Understanding Local SEO – Does Your Business Need it?

If you currently run a local brick and mortar business, and you have a physical location, you’ve probably been told before that your business needs a professionally designed website that requires Local SEO.

With many businesses losing sales commissions and services to the online realm, more and more people are pushing to gain an online presence and gather a more potential audience to voice their available services and solutions online.

As the modern era of communication evolves to the internet, there lies an ever- growing opportunity to grasp a much more vastly wider audience than ever before.

But for many brick and mortar business owners, local SEO is often a confusing and eluding term; what does “Local SEO” even mean and does my business really need it?

What Exactly Is “Local SEO”?

Local SEO is term used to specify Search Engine Optimization (SEO) on a local geographic location. If you understand the basic term of SEO, then you’ll understand the importance of ranking in Google for a specific “keyword” or “Search Phrase” that ultimately classes what your business is all about.

For example, if a person types into Google “Plumbers in Melbourne”, the top ranking websites for plumbers in Melbourne would ultimately appear.

Apart from the obvious Google Adsense advertisements located at the top of the SERPs (Search Engine Results Page) where those businesses are paying per click (PPC) to get their website advertised, you can see from the results below that www.jimsplumbing.net.au and www.innercityplumbing.com.au are ranking highly on Page #1 of the search results of Google, and not paying advertising fees to do so.

Figure 1: Companies in the SERPs utilizing Local SEO

Figure 1: Companies in the SERPs utilizing Local SEO

What Types of Businesses Need Local SEO?

Any business that sources most of its customers locally, should leverage Local SEO. Many tradesmen, restaurants, doctors, dentists, lawyers, and local retail store for example all could benefit from being ranked locally in the search engines.

The fact of the matter is, if you have a physical address in a city and expect people to go there based on that location, your business needs local SEO.

Local SEO should not be confused with national SEO, where websites are trying to rank for a different vein of keywords or search phrases.

For example, if you had a website that sold baby products online and shipped globally or nationally, then you would probably want to try and rank for keywords such as “cheap baby clothes” or “buy baby monitor”.

However, if a brick and mortar business in Los Angeles sold baby products and sourced most of their customers locally, then you’ll probably want to try local SEO and rank for keywords such as “baby clothes supplier in Los Angeles” for example.

How Do You Customize Your Website To Rank Locally?

There are lot of determining factors to get your website ranked for a local SEO Google Search Phrase, including the following:

Getting a Google Places listing:

The first determining factor to rank locally in SEO keyword phrases is to get a Google Places listing of the physical address, phone number, and other information (and other platforms). Your local listing is what will display on localized search engine results.

Figure 2: Localized search engine results for the phrase: "Plumbers In Melbourne"

Figure 2: Localized search engine results for the phrase: “Plumbers In Melbourne”

Citation of your listing:

Another important factor is to verify and make sure that most places online that quote your physical business information is the same as your Google Places listing. Your company NAP (Name, Address & Phone Number) all need to be on the same page and in the same format as your local listing.

If your format is the same across the board on multiple websites, then Google can easily figure out where your business is mentioned on other websites, and seeing that your business is popular – further improving your localized ranking on the search engines.

It is also vitally important that you do not abbreviate any part of your NAP details. Have your full address, phone number and business name unabbreviated.

Quality Reviews:

Another important aspect to determine your rankings is reviews. The more quality reviews you have of your business on Google Places, the higher the popularity – which will in turn give you higher rankings.

Once you understand the basis of SEO, you’ll also understand that the more your website and business gains popularity, the higher ranking you’ll receive in the search engines, further snow-balling the exposure of your business.

What Other Factors Lead To A Higher Ranking In The Search Engines?

To get a successful ranking on the first page of Google and maintain its longevity is ultimately how great your business is received within the local community.

There are three determining factors to gain a successful ranking:

  • The number of citations across different websites
  • The number of reviews on Google Places (and other sources)
  • How positive the reviews of your business are overall.

Google takes into account a combination of the above factors, including backlinks to your website (other websites such as social media linking to your website) to determine your business’s ranking in the search engines.

Perhaps the most obvious factor that carries the most weight is the number of positive reviews your business has on Google Places and other review websites.

What Are Some Good Ways To Gain The Maximum Amount Of Positive Reviews?

Recommending your clients to your Google Places listing and leaving a positive review after receiving your product or service that you offer, is probably one of the most important things you can do to help your website ranking in the Local SEO SERPs.

There are a number of ways you can help accomplish this: Perhaps give your client a discount on their next service when they leave a positive review? Not only will this will help you gain return business, but this will also ensure that you’ll gain a maximum amount of positive reviews in a short amount of time – skyrocketing your SERPs position, and also gaining momentum with the amount of new clientele.

You could also perhaps offer them a voucher or something free in exchange for a positive review by the means of a flyer after the service has been completed with clear instructions of how to leave a positive review, or perhaps you could even have logos up in your windows or in your office showing the places where clients can leave reviews, and you could also leave links to your social profiles for people to leave reviews in your emails.

These are just some examples – you can be very creative here! 🙂

Do not – I repeat – DO NOT – ever under any circumstances BUY reviews for your business. Google has many placeholders that can determine fraudulent activity and will severely slap any websites that use shady methods to “force” a ranking on the search engines. This is clearly not advisable and highly not recommended.

What Are Some Great Ways To Get Multiple Citations For Your Business?

There are various online tools for finding citations on your website or business to locate the best citation sources for your city. (See the bottom of this article where I mention two citation services).

Also providing a guest blog post on another website could be hugely beneficial to your business, and you could also place your citation in your author bio of the guest blog post you’re providing – creating a valuable backlink to your website in the meantime, and gaining potential customers who visit your guest blog post.

Do I Have To Continue Doing Local SEO For My Business?

In a nutshell; Local, National, and International SEO is an on-going process.

While it’ll take a lot of work to get off the ground initially and gain traction, in a few short months you’ll notice that your website’s ranking will improve with the proper methods in place.

This includes a steady flow of positive reviews of your company coming into Google Places, social media shares of your business and other social signals, a steady addition of new citations of your business around the web and anything else positive about your business mentioned on the internet.

The reason why you’ll continually need to conduct your process of Local SEO is simply because of the local competition in your geographic area.

Your type of business may have a lot of competing companies in the local and surrounding suburbs, and providing an ongoing strategy of Local SEO for years to come will ensure that you have the edge over your competition.

Are There Any Companies Or Websites That Specialize In Local SEO?

Thankfully, if you’re struggling to maintain your online presence and continue your Local SEO strategy, you can simply pay another SEO company to take care of it all for you. But for that, quality comes with a price-tag – and you’ll get what you pay for.

There’s usually an upfront set-up cost, and month to month fee depending on the package you choose with the company.

Ideally, with a good SEO company, they should be utilizing a strategy that gives your website and service new reviews, citations, social media shares, and backlinks every single month.

How Much Can We Expect To Pay For A Local SEO Service?

If you would rather spend money to leverage time, then an SEO company that specializes in Local SEO probably is the answer for you.

Price wholly depends on what service you desire. This could range from $100 per month – or if your service is very competitive in your local area, anywhere up to tens of thousands of dollars per month.

Online SEO Services is a very fierce and competitive industry, and it would be better to source someone locally, rather than overseas in my personal opinion.

While it might be cheaper to pay someone from the Philippines $4 per hour to work on your website, with cost comes quality, and you need to source a company that is reputable.

If you put all of your time into a company that does a sub-par job of providing what you desire, your presence online could crash before you even started, and it could take a lot of time and money for another company to clean up the trash.

In essence – look for solid reviews first and ask questions of how their strategy works before placing any money on the table.

Your business is your livelihood, and it needs to be in the best hands possible at all times.

I’m Thinking About Tackling Local SEO Myself, What Are Some Good Resources For Conducting It?

Here are some recommended services:

  • First and foremost, you’ll need a Google Places listing. Click on the link here to create your listing. (Remembering to complete it 100% with NO abbreviations.
  • Yext This is an online service that spreads all the information from your Google Places listing across other major local platforms in the same format. This is HUGELY valuable, as each listing that is created becomes a new citation for your business.
  • KnowEm is tool that collects all of your social profiles that include your NAP (Name, Address and Phone Number) which will instantly give you a huge number of local citations for your business.

While Google Places is free, using the combination of Yext and KnowEm services will set your back $500 to $1000 per location depending on what package you choose to select. (Yext is an on-going monthly fee, while KnowEm is one-time).

What Other Factors Should I Incorporate Into Local SEO?

While I’ve provided some fantastic resources for “off-site” factors for ranking with Local SEO, I cannot stress enough the importance of making sure your website is in order first.

There are a number of elements to make sure your website is fit for the search engines, including:

  1. Make sure your NAP is visible on EVERY PAGE of your website, in EXACTLY THE SAME FASHION as how it is listed in your Google Places Listing. Ideally, the best place to display your NAP on every page of your website, would be in the header or footer of your site. (Most businesses place their NAP in the footer).
  2. Place your city and state names in the title tags, meta descriptions, and the general content of your website. While this is ultimately important for Local SEO, don’t try and force these details in where they don’t organically fit into the content of your site. Be natural.
  3. Make use of Schema Local Markup to help search engines better display your website in the local SEO listings.

These elements will ultimately help your website be crawled and ranked in the search engines. They make your website Google and search engine friendly, and also make the contact information about your business readily available for anyone who visits your website.

Matt Jones Portrait (small-PSD)

This guest post was brought to you by Matt Jones, a like-minded online entrepreneur, currently building a blog to help people like you make money online. Please check out his website here: http://sworntosucceed.net

Thanks Matt,