Local SEO: 5 Steps to Getting Started with Search Engine Optimization

At a Glance

Local SEO is a vital element of any online marketing plan, and is especially important for brick-and-mortar business with a local customer base. In this article we’ll discuss how you can maximize your local SEO with using the following steps:

1: Determine Your Goals

2: Optimize Your Website

3: Build Your Links

4: Avoid Common Mistakes

5: Take Control of Your NAP

Understanding Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of increasing your website’s visibility to users on the internet. By investing in SEO, you increase the number of organic visitors to your site. As such, SEO is one of the best source for qualified leads. Organic visitors:

  1. Have pre-qualified themselves by searching for something relevant to your product or service
  2. Have shown interest in your specific offering by clicking on your site’s link
  3. Will not feel like they’re being sold to, since their visit is in response to a self-identified need rather than a prompt or ad

Local SEO for Your Business

Step 1: Determine Your Goals

The first step in getting started, is to determine your SEO-related goals. Going back to the basics, your goals should be SMART:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

But where do you start? Your SEO goals should be intimately connected to your business goals. Perhaps your business goals for the next year revolve around building your brand awareness, launching a new product, or improving the quality of your current website traffic. These goals will strongly inform your SEO keywords, strategy, and goals.

For example, if your goal is to increase the number of calls you’re receiving through your website, then you can design your site with that specific call to action in mind.

Step 2: Optimize Your Website for Local SEO

Make Your Site Easily Crawlable

The next step to optimizing your website for SEO is to ensure that it is easy for search engines to index. Three things you can do to accomplish this are:

  1. Make sure that the layout and structure of your site is easy to follow. The structure of pages and sub-pages should make sense and possess a logical structure
  2. Provide context in your page URLs, titles, headings, etc. “Things and Stuff” as the title of your services page is probably not a great idea.
  3. Create a site.xml file. This is basically an index of your site helps search engine crawlers easily navigate and find every page on your site. For help generating a site.xml file, you can visit xml-sitemaps.com. For additional help in making it accessible to search engine crawlers, contact us – we’re happy to help!

Use Relevant Text on Your Site

The next thing to do on your site, is to ensure that you are using relevant words in the key places on your site. Relevant words are any keywords that describe your business goals, your product, or your service. The key places to put them on your site include:

  • Page Title
  • URLs
  • Headings and Headlines
  • Links
  • Image alt-text
  • Content

Step 3: Build Your Links

One of the ways that Google, and other search engines, assess the reputability of your site is by the number and quality of your backlinks. Backlinks are links that point to your site from some other site or web resource. For example, the link I provided above to xml-sitemaps.com is a backlink (from their perspective).

Beware that not all backlinks are equal, and low-quality backlinks can actually hurt your SEO. For this reason I do not recommend services that offer to sell backlinks.

Instead, there are a few online sources that you can look to provide high-quality backlinks:

  • Relevant and reputable online directories
  • Industry-focused websites
  • Resource-focused websites
  • Editorial sites, such as new sites and blogs
  • Posts in Social Media

Getting Started Building Your Links

That’s all well and good, but how can you build your links if you’re just getting started? I have some suggestions:

  1. Create and publish quality content. This could be in the form of blogs, articles, info-graphics, videos, etc.
  2. Post links to your content on social media and encourage sharing
  3. Ensure that you are listed in relevant online directories
  4. Create content for other blogs or websites that allow you to link back to your website
  5. Post reviews of related products/services (such as suppliers
  6. Comment on related blogs or social media posts

Step 4: Avoid Common Mistakes

In addition to doing the “right” things, it will also be helpful to ensure that you’re not doing the “wrong” things. Below is a list of things to avoid in your SEO strategy:

  • A large number of low-quality links. Search engines have learned to look for a high number of low-quality links, and will often respond with an official penalty you in consequence.
  • Duplicate content. Search engines also look for evidence of duplicate content – articles, blogs, videos, etc. – and will penalize sites when they find it. Note that, at the time of this writing, this rule does not apply to images
  • Slow loading times. Search engines build their reputations by providing a smooth user experience. That means serving relevant results, but it also means that they prefer serving quick loading sites to those with a lot of latency.
  • Search engine penalties. If a search engine has determined that your site is guilty of false relevancy, they may issue a formal penalty against it. False relevancy is when you attempt to “fool” a search engine through programming or link-building schemes. If you’ve learned that your site has been penalized, please contact us. We can help!

Step 5: Take Control of Your NAP to Maximize Local SEO

What is NAP?

The last, and possibly the most powerful, recommendation I have, is to take control of your NAP. NAP is your business’s Name, Address, and Phone number.

As a local business, this information is especially powerful and it is often used in search engine-generated SERPs – that is, the images, profiles, and other information that’s not purely website links. Google’s display of the weather in Rome is an example of SERP.

How to Take Control of Your NAP

There are a few things that you can do to take control of your NAP and boost your SEO:

  1. Put your NAP in the footer of each page of your website
  2. Verify that your NAP is included on sites and directories where you’re business is listed. This can include industry listings, your chamber of commerce, etc.
  3. Ensure that your NAP is always the same across those locations
  4. Claim your business on search engines. Many search engines or review sites will allow you to “claim your business” if you’re the owner. Claiming your business, ensuring the NAP and other information is correct, and adding images and other media can go a long way to improving your SEO
  5. Lastly, it’s important to manage your online reputation. This means the number and quality of your online reviews. A large number of 5-star reviews, for example, is very helpful. A handful of 3.5-star reviews is much less so. If this is an area you could use help with, contact us for a free Review Audit.

In Conclusion

As a local business owner you are uniquely positioned to take advantage of both general and local-specific SEO tactics to drive traffic to your site.

Want this information in a checklist format? Check out our Free, Printable SEO Checklist

29 thoughts on “Local SEO: 5 Steps to Getting Started with Search Engine Optimization”

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