We've already established the growing importance of local SEO for small businesses. Here, we take a closer look at the essential elements of good local SEO.
If you run a small business that is targeting customers in a specific geographic area, be that a town, city or even country, then focusing on local SEO is a must.
Ranking well for a general keyword such as "restaurant" or "designer clothing" is almost impossible for a company with a small budget, but ranking in local search results is more achievable, thanks to the reduced competition.
The good news is that the principles of local SEO aren't all that different from the principles of general SEO. If your site is search engine friendly, you shouldn't have too much trouble tweaking it to achieve good rankings in local search results.
Know Your Audience
The first step towards effective SEO is to know your audience.
If you know who it is you are trying to reach, you can more easily tailor your content to those people.
It's important to consider the age, interests and locality of customers and think carefully about searcher intent.
Remember, not everyone who searches for a particular keyword is a prospective customer; for example, the keyword "CSS child tag" is related to web design, but it's unlikely that someone searching for that particular keyword will want to hire a web designer.
If you really wanted to reach people who needed a web designer, you'd opt for keywords that indicated searcher intent, such as "hire web designer" or "Newcastle based WordPress theme designer".
Include Your Locality in Your Titles
The title tag is one of the most important page elements when it comes to SEO. Whilst search engines no longer place as much emphasis on it as they did back in the days when meta tags were the primary way of describing what a page was about, they do still consider the title of the page as part of their ranking algorithms.
Including business location in your website's title makes it immediately obvious to searchers that the website is relevant to their needs and interests.
This means that when a link to your site does appear near the top of search results, users are more likely to click on it.
Claim Your Business Profile, Everywhere
Claiming businesses profile is essential, not just from a brand reputation protection point of view, but also as a way of attracting traffic.
The key places to claim profiles on are Google's Local Business Center, Merchant Circle and Yahoo's Local listings pages.
In addition to those websites, you should make sure that you have control over your profile on Foursquare, Yelp and any local business listing sites that you know people in your area use.
Opening hours should clearly be posted, and the nature of the business highlighted, so that people understand what it is that the business specialises in and the hours its open for trading.
Remember, for a business to appear on Google Maps, it must be associated with a physical premises and you must make it clear that this premises accepts customers. If Google thinks that a company is an online-only operation, its listing won't appear.