This guide covers everything you need to know about Local SEO For Small Businesses!
Do you want to rank your business on in Google’s map pack and local search results? Then you’re in the right place!
46% of Google Searches Are Local and 92% of searchers will only pick businesses on the first page of local search results.
Luckily, Google wants small businesses to enjoy the benefits of local SEO.
Using the resources and strategies in this guide, you can ensure that your small business will be found when your target customers search online.
What is Local SEO for Small Businesses?
Local SEO for Small Businesses involves ‘optimizing’ your website and online properties in order to increase visibility for relevant local searches.
To ensure that they deliver the most relevant local results to users, search engines rely on signals like Google My Business, Links, Citations, and proximity to the searcher.
Prefer video? You’re in luck!
What are Local SERPs?
The primary aim of Local SEO is to get your business to show up in Google’s Map Pack (a.k.a. “Local 3 Pack”) or the localized organic search results.
BrightLocal studied Local Services Ads (LSA’s) to determine their impact on click-through rates.
They found that with or without the overwhelming majority of users prefer the map pack and organic results.
Specifically, 28-32% of clicks go to the local “map pack,” and 44-51% go to the organic results.
What’s my point?
Searchers IGNORE ADS!
They prefer organic results.
Local SEO also comes into play when people search in Google Maps:
As you might expect, Local SEO has a significant impact on Mobile Results:
As well as the “Knowledge Panel”:
With Local SEO the search term doesn’t have to include a geo-modifier (specific location).
Google uses the GPS in your phone to identify your location in order to return the most relevant results in the local area.
What Influences Local SEO for Small Businesses?
When a user searches, how does Google determine which businesses to show in the map pack and organic results?
According to Moz’s local SEO study, the map pack and organic results are influenced by different factors.
Map Pack Ranking Factors:
As you can see, at 19% Google My Business is the most important factor in determining who shows up in the Map Pack.
Following closely behind are: Links, On-Page, Citation, and Review Signals.
Localized Organic Ranking Factors:
Coming in at 28%, Link Signals are the most important ranking factor of the organic results.
Keyword Research For Local SEO
Finding local keywords that you can target isn’t rocket science.
I’m sure you know your business inside and out.
What words or phrases are people likely to enter when they need the products or services you offer?
1. Find Industry-Specific Keywords
This will obviously vary depending on what type of business you have.
What will people type into search engines to find your business?
Put yourself in your ideal customers’ shoes… what words or phrases do they use to describe your products and/or services and your industry?
Come up with a list of 20-50 keywords and phrases.
Let’s say you have an Auto-Body Shop. Keyword ideas may include:
- Car Repair
- Oil Change
- Transmission Repair
- Brake Service
- Radiator Repair
2. Find Keyword Modifiers
Keyword modifiers are adjectives, adverbs, and any other words that people add to their main search query in order to get more relevant and specific results.
Adding keyword modifiers to your main keywords will produce long-tail keywords.
Let’s say your main keyword is “Brake Service.”
In the long tail keyword “Best Brake Service in Phoenix, AZ”, the keyword modifiers are:
- In Phoenix, AZ
Here’s another example:
Let’s say your main keyword is “Oil Change.” In the long-tail keyword “Cheapest Oil Change Near Me.” The keyword modifiers are:
- Near Me
3. Find Local Keywords
Think of the different areas that you service and where your customers come from.
Do you deliver products or travel for services?
Then include those cities, towns, counties, etc. in the content on your website and blog posts.
The following are examples of localized keywords:
- Greater Phoenix Collision Repair
- Scottsdale Mechanic
- Best Auto-Body Shop Scottsdale
- Auto-Mechanic Downtown Phoenix
- Paradise Valley Transmission Repair
Use KWFinder to Find Local Keywords
In KWFinder, just type in the keyword you would like information on.
Then, you can choose the location and even the language you’re targeting.
This will show you how difficult the keyword variations would be to rank for, their monthly search volume, and search trends of individual keywords.
One of the reasons KWFinder is my favorite tool for keyword research is its user-friendliness.
To see a list of keywords pulled from Google’s auto-complete click “Autocomplete.”
Click on “Questions” to see a list of questions that include your keyword.
Keyword research for local SEO isn’t much different from keyword research for conventional SEO.
That said, there are certain aspects that are evolving.
Voice Search Keywords
Most people have had the experience of searching by voice, using Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa or Google Home.
“By 2020, between 20 and 50 percent of all searches will be voice-initiated.”
What does this mean?
You need to start thinking about best practices and techniques for optimizing content for voice search & virtual assistants.
The hands-free nature of voice search means it’s likely to become the primary avenue for executing local searches.
For a lot of people, typing on their smartphone is a hindrance.
It’s easier to say “Hey Google, find a collision repair shop near me” or “Hey Alexa, find an auto-body shop that offers roadside assistance.”
Thus, it isn’t surprising to see a rise in local queries based on conversational voice searches.
Optimize for “___Near Me” Searches
Back in the day, “local” searches meant city and state.
So if you wanted to find a florist in Scottsdale, Arizona, you’d Google something like this:
Over the last few years local searches have gone from “city”… to “block”.
(Mostly thanks to an explosion in “___ Near Me” searches)
So if you run a local business, you NEED to optimize around terms that voice searchers use.
For example, the other day I was in Scottsdale, looking for a florist.
So I used the Google app to search for: “Florist Near Me”.
And I got a list of Florist Shops in Scottsdale:
Businesses that are properly optimized for these types of hyper-local searches will rank best.
(Which means more customers walking through the door)
Google My Business Optimization
Google My Business is the most important listing for your business.
This is where Google gets information about your business to display on Google Maps and the Knowledge Panel.
Google also uses your GMB listing as a reference point to compare with your other listings across the web.
Claim and Optimize Your Google My Business Listing
To claim your GMB listing, go to Google My Business > Click “Manage Now”
Step 1 – Enter the name of your business.
Step 2 – I recommend saying “Yes.”
Step 3 – Enter the Address
Step 4 – I recommend saying “Yes.”
Step 5 – Add your service areas.
Step 6 – Choose the category (small business) that best fits your business.
Once your GMB account is verified, you can add additional categories.
Step 7 – Enter the contact details that you want Google to show customers in the Map Pack and the knowledge panel.
Step 8 – Click “Finish” and Google will send you a postcard with a verification code that you’ll use to complete the signup process.
Complete Your Google My Business Profile in Full
When filling out your Google My Business listing remember to incorporate relevant terms specific to small business.
Include descriptions of the small business services you offer and provide answers to any questions Google asks about your business.
An easy way to set your profile apart from other small business companies it by including videos in your listing.
Google is likely to boost the rank of listings that include videos because it delivers a better user experience.
GMB – “Posts” Feature
Google My Business has a “Posts” feature that you can use to promote your products and services.
What types of Posts can you create?
1) What’s New – Standard Post Type with Image/Text/Button
2) Event – Create an event with an image, text, title, start/end dates, and CTA Button
3) Offer – Create an offer with image, title, start/end dates, coupon code, a link, and T&C.
GMB – “Question & Answers”
As a business owner, I’m sure you’ve had to answer the same question over and over.
Google My Business can help put a stop to repetitive questions.
The platform allows you to add a “Questions and Answers” section where you can address the most common questions asked by customers.
Once you’re done setting up and optimizing your Google My Business, you should start getting Local Citations (NAP).
What Are Citations?
Citations are any mentions of your business details online and are commonly referred to as NAP: Name, Address, Phone Number.
Citations can be Structured or Unstructured.
Structured Citations: Yelp, Angie’s List, Home-Advisor, Foursquare, Facebook, etc.
Unstructured Citations: A mention of your business in a blog post, news article, etc.
Why Are Citations Important In Local SEO For Small Businesses?
- Google – In order to learn more about a business, Google references small business and home-service directories. Google wants to see:
- Correct Contact Info
- List Of Your Services
- Customers – Your target customers look for the best small businesses in their area using local directories and other sites with business listings.
Ensuring that your NAP+W is consistent on your website and across third-party platforms is essential to a successful Local SEO campaign.
If there are several variations of your NAP scattered across the web, it’s difficult for customers and in turn, Google, to trust your information.
According to Myles Anderson, inconsistent citations is the #1 issue affecting local SEO ranking for small businesses.
How To Check Your NAP Consistency?
One way to perform a citation audit is manual. I do not recommend it though.
To conduct a quick assessment of your NAP Consistency, I suggest using Moz Local.
Moz Local is a Free tool that can check for incomplete, inconsistent, and duplicate listings across the web.
The results provided by Moz local consists of the top indexing platforms such as Facebook, YP, Yelp, Google My Business, etc.
How Many Citations Do Small Businesses Need to Rank?
According to BrightLocal, Local Businesses have an average of 81 citations. The median number of citations for Local Businesses is 108.
“There is a strong correlation between the number of citations a business has, and how high it appears in Google’s search results. Local businesses that rank in positions 1-3 have an average of 85 citations.” Source
How To Build Local NAP Citations
The best citation sources differ depending on industry and location.
I recommend checking out Moz’s list of Top Citations By Category.
Or Whitespark’s list of the Best Citations By Business Category.
Another good place to start with is Moz’s Top Local Citations By City.
The image below shows Whitespark’s Best Local Citations By City.
When building out Local Citations for your small business company, make sure that you’re filling out the profiles completely.
Remember, consistency is key, so ensure you’re entering the same information in each profile.
Optimize Your Website For Local Searches
In order to rank for the keywords your potential customers are searching, you need to optimize your website.
Deliver a Positive User Experience
Your website is often the FIRST impression people will have of your business.
Don’t you think it should be a good one.
Users rely on your website to get in touch with you, get a quote, or schedule services.
When a potential customer arrives on your website, obviously you want them to stay.
The best way to keep people on your site (“Dwell Time”) is with a great user experience.
What Is Dwell Time?
Dwell Time refers to how long a user spends on a page before returning to the SERP (Search Engine Results Page).
Let’s say a potential customer searches “Pet Grooming Near Me” on Google.
The business at the top of the Map Pack looks good. So they click on it.
But when they arrive on that pet groomers website, they discover that it’s NOT user-friendly.
The content isn’t helpful, and the PageSpeed is slow.
So after 5 seconds, they click back to the results.
Their Dwell Time was 5 seconds.
And their very brief visit indicates to Google that they weren’t satisfied.
Let’s say they then click on the 2nd business in the Map Pack.
This time, the website IS user-friendly. It’s fast, easy to navigate, and the content is helpful.
And they spend 4 minutes and 39 seconds reading the content… then click back to the results.
That long Dwell Time tells Google that the user had a positive experience.
As this pattern is repeated, with other people spending a long time on that page, Google will boost its rankings.
How To Improve User Experience
If your website is difficult to use, visitors will NOT stick around.
Fortunately, by making your website SEO-friendly, you’ll also be improving the areas that negatively affect user experience.
Optimize for Mobile
Google is in the business of providing a good user experience to searchers.
They don’t want to send users to a website that looks like sh*t on a phone.
Especially when there are plenty of websites that DO look good on mobile.
It’s 2019, your website HAS to be mobile-friendly.
If a user arrives on your site and it’s not mobile-friendly, guess what?
They will leave your site in search of better user experience.
To prevent this, ensure that your website is mobile-friendly.
Why? Because: 61% of mobile users will be more likely to contact you if the site is easy to use on their mobile device.
To find out if Google considers your website mobile-friendly, you can test it using Google’s “Mobile-Friendly Test.”
The tool will tell you if the webpage you tested is mobile-friendly and what you need to fix to improve it’s mobile-friendliness.
Another option is to head to Google Search Console:
On the left click on “Mobile Usability”.
It will tell you which pages (if any) Google considers to offer a bad mobile user experience:
Optimize Your Website For Speed
We live in a fast-paced and impatient world.
Which means people don’t like waiting around for a webpage to load.
Google is in the business of delivering high-quality and valuable content to searchers.
Your site might be full of amazing content, but if it takes forever to load, users won’t stick around long enough to find out.
PageSpeed is a direct ranking signal.
And that’s why you need to make sure that your important web pages are optimized for PageSpeed.
Once again Google provides tools for testing your site’s speed.
On-Page Optimizations For Local SEO
Most on-page SEO best practices still apply when it comes to local SEO:
- Keyword + Location in H1
- Keyword + Location in Title Tag
- SEO-Friendly URL
- Include Keyword within first 150 Words
- Keyword + Location in Meta Description
- Use Primary Keywords in Image Alt Text
Setup Local Landing Pages
If your business serves multiple areas/cities, I recommend setting up local landing pages.
Local landing pages enable you to target specific geographic locations to put more relevant content in front of your users.
Create landing pages for a few relevant nearby locations that make sense for your business.
Don’t start creating local landing pages for the sake of creating them.
It’s 2019, and Google is smart. You cannot just copy your content over and over and over and change out the city each time.
It just simply doesn’t work anymore.
Each location page needs to have unique and original content about your services and the city.
Set Up Individual Service Pages
In addition to the location pages described above, your website needs to have individual pages for each service you offer.
Create individual pages for each service and include them in your site’s navigation.
This will make it easy for users to find the service they’re looking for and to access the page to learn more about it.
Using your primary keyword, as well as synonyms and LSI Keywords in specific areas of each webpage is extremely important.
Title tags are the most important part of on-page optimization.
They appear in the search results as the blue link above the URL and Meta-Description.
Your title tag should be between 50-65 characters.
Below is an example of a well-optimized title tag.
Meta-Descriptions appear in the search results as the grey text under your Title Tag and URL.
Keywords in your meta-description are bolded in the search results.
If you aren’t sure what to write for a meta-description, perform a Google search for the keyword that you’re targeting on that page.
Check out the meta-descriptions in the search results to see what other people are doing and make some improvements.
URLs appear in green and are sandwiched between the title tag and meta-description in the search results.
Google uses your URLs to help determine what your page is about.
SEO-Friendly URLs are so important that Google dedicated an entire section of their Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Starter Guide to them.
Structure Your Content
Headings and Subheadings should be used to structure your content in an informational hierarchy.
Depending on how many headings you have, remember to include your primary keyword, in at least one of your headings.
Schema Markup For Local Businesses
This topic can be confusing. I’ve included images and graphics that I hope will make it easier to understand.
As you’ll see below, adding schema to your website can increase organic click-through rates, which means more website traffic.
What is Schema Markup?
Schema Markup is a common language developed by search engines (Google/Bing/Yahoo) to better understand what web pages and websites are about.
Schema Markup allows search engines to better understand location-based structured information such as:
- Dates of Events
- Phone Numbers
- And Other Information
This information is used to display rich snippets, reviews, answer boxes, video carousels, etc.
Let’s say I just published a blog post on my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe and added recipe schema.
This tells search engines:
- “The recipe takes 30minutes”
- “These are the ingredients”
- “This is a Picture of the finished cupcake”
Hopefully, Google will show off this data in the search results as a Rich Snippet:
For more information regarding schema, check out Google’s Structured Data Guidelines.
Why Does Schema Matter For Local SEO?
Schema Markup for Local Businesses will help search engines display additional information in search results.
Whether you own a restaurant, a medical practice, a pharmacy, school, grocery store, salon, etc. Your business will benefit from Local Business Schema.
Types of Rich Snippets
Below are some examples of “Rich Snippets” in the search results.
Recipe markup enables search engines to display data like time to prepare the dish, reviews and recipe images.
Review markup enables Google to display Aggregate Review Rating in the search results.
Search engines can’t ‘Watch’ videos. Video markup helps them understand what your video content is all about.
To find out more about Schema, and what type is most relevant to your small business website, visit Schema.org/.
How To Test Your Site’s Schema Markup
Just like with the Mobile-Friendly Test, Google provides a tool that you can use to test the schema markup on your website.
It’s Google’s “Structured Data Testing Tool.”
To test a webpage, enter the URL > Click “Run Test.”
On the left is the HTML code of the webpage.
On the right, is a list of the structured data present on the page.
Errors and/or warnings are clearly visible.
How To Implement Schema Markup
To implement schema on your website I recommend “Schema Pro” by BrainStormForce.
The plugin makes it easy to implement schema markup on your website.
Embed A Google Map
Embedding a Google Map on your website helps improve the user experience and Google’s understanding of your location.
There are a few places you can embed a Google Map on your site:
- Your Site’s Footer
- Contact Us Page
- Service Area Pages
Optimize For Conversions
Display Certifications and Partner Logos Prominently
If your business has been recognized by trusted and reputable organizations incorporate it into your website.
Industry-Specific badges and badges from prominent review sites are a great way to provide social proof.
Include certifications and/or awards received by employees as well.
Visitors to your website are looking for signs of credibility.
The logo of a well-known and trusted 3rd party will serve in establishing credibility.
Use Photos & Videos
A great way to convey trustworthiness to prospective customers is through photos or videos of you, or your employees working.
This gives people a sense of what to expect when they hire your company.
As you can see they take very high-quality photos, which has its benefits but isn’t necessary.
Your average smartphone camera is plenty powerful to take great photos of your small business jobs.
Include pictures of you and your employees on your website can help increase customer trust.
Encanto Family Dental Care in the image below does this well.
Go beyond a simple picture and include a short biography about each employee.
Paradise Ridge Dentistry has a video on their homepage that talks about the company and the values they uphold.
Include Clear Calls-To-Action (CTA)
Getting website visitors is great, but you want them to convert!
Make it as easy as possible for visitors to take the desired action.
Display your phone number as a clickable link clearly and prominently.
Anyone visiting your website on their phone can tap your phone number.
Use CTAs to tell visitors what to do (call you, request a quote, etc.)
Display Reviews & Testimonials
Reviews are the single most powerful source of social proof you can display on your website.
91% of 18-34 yr old consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.
Including reviews from third-party websites will help establish trust and improve conversions.
Consumers rely on reviews, reading an average of 10 online reviews before feeling able to trust a local business.
Acquiring reviews is one of the most important aspects of an effective Local SEO strategy.
According to Bright Local, it’s estimated that:
92% of consumers read online reviews and 68% state that positive reviews influence their feelings of trust in a business.
How Do Reviews Impact Local SEO?
Reviews are great for establishing trust and credibility.
They’re essentially the digital equivalent of word-of-mouth recommendations.
How To Get More Reviews For Your small business
After your Google My Business listing is verified, your business will show up for branded searches on the right-hand side of the search results in what’s known as the “Knowledge Panel.”
It has all of your business information and it also has a spot where customers can leave a review for your business.
All they have to do is click on “Write A Review” and this box will pop up.
1. Ask for Reviews in Person: This is the best time to ask for a review. Give them a business card with the steps for leaving a review.
2. Ask for Reviews in a Follow-Up E-Mail: After completing a job, you can send an email thanking them for their business and asking for a review of their experience. Include a link to your Google, Facebook, or Yelp.
Responding To Reviews
Responding to reviews is an essential part of local SEO for small businesses.
Try to respond to all reviews, especially the negative ones.
You’re not responding to negative reviews to win over the customer that left it.
The reason you respond to negative reviews is to win over anyone that reads your reviews.
When they’re reading reviews, if the negative reviews are standing alone with no response, that reflects poorly upon your business.
If you think about it, a business that only has all five-star reviews looks too good to be true.
So, having negative reviews isn’t necessarily all bad.
Negative reviews present an opportunity to showcase your empathy and professionalism.
With all the websites that are online, Google needs a system or a means of determining how trustworthy a website is.
One of the best ways to do that is by looking at what other websites are linking to that website.
A backlink essentially acts as a Signal of Trust or a Vote from one website to another website.
Brand new websites don’t have any authority or trust.
The best way to build trust is by getting backlinks from websites that Google does trust.
What Are Local Backlinks?
Regular Backlink vs. Local Backlink?
Local links differ from regular backlinks in that they are specific to a particular city.
With local SEO for small businesses, acquiring backlinks from high-authority websites isn’t as important as it is with organic SEO.
Backlinks from local websites reaffirm to Google that you’re actually in the location that you say you are.
As a result, this serves to increase your relevance within that geographical area.
Why is Local Link-Building Important?
The majority of local small business websites don’t have any backlinks, other than a few directory links.
This means that by acquiring a few locally relevant links can have a significant impact on your ranking in local search.
The primary reason for building local backlinks is to build relevance for your website towards its locality.
How To Build Local Backlinks
1. Business Associations
Links and citations from industry-specific business associations are not only valuable but also easy to get.
Links from business associations like the “Greater Phoenix Chamber” in the image below provide a powerful, trustworthy, relevancy signal that will boost your local SEO.
2. Local Meetups
Local meetups are a great way to establish business connections and find highly relevant local backlink opportunities.
Look for groups that are looking for a location to host their meetup and offer your place of business.
3. Host A Local Community Event
This is a popular strategy for car dealerships around holidays, but it can work for small businesses as well! It’s pretty simple… throw a party and invite the city.
It could be a cookout for the 4th of July or an Easter Egg Hunt for kids. Hosting an event that’s open to the community is a great way to get links as well as social mentions.
4. Sponsor A Little League Team (Any Sport Works)
It’s pretty obvious why this would be beneficial. For a small amount of money, you could sponsor a local Little League team.
Not only will this make your business look great to the community, but you’ll get a really great link from a hyper-local website.
5. Discounts (Military/Senior/Teacher/Etc.)
Offer discounts or coupons to Military, Seniors, Teachers, Etc.
Add a page to your website that explains the discount, and then reach out to local veteran organizations, the teachers union, etc., to get added to their sites.
I’m a veteran, and I’m always pleasantly surprised when I hear “Oh, we offer a military discount!”
6. Local Resource Pages
This can take on a number of forms. You’re simply compiling a list of resources or providing information that would be helpful to anyone visiting your city.
If you’re an avid hiker you could put together a list of the 10 Most Scenic Hikes in Phoenix [or your city].
7. Create “Link-Bait”
This is simply a matter of creating a piece of content that’s good enough for other people to want to share it with their audience.
Some examples are:
- How-To Guide
8. Leverage Current Relationships
Assuming your small business company has been a part of the local community for at least a little while, you’ve probably built relationships with other local businesses.
It’s best if the business is in the same or a similar industry.
That said, links from businesses completely unrelated to your small business are still valuable because of their local relevance.
I could ask a friend that works at a local radio station for a link. It would still be valuable because of the local relevance of the radio station.
Now It’s Your Turn
So that brings us to the end of Local SEO For Small Businesses!
Now I’d like to turn it over to you: Which aspect of your Local SEO strategy are you going to focus on first?
Are you going to begin by setting up Google My Business? Or work on improving your website’s user experience?
Let me know by leaving a quick comment below right now!