The key to SEO success is to pick your battles wisely.
Let’s face it, you probably have hundreds — if not thousands — of bigger players in your niche. Even if you play your cards right, it’ll be difficult to outrank competitors with more funds and manpower.
That’s why implementing local SEO strategies is a more lucrative option for smaller brands.
In this post, we will discuss five local search marketing strategies that can help any brand reach their audience.
Let’s jump into it.
1. Start with Google My Business
Registering your business to Google My Business will give your local SEO campaign a running start.
Put simply, My Business is a free tool that lets businesses establish their presence in local search.
Remember, your local search rankings depend on the available NAPU — Name, Address, Phone Number, and URL — on the web.
With My Business, you can submit these important details to Google yourself. You start by logging into your Google account and complete the guided setup.
Don’t worry, the entire process should be over within minutes. All you need to do is fill in the information requested in each page — from your business name to your service areas.
Unless your business website is already verified on the Google Search Console, the next order of business is to verify your location.
This can be done via a code delivered by mail, email, or phone call. Just remember that the email and phone verification options are only available to certain businesses.
2. Use Structured Data to Assist Search Engine Crawlers
Another way to get your business location known to search engines is to use a structured data markup.
It’s safe to assume that your business information is already on your website — perhaps in your “About” or “Contact” page.
Not only will this help your target audience get in touch with you, it will also help search engines pick up your information and utilize it for indexing purposes. You just need to prepare the structured data markup to make the information more readable to crawlers.
With Structured Data Markup Helper or SDMH, you don’t have to be a professional developer to create the codes you’ll use for local SEO.
The first step involves identifying the right data type for local business information. Just pick “Local Businesses” from the selection, enter your website’s URL, and click “Start Tagging.”
Alternatively, you can paste your website’s HTML code and have SDMH embed the structured data markup later.
Keep in mind that you need to enter the exact URL of the page that has your business address.
Don’t forget to tag the business name from the page since it’s required by SDMH.
While you’re at it, don’t hesitate to tag other data items to help your audience find them in search engines. This should include phone numbers, email addresses, and operating hours.
Upon clicking “Create HTML,” SDMH will generate a code snippet that you must paste to your website’s code — specifically within the <head> section.
To test if your structured data is applied correctly, use the Google Structured Data Testing Tool.
3. Encourage Customers to Leave Google Reviews
After you verify your business and use structured data to make your address official, users should eventually be able to leave reviews on Google Maps.
This is incredibly useful once you reach the Google “Local Pack,” which is the small section at the top of local search results.
Star ratings present a way to win your target audience’s trust. This should increase the click-through rate to your website and bolster your overall traffic.
To encourage customers to leave Google reviews, a straightforward approach is to ask the customer personally after a purchase or a job well done. Simply tell them to look for your business on Google Maps and click the “Write a Review” button.
If you accept online orders, you can automate a review request email with a platform like MailChimp. There should be a free automation template you can use to complete this strategy without writing a single line of code.
4. Optimize for Long-Tail Local Keywords
At the end of the day, local SEO strategies are still SEO.
This means you still need to pay attention to on-page SEO factors if you want to maximize your results. Each page on your website should be optimized for one single keyphrase, with related keyphrases supporting it.
Since we’re talking about local SEO, let’s get back to square one — performing keyword research. With 42% of all searches being 5+ keywords, knowing what your ideal customers is searching for is important. And it's probably not a single keyword or two, but a phrase.
Here’s a tip: adding the terms “near me” at the end of a keyword should help you appear for those queries. That is, if you successfully logged your business information on Google My Business and through structured data.
You should also look for local keywords that your target customers use when searching online.
A tool like Ubersuggest should be enough to help you find localized, long-tail keywords that will help you reach your target audience. It’s a simple tool that expands a seed keyword into hundreds of long-tail keyword ideas that are more lucrative for a small brand.
Just enter a seed keyword into the “Enter in a keyword” field, click “Search,” and switch to the “Keyword Ideas” tab.
For example, let’s say you’re a wedding photographer in Minnesota. Here’s a potential seed keyword you can use:
What should you do with your local keyword once you find it?
Here’s a short checklist of the elements where you need to mention your target keyword at least once:
• Page Title
• Main Content Body
• URL Slug
• Meta Description
• Image Alt Text and File Names
Do these all once per page. Every page on your website should be optimized for a single keyword idea, and no more. A good example for a Portfolio page keyword be "Outdoor Wedding Photography Examples Northern Minnesota". The next page may be "Indoor Wedding Photography Examples Northern Minnesota".
The goal is to build a pyramid of related keywords and topics in your website that gradually gets deeper, more specific, more complex...but all flow back to the top idea.
Note: We must stress that it's highly unlikely your website will ever rank #1 for your specific keyword or phrase, especially right away. Search Engines need time to learn your website, they are looking for other sites to rank to your website, and many other factors. Growing in search impression share is important, but it takes time, no different than any other grassroots type of word of mouth.
The importance of focusing on long-tail local search keywords and phrases can't be overstated. Your website may not show up top of the results when targeting a national or even state-wide keyword. But with proper optimization, even down to the local neighborhoods, you can be competitive.
5. Create Backlinks from Local Sites
Lastly, creating backlinks from local websites will help you rank higher while pulling in targeted traffic.
Of course, link building is a topic that deserves a post of its own. The takeaway you should learn here, however, is to look for local blogs, message boards, and other sites that can expose your brand to the local community.
There’s a good chance you already know a couple of local sites that can be targeted for your link building campaign.
If not, a simple Google search should get the ball rolling.
For example, if you’re looking for blogs to promote your wedding photography services, use the keyword “wedding” along with the terms “guest post” and “Minnesota” encapsulated in quotation marks. This tells the Google engine to find sites that have those exact terms somewhere on the page.
In certain niches, you may also use the minus (-) operator to exclude social media networks. Notice that, in the screenshot below, we excluded the name “Pinterest” to keep the results relevant.
Feel free to play around with keywords to mix things up and get different results each time. You can try a more specific location, semantic keywords like “submit guest post” or “contribute guest blog,” and so on.
Of course, webmasters won’t allow anyone to just blatantly promote their brand without offering any value to their readers. That’s why it’s important to develop a content strategy that centers around topics relevant to the local community.
A content research tool like BuzzSumo should enable you to find trending topic ideas that you can cover in your guest post. Simply use a relevant keyword and add your location to find popular content in your area.
Putting Local SEO Strategies to Action
As with everything else in SEO, you shouldn’t expect overnight results with the strategies above.
What you need to focus on is getting every step right from the ground up. Once you’re done with the fundamentals, like adding your information to Google My Business and embedding a structured data markup, the real work begins with the creation of backlinks from local sites.