Looking around during a recent trip to New York City, I couldn’t help but compare the way local businesses promoted their business’ physical location to the way they promoted themselves online. From the signs, to the window displays, to the messages they used to convince people to choose them, these elements brought to life the different ways businesses attract local consumers who pass by their storefronts.
But how many of these best practices are they applying to how they reach local consumers who are searching for them online? And what other typical city experiences relate to how consumers find local businesses? Here are five local SEO tips businesses can use to get found by local consumers – inspired by the Big Apple.
1. Focus on What You Do Best
When applying SEO best practices to your website or to any online content, you should always focus on writing about what it is you actually do, and do best. For example, when walking randomly down almost any street in New York City, you’ll see signs hanging off awnings that read exactly what one can expect: such as pizza, sandwiches, camera repair, and discount handbags.
This idea should be applied to your website content, too. And despite the ever-changing landscape of SEO, optimizing your website for your main topics and keywords is one thing that will always be valuable to consumers searching for your business.
2. Optimize for Your Local Audience
What if you asked someone for a suggestion of a nearby restaurant and they recommended a place across town instead of down the block? You’d be a little more than annoyed – and probably look elsewhere for a place nearby. This same concept is important for how you market your business online: always have your audience’s real needs in mind and understand what they’re looking for.
When businesses successfully keep the needs of their ideal customer in mind in their local SEO, they have the upper hand because consumers are more likely to find them whether they are searching via desktop or mobile.
So, make sure your address is clearly listed on your website and marked up behind the scenes, too. Next, claim your business on top local directories – like Google+ Local, Bing Places for Business, and Yelp – as well as all the industry-specific directories that can help consumers find your local business. For example directories like TripAdvisor or TimeOut might be resources that local consumers visit directly to look up travel rates, offers, and reviews. Plus, these sites may populate in the search results for specific search terms, so it’s important that your business is listed on them, and that your listings contain accurate and up to date information that is consistent across the Web. That way, they are more likely to show up when someone searches for your local products or services.
3. Get On the Mobile Local Bandwagon
Mobile is a trend that’s here to stay (made obviously by how many people look at their phones while waiting to cross the street), especially in local search. In fact, 79% of consumers who own mobile phones have used their phone to do a local search? And, 78% of local searches on mobile devices result in an offline purchase.
If you haven’t considered the importance of having a mobile website, it’s time you do. Not only are they easier for consumers to browse and contact you from, but Google is also letting searchers know if your website isn’t mobile-friendly, which can send prospects looking in another direction. But it’s not just a mobile-friendly website that matters – it’s your entire mobile presence. From showing up on mobile-based maps (which are also tied to your local listings) to having positive ratings and reviews that show up in mobile search results, making a great impression with on-the-go consumers can help you stand out against the competition.
4. Make Your Business Look Great
Walk by a number of stores in any city and you’ll see a variety of storefront displays. Some use products in a thought-provoking way; others are just beautiful displays of the product. These displays are meant to pull you into a store and ultimately persuade you to buy. And the same principal should apply to your images online. And while images on your website that represent your business and look great at the same time is ideal, they are often overlooked when it comes to great SEO. But since they can help your business show up in multiple places on SERPs, it’s important to include your approach to images in your SEO strategy.
By using keyword and topic-optimized names for your images instead of just uploading them as “photo1.jpg,” you can help search engines recognize them for your target search terms. For example, a photo of a kitchen table might be named “wood-kitchen-table-furniture-cincinnatti.jpg” to help your business show up for consumers in Cincinnati searching for a new kitchen table from a local store. Also adding image alt text, or even captions, to your pictures gives them words that search engines can read and use in image search results.
5. Build & Maintain a Social Presence
Many local businesses I visited in New York are close to their local communities. From the décor to menu item names to the patrons they knew by name, they are very much a part of the community around them. There’s a lesson here for SEO, too.
It’s important to build your brand so that consumers remember you once they are in a place to choose your business. Restaurants are a great example. For example, say you post a coupon for a free pizza on Facebook with a link back to your website to redeem it. If one fan, Sally, shares your coupon with hundreds of her followers, that small action may result in others discovering, liking, and even visiting your business on the Web. And sometimes, those online actions can turn into offline conversions. This is why it’s key to actively post content that engages, entertains, and builds a community with your fans. Not only will it drive interest from the people already on the social site, backlinks to your website from social sharing can provide signals to search engines that the content you posted on your website is relevant to the topic of your local business in your city and drive up the local SEO visibility for your site.
These are just a few tips for improving local SEO for your business. If you have any to add, we’d love to see them in a comment!