The first in a three part series on the 3 Ways to Reach the Top of Google
the Quick Way, the Right Way, and the Expensive Way
Local SEO – The Right Way
Welcome to the first of a 3 part series entitled 3 Ways to reach the top of Google: the Quick Way, the Right Way, & the Expensive Way Let us begin with the Right Way. All good SEO efforts on the web begin with Local SEO, which is basically the equivalent of registering your business with Google. Letting Google know who you are, what you do, and where and when you do it. The first step to registering with Google is by creating or claiming a Google My Business account for your business. If you have ever done a Google search before and seen the results populate at the top of the page with the map, star ratings, address and phone number. That is what we are referring to when using the term local SEO. This is also known as a “Three Pack”. Depending on the industry, it could very likely be the first result displayed on Google and that, can have a huge impact on the amount of business you do each day, each week, and so on. When it comes to being found online, you need to take advantage of every opportunity that you can. Local SEO is the best place to start; as it increases your visibility and the likelihood of your business being listed higher in Googles search engine results. Right at the very moment that local people are online searching for your services.
Step 1: Create/Claim Your Google My Business page.
It is free to create a Google My Business page and shouldn’take more than 20 minutes to cross to complete. This will register your business, hours, phone number, and directions with Google and enable your business info to appear in Google’s Search Results and Google Maps. Be sure to add pictures of your business and a great description so people can familiarize themselves with your business directly from your local Google My Business page. Only partial setup will be allowed until the business and address our verified by Google. This process is done by Google manually sending you a postcard with a pin so make sure to check your mail! Normal mailing time is 3 to 5 days.
Step 2: Create Business Mentions
Once you have received your PIN from Google, verified your business and completed your Google My Business profile, you have improved your online profile immensely. However, there is still plenty of work to be done! The next step is to make sure your business is listed, reviewed, and mentioned on other sites across the internet. Sites such as corporate directories (Yellow Pages, BBB, Chamber of Commerce), social media sites (Facebook, Instagram, Google Plus), review sites (Yelp!), and location based apps (Trip Advisor, FourSquare, even Waze has become important). The more sites you can get reporting your business information to Google, the better. It’s the digital equivalent to word of mouth advertising. Google is always listening to see which businesses are being talked about the most. In this case less is NOT more.
Ideally, one wants to be mentioned on at least 50 sites or more. This process can be lengthy and tedious if you are starting from scratch, but a good way to get started is to begin to join and create profiles for your business on all the popular sites. This will include, but not be limited to, Facebook, Instagram, Google Plus, and any other social media platform relevant to your industry i.e. Pinterest, LinkedIn. Yelp! Is another big one that you want to be on. All of these sites are considered to be highly credible by Google, and having a profile on them gives your business a certain degree of credibility with Google as well.
Since joining all of these sites can be time consuming and often times confusing, of course there are services that will do this and manage your profiles for you. If you happen to be interested in this particular service, then might I suggest that you click here. As I hear it told, blue grey marketing has an excellent reputation at providing such services.
Step 3: Get reviews.
Nothing is better for your business online than positive reviews. Google assigns a lot of weight to businesses that get positive reviews and even more weight to businesses that take the time to respond to those reviews. We previously wrote about this both Here and Here. So we will not waste time and space with redundancy here, but will instead explain a few more reasons why reviews matter.
Besides the obvious relevance of good reviews, they also serve to enhance your ‘click through rate’ an important indicator to Google regarding the relevance of your business. Businesses with the most good reviews or the higher star ratings usually get more clicks, the more clicks, the more relevant to Google.
A good way to begin this endeavor is by coming up with a list of about 50 customers/clients/friends/family really anyone who will leave a positive review about your business. However, you want to be careful not to do this all at one time; As getting 20 or 30 new reviews in a short amount of time may set off red flag alerts with Google. Pick your people to ask and spread this ask out over a month, or three. The idea would be to stagger your requested reviews out in an organic fashion so the reviews appear to be coming in naturally. It is also important to train your staff to ask customers for reviews and develop regular routines of requesting reviews. After all, if you aren’t proactively getting reviews, then you’ll only get bad reviews! And though your Google My Business page is a great place to start you cannot forget about Yelp, Facebook and the Better Business Bureau either. You need reviews everywhere, the more the better.
Step 4: Backlinks Improve Your Local SEO – The More The Better
Another important determining factor on where Google places your business in its local search results is the amount of local backlinks that you have. The more local businesses that are connecting to yours the stronger your domain authority score, which is another important determination in the Google Algorithm and ranking system. You can think of Domain Authority as a score for your online reputation. Each backlink is a business that is vouching for you, the more people vouching for you, the stronger your reputation.
For a local service oriented business, it is imperative that you create local links pointing back to your site. A few places to begin would be to request to be listed on a ‘partners section’ on as many of your vendors’ web sites as possible. If you have any corporate clients, then you would very much want to see if they would be willing to place link back to your website on their website. Chances are corporate clients or vendors have well established online reputations and by them linking back to you. Your business will inherent the benefit of their well-established credibility. Another idea might be to get involved with a local school or community and sponsor a youth athletics team in return they should link back to you on their “sponsor” page. All of these types of backlinks are indicators to Google that your business is reputable, relevant, and local.
Step 5: Improve your on-site SEO.
The fifth step here is actually the first step. On-site SEO, this has to do with your actual website content, keyword density, and overall optimization. Unfortunately, a lot of web builders do not understand SEO very deeply, either that or they copy and paste the service descriptions provided to them by the business owner and neither one knew how to, or cared to, do keyword research or craft the written content in such a way that it included several relevant search terms or phrases in their homepage text.
Google is not going to know we are digital marketing agency, specializing in SEO, Social Media, and Web Design in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Estero, Naples, and Sarasota unless we have specific pages that say they that and the same is true of you and your business. If you are a plastic surgeon in Naples, Fl then this needs to be very clear and apparent on your website. Be sure to include your business name, address and phone number on your ‘above the fold’ on your website.
In the title tag of your sites source code, be sure to reference your local market. On your contact page, make sure to list out directions to your office and include local landmarks so people can easily find your location. And on all of photos/images be sure to include Alt Text and Photo descriptions. As google can only read text. It does not see images.
Your local search results tie back into your website. Therefore, your website needs to be a true local indicator. Don’t go overboard though; there is no need to mention Naples, Fort Myers, Cape Coral, or whatever your town is, 48 different times on the Homepage. Google will consider this to be keyword stuffing and frowns upon the practice. Instead Google prefers sites that work their location and keywords in naturally and prefers a conversational tone when describing services. If you would like to test your sites SEO score you find our SEO Testing Tool here.
Open for business
If you haven’t taken the steps above to improve your local SEO, it is the equivalent of having a sign on your front door that says, “We’re Closed.” You want to make it known to Google that you are open for business and what kind of business it is, that you are Open for.
If you have a local office and spend 2 hours a week in a smart and efficient manner on your local SEO, you will reap the benefits for years to come. Don’t be discouraged if your business isn’t ranking in the top three results within a week, though. Like anything in life, Google placement must be earned. It can sometimes take quite a bit of time and consistent strides of improvement before Google to rewards your efforts. Other times, not so much. A lot of this is also determined by the strength of your competitors SEO – but that’s another blog.
Please feel free to leave a question or a comment below or contact us here if you would like some help setting up or improving your own local SEO.