THE COMPLETE SEO GUIDE FOR LOCAL BUSINESS OWNERS
Are you looking for a couple of tricks and tips on local SEO marketing? Then, this guide is your new best friend. Learn everything you need to know in less than 15 minutes!
What Is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization, commonly referred to as SEO, is a new page content technique businesses and entrepreneurs use in order to get their websites to rank higher in search engines like Google.
For example, when I input the words “best place for vacation” in Google’s search box, it will redirect me to a page that links out to resources Google finds relevant to my inquiry – and yes, these resources or outbound links are ordered according to relevance.
If you look at this process of selection carefully, you’ll know that this doesn’t happen randomly or by chance. Google, as well as other reputable search engines like Yahoo and Bing, take pride in delivering the right kind of information to users and thus, is very strict when it comes to filtering information.
However, there’s always a way to one-up this kind of system – and this is exactly where SEO enters the scene. Although creating SEO content is not as simple as it used to be (because Google is quick to catch up on things), still, the basic premise is to create and organize the content of your website in a way that makes search engines go “Ping! I think we hit the jackpot.”
There are generally two arenas for SEO – local and national.
What’s The Difference Between Local And National SEO?
When I say arena, I’m referring to the platforms in which SEO battles take place – the prize for the victor is, of course, getting placed first (or at least on the first page) of search engine results.
National SEO would refer to websites who are trying to rank on a countrywide level or maybe even internationally. For example, you are trying to rank a restaurant’s website as the “best sushi parlor in Japan.” In this context, what you are trying to rank against is all the other restaurant websites based in Japan and that can range from hundreds to thousands.
On the other hand, local SEO is more geographically specific. In this kind of SEO, the area you’re targeting will be much smaller and the competition will decrease by a great deal as well. Japan, from the previous example, will now become geo-specific so your content will revolve around something like this:
“best sushi parlor in Okinawa City, Japan”
A small change, but it makes all the difference – location-wise especially. So from thousands of competing websites, you’ll be down to a hundred or less.
Today, we’ll be focusing on the latter – local SEO. You’re probably thinking that doing local SEO won’t make much of a difference for your business and national SEO seems more promising. True enough, national SEO is meant for wider audience reach and that means more web traffic for your business. However, the ocean of cyberspace is so deep that trying to come up the surface feels like an “almost” impossible task.
This is why it is equally important to rank locally. The logic here is simple: If you can’t rank in local pages, how on earth do you expect to rank in national pages? Think of quality over quantity before you even embark on your journey to dominate the SERPs. It is important that we look at the LTV or “Long-Term Value” of clients. As long as you provide efficient services, people will surely come back again and again. And one loyal customer is worth more than ten transient ones.
But first, you need to get them to visit.
What benefits does my business get when it ranks to page one?
Increase in Organic Traffic
When your website ranks higher, the probability of getting clicked by a browsing customer also increases. And this means better revenue for your business. Recent data shows that 89% of people who search on Google click on the very first page, roughly 4% continues on to the second page, 1% on the third, and the remaining pages continue on garnering an audience less than a single percent.
Ranking is basically the end-all and be-all of your business’s website. Better make it count.
Improved Business Reputation
Google doesn’t like shady websites. The fact that you’re ranking up top would mean you are delivering content that is both relevant and trustworthy. SEO isn’t just about joining a lump of keywords together and have them appear again and again throughout the content of your website – this is bad practice and many websites got banned from Google because of this.
SEO strategies, when done right, can be very profitable for your business. Best part – no expensive marketing tools required. All you need is just a little bit of effort and an insanely keen attention to detail and you can expect a significantly higher return on investment in no time.
How Do I Get My Website Ranked Higher Using Local SEO?
Now that we have you interested, you must be wondering how you can apply SEO to your local website. Or if you are already doing it, what can you do to improve it even better? The fact that you’ve read this far into the article means you’re serious about this – and that’s a good start.
Before you try to change anything on your website, let’s check what you’re already doing right so let’s perform our own improvisation of S-E-O:
Local websites are typically smaller and have fewer issues. However, precision is always the key to effective SEO. So before you start with anything new, make sure everything you already have is still up and running.
Broken links – clean up or fix links that do not serve their purpose anymore. Searching for them in your website mano-a-mano is too much of a hassle and a seemingly impossible task for lazy people. Luckily, we now have SEO tools to help us with that. Try using LinkChecker or Screaming Frog SEO Spider – works like a charm.
Duplicate Content – On-site, content should also be unique for all pages. Sometimes, issues on duplicate content can arise either because (1) your tags, categories, and archives are indexed in Google or (2) pagination problems. For this kind of problem, you can still use Screaming Frog SEO Spider or Siteliner to help. If you’re on WordPress, install an All in One SEO Pack – it’s easier!
Site Speed – Try visiting your site as a customer. Are you happy with your current speed? If you aren’t, then your clients and Google must be doubly upset about it too. Try checking your site’s ping using Pagelocity or UpTrends.
Evaluate Site Standing
If you’re running a blog or a particular service and you’re already applying the basic principles of SEO, try searching your primary keyword on Google.
For example, I’m a hairdresser with a parlor based in Boston. I run a local website for my shop. So I’d key in “hairdresser Boston MA” and try to check my webpage’s current standing.
How about you? Where do you see your website? If it’s not within the first 20 pages, then you finally understand why you’re having little to no traffic. This will show you how far you still need to leap in order to get to that front page. But don’t let this discourage you. Instead, let this fuel your drive to become better.
You are definitely not the only one in your local industry trying to get ahead in the SERPs. But the thing with local SEO is that most of your competitors are pretty lax about it which gives you more opportunity to catch them off guard. When you come to visit their websites, scout for the following information:
- Is their website easy to navigate?
- Is it mobile friendly?
- Do they blog frequently? Are the blogs relevant and meaningful, or just site fodder?
- Have they set up social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.?
- Do they run a YouTube account? How often do they update videos?
No, this is not stalking. Let’s just call it “researching.” After all, when you dive into deep waters, it’s better to know how deep it is – right? Take this opportunity to know how similar businesses compete and use it to your advantage. Devise counter-measures or set-up gimmicks they still don’t have.
On-site audit – check!
Now on to our main mission and that is to effectively apply SEO to your local website!
Step 1: Keyword Search
Any good SEO is backed up with some serious keyword research. I guess you can say that Google’s trusty henchmen – the crawlers – are hunting for these in your website. But that doesn’t mean you should vandalize your pages with keywords just for the heck of it! SEO only works when your careful about it – try to keep everything low-key as much as you can.
Here is how you do a basic keyword search:
(Note: We’ll be using the hairdresser example)
- You will need an SEO tool for this. I suggest you try the free version of keywordtool or you can use Google Adwords Keyword Planner. We’ll start with how you can use keywordtool:
- First, type in “hairdresser Boston MA”
- The program will generate results for you like shown below:
- The problem with the free version (keywordtool) is that you don’t get to see the search volume. However, most of these tools present results in descending order so it’ll be safe to assume that the ones presented first have higher search volumes.
- You can see that aside from searches with specific parlor names my keyword “hairdresser Boston MA” is at a good spot. Thus, I have no need to change my primary keyword.
- Tick all the boxes that you feel are relevant to your topic. Around 35-40 keywords are ideal but since this is a geo-specific search, results tend to be fewer due to the strict criterion. So I’ll settle with 14:
- Next, click export. You can choose to save your search as an Excel or CSV file.
- Map out the keywords, choosing the word/phrase that appears most as your primary keyword, and the remaining words will serve as additional “keys” for your content.
Next is using Google’s Keyword Planner:
- Type the keyword (hairdresser) + the name of the city (Boston MA) in the search box.
- After the results are generated, you are then presented with different versions. Look for the one with the most search volume. If it’s not the same as the one you’ve previously used, make it your new primary keyword.
- The thing about local websites is that the population you’re trying to cater to is small – too small, perhaps. So to increase business opportunity, our next step is to find neighboring places near Boston, MA. Either you look at a map or search “hairdresser Massachusetts” that should get you to cover some cities around Boston. For example, I find two more cities, Springfield and Worcester, that also have a good volume of users looking for hairdressers. If you’re giving quality service and people come to love you, they wouldn’t mind the extra 45-minute drive.
- Now that we have our primary keyword and related locations, we can further our search by looking up other keys that relate to “hairdresser.” You’ll probably end up with classifications, categories, and different techniques on hairdressing.
- That’s it. Hold on to these keywords and phrases for they will be put to good use in the following steps.
Step 2: Meta Information
When you’re making content for a webpage or blog article, adding metadata that is both convincing and intriguing is a surefire way to improve the ranking of your website. It won’t land you straight to the front pages but it should boost your standing by at least 10-15 pages forward – assuming you do it right.
Adding meta information is similar to making a marketing pitch or shoutout post telling people what a certain page on your website is about – they just come in HTML tags. They aren’t visible on the webpage, but they get recognized by search engines when their crawlies come across them 🙂 When you don’t put up meta tags, Google will generate it for you by scavenging whatever they find relevant in your website.
Although everything seems like techno jargon, it is actually very simple. All you have to do is focus on two things: Meta title and meta description.
Other websites also try to incorporate meta keywords but they hardly do anything worth the extra work. So let’s just focus on learning the first two mentioned.
In most blog posts, the Meta title is the same as the article title – and that’s absolutely fine. Although, it is important to note that if you are to do this, you need to have a strong title that can stand alone. The technique lies in incorporating your primary keyword in the Meta title. For instance:
“Best Hairdresser in Boston MA Shows You 5-minute Hair Hacks”
As you can see, we used our primary keyword “hairdresser in Boston MA” in the title cited above. Therefore, we can say that it can be appropriately used as a meta title as well. You also need to be SPECIFIC with the kind of information you’re going to share with users. If you can add a prefix a “best, how to, learn, etc.,” a number or time element, and an object (in this case – hair hacks), you can pique the readers’ interests better.
In the case of homepages, you would want to try to include all the major keywords you’ve generated during your keyword search into the Meta title. This allows you to rank for multiple keywords at the same time. Supposing my primary keyword is “hairdresser in Boston MA” and I found out that “hairdresser for wedding”, “hairdresser for birthday”, and “hairdresser for prom”, are all keywords with significantly high search volumes, I will then try to use the information I have to make a winning Meta title. It’ll probably look something like this:
“Expert Hairdresser in Boston MA – Weddings, Birthdays, Proms | Mr. Hairdresser”
We don’t just stop at the title. If you’re going to do this local SEO thing, you might as well go all out with your Meta description. This refers to a short statement, usually 150 -160 characters in length, which sort of preempts what your site has to offer. More often than not, your website’s CTR depends on how effectively you can make this pitch.
For the Meta title I came up with, I can coordinate it with a Meta description like this:
“Attending a wedding, prom, or birthday? Have our best hairdressers near Boston, Springfield, & Worcester help you out – today! Click here to learn more.”
You may notice that at the end of the description, I included an actionable statement. This is what SEO would term as a “call to action” and it’s important to make people perform a suggested behavior.
Just in case you get any ideas, avoid including your contact information in the Meta description. This may increase the number of calls you get and land you more appointments but it will also affect your CTR or Click Through Rate. This refers to the number of times the link to your website is accessed by a visitor. Google takes this into careful consideration when deliberating your rank. Higher CTR = higher ROI in the long run.
Step 3: Link, Link, Link!
Link Out To Sources
It’s important that your content is backed up by other reliable websites with strong DAs (Domain Authority) – especially when you’re blogging. This will make your site more reliable and trustworthy in the eyes of users and Google.
Incorporating external links on your website is good, but don’t forget that you are trying to promote your own website – above anything else. You should also add internal links to your web pages and blog pages. This should allow users to navigate through the pages of your website easily; this is also a good way to maintain web traffic. Creating an internal link to our homepage of Tayloright.com can be a branded link or a keyword link like New York SEO services.
To do this better, do not just randomly add internal links anywhere. You can create a sitemap and plan out how you can get the different pages in your website to point into the direction of the cash pages. Setting up a locations and portfolio page is also a good way to promote your business. Again, make sure to link in a centralized manner going towards the cash pages.
Whenever you use content that is not yours, cite your sources accordingly. This will help you avoid plagiarism issues and other content-related problems for your website. To learn more about proper citation here’s a very good article about it.
Step 4: Add Value & Meaning
This is that “one thing” that will set your website apart from the rest and something that will definitely earn Google’s favor. As a website that’s aiming for the front pages, your job is not only to increase your own revenue but to give value to users as well. Think of it as a give and take relationship.
One way you can give back is through blogging what you think people are most concerned about in your industry. In our hairdresser example, it is not enough that you keep shouting out to the world that you’re the best – you should let them know why. Create content which proves that you know what you’re doing.
If I were the blogger, I would create content for these titles:
“7 Hair Styles to Avoid in 2018 | Ask Mr. Hairdresser”
“Expert Boston Hairdresser’s Top 10 Hair Styles for the Office”
“Boston Hairdressers 101: How to Avoid Getting Ripped Off”
Write honestly, add value, and give meaning to the content you deliver. It will definitely help with boosting your CTR.
Step 5: Other Considerations
NAP stands for “Name, Address, and Phone Number.” It is important for the NAP information to remain consistent and visible in all your online marketing pursuits. In your website, it would be best to have it fixed as a footer in all pages so that it remains in your visitors’ peripherals.
Adding a Google Map Widget beside it for location reference is a huge plus!
Google Business Page
It would be great for your business if you can turn up both in the local organic and local pack results. So after everything is set on your website, don’t forget to create your business page on Google.
Don’t forget to use your NAP consistently to reap better results in your local SEO!