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Local SEO for local businesses – a beginner’s guide

By Will Stevens - May 30, 2017

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 doorstep. 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, even 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.

An example of local search results

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 postcard 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. Identify directories that are a) used by everyone or b) relevant to your niche and add your details. Be sure that your NAP information is consistent across all these listings.

Next steps

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) 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.

2) 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.

3) 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.

Need extra help? This guide explains more about how to promote your business locally