't create blog posts just for the sake of writing content. There needs to be a strategy on topic choices and how they relate to larger topics or to menu pages on your website.
- Many posts can be redeveloped to flesh out your service pages so they have 100% authority.
- Your most specific areas you address, your expertise, can be demonstrated through blogs that push readers to your main menu service pages.
- Dive deep on what you do for your clients.
- Quick & early wins
- Make sure there are no 404's or duplicate content issues
- Build a sitemap with your pages to verify it makes sense
- Don't lose yourself on ranking on core terms - go for some long tail keywords or optimize content that lists on page 2 currently
- What happens with your leads once they come in? Many small businesses do not have great lead management or CRM practices in place.
Should the focus be on local-intent queries (those general searches that Google know should show local listings) or local-added queries (those searches where the searcher added a local value to the keyword phrase)? Go for both, as we never know when Google will decide our listing is far enough from the centroid so it is no longer shown on a local-intent search.
Think beyond just the keywords, and think about the searcher's intent. If they are searching and at the top of the funnel, they don't want to go to a site with only give information in response to a contact form being filled out. Provide enough information initially without gates to enable the visitor to know if you are the right people to be talking to. Make sure your pages have CTA's / lead captures for the various points in a buyer's journey.
Also ensure that the searchers are actually prospects, and not others in the same marketplace as you. Often too much "inside-baseball" speak will only appeal to people already in the know, usually your competitors.
Intent of Content
Some content is generated not to get a visitor to become a buyer, but to attract a link. It may be of value to other people who are interested in the same problems that a visitor would have, and they will reference my content in their website post. Specifically with journalist or trends and news sites. This indirectly affects the conversion of visitors to become buyers because it helps builds our expertise.
Get direct responses from your customers and visitors on their intentions for visiting your site and becoming a customer to understand that the buyer's journey from their point of view. Generate content about the problems that visitors are looking to solve and the stages of the buyers journey that they found you were a good solution.
If you are interested in coming up with some strategies specific for your business, reach out to us for a free strategy session.