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Local search engine optimization isn’t just for mom and pop shops anymore, practically any business can take advantage of the benefits. Phone books use to be the go-to resource for local business listings, but computers, smartphones and tablets have changed things for the better. Now there are over 2 billion local searches on Google alone every month.

Simply creating a website for your business isn’t enough. You also need to work on your visibility by optimizing your site for local search. Almost half of all local searches begin without a specific business in mind. That means that people are simply looking for a product or service, and they’re looking for help online. This is where the opportunity lies for locally focused businesses.

Follow these best practices for best results:
  • Develop locally-relevant content – Include your name, physical address and phone number on your website. Create pages specific to the areas you are trying to optimize for. Target long tail keywords that include the area + keyword.
  • Build and update local citations – Citations are complete or partial references to your name, address and phone number or website anywhere on the web. Build and update citations on local directories. Check your listings for consistency and correct any inaccurate information, make sure your directory listings match what is listed on your site. Here is a link to the top 50 online local business directories.
  • Earn and manage online reviews – Ask your current customers to leave reviews. Reviews are a great way for you to learn more about your strengths and weaknesses as a business. Also be sure you are responding to any negative reviews. Write a follow up message explaining the issue and offer a sincere apology. Use this info as a learning tool, and minimize repeat errors. Read my colleague’s article to learn more about responding to negative reviews
  • Engage with your neighbors via social media – Avoid wasting your effort by choosing the right social media platforms to focus on. Consider where you’ll find your target audience and start there. Pew Institute researched Social Media Demographics in 2015. Be sure to take a look if you are unsure of your target audience participation on certain platforms. Your main goal should be to help others, not sell to them.
  • Create a mobile-friendly / responsive site – Help searchers on the go. The better their mobile experience, the more likely you are to earn their business.
  • Develop your brand’s unique value proposition – Figure out what makes you different, and why your customers should care. This will help you to stand out from the competition and carve your own place in the local market.

For more in depth information on local search ranking factors, read this article from our friends at Moz. Have you optimized your website for local search? If so what effects did you see? Leave a comment below.