Tips to Improve Local SEO For Small Businesses

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Local search has become increasingly important with the rise of mobile usage, allowing us to find businesses, services, and facilities, no matter where we are. 

Think about the last time you searched for something along the lines of: “sushi restaurants near me”. Regardless of the neighborhood you were in, if your location settings were enabled, Google would have provided you with a ranked list of local sushi restaurants at the time of your search. 

These types of searches with keywords such as “near me” or “close by” have exploded recently, growing more than 900% since 2018. This trend doesn’t look like it’s going away any time soon.  In fact, currently, 46% of all Google Searches are in search of local information. 

So how can small businesses maximize search engine optimization (SEO) and get their business in front of relevant searchers? 

First let’s differentiate between Search Engine Optimization and Local Search Engine Optimization. While Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a strategy that helps businesses increase their visibility on Google, local search engine optimization is essential for businesses with a brick-and-mortar location or for businesses that serve a specific geographic area. Google has separate algorithms for search results and for local searches, so the better a company’s overall SEO is, the more likely they are to appear in both search results and direct more traffic to their business. 

To improve local SEO, it’s crucial to first understand how Google Indexes the web. Google uses small programs known as spiders to crawl web pages and links within each page. These spiders crawl at a rapid rate to continuously update new information. The information is stored in Google’s Index so that Google can instantaneously retrieve relevant results whenever a search query is conducted. In a nutshell, SEO tactics not only make it easier for the search engine bots to crawl and index your site but also help rank your site above others. The following factors directly impact local SEO and can be optimized to improve visibility for local searchers. 

  1. Google My Business Profile

Creating and optimizing a Google My Business listing is imperative for SEO. The more information you include in this profile, the better it is for your search ranking. Be sure to verify your business address and ensure all of the information is accurate and updated regularly. This includes store hours, holiday hours, photos, and the map marker for your business on Google. The owner of the Google My Business listing can correct inaccurate information. 

  1. Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP)

Don’t just include the NAP within an image, as it won’t get crawled. Your NAP needs to be HTML text on your site which will help Google display your business better for location-based search results. 

  1. Reviews

Since Google considers review sentiment when boosting visibility, it’s a good idea to respond to reviews and if applicable, specify the location. For example, a response could be something along the lines of this: “Thank you for visiting our Toronto location, we are so happy you had a great experience”.

  1. Local Location Pages

For small businesses with more than one location, create dedicated landing pages for each location. Include unique and specific information for each page to maintain the overall site quality of your website. Having duplicate pages with the practically the exact same copy can hurt your ranking.

  1. URLs

The URL should reflect the content on that webpage. It’s also best to include relevant geographic keywords to increase visibility for local searches. For example, if a store is located in Toronto, the URL could include the root domain followed by “/toronto…” 

  1. Title Tags

The title tags should accurately convey the topic on each page and include relevant and geographic keywords. Ensure each page has a unique title tag and aim for 50-60 characters in these tags.

  1. Alt text 

Alt text is very important because crawlers read the alt text to gain a better understanding of the image and its context. Alt text should include relevant keywords and describe the image in as little words possible. 

  1. Mobile Optimization

Since nearly 60% of all searches are conducted on a mobile device, mobile optimization should not be overlooked. Ensure your website is optimized for mobile users. Moz offers an in-depth tutorial on how to improve mobile site optimization. 

  1. Sitemaps

HTML Sitemaps link all key pages on a website and are usually found at the footer of a website. Whereas XML sitemaps are designed for spiders to crawl. WordPress has plugins that create XML sitemaps, but if your site isn’t on WordPress, there are free tools like to help create your own XML sitemaps. The XML sitemap should be submitted to Google so it can index those pages. 

  1. Content

Create content on relevant keywords for your business without keyword stuffing. Additionally, writing about relevant local news in your industry is more likely to attract a local audience than a more general topic would. 

  1. Backlinks and Internal Linking

Google uses backlinks to measure authority, so the volume and the quality of backlinks help a site appear more credible and ultimately boost visibility on the search engine results page (SERP). Alternatively, if backlinking is not a practical goal for your small business, focus on linking your content internally. Internal links take visitors to other pages on your website and these links can help you rank higher in search results. 

Jackie Marson | Staff Writer

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