The problem is as old as business itself – someone has a need, you can meet it but the potential customer doesn’t know you exist. Advertising used to be the only solution to this issue, but the rise of the web means it’s now much easier for people to track down businesses that offer what they’re looking for.
Ensuring people can find you through a simple internet search is one of the basics of online marketing. But search engine optimisation (SEO) is much more complicated than it once was – it’s no longer a case of stuffing anchor text and grabbing links from as many sites as possible.
In this guide we’ll examine an often overlooked aspect of online marketing – local SEO. Properly implemented local SEO will guide customers to your door step. Let’s get started.
Name, address and phone number
It’s always best to start with the basics, and things don’t get much more basic than your business’s name, address and phone number (NAP). Consistency is the key here, both on your website and wherever your business is mentioned on the web. If your NAP details differ from place to place, you’ll not only confuse potential customers, but search engines as well.
First, make sure your NAP is consistent across your website. It’s amazing how many businesses get things mixed up when it comes to this. It might be that you’ve changed telephone number or location and haven’t fully updated all your information, or that a web designer made a mistake when putting your site together. Whatever the reason, take the time to check through the site and make any changes that are needed. Remember, ever something as small as a missing apostrophe could confuse a search engine.
If you’ve ever searched for a local business on Google, you’ll have seen results like the below. There’s a huge advantage to appearing either in the local box on the right of the page, or the local pack results that appear mixed in with the standard results. If you want to stand a chance of showing up in this manner, then you need register for Google My Business.
In many ways, this is just another business directory submission but there are a few things to bear in mind.
1) Get your NAP information right – as already stated, this is crucial.
2) Tell Google whether you serve customers at their address (for example a plumber or a mail order bookshop) at your address (for example a pub or restaurant) or both (a bookshop with a physical outlet that also offers mail order.) This will determine how your business shows up on Google maps. If you have a physical shop that customers can visit, then you’ll get a pin like the one in the example. If you deliver your goods/services remotely, then Google will display your service area. If you have a store and deliver, then Google maps will reflect this.
Once you’ve entered this information, a Google Plus page will automatically be created for your company. You’ll also be asked to verify your address. This is done by sending you a postcode which you have to return to Google. You should do this without delay.
After you’ve requested verification, you’ll be given a short tour. After that it’s a case of adding as much information as possible. Everything here is vital as Google can display almost every piece of your profile information in its search results. Add your phone number, website, opening hours and upload a picture. That way Google and potential customers will know exactly what your business is about. Once you’ve verified your listing, you should start appearing for relevant search results.
Getting listed in directories
The phone directory may be dead, but online directories still carry a lot of clout. The trick is finding the right ones. There are two types of directory you should be looking for: The kind that’s so big you can’t ignore it (Yelp, for example) and the kind that is used by your customers and people like your customers. There’ll be a significant degree of overlap here, but you shouldn’t neglect the latter group.
You can find a pretty comprehensive list of directories here, with the biggest highlighted in red.
In order to find directories that are used by your potential customers you should 1) Ask existing customers how they learned about your business and 2) Look at which directories your competitors are using.
Once you’ve done this, you’ll have a prioritised list of directories to which you can submit your details. If you’ve submitted to the directories in the past, take the time to ensure your details are correct, up to date and match those you use on your website 100%. If you’ve got money to spare, but are short on time you can use a service like Whitespark.ca to help speed up the directory submission process. The 123-reg Search Engine Optimiser tool will also help you identify the biggest directories to which you can submit your business details. This is a great option if you don’t have the time to draw up a list of directories and just want to target the most important ones.
Remember, this isn’t about making as many submissions as possible; it’s about making sure your business is listed on sites that are being used by potential customers.
Once you’ve carried out the above steps, you site should be in pretty good shape in terms of basic local SEO. However, there are extra things you can do in order to get an extra boost.
1) Set your business up on Bing Places. It’s not as popular as Google, but Bing still attracts a significant number of searches.
2) Make sure you’re on Yelp. You probably covered this in an earlier step, but if not make sure you do it now. Yelp is used by Apple Maps, so if you want to let iPhone users know where you are, then you need to be on there.
3) Encourage people to leave you reviews. A number of listings sites, including Google My Business, allow customers to leave reviews. Clearly it’s in your interests to get as many good ones as possible. You can find out more about how to get more reviews in this post.
4) Start attracting connections and mentions. These are crucial for general SEO. This guide will help you get your website off to a good start.
Remember, local SEO is only one aspect of SEO. It’s vital that you don’t ignore other areas. If you’re launching, or have just launched, a new site make sure you’ve followed the steps in this SEO checklist.
Finally, if you’re keen to start attracting customers straight away, you should consider using a pay-per-click (PPC) service such as Google AdWords. You can learn more about what AdWords can do for your business in this short guide.