Local SEO Guide to Ranking
The ultimate goal for every local business is for them to receive quality leads from search engines.
When local seo is done right you can receive a call from a prospect asking about how you can help them with their current problem.
A big question then becomes how we do that?
The answer lies in search engine optimization. Every month, over 11.944 Billion searches are done through the world.
What we want to explore below are some of the main methods companies use to get a slice of that traffic for themselves.
Search Engine Basics
This starts with understands the three main types of traffic companies receive from search.
Map Listings – Google Maps started in 2005 as a way for consumers to find local establishments on the platform. It became the world’s leading map application with new features added on a regular basis.
Organic – Traditional search results from Googles search engine. We discuss more below about the algorithm that determines these rankings.
PPC – Pay per Click campaigns are when a company pays for their search engine rankings through ads. These ads are traditionally on the top and right of the Google search.
Many third party sources also provide Google Ads on their site. Pay per click campaigns are also called Search Engine Marketing.
For the purposes of this guide, we will focus on Google Maps and Google Organic Search.
Google Maps Strategy
A few years ago, Google maps was not even…pardon the pun… on the map of any search expert. However, today because of the sheer volume of local searches, Google Maps has become an integral part of any local business’ search strategy.
However, for all of its importance, Google Maps seems to confuse many business owners. That is why we have a step by step process to get listed.
Step 1: Go to Google.com/Places. This is also called Google Plus Local. However, the old name Google Places is still used on the back end of the system.
Step 2: Login or create an account
Step 3: Type your name in the search to determine if your company is listed on Google Places’ database.
Step 4: Add or edit your business
Step 5: Make sure your listing has all of your contact information.
Specifically. Complete the following on your profile:
- Company and Address
- Website Address
- Store Hours
- Services Offered
Next, click submit. Otherwise, all your information will go away.
Step 6: Confirm your listing
Ideally you want to confirm your listing with your phone number, because Google adds you to their Google Maps results that day.
Otherwise, you will need to have a postcard sent to your address, and then confirm you received the postcard. Many an owner has given up on Google Maps because of this challenge.
The postcard contains a 5 digit code for you to verify your business with google.
Step 7: Tour your Google Places Admin Area.
Look around your Google Places account. It can be a bit confusing the first time you are in the Google Places admin area.
Spend some time learning how to make edits and update content, so you do not have to search in the future when you go on the page.
Step 8: Double check your listing.
It should hopefully be up that day, but might take up to 48 hours to get into the system. Keep checking until the listing is live. Do this by doing a search on Google.Com/Maps.
Optimize your Maps
Once you create your listing, now the real work of optimizing your Google Plus Local page begins. Here are a few items you want to add to you Maps page:
Make sure your Name, Address, and Phone number is correct. Nothing kills your chances of success faster than bad contact information. Make sure your customers have your NAP information (name, address, and phone number).
Unlike other aspects of Google search, Google Maps provide your company name, address, and a clickable phone number, so the 50% of Google local searches done via a smart phone can call you on the way to your store.
If you give a bum address or phone number, it severely diminishes your chances of a good ranking.
Get Reviews for your Google Maps listing. Next ask your current clients for reviews of your business. According to a recent survey by Moz.Com, Google’s algorithm gives 9.8% of the weight of your listing to the number of steady, quality reviews of your location.
Remember, you cannot under any circumstance influence what your customers say about your business. This includes giving freebies in exchange for reviews. That is in violation of Google’s terms of service, and can be interpreted by the FTC as a violation of their rules on endorsements and testimonials.
Here are three ways you can increase the number of reviews you have on your site:
First, ask your customers when they purchase products from you. Give your staff simple steps they can take at the cash register ask every customer if they can review your establishment on Google. Make it easy by providing a link and/or QR code to your Google page.
Second, reach out to your email or mobile list. Next, do not just rely upon current customers, but also ask previous customers to review and rank you on Google Maps.
Third, have a Review Us postcard you can send to past customers. You can send them a few days after their purchase electronically or via snail mail.
Add content to your places page. Next, make sure you take the time add content.
This should include:
- Videos – You need at least one introduction video about your business. A tour of your establishment also works.
- 10 photos – Similar to the video, but also include pictures of happy customers enjoying themselves at your business. Then post your logo and maybe a staff picture on the page.
- Special offers – Do you have any special offers you want to entice customers to visit your store? Then use this section to create special offers. Remember to remove expired offers from your page, so it is up to date for Google and your customers.
- Categories – You can place your business in up to 5 categories. Ask the question, do your customers identify your business with these categories?
Increase the number of citations with your NAP. Another important factor in your search rankings are the number of citations your company has with your NAP information.
Just like traditional search uses backlinks as a means of authority, Google Maps listings use third party business listings to determine the success of your page.
Common Places to get citations are:
- City Search
- Super Pages
- Industry directories
- City directories
- Check out what your competitors are doing. Discover what top ranked listings do.
Organic Search Strategy
While Google local strategy deals with reviews and citations, a true organic search strategy revolves around quality content, keywords, and inbound links.
Step 1- Getting a domain
The first step in getting search traffic to your website is to buy the right website domain name. Your domain name is like your internet address.
For your domain name, make sure you purchase the right keywords for your website, so Google can find you. You can also purchase a branded domain with your company name. However, you should have at least one website with search terms in it to help you drive traffic.
Here are three tools to help you with your domain name search.
Nameboy – The first tool helps you generate names for your domain. You can combine keywords like “New York” and “Plumbing” to see what the best domain names are for your business.
KeywordTool.IO – The next tool does something similar, and provides a long list of keywords that can be optimized for Google, YouTube, and Bing.
These two tools are invaluable if you want to get exposure for your business from the right domain keywords.
GoDaddy – While the first two tools help you find a quality domain name, GoDaddy is a registrar where you can search if that domain name is available for purchase.
It is best if you find the domains from the keyword search tools listed above and then do the search on GoDaddy. If possible use the .Com, .Net, .Org, and .Biz Top-Level Domains.
Furthermore, purchase misspellings and hyphenations as well. Product and brand name domains can be added to the keyword.
Step 2- Update your website and include additional pages
Like we mentioned before, content is king with search engines. Start by adding relevant pages to your website, including about, services, and other useful pages full of content.
Finally, include a sitemap of your website, so Google understands the structure of your site. If you are using a platform like WordPress you can use a plugin like Google XML Sitemaps diagram your pages outline for Google.
If you do not have a WordPress website, then use the Google Webmaster Tools XML Sitemap Generator to create a map of your website pages.
Step 3- Optimize website
Next, optimize your new pages for search engine traffic. Expand the keyword research you did in the first step with your domain name, and use this to optimize each website page.
Each page should include the following characteristics to improve your chances of getting found on Google.
- Title tag – This is the main keyword for each page and has the greatest impact on your pages search results.
- Header tags – Besides the title tags, you also have header tags that describe the page in further details. Header tags highlight important parts of the page.
- Description – Which brings up another item you need. A short description of 156 characters or less describing the page.
- Alt images – If your page is not found by text, then make it easy for users to find you with an image search on Google. Alt images tag your website images with strategic keywords to increase your traffic from Google.
- Anchor texts – The last characteristic you can use for helping Google find your website is through Anchor texts. We will discuss them below in linking, but they are important on your site as well. The anchor text links relevant text on your website to a link to an outgoing link.
Step 4-Add backlinks to your website.
The next part of this guide comes with a big disclaimer. What we discuss here must be done in moderation. Google has several rules about how you can get backlinks to your website.
If you violate these rules, you could do as much harm as good to your search engine optimization. The best method is to add links in the natural marketing of your business.
The reason is simple. Backlinks improve your site’s authority. The more links you get to your site, the more you can build your traffic through Google. However, it is not just a case of more, more, and more works best. You have to be careful about the type and ways you add backlinks to your website.
With that being said, here are a few good ways to naturally build your backlink profile.
- Association Links – In your business, use the normal activities you participate in for additional links. Some of these links include association meetings, Chambers of Commerce, and networking groups.
- Directory – Next, use reputable online directories for backlinks. If they ask you to pay for the link on a directory, go somewhere else. Sites like Angies Lists, Yelp, and DMOZ are great directories that help you improve your authority.
- Guest posts – Another great way to get inbound content is through creating quality content on relevant industry and partner blogs. Instead of just building your own profile, piggyback off the authority of larger websites in your industry.
- Social media – We discuss this more in the next section. For the moment, keep in mind that anytime you receive retweets, shares, and likes for a page on your website.
Social Media Strategy
The final way to build your organic search presence is to focus on social media. Over the past decade, social media has played a larger role in our society than search engines like Google and Bing ever could have imagined when they started.
Therefore, a good social media strategy can help businesses with both connecting with their customers and driving traffic to their website.
Step 1: Complete Profile on each major social network
- Facebook -The major social network in the United States is a great place to build your social profile. Fill out all the basic contact and about information for your fan page.
- Google+ -A full social network like Facebook. You can also connect your Google Plus account to your Google Places account you set up earlier.
- Twitter – Complete your Twitter description and profile along with a link to your website.
- YouTube – As long as you sign up for Google+, most of your YouTube account is set. The profiles overlap, but you might have to add some filler information.
- LinkedIn – Create a professional company page on LinkedIn. The company page is great for creating content, and you can include specials as well.
Step #2: Build your social network.
Once you have your profile, you need to build your social network. To do this, choose your favorite three social networks.
Base this on what type of preferences your customers have about their lifestyle, and not your own personal preferences. Remember the idea here is to use social networking to build up a network interested in your business services.
These people are also the ones who are more likely to share your content on your website to help you generate search juice.
Here are a few ways you can build your network:
Contact your current offline network – The first thing you want to do is contact your current network about your participation on whatever network you join above.
Join Social Networking Groups – Next find relevant social media groups interested in your services. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ all have strong group functions.
Take an active interest in these people’s lives? Respond to their posts and engage with them before you promote your own content.
Create Value – Finally, create massive value for your network. Discover what you can easily give to them for free. Most marketers use information, since it can be used to demonstrate your authority on a subject and are more likely to be shared than products you sell online.
Creating value leads us to the next step.
Step #3: Create valuable local content.
The biggest challenge most small business owners face is what type of content can they conceivably create to help their target audience. However, helping customers fix toilet leaks from the base of the unit become invaluable in a pinch. The more you become the trusted resource, the more likely you receive the calls from customers asking for help.
Here are a few common types of content you can publish on your website and share on social media.
- Event – Do you host live events or webinars for your business? Then share this information on your blog and social networks to spread the word about the upcoming event.
- Tips – For every business, you will find numerous tips that can be provided to consumers to help them with their challenges.
- Ideas – When tips alone are not enough, resort to ideas your prospects can use to enjoy your knowledge and expertise.
- How to news – Also, provide how to information for all the latest ideas. This eBook is a perfect example of how to content with the latest information about search engine optimization strategies for small business owners.
- Special promotion – Finally, do not be embarrassed to promote your business from time to time. While over-promoting can be bad, you are on social media to increase your revenue. If you don’t ask, how will customers know what to purchase?
Furthermore, you want to post daily on social media. The more valuable content you create, the more customers are interested in your business. They become accustomed to your posts and check on them regularly.
Step 4: Next, use smartphones when you are away from the office. While this is an optional step, it can be invaluable on social media.
Post photos on Pinterest and mobile network Instagram. Then post short videos to Twitter and Vine (subsidiary of Twitter).
Photos help you promote your brand to whatever event or meeting you go to during the week. They are also very engaging for subscribers and easy to incorporate into your social media posts for consumers.
Step 5: Engage with them as well. Answer their questions, and like and comment on their information. The best way to create long-term growth through social media is to engage with your audience. Make them like you, and they continually share your content and help their planet.
And you like them by listening to them. Unlike most techniques with search engine marketing where you are communicating to your target market, this requires you to pay attention to others besides for yourself.
This can challenge some businesses used to telling customers what you do. However, the more attention you pay to others, the more benefits you receive.
As you can see, using search engine optimization for your business is not a one size fits all task. Find the solutions that work for your business.
If you want to get started, here are three simple steps to get you on the path to search engine success:
- What strategy discussed above would help your business the most?
- What challenges are stopping you from implementing this plan immediately?
- How can you make this manageable to do yourself? Do you need help implementing this plan?
If you have any further questions on starting, then take advantage of my Free SEO Audit today. This audit helps you understand what your next steps need to be for your business.