68% of clicks happen on the first three results in Google. SEO is a must for businesses today, but how does it work exactly, and what does an SEO company do?
In this article we cover 7 SEO solutions for local businesses, as well as tips for picking the right SEO company.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s the process of increasing your search ranking in Google (and other less popular search engines like Bing and Yahoo).
The higher up your website appears in Google, the more visitors you’re going to get.
To appear high up in Google, you have to target the words and phrases people search for.
In the SEO world, these search terms are called ‘keywords’.
Say you’re an Italian restaurant in Brooklyn, New York, you want to target people searching for keywords like:
- ‘Italian restaurant Brooklyn NYC’
- ‘gluten-free pizza Brooklyn’
- ‘pasta Brooklyn’
- ‘Italian restaurant NYC’
and so on.
When you put that keyword and related keywords in the right places, you will start to appear in results when someone searches for that term.
Common SEO metrics
Here are some basic SEO metrics to see how well you’re currently doing:
- Ranking Keywords – how many keywords you rank for in the top 100 search results.
- Domain Authority – an overall SEO ‘strength’ metric out of 100.
- Number of Backlinks – how many times other websites link to your site. The more the better.
There’s no definitive ‘good’ or ‘bad’ numbers. Instead, you should compare these scores to your competitors and others in your industry to see how well you’re doing.
Take the example below.
As you can see, this site ranks for 701 keywords. Is that a lot? Well, in their industry, others that have 21 ranking keywords are in positions 1-3 on Google.
So 701 keywords is excellent, and probably more than they need! They’re probably number one in Google for a lot of keywords.
6 SEO solutions
If you’re a business serving a local area or region, then you need to focus on local SEO. This is a bit different from traditional SEO.
Here are our top 6 local SEO solutions:
Google My Business
Say you’re a barber in NYC.
When people search for “Barber”, they get a map with some local results based on their current location.
This is called your “Google My Business” listing, and the good news is you can register your business for free.
Only three lucky businesses get an actual listing with further details and direct actions like ‘directions’ and ‘click to call’, so you should aim to be in the top three if at all possible.
Image Source: Think With Google
To do this, you need to make your listing as detailed as possible, and garner good Google reviews.
Look at your local competition in the top three, and aim to do better.
Be sure to choose the proper business category.
Add as many services related to your business as you can think of.
And include as many locations as you serve. For example, if you’re in Boston, you may also serve people in Cambridge.
Add as many main details as possible: address, phone number, and opening hours.
Schedule appointments directly through Google, if relevant to your business.
If you’re a restaurant, you can go further and allow people to reserve tables online, and order takeout.
It’s essential to add photos, both inside and out, to give people a feel of the place.
Separate these into different categories e.g. ‘inside’, ‘outside’, ‘vibe’ (a popular category), ‘food and drink’, and even include videos if you have any.
Customers can also add their own photos, which you should encourage.
If you’re a restaurant, you should also include your menu, as both a link to your website menu, and as a photo in its own separate ‘Menu’ category.
People can also ask questions, which you should always try to answer (members of the public can also answer).
You can even add posts, including products you offer, news, events, and special offers.
For example, this restaurant posted their ‘New Tasting Menu’ as a product.
The rest of your SEO also helps you get into the top three, such as the number of backlinks you have, and your on-page SEO.
So if you’ve got an amazing Google My Business profile that totally outshines the local competition, look elsewhere for the root cause.
Local Keyword Research
With local keyword research, there’s a huge priority on local keyword terms.
Keywords must be paired with all possible location scenarios like ‘hairdresser Boston’, ‘hairdresser South Boston’, ‘hairdresser Dorchester’, and ‘hairdresser near me’.
You also need to include all possible combinations of services like ‘haircut’, ‘highlights’, ‘ombre’, etc.
And preferences such as opening hours or online booking will need to be covered, such as ‘open weekends’ and ‘book online’.
Many people that know of your business will search for your name as well. For example, a restaurant called “Sola Pasta Bar” may get searches for “Sola”, or “Sola Pasta” or even misspellings like “Zola Pasta”.
What’s more, Google now has voice search, which means users can perform searches vocally rather than typing (OK Google: where’s the nearest Italian restaurant?).
And it’s getting popular.
Image Source: Think With Google
Which means you need to cover more longer, conversational keywords, like ‘where’s the best Boston hairdresser for blonde highlights?’ rather than just ‘hairdresser blonde highlights Boston’.
Believe it or not, listings are also incredibly important for ranking higher in Google.
These are places you have your name, address and phone number (NAPs) listed, like:
- Directories, such as Yelp
- Your Google my Business profile
- Social media profiles
- News stories
- Sponsorships or recommendations on other websites
Why are listings so important?
Because Google uses them to verify how legitimate and popular your business is.
If you have a lot of listings, and all of the information is consistent across the web, then you look very real, credible, and well-liked, and so Google will rank you higher.
If some of your listings contain different information, Google doesn’t know which information is the correct one. It doesn’t want to advertise incorrect information, and might think you are a closed-down or fake business, so it ranks you lower.
It’s therefore incredibly important to make sure all your listings contain the exact same information, and to keep it that way.
Yep, that means everytime you change your opening hours, or move premises, you’re going to have to go through all your listings, or get penalized.
It’s pretty impossible to do this manually, so you should perform regular audits of all your listings using premium services like BrightLocal. If you out-source your SEO, they’ll do this for you.
Image Source: BrightLocal
Here’s a list of the top 57 general local business directories.
Ratings and reviews
Like listings, Google ranks local businesses with lots of positive online ratings and reviews very positively.
Because they know consumers frequently use reviews to choose between local businesses.
82% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses, for an incredible 13 minutes before making a decision!
And it takes an average of 10 reviews before they trust someone.
Google reviews are probably the most important, as they feature prominently on your Google My Business listing.
However, you should aim to generate reviews across a wide range of platforms, including social media (Facebook), and directories like Yelp.
Bad reviews can really hurt your rankings, not to mention online reputation.
The only thing you can do with bad reviews is to respond as politely as possible to them.
If it was your fault, apologize and offer some kind of recourse. The below is an excellent example.
If there is anything you can clarify to paint yourself in a better light, do so, whilst remaining polite.
Ideally you should respond to all reviews, even positive ones, especially in Google My Business.
Bad reviews are inevitable as you collect more reviews, so don’t get worked up about them as long as your overall star rating remains positive.
Google loves fresh content, and creating a blog allows you to rank for tons more keywords.
A typical business website has just a few pages, and there’s only so many keywords you can rank for per page.
But with a blog, you can create hundreds of pages targeting hundreds or even thousands more keywords.
For example, this landscaper in Melbourne has an excellent blog full of useful information to Melbourne gardeners.
Image Source: Red’s Landscaping
Articles should be high-quality and at least 1,500 words each.
And if people link to your blog, this is called a backlink. Backlinks are loved by Google as they show site authority (as in, your content is so good other people are willing to link to you).
A blog is an excellent way of generating a lot of high-quality backlinks.
For example, Red’s Landscaping ranks for an incredible 3,269 keywords, and has managed to get an impressive 740 backlinks from this. Mainly from ranking on articles like ‘Top 100 landscaping blogs’.
This bakery blog focuses on recipes.
Image source: Broma Bakery
And ranks for an incredible number of keywords (over 123,000!) with almost 40,000 backlinks from all those articles.
Image source: Ubersuggest
However, keyword research for blogs is particularly tricky.
You want to aim for keywords that have the right search intent, relatively low competition, but still a decent search volume.
Using keywords requires a bit of SEO know-how. You need to use your keywords and LSI keywords correctly in title tags, meta descriptions and body content. Keyword stuffing is a big no-no.
Is your site fast and mobile-friendly?
Site speed and mobile-friendliness are two of the most important yet often overlooked technical SEO aspects.
Local businesses in particular are most often searched for on a mobile.
What’s more, site speed is a clear ranking factor on Google.
Ways to increase site speed include optimizing images, using browser cache, and minimizing your html and CSS.
What does an SEO company do?
An SEO company will take care of everything from:
- Local SEO
- On-page SEO
- Site speed
- Mobile-friendly site
- Blog content
- Social media profiles
As you can probably tell by now, increasing your rankings in Google is a complicated process.
So many things affect it, and it’s not a case of ‘anything is better than nothing’, either. Accidentally doing the wrong thing can get you seriously penalized by Google.
The rules are also constantly changing. What worked a few years ago doesn’t work today.
Most important of all, it’s not a one-size-fits all approach.
The things you need to prioritize to get the most ROI, and the keywords you target, are different for each individual business.
It depends on factors such as your industry, location, and current SEO status.
Keyword research, when done badly, can lead to a whole lot of effort for little or no gains.
For these reasons, most people find it easier and more effective to out-source their SEO to the experts.
But finding an agency that is really willing to dedicate the time and expertise needed can be challenging.25% of businesses say their biggest concern is proving return on investment (ROI), and 17% say their main concern is tracking analytics.