Take a moment to think about what successful SEO means to you. Heaps of traffic from all over the world? Number one rankings for the most competitive keywords? More email subscribers than you can count?
All of those would be undoubtedly fantastic, but if you’re optimizing a site for a new business location, you’d actually do better to think a little smaller. With local SEO tips designed to drive local results, you can gain regional visibility, build a stronger community and connect with nearby consumers like never before.
- How Can Local SEO Tips Benefit You?
- Establish Relevance
- Define Location
- Optimize Google My Business
- Create Location-Specific Content
- Encourage Customer Reviews
- Build an Online Community
- Collaborate with Local Influencers
How Can Local SEO Tips Benefit You?
Although the explosive popularity of online shopping has certainly taken its toll on some local businesses, other aspects of the internet helped others flourish. One of those is local search: With a single search engine query, users can discover dozens of local businesses that meet their needs exactly.
As search engine algorithms and features become more advanced, local search has grown exponentially. Google has its own internal statistics to prove it—between 2016 and 2018, searches including the phrase near me today/tonight grew by an astonishing 900 percent. Similarly, searches including the phrase near me now positively skyrocketed between 2013 and 2017:
For businesses with brick and mortar locations, the lesson is simple: The potential for online discoverability is great, so local SEO is more powerful (and necessary) than ever before. One case study found that a combination of local SEO tactics generated a 320 percent increase in organic traffic and local keyword rankings in less than a year.
If results of those caliber sound unattainable, know that they’re not—with a multi-pronged approach built on smart local SEO tips, you can learn how to do local SEO to drive significant results and more conversions for a new location.
As is always the case with modern search engine algorithms, genuine relevance is paramount to success. This is true for local SEO, too: When users search for, say, New Orleans seafood restaurants, they don’t want to get results for barbeque joints in Texas.
So when tackling SEO for a new location, it’s crucial to tell search engines not only where the business is located but also what kind of business it is. The more specific, the better—if a restaurant’s site uses the keyword seafood multiple times, search engines will know exactly what kind of restaurant it is and can therefore deliver better, more relevant local search results.
To establish a new location’s relevance, begin by incorporating basic keywords related to its vertical and specialties. Continuing our New Orleans seafood restaurant example (anyone else starting to crave gumbo?), those keywords could include:
- seafood boil;
- seafood buffet;
- jambalaya; and
- shrimp po’ boy.
Not sure how to discover the best keywords for the site you’re optimizing? Begin by using a keyword research tool like Google Trends to find queries and topics related to the site’s most fundamental keyword (in this case, seafood):
Then, use a more SEO-specific tool such as Moz’ Keyword Explorer to uncover additional keyword suggestions and more in-depth metrics:
Finally, use the new location’s unique specialties and selling points to identify keywords that will establish its niche in the eyes of both search engines and users. As long as they’re incorporated naturally, those keywords can be sprinkled throughout any type of content, from blog posts to landing pages to social media posts.
As you might expect, one of the most fundamental local SEO tips involves specifying where a new location is, well, located. You can accomplish this by incorporating location-specific keywords into the site’s content. Examples of such keywords include the location’s:
- address, including the postal code; and
- phone number, including the country and area code.
To solidify a business’ location even further, modify its code to include location and language tags. This can be accomplished with the hreflang attribute, as well as with the HTML lang attribute and ISO country code.
Optimize Google My Business
When a user searches for a specific business or type of business, they want to see the most amount of relevant information possible. Give them what they’re looking for by optimizing Google My Business (don’t forget to optimize Apple Maps Connect and Bing Places for Business too).
Once you’ve set up a Google My Business (GMB) account, you can fill out any location’s profile with essentials such as business hours, contact information, photos, a link to its website and more. On Google Maps, that information will show up alongside the business’ location to give users a helpful frame of reference.
Los Angeles’ Tatsu Ramen provides a prime example of how a fleshed out GMB profile can come together to create a top-notch user experience:
Optimizing a business’ GMB profile to include important keywords (such as ramen, Japanese noodle soups and gourmet, in Tatsu Ramen’s case) will also make it easier for Google to determine the business’ niche and relevance, thereby increasing its chances of ranking for related queries.
Also be sure to check the new location’s listings for accuracy across all platforms—a free tool like Local Galex can help speed up the process.
Create Location-Specific Content
No matter how many technical tactics it employs, no SEO strategy is complete without high-quality content. To improve local SEO, that content should be custom-tailored to suit the business’ specific location.
For instance, the cosmetics giant Sephora has thousands of locations around the world, but its local landing pages feature contact information, event details and directions specific to each location. Take its downtown Denver landing page for example:
Landing pages aren’t your only option, though—you can also create blog articles and social media posts geared toward a business’ new location, making sure to pepper appropriate keywords throughout each one.
When crafting a local landing page, be sure to:
- put the most critical information (address, phone number and directions) at the top of the page;
- optimize for mobile in terms of both design and speed;
- provide an easy way for users to view the landing pages for other locations;
- add location-specific information to the page’s meta description
- create a unique and straightforward URL, such as www.example.com/locations/denver.
Encourage Customer Reviews
It’s been true for centuries past, and it’s still true today: Word of mouth is a key component of any successful business. And in an age when more than half of the world’s population uses the internet, digital word of mouth is just as important as its face-to-face counterpart.
That’s where customer reviews come in: They can serve to spread the word about a business while simultaneously boosting search engine rankings and helping to create a genuine sense of engagement with customers.
As an SEO practitioner, you’re probably wondering whether customer reviews are a direct ranking factor, and the answer is a firm “yes.” Review signals such as quantity, velocity and diversity were one of the top ranking factors for local SEO as of 2018, and Google explicitly states that positive reviews will increase a business’ visibility.
A quick search for any type of business in a populated area proves this to be true—only businesses with a number of favorable reviews are typically featured at the top of Google’s results page:
So how can you start getting user reviews to begin with? The simplest approach is to remind customers that their feedback, whether good or bad, is always welcome. To be clear, don’t turn to questionable tactics like offering discounts or free products in exchange for reviews.
Instead, make it easy for customers to leave reviews should they wish to do so—for example, by adding Yelp Review Badges to the site or sending occasional feedback request emails.
To get good reviews, though, you’ll need to constantly focus on creating a positive and memorable experience whether online or in-store. Remember, Google places a strong emphasis on the user experience, and will reward businesses that customers love.
Build an Online Community
Before the internet, customers could only engage with businesses by sending letters, making phone calls or attending in-person events. In 1954, Mary Welsh Hemingway (yes, that Hemingway) even wrote to Betty Crocker for baking advice from an African safari.
But in the age of social media, live chat services and email, easy and frequent brand-to-customer communication is not only possible but obligatory: In a 2020 survey from Sprout Social, 79 percent of consumers said they expect a brand response within 24 hours of reaching out on social media.
Customers also want to stay up to date—the survey found that more than half (57 percent) follow brands online to learn about new products or services, more than any other reason cited:
For local businesses, a strong online presence can have the additional advantage of building a robust online community based on geographic location. After all, a survey of 1,000 Americans found that nearly 75 percent of respondents shop at local businesses to support their community, and 47 percent already receive regular tech-driven outreach from those same businesses.
Some forms of digital outreach from local businesses, namely Facebook, Twitter and Instagram communications, increased significantly between 2018 and 2019 alone:
Translation? If you want to give customers the sense of community they crave and keep up with the competition, you need to start reaching out online, whether that means starting a Facebook group or sending engaging newsletters to your email list.
Collaborate with Local Influencers
Contrary to what you might see on your Instagram feed, effective influencer marketing doesn’t need to involve spending a fortune on celebrity endorsements. In fact, the fewer followers an influencer has, the more engagement their posts are likely to generate—those with less than 1,000 followers saw significantly better engagement rates than their more widely-followed counterparts:
Why such a large discrepancy? Perhaps it has something to do with consumers’ tendency to trust people they relate to: A study from PR agency Matter Communications revealed that across all categories, from wellness to technology to beauty, 60 to 70 percent of consumers prefer influencers with relatable personalities.
Whatever the case, the lesson is clear: Working with local influencers, no matter their follower count, can be a serious boon to any business’ new location. To maximize exposure and conversions, draw on your SEO knowledge to ensure that every influencer post includes the appropriate keywords and links. Don’t forget to brush up on the Federal Trade Commission’s influencer guidelines, either—they’re just as applicable to small influencers are they are to A-list stars.
Think Small to Win Big
SEO practices tend to place a great deal of value on sky-high numbers—more traffic, more reach, more everything. For local SEO, though, focusing on a smaller, more specific area of service can drive better results than a widespread strategy.
While others may struggle to rank for general search queries dominated by industry giants, you can gain a competitive edge by catering to the people who matter most for your new location.
Think with Google / May 2018
Screenshots by author / September 2020
Sprout Social / May 2020
Cox Business / May 2020
Influencer Marketing Hub / March 2020