It’s not a secret that being successful online can make a huge difference to the number of customers coming through your door. This is even more important for small businesses that are looking for a better footfall but don’t have the immense marketing budget of bigger companies. The best way to achieve this is by improving your local SEO. For many people, this can be super confusing. What many small business owners don’t know is how many easy wins there are available when it comes to building good, local SEO.

Get listed on local directories

One of the simplest ways to boost your local SEO (and certainly a concept that Google seems to be pushing) is to ensure you have consistent, informative business listings on several big websites.

Get yourself on as many directories that are relevant to your business. Start with the big ones. Yell, TripAdvisor and setting up a Google My Business listing. Once they’re created, ensure you have consistent and up-to-date information on each platform.

Build out your listings with photos, videos, correct web URLs and other key information or unique selling points that make you attractive to customers.

Always make sure that if your business needs to be in a category, it’s showing in the right one. If you’re a window fitter, you want to be in the home improvement or window installation category.

If you have several locations, make sure that each branch has its own listing. This helps with brand awareness and offers significantly better local search engine optimisation value.

Google My Business should be your first port of call (more on GMB here). According to the 2017 edition of Moz’ Local Search Ranking Factors, a correctly optimised Google My Business listing is the biggest factor in local SEO success.

Get reviews and answer customers

User reviews can make or break a small business. People are always talking about their experiences and with so many places to post reviews, it’s pretty much guaranteed that potential customers will see them. It’s important that you stay on top of your reviews as much as possible, as they offer a great idea of how you’re performing while providing a platform for customer engagement.

Encourage people to leave reviews when you can. Push for customers to give ratings on social media or Google My Business where visibility is high. If you can build a portfolio of authentic and (hopefully!) positive reviews, the better chance you have of improving organic traffic. Avoid fake reviews at all costs. They are easily found and can hinder your search rankings.

Finally, respond to as many customer reviews as possible, both positive and negative. By engaging with positive reviews, you’re building a loyal customer base that will feel like they’re valued. Answering negative reviews shows that you’re open to addressing concerns and could even help you resolve problems within your own business, both now and in the future.

When it comes to engaging with your customers on social media, be proactive. Think about what you would want to see and hear from your favourite brands. If someone sends you a message on a social platform, don’t be afraid to respond. An efficient and personable approach only strengthens your brand and potential for growth.

Obviously, you should also stay active on relevant platforms. It might seem great to have a presence on everything from Twitter to Snapchat but if one of your timelines is much quieter, it’s better to deactivate. No account is better than a ‘dead’ one.

Build connections and backlinks

When it comes to backlinks, the situation is very similar regardless of what you’re trying to achieve. Domain authority is essentially ‘how well does your site perform on a search engine’. This authority is vastly increased by having other websites linking back to you.

If you’re a local business, think about your partners or potential sponsors and see if they’ll link back to your site. If you’re a sponsor yourself, get them to show you off on their site and watch your local SEO improve.

It can be difficult to know where to start with backlinks. The best thing to do is to network with your local community. Build a relationship with those around you and those invested in your field.

Keep your site up to date

Now that your external presence is sorted, you want to look inward. Remember that your website is just as likely to be an initial point of contact as your social media and it needs to look the part.

Start from the very foundation – your domain name. Make sure your domain name reflects your business or business industry. Having keywords relevant to your business in your domain can be an easy way to affect local SEO.

Ensure your contact information is up-to-date and consistent with any of the listings that you built out earlier.

Take a run-through of your website content and ensure it’s relevant to what you can provide for the local area. If you can tie that into local influences, all the better. Remember, Google doesn’t know that you’re a restaurant in Birmingham unless you tell them. Include any and all of the services that you provide within the site but do it in a way that is natural. No-one wants to see a wall of text filled with tenuously connected keywords.

Finally, “near me” searches have always been popular but Google is beginning to push their importance more than ever. In a recent study by Search Engine Land, they found that “near me” searches have exploded, mostly due to Google increasing the number of queries that suggest “near me” as search becomes more focused on mobile. While these queries are still a relatively small part of local search volume, it clearly shows that intent is there.

Think about keywords that relate to your business and add “near me” to the internal links on these pages, including any anchor text. You can also identify and build backlinks to location pages that utilise geo-specific anchor text.

Improving local SEO is a task that takes time. There are quick wins and long-term wins but by using the tips above, you can achieve a number of quick victories that still hold a lot of SEO value.

About the Author

Tom Hodson is the Digital Content Executive for MNA Digital, a West Midlands based marketing agency that provides a full end-to-end service for local businesses, helping them build brand awareness online and generate leads through bespoke marketing solutions.