If you have a local business and you want more customers, then it is crucial that local SEO forms part of your overall SEO strategy.  These top 10 local SEO tips for small businesses will help you get more exposure,  improve your ranking, drive more traffic and most importantly, attract more customers.   These tips are based on the assumption that you’ve already got Google Analytics set up and your site speed is around 2 seconds.   It’s important to get the basics right before you move on.   There’s not much point in driving people to your site if your landing page loads in 10 seconds….people simply won’t stick around.    Ok, so let’s gets started.

Read More: 4 Reasons Why Small Business Owners Are Afraid Of SEO

1. Google My Business

Imagine you own a cupcake shop.  Your window display is breathtaking and the array of flavours you have conjured up is equally as impressive.  You attract people walking by your shop front. How can they resist? But Mary works in a large office building a few blocks away and has never walked past your shop.  She’s just been told she has an hour to organise a birthday party for her boss.  She loves cupcakes, especially blue ones.  Mary does a Google search for  “cupcakes”  and up pops three of your competitors.  Their cupcakes aren’t nearly as good as yours and their shops are further away.  Mary will just have to settle for less-than-satisfactory cupcakes and you’ve just missed out on an order for enough cupcakes for 100 people.

Why didn’t your business pop up in the map-pack? It’s because you either don’t have a Google My Business listing or it’s so old, you can hear the wind whistling through the outdated pictures and old reviews.

So, come on! Help people in your local area find you.

Before I hear protests from those with home-based businesses who don’t want their address on display for all to see, you can still have a Google My Business listing without your full address.   Ok, panic over.

Here’s what to do:

Check if you already have a GMB listing.  Go to Google Maps and put in your business name.   If your listing appears, you are already ahead of the game.   Update your business description.  Make sure your web address and contact details are up-to-date and start uploading some new pictures. Aim for a few a week. Don’t just upload a whole bunch and then leave it.    If your business isn’t listed, then before the sun sets today go to Google My Business and sign up.    Fill out all the information as completely as possible.  Google will then send you a postcard in the post to verify your business.  When you receive the postcard, just put in the code and then your listing will be visible.

2.   Bing Places For Business

Following on from local SEO tip number 1 to create or update your Google My Business listing, it makes sense to create a Bing Places listing. This isn’t going to take long – about as long as it takes to drink your cup of coffee. First, go to Bing Places and create an account. Did you know that you don’t have to be the business owner? You can just be a verified representative. Multiple locations are covered by Bing’s bulk upload tool. Bing allows you to import your information directly from Google My Business – yes, we like it when it’s this easy. If the business you’re trying to get listed doesn’t have a verified Google My Business listing, you can also add the information manually. But why don’t you have a Google My Business listing? Of course you do! Fill out all the details. You’ll then be sent a card in the post to verify your listing – similar to the GMB verification. So that’s it. Another easy way to improve your online presence.

3.  Avoid Spammy Business Listings

Do you know what ticks me right off? Spammy Google My Business listings. Say you own ABC Decorators and you are based in North London. You’ve optimised your GMB listing and your name says nothing more than your business name. But the listings above yours have keywords beside their name i.e. XYZ Decorators – Painting & Decorating North London. According to Google “including unnecessary information in your business name is not permitted, and could result in your listing being suspended.” Why do spammy listings annoy me? Because it pushes down the listings that are playing fairly. But what can you do about it?

Here’s one I prepared earlier.  I typed in “accountants North London”.     In this example,  the second listing ‘North London Accountants’  has  spammed their listing with keywords.   So, I dutifully clicked on “Suggest an Edit”.

map listing for accountants north london

 

 

A few hours later, I received an email from Google, letting me know that the changes had been made.  Now look at the order of listing.  After the two paid positions (the second paid listing only partially visible here),  North London Accounting is now in position 6.

Google my business north london accountants listing

 

4.  Google My Business Reviews

Imagine someone pays you a compliment. You stare at them blankly. Then you walk away without saying a word. Rude. Right?   My clients can attest that I harp on about getting reviews. Why? Because reviews help you better understand what you are doing well and where you can improve. It’s also a way of acquiring testimonials and it improves the online visibility of your business. Wait, there’s more! The quality and quantity of reviews on Google is one of the most important ranking factors for local SEO. Business listings that include customer reviews present greater credibility and receive more clicks. You want more clicks, right? Whether you receive a positive or negative review, it’s important to respond to that review to show your customers and search engines your commitment to customer satisfaction. So, if someone has taken the time to leave a review, then the least you can do is acknowledge it and say thank you. All you have to do is log into your Google My Business account.  Just taking a few minutes to do this can make all the difference.

5.  Check Your NAP

Let’s talk about NAP. It has nothing to do with taking 40 winks during the day, and it has everything to do with the Name, Address and Phone Number of your business. ‘Citations’ of your business could be in business directories, blogs, press releases and guest posts.  Why should you care? Simple. Because consistent and plentiful mentions of your NAP tell Google that you’re trustworthy and established. The more trust Google has in your business, the higher your position in the map listings will be. Also, your positions will rise in the regular organic results.

234 Green Rd is NOT the same as 234 Green Road. Equally,  +44 7345 222333 is NOT the same as 07345 222333. Whichever format you choose, ensure that it’s the same across the board.

What if you’ve changed your business address or phone number recently? What if your business is already listed in dozens of directories? Do you have an easy way of managing your citations? I  suggest checking out whitespark.ca or brightlocal.com  to manage your listings. It can be very time consuming to update, build and review all of your citations.

6.   Google Review Link Generator

pleper google link generatorNumber six of my local SEO tips is one of my favourites.  Have you noticed that you click on a Google listing with more reviews? Maybe you do it automatically or deliberately. Don’t underestimate the power of reviews. I know that if I’m looking for a local service I won’t click on listings with no or only a few reviews.  Getting reviews takes work and it can be a little awkward to ask your clients or customers but ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’.

Often your clients won’t know how to give you a review. And, even when you tell them exactly what to do, sometimes they can’t find the Write A Review button on Google Maps.   To make it super easy for your client to leave you a review go to Pleper.  You must have a GMB profile already for this to work. Under “Tools”, click on the “Google Review Link Generator”.   Scroll down and in the auto complete field, type your business name.  Just below, you’ll see the link you need to use in your emails to your clients.

Why do I Iove this? First because it’s a free tool and secondly the link will take the user to a pre-populated 5-star review for your business. All your clients need to do is choose the number of stars, write a sentence or two (or more of course!) and hit ‘submit’.  You’ve just cut out a whole bunch of clicks that they would have otherwise needed to do.

7. Check Your Google My Business Category

This is a local SEO tip that is rather important. Make sure that the primary category you’re using for your business is the best possible choice based on your business’ products, services. It can make a big difference as you try to improve visibility for terms related to that category.

Google updates its list of categories so it’s good to check that your business is listed under the correct one. Check which category your competitors are listed under.

So, log into your Google My Business listing (google.com/mybusiness). Under your business name, you can edit the category if necessary.

8.  Title Tags

What is a title tag, I hear you say!

It’s the text that appears in the search engine results page as the title of a listing – i.e the writing in blue. It’s also the text that appears at the top of your browser when you visit a web page.

Top tips:

– Keep the title under 55 characters, otherwise the text will disappear

– Put your business name in the title

– Add your best primary keyword that has a high search volume and defines your business is and does

– Put your keyword as close to the front of the title as possible.

I did a search for “red running shoes for men”.  The Sports Direct listing is an example of a good title tag. Type in your keyword into Google. Look at the titles of your competitors. Check to see how you can improve your title tag.

9.  Meta Descriptions

Following on from  Meta Titles, it’s also important to check your meta descriptions – that’s the bit of text in black on a search engine listing.  Why should you care about meta descriptions? Because it’s a mini advert to help readers click on your listing and not your competitor.
 
I typed in “decorators in London”.  I found a listing on page 6 that illustrates what NOT to do.
meta description example
Here’s what to ask yourself when reviewing your meta descriptions:
 
1. Does it contain important keywords that are relevant for your business and have a high search volume?
2. Are all of your meta descriptions unique? Are you using the same description on another web page? If so, then change it, because each page of your website should be optimised for a different keyword.
3. Would the description encourage a visitor to click on the listing?
4. Is the description running off the page?
 
If you’ve got Yeost or another SEO plugin, it will indicate if you’ve written too much or too little. Taking the time to review your descriptions and compare them to those of your competitors could make a lot of difference. This because a high click-through rate in search engine results may lead to improved search engine rankings.

10. Optimise Your Google My Business listing With Photos

My very first tip suggested creating a Google My Business listing. This is so super important for local search.  When used correctly, Google My Business is a powerful tool that can increase your revenue and provide valuable insights about your customers. So, if you have gone to the trouble of setting up a listing, don’t overlook this local SEO tip.
 
Do you know you can add photos to your listing? When you claimed your business you might have uploaded your logo and thought that’s all you needed to do.  Get into the habit of uploading pictures on a weekly basis.  It can be of your product, your team at work, or the interior and exterior of your office.  If you are a service-based business, you can also upload screenshots of the tools you use making sure that no personalised information is visible.
 
If in doubt, spy on your competitors. Go to google.com/maps. Type in your category i.e. accountant. What kinds of pictures are your competitors uploading? Don’t forget, you can even ask your clients to upload pictures of them using your products.
 
Be creative and be consistent.