In my previous post about common SEO mistakes, I mentioned tailoring your SEO practices to your area as a form of local SEO. For those without much experience in SEO, this might have raised questions. So just what is local SEO, and how can it help your business? It’s no simple topic. Rather than try to tackle everything in one go, let’s go through a basic overview of what local SEO means and what initial steps you can take to help your business.
What is local SEO?
Local SEO is exactly what it sounds like: optimizing your business’s exposure within a targeted area from which you expect to draw most of your clients. If general SEO is a sword to be wielded, local SEO is a precision scalpel. By going after localized, relevant consumer groups, you can increase your conversion rate in an efficient, highly-targeted way.
Engaging in local SEO requires a plan, and a thorough understanding of your goals. What demographic do you want to reach? What localities do you consider most important? What do you consider to be a conversion? These are not the only questions to ask yourself, but they are an excellent place to start. In the coming weeks, I’ll be touching on local SEO techniques and explaining how businesses can best make use of them. But this week, let’s focus on what to do beforehand. Prior to engaging in a local SEO campaign, there is one very important step you need to take: optimize your search listings.
What are search listings and how can I optimize mine?
One of the great things about major search engines like Google and Bing is that they automatically engage in a certain level of local search specialization. There might be a thousand restaurants going by the name “Dave’s Diner,” but, if a user searches for that term, Google will automatically give the “Dave’s Diner” closest to their location a bump in priority.
This is important to know, because it doesn’t come about all on its own. Creating a local listing for your business on Google and Bing is a critical step in maximizing your exposure. These listings are the best way to let search engines know important information about your business firsthand, and can include your web address, physical location, contact information, hours, and much more. Letting the major search engines know who you are, where you are, and as much additional information as possible will help give you a boost onto relevant search engine results pages.
There are other reasons that these listings are important. When your business receives a citation on another website, it is important that the information given appears exactly as it appears on your own listing. A citation is a full listing of your business’s name, address, and phone number, and the number of citations crawled by search engines can dramatically increase your website’s credibility and search value. If your citations don’t line up, it doesn’t matter how many are out there: search engines won’t recognize them as referring to the same business, and your search listings will suffer. This is why it is important to establish a consistent listing for your business and use it when establishing new citations. It is also critical to reach out to correct any existing citations that don’t match yours.
If you aren’t sure how to begin accumulating citations (or confirming existing citations) for your business, you’re in luck! There are plenty of tools from well respected organizations like Moz that can point you towards the best local citation sites serving your area. One thing to remember is that consistency is key with citations–make sure that each citation displays the information the same way it is listed on your website and local listings.
Is getting the most out of your listings the only step in boosting your local search results? No. But it is a very important step in the process. In the coming weeks, I’ll touch upon some of the additional steps that every business can take to make the local SEO leap. For now, focus on making sure that the resources immediately within your control, such as your local search listings, are maximizing your returns.