Local SEO is a set of processes to better a business’s website rankings in the local search engine results. While it is not an exact science, there are certain steps that you, or your webmaster, can take that have proven to be very effective. The following is a step-by-step guide to local SEO. (For the purpose of this article, a “keyword” can also refer to a key phrase, or group of words.)
1. Select Your Most Important Keywords Based On Your Prime Target Audience
If you are trying to sell products and/or services through your website, you will want to optimize your website with keywords that attract an audience of buyers, not just browsers.
So, for example, if you are a fishing guide in Key West, people landing on your website looking specifically for a fishing guide in Key West is your prime target audience. Therefore, although the term “fishing guide in Key West” doesn’t get anywhere near as many Google searches per month as “Key West weather,” it certainly has far more potential to convert traffic into sales on your website!
Likewise, “Key West fishing report” is probably better than “Key West scuba diving,” although the latter gets more searches in Google every month.
2. Optimize Your Page Titles
The most critical element of SEO is the page title so it’s important you get this just right. First, make sure you place your most important keyword for each page in your title for that page.
Second, for the best effect, place your target keyword at the beginning of the title.
For example, suppose your keyword is “scrapbooking supplies.”
A title like:
“Scrapbooking Supplies | Welcome To Our Directory,”
would be better than:
“Welcome To Our Directory Of Scrapbooking Supplies.”
Third, keep your page titles short and concise. Google with truncate a title that is longer than about 64 characters. Fourth, remember that actual human beings will be reading your title and making a spit second decision as to whether or not to click on it. Thus, making your title appealing to the reader is just as important as ranking high.
3. Each Page Title Should Be Unique
Be sure not to repeat the same keyword on more than one page on your site. Both Google and Bing may consider this spamming and penalize your website ranking. Additionally, don’t repeat any phrase on every page.
So, for example, don’t start every page with something like, “Mike’s Surf Shop.” Instead, you can put a little graphic that says “Mike’s Surf Shop” at the top of each page for branding purposes but leave it out of the text of the title.
If appropriate, you can add special pages with geographical search terms in the title since many surfers add geographical terms to their search queries.
“Surfing In Santa Cruz,” would be an excellent way to start a title of one of your internal pages if you offer surfing equipment and/or surfing services in Santa Cruz. For the homepage, you could use something like, “Surfing Supplies in Santa Cruz California” or “Surf Shop In Santa Cruz California.”
4. Plan Your Internal Linking Strategy Well
Many webmasters don’t realize this but internal links count just as much as external links when it comes to boosting your search engine ranking. However, you have to be careful about how you position these links. You also have to be careful not to overdo it.
In general, links off the homepage count more than do links from internal pages. Therefore, you should link to your most important internal pages from your homepage.
Alternately, you can use links on your internal pages to bolster the ranking of your homepage for a targeted keyword or cluster of related keywords. Just be sure not to use the exact same phrasing in every link.
5. Geographical Keywords
For certain types of businesses, especially retail businesses, geographical keywords can increase your search engine traffic by orders of magnitude. This is because people often use geographical terms in their search queries.
For example, people almost never search for the term “restaurants” or “Thai restaurants.” Instead, they use something like, “restaurants in Jacksonville FL” or “thai restaurants in Jacksonville FL.” The easiest way to ensure you are including geographical keywords is to include your address and phone number being sure to include the area code on every page.
If you have a presence in more than one location, be sure to include pages listing all addresses and all local phone numbers.
6. Make Sure Your Site Is Listed In Regional Directories
There are many regional directories on the internet and a link in the most important ones will give you a lot of link juice. For example, one link on TripAdvisor can bolster your search engine ranking more than one hundred links on lesser known sites, especially if you get a lot of positive reviews. Some regional directories are set up similar to the old fashioned yellow pages of the phonebook.
Other directories add reviews, photos, and other premium features. Some of the more popular regional directories are Merchant Circle, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, Google Local Business Center, and Yahoo Local.
In most of these, you can add your own business name, website address, phone number, and physical address for free. You can also encourage your happiest clients/customers to review you on one or more of these directories.
7. Make a YouTube Video
YouTube has become an essential element in any good SEO strategy. Google now owns YouTube and YouTube videos tend to rank very well in Google.
Besides the added exposure the video itself will bring you, you can place a clickable link to your website, or an internal page on your website, in the description of the video. This is considered a very valuable link and will grow in value as more people find your video.
Please don’t be daunted by the idea of making a video. Many cellphones and cheap digital cameras have a video function that will work just fine for this purpose. If you are struggling with this task, ask a friend, or perhaps even better, your friend’s kid, to help you.
How to videos are very popular on YouTube because people can actually see how to do something rather than just reading about it with pictures at best.
When learning how to do something, videos are often better than pictures. If you sell products, you can do a personal how to demonstration. For example, if you own a camping store, you could make YouTube videos on how to set up different types of tents.
8. Blogging For Better SEO
Adding a blog to your website improves your local SEO in several ways. First, Google favors sites that change frequently and/or add new content frequently. Sites with fresh content generally get ranked higher.
A blog is an easy way to do this. Every new post is a new page of content. Plus, every new comment on every post page is a change for that page! You can encourage more comments by interacting with those who post comments.
Second, every blog post can be optimized using important secondary keywords. Third, you can place links to the most important pages on your website inside your posts. Best yet, this will grow naturally as your blog archive grows over time, something Google loves. If you don’t have time to keep up with your own blog, you can assign an employee to do it or hire an independent contractor to keep a blog going for you.
9. Identify and Fix Technical Issues That Affect Search Engine Rankings
Technical issues can negatively affect your search engine rankings. For example, broken links, i.e. links that return 404 errors, will negatively affect your search engine rankings. Broken links can occur for many different reasons.
For example, a typo can cause a link to be broken. A file may be missing after you, or your webmaster, migrate files from one server to another, and this can give a 404 error as well.
Here’s another example. Frames and tables used in the coding of your website can bury your keyword rich content under your navigation links or advertising in the eyes of the search engines. A good way to identify these technical issues and many others is to use a Google tool called “Google Webmaster Tools.” To get started, just go to: www.google.com/webmasters/start.
10. Getting External Links
Google uses the number of links pointing back to your website in their formula to determine how well your website should rank in their search engine results. They also evaluate the quality of these links, i.e. some links count more than others.
Also, some links can actually hurt you if they are deemed to be from “bad neighborhoods,” i.e. sites that are low in content and/or filled with spam. Generally speaking, most links you pay for are not the best neighborhoods to have your website listed in. You can usually get some links fairly easily by joining professional associations such as your local chamber of commerce.
Donations to some non-profits will also land you a link when they list their sponsors on their website. You can also ask your friends and your family to add your link to their Facebook pages and their websites. You can also contribute high quality articles to high profile blogs and online magazines to get a link in the byline.
However, the best links often come naturally. If you add great content and other resources to your website, others will naturally find you and link to your website. For example, if you are a fishing guide and publish a high quality weekly fishing report for a particular geographic region, others will usually find this and link to it.
When going through the ten steps above, keep in mind that good SEO is an ongoing process. You simply can’t do it all in one day and then walk away forever. You will need to continually tweak and refine things. You will also need to continually add new content and changes to your website.