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It may often feel that small “main street” businesses are at a disadvantage versus large, national corporations.  But in the case of SEO (or search engine optimization), Google gives preference to local businesses.  Most web searches are now done via mobile devices where the actual location is often known.  Google uses this location information to give preference to businesses that are physically nearby.

The advantages of using local SEO as a marketing tactic is you are likely to perform better than your local competitors, since many small businesses do not focus here.  SEO is also a “free” way to get visits to your website over time.  The drawbacks to focusing on SEO is that it is a long-term approach, often taking 3-6 months to see results, and can have some technical components which may be intimidating. 

This article focuses on simple local SEO tactics that can be easily done by a non-technical entrepreneur.

  1. Pick the most accurate category for your business.  By going to Blumenthal’s you can enter the category you believe to be associated with your business and get a list of synonyms to make sure you have covered all the bases.
     
  2. Create a Google Business Account.  Set up a company page on Google My Business.  Fill out the basic listing fields, and build out the profile as completely as possible with an exact address, phone, business hours, company logo, and additional photos of staff, products, etc.
     
  3. Get listed with several business directory sites.  By visiting Moz Local, you can see where your business is currently listed, and get suggestions for other directories where you should create a listing.  It is important to have an exact match of your business name, address and phone (NAP) from your Google listing, down to the spaces used, to make sure that Google consistently sees your business in all these different directories.
     
  4. Develop a keyword strategy.  To maximize your search efforts, target keywords that not only generate traffic, but also incent customers to buy your products or services.  First list a series of possibilities by typing search terms in Google you think your potential customers may use and view the results.  You can then use the Google Keyword Planner tool to refine your decisions.  Make sure you limit your location to your local area rather than the United States default.  Hone in on keywords that are higher in volume but low in competition.  You can also use the tool “Multiply keyword list to get new keywords” to combine your general keywords with your location name.
     
  5. Update your website to optimize for local search.  Using your target keywords, update your website to focus on these terms.  For each page on your website, make the following changes or ask your web company or a SEO consultant to update:
    1. Explicitly call out your business address in each page footer making sure it is properly tagged for Google. 
    2. Change your page URLs to describe what your company does and its location. 
    3. Incorporate keywords in your Title Tags.
    4. Create a Description Meta Tag that creates an incentive for the viewer to learn more.
    5. Use header tags to structure your page content with one H1 tag describing the overall page content and then H2, H3, H4, H5, H6 tags to show nested content.
       
  6. Build inbound backlinks.  Despite the many marketing promises you may receive, do not use paid link building services – you risk being classified as spam and suffering damage in your rankings by Google.  Instead, reach out to partners, local press, etc. to ask them to list your site on their pages.  Encouraging customer reviews on Google and other review sites like Yelp are also considered high quality links.
     
  7. Monitor your performance.  Using Google Analytics, keep track over time the number of visitors via search and the search terms used. 

Local SEO is a tactic that can be a slow but steady source of new customers for your business.  If you wish to learn more, check out videos on LinkedIn or Moz.