A recent survey by search marketing services provider Bright Local found that local search — queries related to a particular geographic region — drives more clicks and calls, generates more leads, and delivers the greatest return on investment of any other online marketing channel.
It makes sense, then, that local businesses should take every step possible to improve their local search ranking. Here are ten ways to go about it.
1. Claim Your Listing in Local Business Directories
A Constant Contact survey found that, while 85 percent of small businesses say that it’s important to be found in local search directories, only half of have ever updated their online listings. Taking the time to claim and update listings puts you ahead of many of your competitors.
Make claiming your Google My Business listing a top priority, but don’t forget Yahoo Local and Bing Places, as well as sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, and Merchant Circle.
Register for our upcoming webinar: How to Claim Your Local Business Directory Listings.
2. Ensure NAP Consistency
Search engines place a high value on having consistent name, address, and phone (NAP) information on your website and in local directories. It helps them know that your business is legitimate, and they will reward you with better rankings for your efforts.
One way to ensure NAP consistency is to use a directory listing service, such as BrightLocal, Dex Media, or Localeze. Also, include NAP information on each and every page of your website, perhaps in the footer.
3. Correct Your Business Category
Associated with consistent NAP information is the need to ensure the correctness of your business category in local directories. Moz, a leading search engine marketing and analytics company, lists “incorrect business category” as the number one negative ranking factor.
4. Get Customer Reviews
Search engines, particularly Google, rely on customer reviews as a ranking signal. It’s one way to get listed in Google’s 3-pack. Make it your mission to get more reviews. The following Web E-Commerce company Today articles list several ways to go about it:
Local Businesses: 7 Ways to Get More Customer Reviews;
7 Ways to Get Yelp Reviews (without Violating Its Policy);
Get More Guest Reviews with TripAdvisor Review Express.
5. Optimize Your Website for SEO
Traditional search engine optimization techniques such as keyword-optimizing title tags and meta descriptions may not be as sexy as participating in social media or E-Commerce company , but they still rate highly as a ranking signals, according to Moz.
If you don’t know what keywords to include, use free tools like the Google AdWords Keyword Planner, Word tracker, or SEO Book to find them.
Include your town or city in page titles and descriptions, along with names of the product or service you offer. Keep page titles to 70 characters or less and descriptions to 156 characters or less.
6. Mobile-optimize Your Website
A drum we’ve continued to beat regards the absolute necessity of having a mobile-optimized version of your website. Google now factors mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal.
Most web content management systems incorporate mobile versions into site design templates, so it’s likely you have that covered. You can use third-party options such as bMobilized and Duda Mobile in case yours does not.
7. Use Mobile Check-in Sites
List your business in Foursquare and Yelp, both of which facilitate check-in capability. (Foursquare now uses its companion app, Swarm, for check-ins.) Customers can use Facebook to check-in as well. Just make sure you list your Facebook page as “local businesses.”
8. Embed a Google Map
If you enter your business address into Google Maps, you can get HTML code to embed on your website (the footer is a useful location). Not only will it help prospective customers find you — particularly those who access your site via their mobile device — but it may also help Google’s search bot learn more about your location.
9. Build Backlinks to Your Website
Links that point to your website also rate highly as a search ranking factor. Citations from local directories and review sites are one way to get them, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Here are three other ways to get back links.
Ask for links from local businesses. Search marketing specialist Neil Patel recommends that you look for companies that are in the same industry but are not competitors.
“See if those websites have resource pages that link out to other businesses similar to yours,” Patel said. “Then see if you can strike up a dialogue with the business owner and convince them why they need to have your link listed as a valuable resource to their visitors.”
Join the local chamber of E-commerce. Most chambers include business directories on their websites, but only for members. If you’re not already a member, now is the time to join.
Update your website with fresh content. Not only does Google love sites that update content frequently — it gives the search bot a reason to come back — but it is a natural, organic way to build links, such as from local bloggers.
A blog is an ideal venue for updating content on a routine basis. Be sure to include keywords in the title and body of posts, but don’t overdo it, as Google may interpret such tactics as “keyword stuffing” and penalize, rather than promote your site.
10. Optimize Social Profiles for Local
While participation in social media isn’t likely to drive in-store visits or sales significantly, it’s wise to optimize your profiles for local. I’ve already mentioned listing your Facebook page as a local business, but you can localize sites like Twitter, Google Plus, and LinkedIn by including your precise location and a local keyword phrase.
If ranking highly in local search is important to you, taking these ten steps should help improve your visibility. You don’t have to do them all at once, however. Just begin with the first step — claiming your listing in local directories — and work from there.