Start locally – win globally. Here are a quick, actionable guide and a short checklist for a rising business to grow online quickly + tools.
Assuming you decided to promote your business online. You register the domain name; web designers create your awesome landing pages, even more, an awesome administrative panel of your CRM is on… And what’s next?
How do you expect online users to find your great stories and images among millions of Internet pages?
That’s where you need to take extra effort to boost your online visibility. Step on the shortest path to your target audience and make your website SEO-friendly. And local SEO is exactly the thing that will bring your website to Google’s top 10 over a few months, or even weeks.
Ready to take off?
Your priority goal is to get to Google local pack, otherwise called local 3-pack. This is a list of three top-ranking businesses on Google Maps relevant to the searched term.
If a user searches some term on Google, and your business serves this purpose, your website will show up in these three results, provided that you optimized your website sufficiently. So, your immediate task is to appear in Google local search results and get visitors and views on your website. The more, the better.
1. Add your site to Google My Business
The first thing to do for your local SEO is to claim your Google My Business (GMB) listing. GMB is Google’s business directory that becomes the primary source of information about your company.
Fill out this listing to get into Google maps and to advance in Google local search results. This is a free tool and the quickest way to increase your chances for entering the local pack in search results — it cares for around 90% of your local SEO.
And that’s really not hard: just visit the GMB page, create or claim your listing, and then follow Google’s suggestions on filling out the rest of the details.
2. Make your site mobile-friendly
The question follows: why people want to find you on Google Maps. Most likely, they want to know your location or working hours. And why?
Most probably, they want to visit you, or just want to get in touch with you, something like this. I mean there is more than 50% probability that they are Googling your website from a mobile device.
That is why your site has to be mobile-friendly: it should load fast, it should be lightweight, its images should not be too heavy, and the site layout should fit the device screen.
You should take care of this point at the stage of planning your website design. If you use some custom content management system, like WordPress or Joomla, select a responsive theme that is already optimized for mobile devices.
If you want to make sure that your site is mobile-friendly and is void of any mobile usability issues, run Google’s mobile-friendly test in your Search Console.
3. Add your contacts to Google local business listings
Citation is what SEOs call a listing of your business details on third-party platforms, like Google business directories and social networks. This is the first place where you go for your backlinks and references. The more citations you have (we are talking of thousands), the better you rank for local search results.
To find out opportunities, use the Link-Assistant tool [review here] that allows searching for relevant business directories. Start the tool and create the project with the URL of your site, select the search option as Business Directories, and in a few minutes, the tool will collect you the websites together with their contacts.
Select those directories that seem reputational (human editors edit, i.e. them, they contain updated information; generally, they don’t look like a mess) and send your N.A.P. info (name, address, phone number).
Make sure that you have no mistakes in this information, and also update it in case you have some changes in your NAP. Briefly, make sure that all information available about your site online is consistent.
4. Use the local schema markup
One more important element of local SEO is applying local business schema markup on your website. This is a collection of HTML tags that helps search engines extract information, among other things, about your address, phone number, email, and business hours.
These signals reinforce your local relevance with Google, and by the way, all other search engines. On schema.org you can learn the various properties for local business in the schema markup, such as currencies accepted, opening hours etc.
5. Try to get to Google’s featured snippet
Sometimes Google answers users’ questions right on its page. If your site gives some answers to user questions, and Google algorithms decide that your pages are the most relevant to this search term, your site will appear first in Google.
Here, schema markup also plays its role, as your website can appear in Google SERPs not only as an URL with the meta description but together with reviews, ratings, photos of your premises.
So, try to answer some questions that users might want to ask when visiting your website. Answer FAQs, check the People Also Ask box in Google on the relevant topic.
Compile listicles with steps and bullet points, compare tables of items, etc. In other words, provide information in a user-friendly manner; try to give exhaustive answers, optimized with keywords. Your purpose is not only to appear in the Google featured snippet. You’ve got to entice users to proceed to your site to learn more.
6. Use keywords in titles and meta tags
Then the question follows – how to optimize your content? First, you’ve got to do some keyword research to find the best terms to rank for. If you are totally unfamiliar with the idea of how to do keyword research, do some easy steps for a start.
Just enter your main keyword in the Google search bar, and the Google Autosuggest will show up the most popular terms that people want to know about the topic.
To get more results, try some SEO keyword tool, most of them have free versions to test. For example, you can try the Keyword Finder (on-cloud) or Rank Tracker (desktop application). Also, try Google Keyword Planner tool – although it shows top-ranking terms for paid search, most likely they will be somewhat similar to your organic search terms.
So, the first trick is to start ranking for long-tail keywords: these are longer phrases that show user intent explicitly. Compare, for instance, the terms “guinea pigs”, “guinea pigs food”, and “guinea pigs for sale”.
The first term is very narrow, it surely has larger search volume and higher competition, and it will be harder to rank for to get even to the top 50. Whereas the second term slightly reveals the search intent and can be good to rank for on pages that sell food for guinea pigs or just tell how to care about the animals. The third term is the clearest.
So, your strategy is to find as many long-tail keywords as possible and embed them into your content. Use the keyword phrases in titles, meta description, in meta tags, and they will quickly bring you audiences. When you get your first traffic and the search engines find out that your content is beneficial for users, it will improve your ranking dramatically.
7. Have a social media strategy
While there is little evidence that media citations influencing rankings, social media can bring you a dramatic share of traffic and thus, indirectly, improve your site rankings. It practically takes nothing from the start: fill out your business profiles for key business directories and social networks in your area, say Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
These platforms are search engines of their own kind, and some people use them to look up local businesses. Be consistent here as well: use your logo, add NAPs, embed links, and buttons to contact you directly.
Here, you should be ready to be flexible and respond to visitor flows. Luckily, social media offer powerful business administration tools, and you can always add CMSs and chatbots to assist in communication. Besides, there are CRMs for publishing your content from your platform straight to social nets, and CMSs to manage user feedback in one place.
8. Order a review with local businesses and the press
If your services are somewhat outstanding, try to arrange a publication or a review for it in the press. Local citations are a chance not miss; they will help you appear in Google local search results.
This is also a great opportunity to build links to your website that will increase your site authority and its InLink Rank: the better the value, the higher the pages appear in Google SERPs.
Encourage your customers to review your business by sending them a follow-up email or by asking them in person, if appropriate, and if you see that they are happy with your services. Make sure to reply to reviews with a personal touch, and take special care of negative reviews.
Further, you might want to know where on the Internet your brand mentions appeared. You can use search hashtags on social nets and search operators on Google, like search: your brand name (other operators – intitle: or allintitle: or intext: etc.) Or use a social listening tool like Awario to manage all your brand mentions on one platform.
9. Use an SEO tool to track your local rankings
If you are using some SEO software tool, make sure they are set to analyze search results in your specific location. This is especially important for keyword research and rank tracking, since the results may vary significantly depending on the location you are searching from.
Using Rank Tracker as an example [Rank Tracker review], you can go to ‘Preferences’ > ‘Preferred search engines’ and add custom areas to be used when analyzing search data. You can observe if your site has improved its positions overall or according to some specific keywords. And you can do a whale of competitor research to figure out where you can improve.
That’s it for now! Take these steps, and your site will soar in Google’s top like a bird. In a few months, your website will be visible for local searches and bring your first visitors and traffic.
And with a good fresh start, it will be easier to compete further with stronger competitors globally.