Most businesses want to improve their search engine optimization (SEO), even if they don’t know they do. Because better SEO means more customers at less cost, and almost everyone wants more customers. But how you improve your organic reach on a global scale is very different from how you do it on a local level.
While the two have some things in common, you can usually improve your local rankings much faster than the larger scale ones. You can generally see movement quickly, assuming your local competition isn’t busy doing the exact same thing.
What Is Local Ranking and Who Should Be Concerned With It?
When we refer to local ranking in search, we are talking about someone who would type in a search like “Best <insert type of business> in Alameda. These searchers are looking for something nearby. If you serve a local audience, you want to place highly for those local search terms For instance, if you run a pizza place, “Best pizza in Alameda,” “Best pizza in the Bay Area,” and “Alameda pizza” may all be terms you want to place for. Ranking well for pizza across the country (unless you cover a VERY large delivery area) is not as important.
While search engines have become smarter over the years, factoring in local listings in these types of searches without having to be explicit in the search query, there are still a few things you can do to improve your local listings and come up higher in organic listings.
Seven Quick Steps to Better Rankings
Improving your local rankings isn’t magic, although it can feel that way. What it takes is consistent, targeted action.
Most business owners hate to hear how important reviews are because then they need to encourage people to leave them. But if you believe in the service and/or product you’re providing, it’s not an imposition, but a way your customers can help others.
And requesting reviews is not as hard as you think. Place the review request on your business card. Create table tents with QR codes directed to review sites for easy access. Send a follow-up email with a hyperlink to your preferred review site.
Encouraging customers to create a review while it’s convenient for them, and your business/service is fresh in their minds, is the best way to ensure you’ll receive the most reviews.
There are two reasons reviews are important to your business – they affect word-of-mouth (WOM) referrals and SEO. Good WOM sites are TripAdvisor and Yelp. But if you’re focused on SEO, you need to get reviews on your Google My Business listing.
Get Creative with Keywords
Sometimes the keyword you assume should be your top word, isn’t the best way for people to find you. Take for instance, a home designer. A home designer is not an architect and there are stringent rules against using “architect” unless you have passed your boards. But if you search “Home Designs” or “Home Designer” there are pages and pages of big name design plan companies and review sites like Houzz. It is impossible to compete with their ad budgets so home designers would want to concentrate on local instead.
In order to improve your local search listings, think of the question(s) people would ask to reach you and add a local flair. For instance, in this case you might use long-tail keywords like “house makeover Alameda.” You’ll have to play around with it and use a keyword research tool to pinpoint what works best for your area and industry.
Now that you know what you want to place for, you’ll need to add that information to your content and website. You’ll get the most bang for your buck by creating content that uses your keywords in headers, page titles, and blog titles. Vary your usage of these words. Don’t use an identical keyword phrase each time.
Now you need to claim your business in the most popular directories. We mentioned Yelp, and TripAdvisor, but there’s also Facebook, Manta, the Alameda Chamber, Google My Business, and more. Don’t forget your industry listings or service provider sites. Make sure all your information is updated and complete on these directories or sites.
Keep a list of them. If you ever move, or need to update information, it will be a lot easier if you know which platforms and directories you have profiles on.
When people leave a review, comment on it. If it’s positive, thank them. If it’s negative, try and solve their issue. While these are usually “no-follow” links, which don’t directly equate to better SEO, platforms like Facebook are timing you on your response, so being responsive is very important to word-of-mouth referrals and your standing.
Look for Friends
Is there a business in your town that you could partner with? You could create an affiliate program or just exchange content. Links are still important, so turn to local business friends with complementary businesses and ask if they’d be willing to list your business and link to you in a resource section. Keep in mind you need links from reputable websites and be choosey about who you ask. The days of adding your site to link farms are long over. The Chamber has several ways to help with this.
Optimize Your Social Profiles
Fill in all the information on social media profiles. Add websites. Use keywords and keyword phrases in your about sections. Search engines pull from these as well.
The more bait you have in the water, the more likely you are to get a bite. Create quality content on subjects of interest to your audience. The more they share and interact with it, the more it will circulate and get picked up by the search engines. Good content chums the waters, attracting attention.
A Final Word About Improving Your Local SEO
When creating good content for local search make sure you do more than just add “Alameda” in your copy. You should include other telltale signs that you know the area. You could mention streets, popular things to do, nearby towns, etc. The search engines are getting more sophisticated and dropping in a town name at the end of every blog post won’t win you any attention, at least not the kind you want.