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    Local SEO: The Small Business Owner's Secret to Search Engine Success

    Learn how you can use local SEO optimization to supercharge your business!

    Have you ever searched for a local product or service? Perhaps you Googled “best gyro in Atlanta” or “best dentist in Chicago”? If so, you’re far from alone.

    Many people now use Google and other search engines to find local products. Whereas customers once turned to phonebooks or their friends to find products and services, many now simply conduct a quick search instead. And since 81 percent of Americans now own a smartphone, they can search while on the go.

    While some business owners might think that search engines are most important for digital companies, like an online bookstore, they are every bit as important for brick and mortar companies. A local customer’s search for a product or service often starts online.

    Further, small local companies often stand the best chance of securing high search engine rankings. That’s because there’s less competition for relevant keywords like “best auto repair shop in Decatur” than there is for “best hydrating skin cream.”

    While big national companies must compete with other big national companies to reach the top of search engine rankings, local companies are often competing against their local peers.

    Anyway, let’s take a look at how you can improve your local search engine rankings.

    First, Understand How Geo Targeted Keywords Work

    If you’ve been studying Search Engine Optimization, you’ve almost certainly heard of the term “keywords,” which are search queries that people type into a search engine. As a small business, you want to rank highly for as many relevant keywords as possible, meaning you’ll show up in more searches.

    For many small businesses, the most relevant keywords are geographical. If you run a dentistry in Marietta, Georgia, attracting traffic from California won’t do you much good. On the other hand, if you can secure first place on Google for the keyword “best Dentist in Marietta Ga.” you’re sitting in a great position.

    Every time someone enters that keyword, they’ll see your name. Even if the user doesn’t enter “Marietta” in their search, Google will usually show them local results. Google knows that someone searching for a dentist in a specific city won’t be interested in a dentist hundreds of miles away.

    You can target geographical keywords simply by peppering relevant geographical words around your website. If your business is located in Brooklyn, then try to make sure that Brooklyn is mentioned at least once on every page. You should also mention “New York City” a few times, and perhaps surrounding areas, such as Queens.

    Put Up Location Pages

    Another great way to slot in geographical terms and to make your website appealing to search bots are location pages. These location pages should, at a bare minimum, contain your address, a map image (say from Google) that shows your exact location, and an image of your store front.

    Many people put all of their locations on one location page. This isn’t a bad idea, per se, but it’s better to give each location its own page. This way, you can put relevant keywords into H1 headers, title tags, and the meta description (all of which are good for SEO).

    So if you have a pub in each of the boroughs of New York City, you’d first set up a central website for your brand. However, in one area on your website, you should set up individual pages with images about your pub. Also feel free to include some descriptions about the local borough.

    Take Control of Your Google Business Page

    Phonebooks are all but dead. However, Google’s Business Pages operate in a similar way. On this page, you can fill out your contact details, address, business hours, an about us section and the like. You absolutely should do this.

    When you go to set up your business page, Google will ask for your address. Then they’ll mail you a letter, which will arrive within 1-2 weeks. The letter will contain a verification code, which you can use to take control of your business page.

    You can also post images on your business page. You should do so, and you should make sure that the photos contain geographical data, such as your city and street address. In the alt-text, for example, you could put “Tony’s Pizza Shop downtown Baltimore.”

    Don’t Forget About Local Directories Either

    Many other companies and individuals have set up directories where you can publish your Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP). These NAP directories offer an easy way to build backlinks to your website and business profiles. While it’s time consuming to get listed on these directories, it’s well worth the effort.

    Make Sure Your Contact and Location Info is Consistent

    It’s smart to set up social media profiles, a Yelp page, a website, and various other assets. (If you want to learn more about social media, by the way, check out our social media primer!)

    However, some small businesses are inconsistent when putting up contact information, addresses, and the like on their profiles. Huge mistake. When you do this, Google has a hard time determining what the actual, accurate address or phone number is. This could hurt your rankings and send customers to the wrong place.

    Make sure every address, phone number, and other factual detail is consistent across all of your profiles. Also, every one of your profiles should include your address and phone number when possible. Don’t skip putting these details in. It might be a pain, but it can go a long way.

    Enlist Your Customer’s Help With Reviews

    Getting to the top of local search results takes a lot of work. Fortunately, you don’t have to do everything on your own. Another great way to improve your local search engine rankings is to drum up customer reviews. In fact, customer reviews are so important, we put together a guide for drumming customer reviews up.

    As for search engines, Google and other companies pay more attention to and are more likely to promote highly rated businesses. Since search engines are essentially giving searchers recommendations, they want to promote establishments that customers are recommending.

    Pay especially close attention to reviews on Google. When possible, encourage your customers to leave reviews on Google. Positive reviews on Facebook, Yelp, and other sites can also go a long way as well.

    Promote Yourself Digitally and Locally

    Finally, you need to be proactive promoting yourself locally and on the web. By doing so, you’ll increase your chances of securing reviews, being mentioned in articles, and all the rest.

    Let’s say you own a local restaurant. If there’s a local magazine in your town, like Creative Loafing in Atlanta, reach out to them and see if their writers would like a free lunch. If there are popular bloggers, again invite them by for a free meal.

    You can also offer your customers a free cup of coffee or a free dessert or whatever if they put up a review on social media or Google. Consider reaching out to local organizations too. If a charity is holding an event, you could donate or contribute supplies. Often, they’ll give you a shout-out on social media.

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    Matt Stephens

    Co-Founder & CEO of OnePoint Rewards

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