All local businesses – no matter the size – have a right to be found in local search results, whether on Google, Bing or any other search engine.
The only thing stopping you is ensuring search engines understand who, what and where you are.
Here are my top 10 guidelines to ensure your small business is found in local search.
Carry out a comprehensive audit
For each area you want to rank in, start by finding out basic facts. What is the population, geographical size? What are the neighbouring and containing areas. Wikipedia and Google are the basic tools here. Find out how many competing businesses there are within that area.
Find out who is ranking above you in the local pack.
Set up or optimise your Google My Business Page
Ensure your address, opening times, map pointer etc. are all 100% correct. Check that your correct website is listed.
Review your reviews
Your reviews – quantity and score – are a large ranking factor. Reviews can be incorporated by Google from several places – Google My Business reviews and any number of external review services.
Review every review you have received and ensure you have responded to any negative points. Set up a program of continuously requesting feedback – listen, learn and improve.
Keywords in home page
Ensure you have included your basic search terms in your home page title, meta title and descriptions. If you are a kitchen installer, this means ensuring your home page title includes those words – e.g., “Surbiton Kitchen Installer”.
Create area pages
This is an old SEO technique but it still works really well. Typically you’ll want to rank for every area you cover, even if you are not physically located in that area. The solution is to create a raft of pages, one for each area. However, these should be carefully crafted, each one containing unique and useful content related specifically to that area. Good choices are case studies, stories about your involvement in the local area. Link from blog articles on your site to your area page if you’re writing a hyper-local blog article.
Keep your Google My Business up to date and active
We frequently speak to Google about issues with customers’ Google My Business pages. Invariably they tell us that active Google My Business pages (that is, the Google Plus page associated with your Google My Business page) is a ranking factor and can be the difference between ranking in the local pack and not.
Ensure 100% mobile compatibility
Google now has two search indexes – a desktop version (the original Google) and the mobile version. The mobile Google index ranks sites that are mobile friendly. Since 90% of local searches on mobiles are commercial searches – searches for local businesses – such as “coffee near me” or “dry cleaners in Surbiton”, it makes sense that mobile-friendly sites will win this battle.
Ensure consistent Name, Address and Phone number (NAP)
Audit the places onlines where your NAP (name, address and phone number appear). The format, spelling should be identical across every site and directory listing where you appear. This is because if Google can be sure a NAP refers to your business (and only your business), it will use the NAP as a reference – much like a backlink – and this will strengthen your local SEO. Your NAP should match your Google My Business NAP identically.
Engage with your local community through social media and in real life. This will naturally attract presence in search engines over time.
Know your limits!
Recognise that SEO cannot elevate you higher than where you deserve to be
Ultimately it’s futile to expect Google to rank you higher than your competitors, if your competitors are bigger and/or better than you. By better I mean – better reviews, better service, better established. Don’t expect SEO to trick Google into thinking you are #1 in your area if you are not!