With 2017 coming to a close and a new year looming, many businesses are researching new ways to increase their ability to be found online. Local SEO has been — and continues to be — a key online search strategy for local businesses to receive a steady, growing stream of targeted traffic without having to pour thousands of dollars into traditional advertising.

Did you know: 92% of users choose a business that appears on the first page of local search results, while 50% of mobile users visit stores within one day of performing a local search?

Not only is local SEO different from the average SEO campaign, it’s also changing more rapidly than ever. Over the past few years, there have been big changes in what local SEO looks like, especially when it comes to Google. Here are some of the major changes:

  • Local search results began showing fewer business listings
  • Changes were made in the look and placement of search engine result page ads
  • Mobile readiness and optimization became a necessity and not just an option

With dramatic shifts like these, it’s becoming more challenging to rank and grow your business with local SEO, and you may be wondering what you can do to optimize your website for SEO and rank locally in the coming year. Here are 10 tips to get you started on the right track for local SEO.

1. Title and Meta Descriptions
Title and meta description tags are critical HTML elements that you customize based on the content of your website. The text of the title and the description are what you see when you run a search and your results begin to show. Paying close attention to the title and description tags and writing them to include important keywords can help you to appear more frequently and higher than other results.

2. Get a grip on Google My Business
Significant improvements can be made to local SEO with the help of well-managed and properly created listings on Google My Business, or GMB. Listings that have been updated, verified and claimed, and have strong ratings and reviews are most likely to be featured at the top of organic local search. These may also be included as a part of the “local pack” for highlighted businesses.

Here are 3 quick tips when setting up your GMB account the right way:

  • Avoid stuffing your business name with keywords. Instead, use the actual name of your business.
  • Add your local phone numbers that people can call to connect directly with your brick-and-mortar local stores.
  • Include high-quality photos in your listings to enhance their visual appeal as well as to optimize your performance in local search results.

Then, you should optimize the GMB listing of your business by taking some proactive measures. Claim and verify the business, remove duplicates, and ensure the basic details are present. Put up a high-resolution image of your storefront and select the appropriate categories where your business should ideally appear.

3. Create location pages on your business website
A feature of local SEO that most marketers seem to have already incorporated into their website is the use of location pages. Locations pages are micro-sites or silos that contain optimized content for each of your business locations connecting back to your main website. If you haven’t created locations pages yet, it’s a good place to start. 

Remember to choose a simple URL and make sure your business name, address, and phone number is present on all your location pages. It’s also crucial to embed a Google map on your page for search engines and potential customers to find your business locations easily, especially for members of the local mobile audience. 

4. Remain consistent across the web
An extended task, stemming from your GMB and location pages, is making sure your business information is current and correct on other major search engines and industry directory sites, such as Bing and Yahoo, or Yelp and the YellowPages. This consistency is important because Google and other search engines scour the web for mentions of your business and incorporate their findings into search ranking. If your company’s basic name, address and phone number, or NAP, are incorrect or inconsistent online, the search engine could rank you lower than those businesses with current and consistent information.

5. Get more positive online reviews
Reviews are an additional driving force behind local SEO performance. Monitoring reviews also helps foster customer loyalty and trust, understand the customer experience, and shape the overall brand reputation. The impact of online reviews on local SEO rankings has been made very clear by Google, so businesses should focus on getting good ratings and reviews while also responding to these reviews to ensure good visibility in the local space.

6. Get more and better links
Links serve as the currency for SEO. Gaining more quality and relevant links from high authority sites in your niche market is critical in making your pages rank better. Some of the best sources to obtain links for local SEO include:

  • local business directories
  • local “.gov” and “.edu” websites
  • your city's Chamber of Commerce website

7. Stock up your website with great content
Through the years, Google’s undying love for deep content has been well-documented with pages offering the best content receiving the best page rankings. The same holds true for local SEO. If you have sparsely populated location pages, you can boost their performance with the help of rich and engaging content that Google and other search engines will love.

8. Take note of on-page SEO factors
Primarily, four areas should be focused on here: keyword-friendly URLs, descriptions and titles, keywords, and code. A clean code will ensure the search engine can easily read the pages. The title and Meta description of every page along with the URL should contain the main keyword to ensure better search engine visibility.

9. Undertake a smart keyword research strategy
Keywords are an indication of where someone with regards to his/her position in their search and possible purchase process. Every phrase could be indicative of a different intent. For example, a search for financing options usually indicates the person has moved a few steps forward in the process as opposed to a search for reviews. Lending focus to the local versions of keywords will help businesses connect better with customers at the preferred stage of their buying process.

10. Explore more possibilities with Local Business Cards (LBCs)
A featuring in beta stages in Google's system, Local Business Cards (LBCs), is expected to play a key role in how pages rank in the coming years. The cards are displayed in a carousel with users having the option to upload videos and images, post reviews, and leave comments. Business cards that are more popular typically get higher visibility. While LBCs are currently in a testing phase, it pays to watch out for them.

11. Don’t bother with citations (at least, for the moment)
Though citations were once a major part of local search visibility, they aren’t as important in the present scenario. While they are still around, their value as a ranking factor is not the same as other factors that have slowly gained prominence. There is always the option to revisit them in the future as and when their popularity starts picking up again, but for the time being they can be left on the back burner, leaving you time to shift your focus to other more important tactics.  

12. BONUS TIP! Receive your free Digital Footprint Summary from New Angle Media!
While this is not an exhaustive list of everything you need to do to make your business rank locally, you can certainly play around with these tips to figure out what works for your business and leave out what doesn’t. New Angle’s team has expertise in local SEO tactics and can help you optimize your business’ presence to rank higher and bring you more traffic and customers.

For a quick overview of your digital footprint and local SEO standings based on many of these tips, we’re providing a complimentary Digital Footprint Summary! Your summary can answer some of the following questions:

  • Is my website optimized for mobile devices? 
  • Is my website communicating effectively with search engines? 
  • Is my business NAP (Name, Address, Phone) information consistent online? 
  • Are there errors on my website that affect performance and search results?
  • How does my site rank for my target keywords? 
  • What are people saying about my business on popular social media sites? 
  • Is Google Analytics collecting data on my website’s traffic?  

We’ll run the information you provide in various tools and analyze the results, and give you recommendations to improve your local SEO. Contact us to get started on your free Digital Footprint Summary! 

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