According to Google, 7 out of 10 people will visit a business or make a purchase based on the information they find online. For small businesses, this means that a strategy for standing out in search results is a must, but how do you make it happen? We all know that the digital universe is filled with what seems like an unlimited number of businesses trying to compete. Local SEO is the solution that helps small businesses get noticed by the audience that really matters.

Local SEO is specialized approach to search engine optimization that narrows in on how customers search for local businesses in their communities. An SEO consultant could talk for hours on all the components of local SEO, but some are more important than others. Let us fill you in on the  5 most important elements of successful local SEO.


Get on Board with Google My Business

The whole point of local SEO is to not only make it easier to find you online, but to also provide customers with all the information they need to actually make it to your door. There is no better tool for accomplishing this than your Google My Business page.

Google My Business (GMB) is a free tool that allows small businesses to update their information across all of Google at once – think Google Maps, Google Plus, etc. Claiming your GMB page is easy, but it’s what comes after you first claim it that really matters for local SEO.

For starters, the more complete your listing the better. GMB is packed with features that encourage interaction, but it’s up to you to take advantage of them. Your GMB page should have your important contact information, including hours of operation, website, etc. that make you easy to find. However, you can also include images, updates, Q&A and a booking feature that makes it easy for customers to connect with you in just one click.

Basically, GMB is like free advertisement and an optimized listing puts you in Google’s good graces, so you have nothing to lose by investing a few minutes in setting it up.

One word of caution, though. Anyone can edit your GMB page. This includes your competitors and the occasional troll. Why does Google allow anyone to do this? You know the frustration of looking up a business, checking out their hours and arriving at their door only to find that the listing was wrong and they’re closed?

Well, Google thinks it’s bad business and wanted to make it easy for real life customers to modify such details in case you don’t get around to it. The solution is simple. Check your GMB listing at least once a week and make updating it with any changes priority one.


Think Beyond Text

Mention SEO and the first association that many people have is keywords. It’s all about the right keywords in the right places. To a certain extent this is true, but that’s because it’s really content that fuels local SEO. However, content isn’t limited to the written word. It also includes images, video and audio components.

As search results become more blended, users are more likely to encounter images and video in search results, meaning that it’s important to optimize all types of content for local SEO.

Take images for example. Search engines can’t intuitively read images, so small businesses can make all their images search engine friendly by attaching a local SEO friendly file name. Having a file name like “image98765.jpg” doesn’t mean much to search engines, but a descriptive file name and short description increase the chances that it will appear in search results.


Leverage User Generated Reviews

Nearly three quarters of people say that reading positive reviews online helps instill their trust in local businesses. Google and other search engines love to see reviews too. Not only do user reviews lend validity to small businesses, they’re frequently packed with the high powered keywords that other local customers are using in their searches.

So, the obvious goal is to get more of your customers to speak up about their great experiences with your local business, but you have to stay classy when you do it. Local businesses can’t exactly beg for reviews and have it look favorably upon them, however there is nothing wrong with some gentle and persuasive encouragement.

Start by optimizing and monitoring your GMB page for reviews, and then take it one step further to include a button on your webpage that not only reminds customers to leave a review, but also makes it easy for them to do so.

Finally, reviews are a huge component to local search engine optimization, so don’t forget to consistently monitor and respond to the ones you do receive. Let the audience see first hand how you respond to praise and the occasional criticism.


Go Long

As a small business, you have to really narrow in on your local target audience. For SEO, this means adopting a strategy that includes long-tail keywords that help you stand out among the competition. Local customers are often looking for something more specific, so why not help them out with a keyword strategy that puts you in their line of sight?

For example, say you’re a small, local athletic shoe store. Keywords like “running shoes” might be high performing, but they’re also going to produce generic responses that include big brands that you just can’t compete with. Instead, you need a keyword strategy that matches how local customers are searching for your products. Long-tail keyword phrases like “best running shoes for pronation” or “youth size basketball shoes in Austin” are more likely to perform for local businesses.


Look Around You

Finally, don’t forget to look around you. As a small business, you have a great deal of control in building your brand and the direction you take in marketing. What you don’t have control over is who your local audience and competition base is made of. It’s absolutely crucial to get to know and understand them in order to really generate traffic.

Who are you trying to attract, and what are they looking for? Who is the competition and what do they provide that keeps their own customers coming back? How can you elevate your own performance to exceed the wants and needs of local customers? Every local SEO tactic in the book is going to fall flat if you don’t approach it with a familiarity of your individual market.


Local SEO Services for Your Small Business

Local SEO is all about being recognizable to local customers and enabling them to find you more easily. The right approach gets you noticed and builds your brand’s reputation within the community. We’re the full service SEO company that knows how to produce results with local strategies. Contact J2O Designs to learn more today.