This guest blog has been provided by Josh Hamit of Improve My Search Ranking Ltd.
Competition can be fierce — especially for new local businesses. The top positions in the search engine results pages (SERPs) often seem out of reach, unless you are willing to spend money on advertising. That’s an option that not all local businesses have.
Approximately 76 percent of people who search for a local business end up visiting within the next 24 hours. That shows how important search engine visibility is.
But, how do you achieve that without breaking the bank? Local SEO is one way to do it.
What is local SEO?
Just like standard SEO (search engine optimisation), local SEO is used to get your website ranking highly in the organic (non-paid-for) search results. But with local SEO the focus is specifically on getting found by searchers looking for a local business - e.g. someone searching for "shoe shop in Shoreham".
Here are 6 tips to help you get started in local SEO.
1. Get a lot of citations
Citations are an integral component of local SEO. You can think of citations as “backlinks” in general SEO.
Citations are listings of your business name, address, and phone number information, which is also more commonly known as NAP, on other websites that aggregate business information. Having your local business’s NAP information listed on popular websites is a great way to increase credibility, get more traffic, and gain better visibility in the search engine results pages.
Make sure that your NAP information is consistent everywhere, though. It should be in the exact same format and should use the exact same words everywhere.
2. Get a Google My Business account
Google My Business (Google Places, as it was known until a few years ago) is often the first place where local SEO begins for most businesses.
Without a Google My Business account, you won’t appear on the local map search results, which is responsible for a lot of traffic and brand awareness.
Therefore, one of the first things to do is to set up a Google My Business account and optimise it for higher visibility. For more information on how to do it, check out this guide.
3. Don’t ignore Bing Places
Bing has its own version of Google My Business (GMB). And just like GMB, Bing Places is an important place to be for a local business.
Visit the Bing Places for Business website, create your account, and add your business there.
4. Optimise for voice search
Voice search is a growing trend that will dominate the search engine results pages in the next few years. With the rise of smart assistants, smart speakers, and smartphones with voice assistants, voice search is only going to become more important.
To put things into perspective, according to comScore, 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020. From $0.2 billion in 2017, voice commerce sales are expected to grow up to $5 billion by 2022 in the United Kingdom.
Therefore, optimising your business for voice search is going to be a key strategy moving forward. Use long-tail keywords that trigger voice search queries. Also, keep your website content simple and in a question-answer format to optimise it for voice searches.
5. Use Schema markup
The use of Schema markup has gained decent traction over the last few years. However, even this late in the game, not many local businesses are properly using it — which gives you an advantage.
Schema markup refers to adding specific code to your web page that provides more information and context to search engine crawlers. This additional information not only makes your search listing more interesting and eye-catching, but it may also help with better search engine rankings.
Although adding schema markup to a site isn’t very complicated, seek professional assistance for a web developer if you don’t have the required knowledge to do it.
6. Acquire as many powerful backlinks as possible
Backlinks are as crucial as they have always been. Come up with many different and creative ways for acquiring those backlinks.
Connect with other local businesses that you are not competing with. Shortlist businesses that you work with and get backlinks from them. Exchange backlinks with your partners. Get local business coverage. Organise a social event that gets coverage by local journalists.
There are plenty of ways to generate those powerful backlinks that will help you in the search engines.
Bonus tip for multi-location companies
If you have a business with multiple locations most of the above rules apply. However, there are some on-page considerations you’ll want to make to ensure each location has the best chance of ranking. Learn more about multi-location local SEO.
Want to learn more?
Local SEO is a vast field. And it is so dynamic that it can be hard to get a hold of everything you need to get started and succeed.
If you are interested in learning more about local SEO, how to set up and optimise the GMB account, best on-page SEO practices for local SEO, how to get citations, and how to audit your competitor’s website and learn their strategies, check out Improve My Search Ranking’s free guide on local SEO.
After that, don't forget to think about content for your local SEO plan too!