Local SEO offers several advantages that national SEO simply can’t. It presents you in front of an audience exclusive to your own city or region, and eliminates many of the national-scale competitors who would make it almost impossible for small businesses to rank otherwise.
However, Google recently made a major shift in its presentation of local businesses. Rather than offering its traditional “7-pack” of the top seven businesses for a relevant local query, Google’s now showing only three in a “3-pack,” with calls to action similar to its former mobile layout prompting users to call or visit. Though the bottom four entries of the local 7-pack never saw much traffic anyway, the shift means there’s tougher competition in the local scene, and it’s more important than ever to make sure your local SEO strategy is on point.
How can you tell if you’re doing enough for your local SEO campaign? Check yourself against these five major points:
Local citations are a big deal. Google crawls hundreds of local directories and review aggregators looking for information on local businesses. It checks your name, address, phone number, and other information against its current understanding of your presence. Any inaccurate information could trigger a dip in your perceived authority, and a lack of presence is an indication of a lack of notoriety.
One of the first things you need to do in a new local SEO strategy is “clean up” your local citations, checking for any inaccuracies. But as an ongoing measure, you should be constantly getting your business listed on new directories and updating any information that changes on all your previous presences. If you don’t have a solid ongoing local citation strategy, you need to get one.
Like with national SEO, content is important for a local SEO campaign. But it’s not enough to write topics important to your industry or important to your audience (though that can help your overall domain authority). If you want more local relevance, you need to write content that is relevant to local audiences. Include your city or region’s name whenever possible, but be sure the content is actually relevant to your locale.
For example, you could attend a local speaking event or a local industry gathering and post about the experience. You could also write up lists like “The 7 Best _______s in Omaha” to stealthily include your own business for those types of queries. Doing so will increase your local authority, giving you more chances to make it into that local 3-pack while simultaneously giving Google more content to index.
When it comes to SEO in general, social media is a relatively small influencer on ranks. However, building up a strong social media presence can peripherally help you in other areas. It can help your content achieve more visibility and more links. It can help more people recognize your business and leave positive reviews. It can drive more foot traffic and more check-ins. It can even cause more local directories to pick up your citation information naturally.
Get involved on as many social media platforms as you can, but remember that you need to stay active if you want to see the results.
Offsite links are still a big part of both national and local SEO, so there’s no reason not to have a solid link building strategy in place. Press releases are still a good strategy to attract links, but they’re even more relevant if used in conjunction with local news sources to attract locally relevant authority.
Aside from local news sources, you can pursue locally relevant links on neighborhood forums, local blogs, and almost anything else that operates within your city. You could even work out some guest posting opportunities with your indirect competitors, or with businesses that operate near you.
This is one of the trickiest strategies, since you can’t pursue it directly. Encouraging anyone to post reviews of your business is a clear violation of Yelp and other local directories’ terms of service (meaning it could destroy your reputation if they find out). All you can do is post reminders of your business’s presence on such local directories and hint that people should leave reviews.
Beyond that, you need to read your reviews constantly. See what people do and don’t like about your business, and use that feedback to actively improve how you operate. Over time, you’ll optimize your business and prompt even more positive reviews. You can also use the opportunity to reply to your patrons, and possibly make up any bad experiences.
Reviews are critically important to a local SEO strategy—more positive reviews means greater search authority. Plus, Google’s new layout has a section just for average reviews, meaning you’ll get more click throughs if you’re better rated than the competition (even if they rank higher than you).
If you can pass this 5-point checklist without missing a mark, you’re already doing everything you can to support your business’s local presence. If you notice you’re missing anything, or if any of these items could stand to see some improvement, it’s time to get to work.