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Going Local: Growing Your Small Business with Local SEO

By Garrett Spence   |    May 8, 2014   |    3:50 PM

The Best Tools and Methods for Improving Your Local SEO Presence

Small businesses often find it nearly impossible to rank on the first page of a Google search for competitive keywords. Most of the highly-searched terms are being used by their much larger competitors.

A smaller business, however, can rank high in local searches by using local SEO tactics. According to SE Talks, nearly “30% of the total searches in Google per month are localized searches”. This means that this 30% isn’t looking for the “top mechanics in the nation”. Instead, they want the “top mechanics in the New Orleans area”. A local business probably may not rank nationally, but it can take advantage of this large search pool that wants to find a business closer to home. Local SEO helps level the playing field, allowing local businesses to rank on the first page SERPs in their service areas.

Why Use Local SEO
Yet, small businesses need to rank near the top of the SERPs since sites on the first page of results get over 90% of total search traffic. Also, people want to research businesses before they buy anything, but they tend to buy within 10 to 20 miles of their current location.

Taking advantage of readily available localized search sites puts a business ahead of competitors that are not aggressively utilizing these channels. Also, when a business claims their local SEO listing, it will show up on Google maps, local business directories and even on mobile devices. The Google Hummingbird algorithm update more closely entwined mobile and local search to provide better, faster results to mobile device users. Taking advantage of mobile is very important since it accounts for nearly 30% of total web traffic, a huge audience of potential customers. Plus, over 80% of people who use their mobile devices to look for businesses “tend to make call or visit the location within 24 hours so the conversion rate of the local searches is very high”.

Going local can increase conversions and build brand awareness since businesses will show up in local searches more often. For a little amount of work, this increase in visibility will result in a high return on investment.

Methods for Building A Local Presence
Use this checklist to ensure that your business is fully take advantage of local search:

  1. Verify that the company website is optimized for mobile: A website that’s hard to view on a mobile device will quickly turn off visitors and increase bounce rate. Speak to a developer to ensure that the company website is fully optimized for mobile search.
  2. Add Local SEO to the company website: Companies should list their physical address locations and phone numbers on their website, preferably visibly in the headers and footers. It should also appear in the back-end Meta titles and descriptions.
  3. Create Online Citations: Citations are any online listing that includes your company name, address and phone number (NAP), including Yellow Pages, Foursquare, Google Places, Google+ Business Pages, Yelp, Facebook/LinkedIn Business Pages, etc. Verify that the listings on all of these are uniform. Businesses should verify that they’re listed on all the major local search engines as well, including Google Local, Yahoo!LocalWorks, Bing Local and Apple Maps app.
  4. Build Up Local Reviews: Once a website is fully set up on these NAP sites, businesses should ask their customers for positive reviews. The more reviews a site has, the more likely it is to rank above the competition.

Best Tools for Going Local
These free or freemium sites will assist small businesses in getting setup with local search:

  • Whitespark: This site helps businesses get started building online citations.
  • GetListed: Created by Moz.com, this site shows businesses if they’re site is visible online. For a small yearly fee, GetListed will push business listings to data aggregators.
  • Schema.org/LocalBusiness: This site provides the schemas that webmasters need to markup company websites to ensure that search engines can read the pages correctly. This section includes how to markup a site for Local SEO.
  • Google Keyword Planner tool: This tool is only available to AdWords users, but it allows businesses to search for keyword ideas. In the tool, users can add specific locations to get keyword ideas for certain cities or metropolitan areas.
  • Pinterest Place Pins: Not all businesses will need a Pinterest account. If a business does have an account, however, the Place Pins features an online map that shows the physical location of an image, including phone number and address.

Businesses shouldn’t forget about Local SEO once everything is set up. Always verify that new site pages, social media and advertising have the correct company information. Use local information in blogs and other dynamic content. Periodically, check the site optimization and maintain as needed.