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A lot of business is local or at least has local areas where they focus their efforts. This can include:
- Roofing contractors
- Lawn care
- And many others
Really any business that is looking for business from a geographically bound area. If your business needs customers from a specific area you can use local SEO strategies to show up in search when people nearby search for your services.
Local SEO expert Greg Gifford joined me on the Business Storytelling Podcast to share an overview of what businesses need to know and how they can rank higher. This article is largely based on that conversation.
What is local SEO?
When I search for “order pizza” I certainly don’t want to get the top results for New York City when I’m currently in San Francisco. I want the best results for near me in San Francisco. According to Safari SEO Brisbane, the prevalence of “near me” searches grew by more than 136% between 2019 and 2020 as user demand for local, highly-relevant searches increased. Compounded with increased mobile usage and location services on these devices enabling for a specific set of results, local searches are expected to continue to grow rapidly in 2021.
There are many businesses that are relying on this kind of local SEO and influence. If you aren’t yet, no worries, these tips can help. They are also a good refresher for any local business.
Personally, I hadn’t thought much about local SEO for Trappe Digital, dba The Authentic Storytelling Project. I can work with anyone and really anywhere. That’s true, but why wouldn’t I want to rank for my services in my hometown when somebody searches for my offerings?
Keyword research for local SEO
As you are putting your website together, consider researching what terms people use in your market or in general when they search for your services.
Tools like Ubersuggest or Google Trends can help there and give ideas. Make sure it’s clear on your website that you offer those services. (If you need help with keyword optimization feel free to reach out to me here.)
The important part here is to find a way to rank for service terms that potential customers are searching for. Greg explained that trying to rank for your company name usually shouldn’t take much work and can be somewhat automatic.
Can I rank for local SEO without a website?
Communications Strategist Jason Laz and I shared on this Business Storytelling Podcast episode why businesses need websites and what should be included. While it is preferred to have a website on many levels, there are ways for local businesses to rank in local SEO even without a website.
At the very least, Greg recommends, set up a Google My Business account and claim your business. That allows you to add opening hours, pictures and respond to reviews. Here’s an example of a Google My Business panel of Heather Morris Realty Consulting that shows up in search:
A link to Heather’s website is also included.
When businesses have a claimed Google My Business listing but do not have a website they can still show on the search map view, explained Greg. Here’s an example for “roofing contractors” that is returning near-me results.
Listings in this case are shown in this order:
- With website
- Without website
The listings do not appear to be sorted by truly closest to me. Of course, I can see on the map who is closest to me.
Can blogging help me with local SEO?
Greg says that blogging about informational and educational topics can help businesses rank higher.
Businesses don’t necessarily have to localize topics, but could consider that when possible.
For example, when I published a blog post on direct mail, I could have localized it by getting local stats from the post office of the drop of marketing mail. So localization isn’t always that difficult.
Another idea could be to partner with other local businesses and maybe even quote clients and other related experts.
Those people will often link back to your site from their site.
How often should you blog? Once a month for a small business is probably okay. You might also consider using a podcast recording as a base for a blog post.
Interview the owner or employees about a specific topic, publish that podcast – I would recommend recommend via Anchor for free – and then turn the content into an article.
My book – Content Performance Culture – has a ton of tips on how you can easily implement the Create Once, Publish Everywhere strategy to make this process as simple as possible.
What about earned media coverage for local SEO?
Earned media coverage is when a news reporter quotes you in an article. Most articles – newspapers and broadcast – now also end up on the media websites. Make sure that when you get quoted, that they also link to you. Those links from other local entities are helpful and signal to Google that your company has local relevance.
How do you get quoted by media? Be involved in the community, offer your expertise when relevant and sometimes consider reaching out to media with story ideas.
Here are two livestreams that discuss the topic of getting coverage in more detail.
What are some off-site strategies to rank in local SEO?
Many local businesses have been great community builders over the years – even before the web. They:
- sponsor little league teams
- work with local events
- sponsor and participate in Rotary, Kiwanis, etc.
- other local offline outreach
Those strategies can simply be extended into online activities that can help with your local SEO.
When you sponsor a local team, ask to be listed on their website and get a link back to your website.
The same applies for events, rotary and really anything you participate in.
Some of those organizations might be quick to admit that “we can link to you but we have little traffic. There won’t be many referrals coming your way through this.”
It’s not a direct referral, Greg explained. Little-traffic sites that are relevant and local still can help Google determine that there’s local relevance. The payoff will come later when your company shows up first when people search for your services.
Local SEO conclusion
Optimizing your web presence for local SEO can help with awareness when customers need your help and when they are searching for your services. Some business owners deprioritize digital marketing initiatives. “It’s going well. We don’t need any more business right now.”
Nonetheless, shaping a business’ online presence isn’t about today. It’s about making sure to be ready when business needs to start coming in that way. It also doesn’t mean other strategies that work should be stopped. All these strategies are part of the overall marketing and business development tool belt.
Another great strategy, this one is offline: How businesses can maximize direct mail now as the U.S. Postal Services is seeing a decline