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SEO for Local Businesses 101: Easy Tips to Improve Your Website Now

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By now, local businesses know that online traffic is vital for their business. Plumbers, roofers, tilers and contractors know that people read forums and do research online when they need to hire a service provider. This applies to all locally-oriented businesses like hairdressers, wedding photographers, driving instructors, home care, security services and anything else that comes to mind.

Use smartphone to find a local businessAnd the younger your target audience is, the greater the chance is that they’ll be looking for online references before they hire you. Just to make the equation even more difficult, they’ll probably search for your services via their mobile device.

Wondering how to capitalize on some of this mobile traffic for your business? Below, we’ve listed our top five tips for local businesses to follow to improve their online ranking and grow their business on the web.

1. Make It Mobile-Friendly

Mobile devices’ share of internet traffic keeps growing, especially for locally-targeted (i.e. commercial cleaning Bakersfield) and “near me” (i.e. emergency electrician near me) searches. This traffic is mainly customers who are ready (or even desperate, if we look at our emergency electrician here) to make a purchase, so you definitely don’t want to lose out on this business. That’s why it pays to make sure your site is mobile-friendly.

Emergency Electrician Search by Device

Here’s how to check if your site is mobile-friendly:

  • Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool to see whether your company website is optimized for the best possible user experience on smartphones and tablets.
  • With Google Analytics, check the Audience section and look at Mobile to determine what portion of your traffic comes from mobile devices.
  • And, of course, use your own mobile devices for an easy preview of how your site stacks up on mobile.

Your solution:

If much of your audience finds you through their mobile devices, invest in a responsive (and UX-friendly) redesign

2. Set Your Site to Lightning Speed

Your site needs to load fast. Users will lose interest if a page takes more than a few seconds to appear – and since Google doesn’t want to frustrate its users, slow sites end up lower in the results, even if they offer the most useful information.

Check your site speed now: GTMetrix will show you how quickly your website loads.

Your solution:

  • If the Site Speed check is not satisfactory, choose a better hosting solution — e.g., upgrade your shared hosting account to a cloud solution or dedicated server.
  • Lower the size of the files that load on your site. Do you have lots of huge image files? They are one of the most common reasons for slow site speed.

3. Optimize Your Google Maps Results

When someone is looking for a roofer or contractor, they want to find somebody convenient and usually indicate the location they need, such as “home repair services Santa Barbara,” or even more specifically, “hair stylist near me.” For location-specific searches, Google offers special map listings that point users directly to the nearest service providers on the map.

google map results home

Your solution: Follow these tips to improve your ranking in Google Maps results:

a) Choose which keywords to rank for

Begin with SEO (search engine optimization) and decide which keywords you want to rank for. This is usually a combination of terms related to your business and your location, which your customers use to find you online:

“bathroom fitter Manchester”
“beauticians Sydney downtown”
“photographer Pipersville weddings”

To choose the right long tail keyword, you need to do some research with a keyword tool to discover keywords that have both a high enough search volume and a relatively low competition rate. Both of these factors need to work together in order to successfully rank for the search term. If you choose a keyword with a very high search volume, the competition might be too fierce, but a keyword with very low competition may not be searched for frequently enough to bring you much traffic.

We usually advise clients to go with the most localized keyword, since that’s where competition is lowest, your chances of ranking are highest, and users are most willing to convert – that is, make an appointment or a purchase right away.

Onsite SEO for location keywords

Once you choose which local keyword which you want to rank for (for example, “home decorator Leeds”) you can begin to integrate it within your website content. That means adding the keyword and its close variations to your title tags and meta descriptions on main pages, and adding the location to your address line in the contacts page and in your website footer. Since home decoration is usually provided within a certain radius, your location is a major reason why clients end up choosing your services over those of others: make sure your location is an obvious keyword on your site and try to rank highly for it.

b) Create consistent listings in top local directories

For the best results in local listings, Google recommends that you:

  • Represent your business the same way it’s represented and recognized in the real world on your signage, stationery and other branding
  • Make sure your address is accurate and precise
  • Choose the fewest number of categories it takes to describe your overall core business

If you already have your company listed in major local directories, you need to check that your NAP (name, address, phone) is consistent. If you find any differences, choose a master version and modify the NAP in all listings to be identical. This helps Google’s robots recognize that the listings all point to the same business: an important factor boosting your local listings rank.

If you find that there is a listing of your business which you are not managing yourself, you need to claim it. The process takes some time, but after the listing is in your hands, you’ll be able to update it with your official NAP and use it to boost your local results position.

Make sure your information is listed in and consistent across these top local directories:

Try this handy tool to scan your business in local directories.

c) Keep adding listings to other local directories

Once you’re in the directories and you’ve updated your information, your work isn’t over. You should continue adding your business to other local directories on a regular basis –aim for five to 10 new listings per month. Don’t forget to keep your NAP (name, address, phone) consistent, so bots identify your business and aggregate results from all directories.

d) Help customers picture your place of business

Adding images and videos to your listings increases the click-through rate, since users are more likely to choose a listing with images than a listing without. The click-through rate is an important ranking factor for Google Maps rankings, and if yours is high, it will eventually increase your position in the local listings results.

e) Get your customers to review your business

You already have happy customers, so use this to your advantage and ask them to recommend your services to others on Google or Yelp. Positive reviews will drive amazing waves of clients straight to your door. And having lots of positive reviews will increase your rankings.

4. Make Page Titles and Meta Descriptions Speak to Customers

Many local business websites use the same page title and meta description for all pages or a large chunk of them. This is a big rookie mistake.

Since these two pieces of metadata tell search engine bots what a given page is about, it’s crucial that the title and description are unique for each page. If you have the same metadata on your homepage and all of your service pages, you’re decreasing your chances of ranking well for any of them.

Check your page titles and meta info: Screaming Frog will crawl your website pages and see which titles and meta descriptions are duplicated.

Your solution: Make sure you have a clear website structure. The best practice is to have the services you provide as main menu items, so that they’re available for your users and search engines to review and index. These services are usually the keywords people would use to find you online: that’s why it pays to keep them high up in your website structure, with clear descriptive titles and meta descriptions.

Once your main site structure is taken care of, make sure your keywords are integrated into your page titles, meta descriptions, and in the headings of your content.

Take the following example, which uses a descriptive meta text and several different keywords as subheadings:

<title>Andy Coleman Photography: Wedding Photographer Norwich</title>
<meta name="description" content="Wedding Photography for Norwich and Suffolk by Andy Coleman. Andy specializes in creative documentary, natural and mesmerizing photography">

<h2>Wedding Portfolio</h2>
<h2>Family Photos</h2>
<h2>Commercial Photography</h2>

5. Produce Content That Helps Customers

Content is your most vital asset for ranking in free search engine results. It’s what users are ultimately searching for online, and it’s what search engines base their rankings on. Let’s look at two major ways your content may be failing you, and how you can use it to its full potential.

Thin Content

A common mistake is having just a few lines of text or just a list of the services you provide without further details. If the content on the page is slim, Google doesn’t know what your page is about, and it’s very unlikely that it will rank high in search engine results.

Your solution: Crawling your site with Screaming Frog, the tool we used to look at titles and meta descriptions, lets you know which pages have thin content. Write well, give valuable information, and share your knowledge — this will boost your ranking and drive traffic to your site.

SEO and Content

Another common pitfall is website content that gets too industry-specific or generic, and ultimately doesn’t provide answers or solutions to user questions and pain points. To rank highly and show up in search results for a particular search query, that query needs to be integrated into your site content.

Your solution: Come up with a list of keywords that best describe your services – use the words your customers would type in to search for your service, not the industry term. For example, instead of writing about plumbing, you might talk about the different types of drainage problems people might have: sink blockage, garden drainage, underground leak, etc.

Expert SEO Help

If your site still needs professional help, get in touch with us. We’ll help you figure out what’s working and what’s not, and we’ll provide you with a full list of recommended actions to regain or boost your traffic.

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Kate Proykova

Kate Proykova is the Managing Director of Hop Online. She has over 9 years of experience in Online Marketing, SEO, PPC, Website Creation and Project Management. In her spare time she loves to explore nearby mountains and rural villages with her family. She practices Yoga daily.

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