Dominate Search-Optimizing for Local SEO

Local SEO (Search Engine Optimization) has evolved in a significant way over the past few years. It wasn’t all that long ago when small business owners were just getting acquainted with search engines and realizing the benefits.

My, how times have changed!

Nowadays, it is unusual for an entire day to go by without getting called on by a local SEO company.

Optimizing your site for local SEO in the “early” days (5 or 6 years back?), it was a matter of doing your typical on-page SEO, throwing in some geo-specific keywords (e.g. “South Chicago Pizza Palace”), registering and verifying your site with a few local directories, and calling it a day. And that used to work, because search engines, such as Google and Yahoo, hadn’t really taken mainstream local search seriously.

In the past few years, that changed in a radical way. Part of that change was inspired by the rapid rise of the smartphones and tablets. With eight out of 10 humans walking around town with some type of computer in their hand, the search engines have been among the first to take notice.

There have been countless evolutions in the way Google evaluates and ranks content for search queries with a local intent. It’s truly a job in itself just to keep up with the all the search engine updates and their silly names. But they’re important to stay up on, if you have the time, because even if you aren’t directly doing the work to rank your site in top positions, you’re going to need to understand the what’s, why’s and how’s.

Optimizing your website for local search engine dominance can be outlined very easily. Here’s what you should typically plan for:

1. On-page SEO. Do all the actual on-page SEO work for your site (keywords, title tags, headers, etc). Make sure your address is clearly displayed on your website, and that it stays perfectly consistent anywhere else your business appears on the web.

2. Legitimate reviews.
Get your customers to talk about their experience. Make sure they’re real people sharing real experiences. Don’t fake reviews. If you’re getting poor reviews, there is something wrong with your business. Address the issue; don’t try to offset deficiencies with counterfeit reviews. Get as many reviews as possible from customers with Google+ accounts.

3. Local links. Think about the chamber of commerce, city and town websites, charities, and the like. Search engines give a lot of value to links from local, authoritative websites.

4. Get citations. A citation is when another website mentions your site, but doesn’t always physically link back to you. Google finds mentions of your business name and will use them as another trust signal. Make sure the business listing information is the same as that on your site. Even a one-character difference can confuse the engines, so keep it consistent.

5. Leverage Social Media.
This has been and will continue to be another strong element of optimizing for local search traffic. Again, Google sees everything, and they will see your social media influence and how much people interact with you and vice-versa. Having an active social media presence on all the big social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and most importantly, Google+, will be absolutely key to obtaining and maintaining high local rankings. This isn’t going away, so even if you’re late to the social media world, you need to get on it and start engaging your target audience right now.

6. Mobile Optimization.
At this point, if your website isn’t mobile-browser friendly, you’ll most likely lose traffic and potential customers. Statistics are saying that more than 50 percent of mobile searches are for local businesses. Know what types of devices your traffic is coming from by monitoring analytics and think about optimizing your site for mobile.

It’s all about sending the right signals. Google has fought a long and hard battle with spammers for over a decade now. Spammers, who throw up junk content and use black-hat SEO methods to rank it, are becoming a thing of the past. Google is bound and determined to make sure that when a user searches for something, they’ll find a quality match every time.

With all of this continually evolving, everything you do to optimize your site should be an attempt to build a better experience for your users and customers. That is the winning formula!