Dominating the local search game

Every business wants to dominate its competition in Google search rankings, but doing so might be even more important for small businesses. LocalVox looked at research from Think With Google and found that four out of five consumers use search engines to find information about local products and services.

Findings like these are likely why Small Business Computing considers the continued importance of local search rankings to be one of the biggest SEO trends for small businesses this year. As you can see, winning the local SEO game is a key part of your mobile marketing strategies, which are massively important to your overall marketing efforts these days.

“Small businesses definitely want to focus on dominating local search queries. Much more attention will be given to local directories and citations,” Jared Banz, founder of Banz Marketing Services, told Small Business Computing.

We know it’s critical to rank highly, if not at the top, of local search rankings, so here’s how you can beat out the local competition in the quest for that top spot.

Make sure you’re actually considered a local business
Before you get started, you should make sure that your business is actually a local one. As LocalVox pointed out, if you’re an online-only business, you won’t qualify as technically being local. Only small businesses with a storefront or the right to service a particular local area count.

In addition, you need to have what is known as a local identity. This means an address to a physical location and not just a P.O. Box, as well as a local phone number.

Claim your place in various online listings
Local online directories are a key way for consumers to quickly look up the information of small businesses in their areas. These directories almost always rank highly in search queries, so it’s well worth taking the time to make sure you’re is listed in the most popular ones. This can make up for any deficiencies your business’s website has in terms of its own rankings.

LocalVox wrote that there are at least five online directories you should be listed in if you want to have local SEO success: Google Places, Bing Places, Yahoo! Local Listing, Yelp and Manta. By claiming your listing in all of these directories, you’re almost guaranteed to get visibility when people use those search engines.

If you only pick one, however, go with Google Places. This one is a no-brainer. Google is the most popular search engine in the world, and by getting listed here, you’ll be the beneficiary of all that traffic. Be sure to include your business’s name, description, images, hours and contact information in your Google Places page.

Be consistent
Once you get going, your business is going to be in a lot of places across the Web – directories, social profiles, affiliate websites, etc. Thus, it’s important to make sure that the information you’re putting out is consistent across channels. Always make sure that you present your information the same way, no matter where it goes. At the very least, make sure the basics are there – name, address and phone number.

Optimize your website for mobile
Think With Google also found that mobile is quickly becoming a main source of local search volume. Here are some of the numbers supporting that:

  • 51 percent of consumers used their mobile devices to find small business information while they were already out.
  • 50 percent of consumers who looked up a small business with their smartphones visited the store within 24 hours.

According to Small Business Computing, Google is taking mobile responsiveness very seriously, and if your website isn’t optimized for mobile users, your search ranking will take a hit.

Use targeted keywords
Everyone knows that generic keywords aren’t all that great when it comes to helping your target audience find you. This is even more so here. People often get very specific when they search for local businesses, so you need to make sure your social profiles and website are equipped with specific keywords.

For example, if you were running a burger joint, you wouldn’t use “burgers” as a keyword. You would use “burgers in downtown Boston.” Local searchers want local results, and don’t be afraid to be descriptive. If you’re too generic, they’ll never be able to find you amid all of the businesses that have narrowed down their keywords.

Build up your off-site presence
Building up links is still a great way to boost your search rankings. By having credible, well-ranked web pages link to your social profiles or website, you can climb the ladder relatively quickly.

But there’s no clear-cut way to do this other than to give others a reason to link to you. Reach out to local charities or nonprofits and see how you can donate or lend a hand – you’ll get your name out there in relation to a good cause, and they’ll probably link to you or share your information on their own Web properties. Or you can host your own event, which will draw crowds and maybe even the press.

Don’t get impatient with this – link building is a long game and must be done right, or else you risk coming off as greedy.

Keep the content flowing, and optimize your old stuff
Having a solid flow of fresh content is a great way to boost your search rankings. But it doesn’t just have to be blog posts – make sure you’re staying active on social media too. (Don’t forget the keywords!)

Make sure to go back and optimize your existing content as well. Google is increasingly taking metrics like click-through rates and bounce rates into consideration when it does its ranking. If you’re not keeping customers on your page, you could be harming your position without even knowing it.

What are some ways you’ve boosted your local search rankings?