What’s Your Local Business Leaving On The Table? (And 5 Ways to Change That)

Consider this:

Research results like these routinely show how critical local SEO is for small businesses. In fact, it may be just as, if not, more important, than organic SEO. So it goes without saying, if you are a business owner and your business doesn’t rank well locally, then you’re probably losing out to the competition big time. As such, it’s essential you keep tabs on the changing face of local SEO and implement strategies to stay ahead of the competition. Yet local SEO, in contrast to organic SEO, is not quite as straightforward. Relatively recent and substantive changes to pertinent ranking factors, make navigation of local SEO murky at best.

Here are a couple of the fundamentals to keep in mind.

A Quick Breakdown of the Local SEO

1. Google My Business

According to a 2017 study by MOZ, Google My Business (GMB) signals are the number one local pack ranking factor. In light of that, here are some easy ways you can optimize your GMB presence:

  • Google Posts: Share timely updates—in the form of images, text, or video—with Google Posts.
  • Google Q&A: Allow customers and prospects to ask questions about your offerings with Google Q&A.
  • Google Messaging: Allow customers and prospects to message your business directly with Google Messaging.
  • Google Bookings: Allow customers and prospects to book appointments and reservations directly with Google Bookings.

Of course, offering these features brings additional responsibility. You must be willing and able to be responsive to any consumer activity via these channels. Questions left ignored for too long is tantamount to negative branding for your business.

2. Backlinks

Despite all the changes I’ve witnessed in search over the years, backlinks still remain a critical part of ranking well in both organic and local search. Local links, even those with little authority, will help you in local SEO; here’s why:

  • Drive Local Traffic: Good local links, on credible local sites, though they usually won’t come with a lot of link equity, can drive local traffic.
  • Offer Good Local Signals: Local links offer local signals that help your visibility in your local market. If you’re doing the majority of your business locally, you want Google to understand that that market is your focus. Local links provide clear signals that your local market is a priority.

…and here are some ways you can obtain local links:

  • Local Outreach: You might simply reach out to any authoritative sites in your local community. Local backlinks are often easier to get since they come with less competition.
  • Local Directories: Directories are a great tool for local link building. If your site is a local business—a law firm, medical office or any service type business—you absolutely need to be getting links from local directories, and as many as possible. There are two types of directories to start with: specialty directories—smaller directories that focus on a business niche—and local directories—smaller directories that focus on a given municipality (maybe one associated with a local newspaper or local government). Oftentimes these two types of directories will be one and the same. The reason specialty and local directories make sense for local SEO is that they’re both highly focused—one on business niche, the other, on business area.

A simple way to find directories that relate to your business is to do a Google search:

  1. Type into the search bar: [Your Business Type] + [“Directory”]
    For instance, [Dog Groomer Directory]
  2. Add the name of your city to be more specific: [Your Business Type] + [“Directory”] + [City Name]
    For instance, [Dog Groomer Directory Miami]

3. Citations

Your critical business details out in the digital world—what you do and how to reach you—are what we call “citations”. And citation signals are fundamental to local ranking and go hand-in-hand with on-page SEO and Google My Business signals.

There are two kinds of citations: structured and unstructured.

  • Structured Citations: Structured citations have a precise pattern that’s easy for search engines to read and index. Examples are business details presented in schema markup on your site or ones pulled from an online directory, like those we just covered in #2 above.
  • Unstructured Citations: Unstructured citations are those with no precise pattern, like what you might find in content (blog posts, articles etc.).

4. Local On-Page Signals

So called “On-Page” signals are also critically important to local SEO. Here are a few things you can do to help your local on-page signals:

  • Location Pages: Offer landing pages for each location where you do business.
  • Optimized Tags: Add optimized title tags, headers, and meta-descriptions.
  • Uniform NAP: Ensure uniformity across all instances of NAP (NAP stands for business Name, Address, and Phone Number). Inaccurate or inconsistent NAP will harm your local SEO ranking. Think about it, if people can’t trust your business details to be accurate and reliable because of too many instances of inconsistent NAP out there online, neither will Google, and that’ll be reflected in a lower local ranking.
  • Structured Data: Employ structured data, aka schema (see #3 above).
  • Reviews: Get reviews and testimonials. Studies have shown that online reviews help improve search ranking—so-called “review signals” include quantity, frequency, and diversity—and a recent local survey revealed that 87% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Clearly, a good online reputation is essential to building customer trust and goes far in both improving local search ranking and increasing conversions.
  • Maps: Embed a Google Map of your location.
  • CTAs: Offer clear calls to action (aka CTAs).
  • Mobile-Friendliness: Offer a mobile-friendly site that supports the same and/or similar content as your desktop version.

5. Content Relevance

To compete effectively in local search, you need to make sure the content on your website is relevant to the city and/or local area in which you do business. Ways to do that are:

  • Tie Content to Current Events: Keep track of what’s going on in that area—local news, events or activities—and make reference to it in your content.
  • Offer Local Promotions: Provide offers and promotions exclusive to the local area and mention them in your content. And, on those location pages (per my aforementioned recommendation), feature content exclusive to the given location.