Local search is one of the best ways for small businesses to get in front of potential customers. But according to a recent Manta poll, many small business owners are not engaging in local SEO best practices.
More than 50% of small business owners don’t encourage customers to leave online reviews, 75% have not claimed their Google My Business profile and 83% do not have a mobile-friendly website.Click to tweet
Don’t Be Afraid of Optimizing Your Website for Local Search
Optimizing your website for local search does take time, but you don’t have to be a technical wizard to make improvements. Plus, if you put in the effort, you can measurably improve your chances of having someone find your business at the very moment they’re looking for a product or service just like yours.
If you’re ready to get started, here are the top do’s and don’ts of local SEO for small business.
Do: Claim Your Google My Business Profile
Filling out a Google My Business profile is the best place to start if you’re trying to optimize your business for local search. Verifying your business info on Google makes your company look more trustworthy to the search engine. It also helps your business show up in Google searches and on Google Maps. You’ll be prompted to add your business address, phone number and website, plus a business description, category and photos. The more you add, the better!
Don’t: Forget to Ask for Reviews
Online reviews have a big influence on local search results, so don’t overlook them. Find a way to politely ask happy customers to review your business. (You could print instructions on a business card, or include a note in your emails.) If you get negative feedback, don’t panic. Almost everyone gets a bad review at some point—as long as you respond graciously and do your best to resolve the problem, it won’t hurt your business.
Do: Claim The Rest of Your Business Listings
Google looks at more than just its own listings when determining search results. It also looks at where else on the internet your business appears. This true for other search engines like Bing as well. Make sure that your business is listed on directories like Yellow Pages, Yelp, Facebook, LinkedIn, Mapquest and Manta to improve your chances of ranking well in local search results.
Don’t: Leave Business Listings Inconsistent
Consistency is key when it comes to business listings—and anywhere else your business name, address and phone number (also know and NAP) appear online. Even small variations (such as using “Road” instead of “Drive”) or listing a sales number instead of your general number can confuse search engines. If you want to rank well, keep a close eye your NAP consistency. Make sure all your listings match your website.
Do: Get Backlinks
When other websites link back to yours, it’s called a backlink. Backlinks makes you look more relevant and trustworthy to search engines. How do you get them? Start by running a search to see if your business is mentioned anywhere online. If your business is mentioned without a link, it’s acceptable to reach out and politely ask for one. If you’re looking for ways to gain more coverage, get involved in your community to build offline relationships that can lead to online exposure.
Don’t: Pay for Links
When it comes to local SEO, there are no quick and easy solutions. So if an agency or website makes promises that seem too good to be true, be wary. If someone offers to build hundreds of links for a cheap price, they’re probably using link networks, private blog networks or link automation. Google penalizes websites that rely on this kind of link building, and it’s just not worth it.
Do: Upgrade to a Mobile-friendly Website
These days, almost everyone uses a smartphone or tablet to surf the internet at home and on the go. Mobile-friendly websites are designed to work just as well on mobile devices as on a desktop computer, so that customers navigate easily on a smaller screen. Google privileges mobile-friendly websites in search results, and it’s well worth the investment to get someone to help you update yours.
Don’t: Stop There! Think About User Engagement
With so many options at our fingertips, most of us click away from a website when we don’t find what we want right away. Even if you have a mobile-friendly website, ask yourself if it’s easy for customers to find what they want. Is there information you could add? Is information buried under too many menus? Google weighs user engagement in its search ranking, so having a website your customers engage with will only improve your SEO.
Do: Publish Useful Content
This might be one of the most important pieces of local search advice. Written content is one of the main ways Google decides whether your website is relevant to certain search terms. If you put a business description, FAQ page and even a blog, you get a chance to add important keywords to your website and position yourself as an expert in your field. Just be sure to keep the focus on what your customers want and need.
Don’t: Use Keyword Stuffing
Keywords are important (you can use tools like Google Trends to choose the right ones for your industry), but you can overdo it. “Keyword stuffing” refers to the practice of inserting a high volume of keywords into a page with zero regard to the readability or usefulness of the text. This is another tactic Google penalizes, and it will hurt you in the long run.