Local SEO Guide for Beginners: What You Need to Know in 2016

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A “Go Local” movement has started trending lately. You’ve probably seen information regarding eating locally-farmed food, shopping at locally-owned retailers, and supporting small businesses.

The initiative’s marketing strategies include authentic people, eating delicious food, or participating in fun, outdoorsy things. Books have been written on the subject, corporations have implemented giving-back programs in their communities, and overall, this movement seems to be rejuvenating local communities across America.

You may have noticed that this movement has brought local businesses into the consciousness of their communities. The local movement “put them on the map.”

Interesting. I know another way to get your business on the map. Perhaps when you are searching on major search engines, you’ve noticed the pack of local businesses in your search results. You get their contact information, a link to their website, a map marker, and directions.

Ever wonder how those businesses land such coveted spots?

You may have heard of search engine optimization (SEO). There’s another branch of the SEO family called local search engine optimization. You know that it’s important, but how do you go about applying it? How do you receive the benefits?

What you are looking for is a beginner’s guide to Local SEO. Look no further! Here are 9 steps to help you execute your Local SEO strategy. Consider it Uptick Marketing’s “Local SEO for Beginners Guide.”

Local optimization has always been important, but it has evolved past the original few steps. Now, those steps still exist, but the process has grown.

Keep reading to learn how to “go local!”

Step 1: Establish Your Official Name-Address-Phone (NAP)

Consistency is imperative across the entire web. If your business is listed under different contact information on various business listings, search engines will have a hard time interpreting your information, which will affect your rankings.

Tip for best practices: Use your local phone and local address whenever possible. (Not a P.O. Box and an 800 number.)

Step 2: Your Website Holds Authority About Your Business. Use It Wisely

Don’t forget to put your updated NAP on your site. This is imperative. Include it on every page of your site; a good place for this is in the footer.

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Build a page for each of your locations, and make sure to include that location’s specific NAP.

Step 3: Google My Business (GMB) Profiles Are Important! Claim (or Set Up) Your Listing

Completing your GMB profile includes:

  • Select what categories best represent your business, and don’t go overboard. (Adding unrelated categories will hurt you.)
  • Update your profile, filling out all possible information – your first chance to implement your newly determined NAP!
  • Photos are super important. Upload quality, descriptive photos. This will help search engines and users trust your business.
  • Make sure your accurate business hours are included.

Uptick_local seo_google backend

Step 4: Find and Claim Business Listings on Other Citation Sites

You’re off to a good start, but don’t stop here! Using a bit of creativity, you can really turn your business into an online superstar! There is so much you can do to build your credibility and to show up in search results.

Consider researching other sites that allow you to claim your business or to create a listing. This can include other search engines like Bing and Yahoo.

It’s a good idea to claim your business information on more niche sites. This refers to directories that were created for your specific industry, so look into this possibility.

I also recommend that you request ownership of your business on local citation sites, like your local chamber of commerce website. (This type of citation may be worth paying for, because it is seen by search engines and users as a reputable site.) This is yet another way to distribute your (correct*) information across the web.

The more places your (correct*) business information is listed across the web, the easier it will be for you to show up in search results, which helps users find you!

*Notice the importance of correctness and consistency. If your information is dispersed incorrectly across the web, it is going to harm your authority. This leads me to step number 5.

Step 5: Delete Duplicate Listings

Eliminating duplicates and updating listings will help search engines not get confused. This improves your chance of ranking well in search results.

For example, you may have moved your office. If you don’t manually tell the various citation websites that you have moved, they probably have old information. Maybe you informed them of your new location, but this means that sometimes a directory will have multiple business listings for your business. They’re often outdated and incorrect. So you need to make sure that old business locations and other incorrect information is suppressed.

You don’t want incorrect contact information or low rankings on the search engine results to keep people away from supporting your business! Take ownership of your business and the information that customers and potential customers can find online.

Step 6: Collect Reviews — As Many As Possible

Gaining Google reviews is so important. Users look at these to decide whether or not to use your product or buy your service.

Rankings also affect the way search engines rank your business in the search engine results. Google wants to provide the best results to searchers, so they will penalize you if you have no reviews or if you have poor reviews.

Foursquare, Yelp, TripAdvisor and other review sites can also help you build a positive online reputation.

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Be on the lookout for another Uptick Blog about practical ways to step up your review game. It’s an extremely important topic, and includes multiple, creative approaches to try. However, it definitely requires another day to unpack the details!

Step 7: Make Your Site Enjoyable for Visitors

Google’s search algorithm changes all the time, and as of April 21, 2015, it was announced that Google would give preference to sites that are “mobile-friendly.” This is largely in part to Google’s commitment to user experience. If users ain’t happy, Google ain’t happy.

Is your site mobile-friendly? Test it on Google’s free Mobile-Friendly Testing Tool.

Another factor that can improve or ruin visitor experience online is a website’s slow loading speed.

If your site is slow to load, you will lose visitors. You’ll also lose preference in Google’s search algorithms. Make sure that you capture interested customers instead of losing them due to your slow-loading site.

Step 8: Add Content. The More Information There Is for the Search Engine, the Better

At Uptick, we’ve found how helpful content is, and we recommend that most pages include at least 500 words. This makes your site easier to understand, which is more valuable to your visitors. It also helps search engines rank your site. Essentially, what is best for your user is also best for the search engines.

Work on optimizing your site so it makes sense to your users, and search engines will prefer your site to other, less user-friendly sites.

A high commitment to quality content creation is imperative. Think of your website as a grocery store. You would want your shelves to be stocked, so shoppers would continue coming to your store. It would not help anyone if your bread aisle was barren! Keeping fresh content on your website is very similar. You want your site to be a well-stocked store.

So, you should blog. You should add new content to product pages and location pages. You should probably invest in social media strategy.

Depending on your industry, different strategies will be best. But no matter what, it is not debatable – SEO and Content Marketing are partners in crime (and in strategy).

Use content to demonstrate your expertise to potential customers, and to display your place as an authoritative thought leader in your field.

Step 9: Stay In Tune to Changing Trends in the SEO Arena

For example, no post in 2016 about Local SEO would be complete without mentioning Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP).

Designed to make pages load more quickly on mobile phones, AMP is Google’s latest way of emphasizing mobile speed and user-friendliness.

The jury’s still out on exactly how AMP will affect all websites, but it’s no question – Google’s AMP is already affecting the future of digital marketing.

Bonus Step: Keep in mind, local search engine optimization is an ongoing effort.

As tempting as it may be to shower it with a bunch of attention all at once, that won’t be of much help. Instead, it is necessary to continually nurture your Local SEO. In my opinion, that makes Local SEO sound like a precious newborn baby. Maybe it’s not a bad analogy!

After all, raising a child is a long-term strategy, not something that you should be short-sighted about. When you put in the effort at the beginning, you will see it turn into real results.

I hope this guide helps you kick off your Local SEO strategy!

At Uptick, when we perform Local SEO for our clients, we perform a site audit and assess the current state of your reputation. Then we claim an extensive list of secondary search sites and citation directories. And when we are done updating and claiming your listings, we provide the account information so that you have complete ownership of your business’s online reputation.

Looking to develop your Local SEO strategy? Uptick Marketing can help. We’ve got a team of SEO nerds that would love to hear from you. Check out the power of Local SEO’s influence!