Local SEO (search engine optimisation) is one of the effective ways of reaching customers who are looking to buy a service/product in the area you trade.
Both Google and Bing have highlighted the importance of local SEO for businesses: over 20 per cent of desktop queries and around 50 per cent of mobile queries are local in nature. If optimisation is done well, you could be one of the first businesses customers see when they conduct their online search, meaning you could secure customers who may have never heard of your business before.
Business insurance specialist Premier BusinessCare, actively uses digital channels to target its market. Here, the company shares some great local SEO tips that independent businesses could benefit from in order to out-perform their local rivals in web searches. Take a look at what you need to do to get started.
If you are just starting your business, you may want to consider how the name can impact how easily new customers find you in searches.
By having the type of business and the area you trade included within both the business name and the website’s domain name, (eg a bakery in Margate might be called The Margate Bakery, and website domain name themargatebakery.co.uk) you are making it extremely clear to search engines that your business is in this area. This means when someone makes a local search (such as ‘Margate bakery’, or they search ‘bakery near me’ when they are in the area), your business has a good chance of showing highly in the search results.
If your business trades from multiple locations, having the area in your domain name is not a good idea. You should instead create a non-area specific domain (ie carlsbooks.co.uk), and then individual location pages on your site (eg carlsbooks.co.uk/croydon). Then in Google My Business (explained below), creates locations which match these pages.
If your business’s name doesn’t explain its function, categories in Google My Business should help search engines define what you are selling.
Google My Business
Google My Business (GMB) is an important tool that many small businesses use for local SEO. Without GMB, you have no control over how your business appears in a local search or on Google Maps. Your business may still appear in the search results, but you may find that it is not presented as you would like, and may not rank as well as it could in local searches, giving customers greater opportunity to choose one of your competitors.
For your GMB account, you need to add information which is going to show in the search results, ie business name, phone number, address, website URL, opening times, images, etc. If you are unsure about what you need to add, take a look at an existing Google Maps listing.
Categorisation in GMB
To make sure search results are as relevant as possible, search engines rely heavily on category data.
Business owners can add categories themselves through GMB. You may add multiple categories if your business provides more than one service or product. For example, if your hairdressing business also trades as a nail salon, you would need to add ‘nail salon’ to your GMB categories, as well as ‘hairdressers’.
For the best chance of ranking well for searches related to your business, try not to overload your GMB account with irrelevant categories, as this can draw attention away from your key categories.
Managing reviews via GMB
Online reviews of your business can be very powerful, both in the positive and negative sense. If you were trying to choose between two local businesses, would you choose the one with two negative reviews, or the one with three positive reviews and two negative? Reviews can often be the deciding factor on a decidedly thin line.
“Send an email request to repeat customers, asking if they’d like to leave a review for you”
By using Google My Business, you have the ability to respond to both negative and positive reviews. If you receive a positive review, you can thank the customer for their feedback, which may encourage repeat custom.
Likewise, if you receive a negative review complaining of a faulty item, a speedy response which acknowledges the issue, with an action to rectify the problem will look good for potential customers who are browsing similar businesses. In fact, any response is better than no response when it comes to online reviews: by picking up on customer feedback, you are telling the potential customer that you are open for business and are proactive in keeping customers happy.
A great way to obtain positive reviews for your business is to send an email request to repeat customers, asking if they’d like to leave a review for you. If you deal with customers on your premises, such as in a shop or car garage, then simply ask your repeat customers in person. Most people who are buying from you on a frequent basis should be happy to help you out.
Business listings and citations
Getting your business name, address and phone number listed (known as a citation) on reputable sites can shore up search engines’ confidence in the accuracy of your business details, which could mean better rankings in local search results. If all of these details are consistent with those on your GMB account, you will stand an even greater chance of beating competitors for searches relevant to your business.
Some leading websites to create free listings on are Facebook, Hotfrog, Yelp and Foursquare, which are all deemed extremely trustworthy by search engines.
Getting a lot of citations from reputable sites is the ideal scenario and, if you have listed your business on the above four listing sites, you will already have a head start.
The important thing is that the details are consistent across all listings. You can monitor citations with a simple site search, ie ‘site:webname.co.uk’ for mentions of your domain, or do a generic search using double quotation marks for ‘[your company’s name]’ to check any mentions of your business details across the web.
If you spot any incorrect business details, you should either change the listing yourself, or get in touch with the site owner and request for it to be changed.
Local content on your website
Another important part of local SEO is to have content about the area on your website. The usual place for this is on a ‘Contact Us’ page.
Along with your address, telephone number, email address and opening times, you should add other useful information, such as travel directions from nearby places. If you wish to show your location in a way most people are familiar with, you can add a Google Map of your location to the page, (such as on the Waterstone’s website). As well as being useful for potential customers, this provides even more evidence to search engines that your business operates in that locality.
If you implement all of the above, in time you will have a great chance of outperforming your rivals in local search engine results and winning over potential new customers.
Kris Littlewood is digital marketing specialist at Premier BusinessCare.