Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a term used to describe the practice of making positive changes to a website to get it to, among other things, appear higher on global internet search engine rankings. It’s a massive and, at times, incredibly complex process that, when done right, yields exceptional results.
Local SEO is exactly as it sounds: optimizations aimed at improving your website’s local search rankings, and for small businesses operating on a local rather than national or even global level, it’s a must-have to grow your customer base.
It is all about improving the visibility of your website so that when local users search for something, they find you. This involves making many changes to a website beyond simply the programming code used to build it.
SEO consultants, like ours at AAA Digital Marketing, will conduct a thorough search of local keyword search terms, geographic modifiers, and identifiers like city names or zip codes. We will help integrate these throughout your website, from the products and services you sell to additional content (like blogs) and “invisible” elements like image titles and meta descriptions.
Doing this gets your website indexed properly, which means it is more likely to appear to the search engine as relevant to a user’s query because it builds authority over your competition. As a result, your website will see higher levels of organic traffic as its reputation builds, allowing you to see higher business growth.
It’s worth noting that seeing results from SEO can take time. But for small businesses, local SEO is often a lot simpler as you are not trying to optimize your website to compete with the global behemoths that can throw near-limitless money at getting their names at the top of search engines.
Google Maps Optimization
Local SEO can further be boosted by the correct use of Google Maps Optimization.
Whilst many different map apps are available, Google Maps is undoubtedly the most popular, so to get local exposure for your business it’s vital to make sure you have a Google Maps marketing strategy in place. This is because it’s incredibly common now to see local businesses appearing with generic searches.
For example, if you search for the term “bookstore” you will undoubtedly find that the first few results are for businesses local to your geographical location, assuming you have location data enabled. These will all be ranked by which ones Google thinks are the most relevant, which is based on your Google Maps ranking.
Fortunately, it’s quite simple to do.
To start, you should create a free Google My Business listing, which effectively tells Google Maps that your business exists and where to find it. But the work does not stop here, because your aim is to get local users to find your company over your competitors.
To do this, your listing needs to be correctly optimized, which means all of these:
- choosing the right category for your business
- adding contact information
- uploading quality photographs optimized to include metadata like latitude/longitude coordinates or keywords
- making sure the listing is 100% accurate
The above list may sound obvious, but a remarkable number of businesses get this wrong, and even the smallest formatting error, like an extra space, will affect your ranking.
You can also specify on your listing which area(s) your business serves and whether your company address actually physically serves customers at the primary location or not.
Getting your listing verified is also an important step, which can take as long as two weeks. Google will mail you a postcard with a PIN code unique to the address you provide, which you will need to use to confirm the verification process.
Customer reviews can also have a big impact on your Google Maps score, but this is always easier said than done. Whilst your website may (and should) have a system that encourages reviews, it should certainly be geared towards getting customers to review your business listing on Google, as a higher average review score can help place your business above others. Be warned that the reverse is true, with negative reviews potentially pulling your score down!
But reviews alone are not enough, as Google does not simply rank businesses based on customer ratings, which is why it is so important to make sure your business listing is fully and accurately optimized. Without it, your small business may miss out on big sales!