Being a local business owner comes with unique challenges. Every day is new, there are no rules, and you have to pave your own path in your industry. Sometimes that means fixing a cash register on the fly. Sometimes that means researching, then planning, your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy.
But how do you do SEO?
Customers turn to search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo to find “restaurants near me” or the “best plumber in my city.” According to a 2014 study, 4 out of 5 customers use search engines to find local information, including restaurants, services, and entertainment.
Search engines like Google determine which local websites are relevant and useful to the searcher. This way, only the best local search results turn up when someone searches for “dog walkers” instead of every single link on the internet related to either dogs or walking.
To make sure you show up in those local search results, you’ll have to work on SEO. Following SEO best practices for your website and social media pages will help Google understand that your page is the best page for certain keywords and search terms.
Don’t panic if you’re not sure how to do that. This beginner’s SEO guide on how to boost your local SEO results will help you get started.
First, know the difference between local and non-local SEO
Optimizing for search ranges from broad and all-encompassing (think “plumbing”), to local and specific (“best tailor in Kansas City open today”). Each industry has its own search-specific keywords. Get familiar with yours.
An easy way to do keyword research: Search Google for your business or industry, and view the “Searches related to” at the bottom of the first results page.
The difference between SEO and local SEO might not seem immediately obvious. You can think of it like two circles on a map—the small circle is your city or town, the big circle is the entire country.
The big circle may have broader terms that can bring in a wide variety of results, including Wikipedia articles or news reports.
The smaller circle will have local keywords and search phrases that use tell-tale language like “near me,” “nearby” or that specify the city where your business is located. These search results are more centralized to your area.
Yes, you need local SEO for your business
Once you have a sense of the best keywords for your industry—whether it’s educational materials or at-home pet services—make sure your SEO strategy targets local customers first before branching out in the world. As a small business, your potential customers, and in many cases, your most valuable customers are already in your neighborhood. They’ll appreciate the ease of shopping close to home, as well as the connection to their community many find by buying local.
Remember: People increasingly search their mobile devices for answers to questions like “where is the nearest grocery store.” If you’re going to build a local ranking and loyal customer base, remember that SEO is a verb. It’s an ongoing discipline to boost and maintain your presence in local search.
Try a few simple techniques to boost your local SEO
Get started with these tips:
- Google search your business name: Mimic a customer’s search to see where you rank. In the results, check your title tags, URLs, and meta descriptions. These are all elements that affect your local search ranking, and they should be clean and clear.
- Claim your Google My Business listing: GMB is your business profile that helps Google understand your business. Your Google My Business page ensures your local listing shows up in Google Maps and local search results. Similarly, claim your free Nextdoor Business Page to ensure you show up on local searches in your neighborhood on Nextdoor.
- Creating a (free) Google Analytics account: Google Analytics is a free tool that lets you track trending search terms, traffic on your website, and other useful metrics. Another tool, Google Search Console, will tell you which keywords drive traffic to your website.
- Sharing relevant links on your webpage and social media: Sharing links, known as link building to related topics and businesses, signals that you’re connected to your industry and product lines. Google will regard you as an expert and will be more likely to show your website in Google search results.
- Local citations: Make sure your business name, address, and phone number are correct wherever your website is referenced online. Whether it’s on Nextdoor, online review sites, or business directories, your business information is an easy ranking factor to control.
Remember: You’re not alone
Each city and town has its own network and community of independent business owners. Chances are, they’re also wrestling with local SEO.
Check your local Small Business Administration for events that focus on helping local business owners learn the digital ropes.
The Small Business Council, a dedicated committee within the Chamber of Commerce, also offers resources for small business owners looking to improve their digital presence. Attending classes is a win-win in this situation: You’ll improve your SEO knowledge and grow your in-person network at the same time.