Read Time: 4 minutes

TLDR

  • With millions of websites vying for dominance in today’s digital world, it’s harder than ever to stand out from the crowd as a small business. Enter local SEO.
  • The easiest way to enhance local visibility is by making sure accurate business profiles are maintained in online directories, such as Google My Business, YellowPages, Yelp, Yahoo Local, Bing and Apple Maps.
  • Google My Business is the go-to local information channel that businesses should focus on: these listings allow for customer reviews, business photos, and for existing customers to answer questions about the business.
  • Many third-party websites use Google’s business listings as their primary data source, so maintaining an accurate listing there will pay dividends all over the web.
  • It’s crucial to make sure that a business representative stands ready to respond to any customer concerns or complaints that arrive via online reviews.
  • The key to making all of the listings work together is a simple one: consistency.

 

For today’s businesses, having a strong and compelling presence online is a key part of remaining relevant and expanding sales. In most cases, however, just having a beautiful and functional website is nowhere near good enough. That’s because there are millions of websites (and businesses behind them) competing for the attention of similar audiences, making it harder than ever to stand out from the crowd.

Fortunately, most businesses are competing on a local or regional scale, rather than a global one. That means it is possible for them to narrow the focus of their online efforts to target people within their own geographical area. The process is known as local SEO, and when done correctly, it can supercharge a company’s ability to reach their local customers and gain an advantage over the competition. Here’s an overview of the ways that businesses can optimize their web presence for local search, the common missteps, and why local search is so important in the first place.

Increasing Local Visibility

The easiest way that any business can enhance their local visibility is by making sure that they maintain accurate business profiles in the relevant directories. Today, the common directories include:

In most cases, any business can claim ownership of their profile on these services and populate it with specific, accurate information such as address, phone number, and hours of operation. Just providing potential customers with the means to find and contact a business will go a long way towards improving local search performance.

As is the case with most search-related optimization, Google My Business is the go-to local information channel that businesses should focus on. That’s because Google’s search algorithm has been optimized to prioritize local results, which gives businesses a direct line to their target audience.

In addition, Google’s local listings also allow for customer reviews, business photos, and even allow existing customers to answer user questions about the business. On top of all that, many third-party websites use Google’s business listings as their primary data source, so maintaining an accurate listing there will pay dividends all over the web.

 

Managing Online Information and Reputation

Failing to update business listings with timely and accurate information can do almost as much to damage a business as having no information available at all. That’s why it’s best for businesses who intend to manage their local profiles in-house to delegate the responsibility of keeping all information up to date to an employee who will be able to stay on top of the task.

In addition to maintaining the accuracy of the listings, it is crucial to make sure that a business representative stands ready to respond to any customer concerns or complaints that arrive via online reviews. Leaving an unhappy customer hanging will create the impression that the business doesn’t care about customer service, which can do grievous damage to the business’s reputation. This is one of the biggest pitfalls that businesses encounter when managing local SEO – and can be difficult to recover from when handled incorrectly.

 

Unifying Listings

Once a business has established their profiles on the various general business directories, they can then branch out onto platforms like social media and industry-specific websites. The key to making all of the listings work together is a simple one: consistency. No matter how many business listings and social media pages are active, it is critical that they all provide the same information, and that information must always be up to date. Presenting conflicting information across a variety of sites is not only confusing to existing customers but also risks making a rather unprofessional impression on potential customers, too.

The bottom line here is that local SEO is a valuable and necessary tool in any company’s marketing arsenal, but it isn’t something to be undertaken lightly. With so many business listings and platforms to manage, and so many ways that a business could be hurt if they don’t stay on top of things, local SEO is best undertaken by businesses with an in-house marketing team or that are willing to work with an experienced digital agency that keeps up with the constantly changing updates and new features.

If you want to help your business take advantage of local SEO but don’t have the staff to handle it, contact our sister company Rally Marketing today and let them give you an analysis of your current efforts and identify where there’s room for improvement. In today’s hyper-competitive digital landscape, you can’t afford not to!