Most small-to-medium business owners that have a physical location -from plumbers and electricians to car dealers- have heard about local SEO, but many don’t know what it is or how they can use it. It’s a strategy that can increase sales as well as improve ROI for a business, so it’s in every owner’s best interest to get to know how it works.

That’s where “the experts” come in. There are a lot of sources for SEO tips on the Internet, but not many come backed with experience drawn from a focus on small to medium businesses and contractors. We’re here to help these small business owners by sharing our knowledge and experience with real clients in the field.

Search Engines: Your Main Source of Leads

Search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo have become the main gateways for Internet traffic: 95% of internet traffic comes from search engines. Google receives the brunt of the action, with over 11 billion queries being entered per month by people all over the world.  A significant number of these people (up to 60%) are searching for things to buy.

For small to medium businesses selling products and services in a given area, local search engine results are going to be crucial. These are results that are targeted to your geographical area and capture traffic from people searching at home and on mobile devices.

These days not securing local search rankings for your business on Google is equivalent to a business that has an unlisted phone number. Lost rankings equal lost revenue, lost brand reach and lost credibility. Local results are the key to your business. So how do we dominate those?

Optimizing Local Search Results

There are many aspects that come together to form a strong local SEO strategy. If you aren’t sure what local search is, then read our previous blog post titled “Why We Love Local SEO” and get up to speed.

Here are some of the main areas that you should be optimizing with respect to a local scope for your business:

Content

Google has made it clear that content matters, and that the quality of your content can directly influence the quality of your website rankings within their search results. What is the best way to do this? A business needs to provide useful, relevant, and engaging content for their prospects, audience and customers.

Focus on User Experience

It’s very important to remember not to focus on the optimization of your business website from a search engine perspective over providing valuable content for users. That leads to old-style tactics like keyword stuffing. Nowadays, it’s all about providing a good user experience. Great content for users works hand in hand with other SEO techniques to enhance the value and authority of your site, thereby enhancing its rankings.

Beyond that, the consequences of poor SEO tactics can be serious: If a business copies and pastes the same verbiage on every page, or if they use poorly written articles that are overstuffed with keywords, that business can get banned outright from showing up on Google.

Google defines “keyword stuffing” as follows:  “the practice of loading a webpage with keywords or numbers in an attempt to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google search results.

Duplicate content also makes it more difficult for search engines to decide which version or a webpage is more relevant to a certain search query. This can result in losses of traffic to a website due to overall lower search engine ranking.

Blogging

Another great way to enhance your site and get the attention of local business prospects is through a blog that is regularly updated on your website. Not only will a blog help you establish your professionalism and credibility as a brand, a blog will also help you increase your ranking search engine results, because search engines love rich, fresh content. Remember –it’s all about adding value to your page, and becoming and authority in your field.

The best way to use a blog in order to increase your authority and show credibility within your local business community is by endorsing and writing about local industry meetings, providing information that’s relevant to the local population such as new business regulations, and providing informational content that people will find valuable. Don’t be afraid to share!

A business blog can serve as a great reference on your website and will help you form strong, lasting relationships with other professionals and thought leaders online. A good blog can build trust among visitors to your site, allow people to connect with your business on social media, and capture relevant traffic from search engines.

Social Media

How does social media impact search engine results? It turns out that Google and the other search engines are trying to make their search results more relevant to the conversations people are having on social media. Companies that have a proactive social media strategy will gain more followers on their social platforms. The more followers and engagement, the higher the webpages will appear in the search results.

Also, when someone searches for your company name, social profiles allow your business to have more listings on search engine result pages (SERPs), giving your more visibility  and bringing in more traffic to your site.

Companies should develop a strong social media strategy that engages customers via Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and other popular networks on a regular basis. Not all platforms are the same -each one has a specific audience and content style that serves different purposes. Knowing how and when to use each one is the key to succeeding on social media.

Basic Social Media Profile Optimisation Tips

1. Ensure that the information on your social profiles matches that on your website.
2. Never leave a section blank. Fill up all profile fields with relevant, concise information.
3. Enter your business name in its official form, without keywords or place names unless the official name contains them.
4. Enter your full address to take advantage of built-in maps functionality on networks like Facebook and Google+.
5. Link your social networks together. Most social networks have fields dedicated to displaying links to other networks.
6. Twitter and Facebook are crucial networks that you must create business profiles on, complete with quality graphics. A Linkedin company page (different from a personal page) is also good thing to have. Pinterest and Instagram are great, but are visually oriented. Make sure that is something that your company can get use out of.

Don’t Ignore Google+

If you have a Google Places account for your business, you also automatically have a Google+ Local account. For local search engine optimisation, this is probably the most important profile because these pages display customer reviews from trusted sites like Zagat. Google+ Local is now being incorporated into Google+ Business Pages, so its functionality will become even more important.

Foursquare

Foursquare is a great network to be on, provided that you have a physical location that you could receive customers at. If this is the case, make sure your information is on Foursquare. It’s a powerful app on mobile devices as well as desktops.

Business Listings

Let Google know that your business exists and where it’s located by filling out business directory information, also called “citations.” To ensure your company is easily found in search engine results, you need to make sure your company is listed accurately across the major web directories. Citations include name, address, phone number and hyperlinked URL. Categorizing your business correctly is actually one of the most crucial steps in optimizing for local search.

Becoming a Local Authority

If your company is going to succeed online, optimizing your site for local search engine visibility is essential. Optimizing your website for the best possible user experience when people are navigating it will increase your level of authority. Rewarding your visitors with locally relevant content and easy-to-use navigation will bring you rewards in the form of improved rankings.

When they arrive, a user should be able to easily navigate and find what they came for, whether it’s specific information, customer support or a free quote. Build trust and credibility with your users by offering them informative, unique content that keeps them coming back.

In the end, local SEO is not just a matter of techniques and tactics; it’s about making your website better to strengthen your relationship with your audience for you to further understand one another’s needs. This is how you build a long term foundation to grow your small to medium business.