Local SEO encompasses many different activities, some of which have much more impact than others. Small businesses with limited budgets and a lot of other things to attend to must prioritize carefully to get results from their local SEO campaigns. Here are three key areas to focus on in your small business.
1. Google Plus
From a local SEO perspective, the most important listing to get — and get right — is your Google Plus page.
This will help your business show up in the Google Local Pack and Google Localized Organic Results, which provide the most prominent organic search exposure possible.
After setting up a Google Plus page for your business, populate it with as much content as possible, including visual content such as photos, custom images, video and slide presentations. Continue to add content regularly with additional visual content, excerpts of and links to on-site blog posts, and original text. It is also advantageous to obtain customer reviews for your Google Plus page, as Google gives them a great deal of weight. In conjunction with your Google Plus page, be sure to verify your business address with Google.
2. NAP Citations (Name, Address and Phone Number)
Google Plus is a powerful citation, but far from the only one. NAP citations — online mentions of your business, with or without a link — are strong ranking factors for Google and Bing.
As with all things SEO, quality is equally as or more important than quantity, so selectivity is key when soliciting citations. Websites mentioning your business should be relevant, locally relevant if possible, and credible.
Directory NAP Citations. National, localized business websites such as Yelp, Yellow Pages, the Better Business Bureau, Factual and CitySquares are always desirable.
These citations are usually “structured citations” because they contain specified fields of information that you supply.
Industry and Local NAP Citations. Citations from organizations such as your local chamber of commerce and other local associations, local online newspapers, supplier websites, and industry trade organizations are especially powerful because they validate the legitimacy of your local business. To obtain a citation on such websites, Google and Bing realize you must be a credible business in good standing, exactly the type of company these search engines want to serve up to their users in organic results. The citations listed here can be both “structured” and “unstructured,” unstructured citations being ones initiated and created by bloggers, newspaper editors, etc.
The best NAP citations for your business vary from industry to industry. If you need help identifying the best targets, use this Moz resource, The Best Local Citations by Category.
3. Link Profile Optimization
Technically speaking, link profile optimization is maximizing the SEO power of inbound links to your company website. This is a universally important activity, not just one limited to local SEO. Nevertheless, it should be a focus of your SEO campaign because link profiles continue to be a major factor in Google’s organic search algorithm.
One of the most effective ways for a small business to obtain high-quality, relevant links is through off-site article writing. Because content marketing has mushroomed in popularity, websites and blogs in your industry have an insatiable appetite for articles and visual content such as infographics and video. Small business owners know their industry inside-out and have the ability to write the exact type of content publishers want: authoritative, customer-focused, useful and relevant.
If you are not an experienced or especially gifted business writer, don’t let it deter you from pursuing an off-site content campaign. There are many talented freelance and agency copywriters who can take your input and craft it into a strong article that off-site editors will be proud to publish.
In addition to earning new links through off-site publishing, reclaiming (re-optimizing) existing links should also be a priority.
Because link profile best practices have changed over the years, what were once “good” links are now neutral to negative in the eyes of Google’s search algorithm. A couple of the most common and damaging issues include:
- An overabundance of links with keyword-optimized anchor text.
- Links from bad websites, such as content farms or websites completely irrelevant to your business.
Going through these links to have them removed or updated with new anchor text is a tedious process, but will have the cumulative effect of improving your local search visibility. Take both link reclamation and off-site publishing at a manageable pace: slow, steady and sustainable activity carries far more weight with Google than a flurry of activity followed by silence.
Once you initiate your campaign, be sure to evaluate results quarterly, and also review developments in the SEO industry to make sure your campaign tactics continue to be in line with current best practices. Since many companies are prone to put SEO on autopilot, keeping your finger on the pulse will give you a big edge in organic search engine visibility.
About the Author:
Brad Shorr is the B2B Marketing Director of Straight North. He has years of experience writing content and executing off-site SEO activities for small business all across the United States.