Local SEO: The Definitive Small Business Guide 
People constantly search for the best products and services near them. It makes sense: if you Google for a hardware store in Texas, there’s no sense in showing you stores from Delaware.
Does your business appear near the top in local search results for the products and services you sell?
You’re not alone if you’re struggling to rank your business near the top of local search results.
What is local search engine optimization?
Local Search Engine Optimization (often called local SEO) is a method to make your local business more visible in search results on Google. Simply put, it's how you structure your website to rank better in search engines and get more visitors.
Local SEO lets you find new customers, bringing them from the internet to your front door. Any brand or company can use the proper search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. Brick-and-mortar businesses are no exception.
Over the past fifteen years, our team has helped thousands of entrepreneurs and small businesses build their local brands on Google and other search engines. We’ve also heavily invested in search engine optimization, including local search engine optimization strategies for our core products and services. And we frequently write and discuss search engine optimization on our blog and elsewhere. This guide shares the actionable insights, tips, best practices, and expertise we’ve developed after helping over one hundred thousand brands.
Do small businesses need a local SEO strategy?
Business owners must evolve their strategies as online searches for local stores increase. Your competition will take care of their local SEO strategy whether you do it or not.
Before you know it, everyone leaps and bounds ahead of you, making a profit.
There’s a reason: e-commerce websites are paving the way; online stores are a multi-trillion dollar industry, and brick-and-mortar stores could benefit from their strategies.
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Three reasons why you should look for the perfect local SEO strategy
1. Small effort, big rewards
You don’t have to do much to get into local SEO. There’s no need to leave your store to do so!
You only need a computer to create your Google Business Profile to improve local SEO. After that, you’ll fill out a few forms with the correct information. Doing that puts you way ahead of the curve.
Maintaining your profile and replying to reviews is hard, but it will become second nature.
2. It’s only going to get bigger
One in five customers will find your store after an online search. That trend is only going to grow. You can take advantage of that – or let your competition do it.
There’s a place for brick-and-mortar and e-commerce stores online. Both will adapt and grow in different ways, of course. They will have something in common: the internet will shape that process.
Creating the right B2B SEO strategy takes time. That’s why you need to start as soon as possible. Delaying it will only harm your profits.
3. No need to leave it to chance
Taking advantage of internet trends is tricky. They change quickly and do so in multiple directions. Local SEO is far from an internet trend – a business model that stays here.
You could try to bet against local SEO. Ignore the entire process and hope everyone else but you are wasting time online. That’d be a terrible strategy: businesses competing against optimization tend to go bankrupt. It’s a Blockbuster vs. Netflix scenario.
And you don’t want your business to be the next Blockbuster.
A five-step guide to local SEO for small businesses
1. Create a Google Business Profile
You must first create a Google Business Profile, a Google account for your business.
Don’t worry about optimization or keywords yet. Right now, all you have to do is create a profile. Try to fill it with as much information as you can.
There’s no need to be thorough now if you lack time. The worst thing you can do is delay the process – because not having a business profile leaves money on the table.
2. Verify your address
Nowadays, social media requires businesses and brands to undergo a verification process. It may sound like an extra hassle for no reason – but you have to do it so third parties have a hard time pretending to be someone else (and prevent scammers from stealing money).
Verification is a five-step process you can do with your computer or smartphone right from Google’s website.
3. Update your information (and keep it up to date!)
Your online business profile needs information. You have to write down as many details as you can.
The basics are your business name, address, and working hours. You can add holiday hours, descriptions, photos, and more information.
Be as thorough as possible. Doing so is the first step in having the perfect local SEO strategy. The more information you write down, the better you rank in search engines. And it must be accurate information – because Google will penalize you for any mistakes!
4. Tune the fine details
It’s important to stress how thorough and accurate you must be when writing down your business information.
Something as silly as writing the wrong working hours could cause you enough trouble to rank lower than your competition – which will make a dent in your profit margin. Users also notice errors – and stop shopping because of them.
You have to update your information regularly. For example, forgetting about holiday hours is a big beginner mistake you don’t want to make.
5. Help your profile grow
Creating a Google Business Profile is not a one-and-done operation. You will receive reviews (hopefully, they all will be five stars!), and you must read and reply.
It’s not a bad idea to upload up-to-date pictures every once in a while. The more active you are, the better you’ll rank – and the more people will get to see your business listing.
Ten tips to improve your local SEO strategy
1. Create it and keep at it
It’s important not to forget about your business profile. You will get over the big part of it all when you create it and write down as much information as possible – but think of it as organic. It will change over time, and you must follow these changes.
For example, people will leave reviews on your business profile. You have to pay attention to that. You may change your working hours – and you have to update them.
Having wrong information for one day is more than enough to get penalized.
2. Consider other search engines
This article discusses creating a Google Business Profile because it’s essential in local SEO. Most people use Google for their online needs, but other search engines exist.
There’s no harm in expanding your social presence to other search engines. Ensure you follow the same rules: writing down as much information as possible and updating it as soon as possible. Otherwise, it’d be better to stick to Google alone.
3. Nail your NAP information
Name and Place (NAP) information is the bread and butter of your business profile. It’d be better not to have one if you’re making mistakes in that area.
Imagine if you were talking to someone, referring them to your business, and giving them the wrong address when they want to visit. You’d make zero sales – and whoever went to the incorrect address won’t give you a second chance!
That’s what happens when you write down the wrong NAP information. People would assume you went bankrupt or were playing around – neither is good for business.
4. Mobile matters
More people use their mobile phones than computers to surf the web. As time passes, more people leave PCs behind and use their smartphones alone. This trend has a direct effect on how you should think about SEO.
There’s little space on phone screens. Consider that before you write a long description about your business website or upload big pictures that won’t fit.
5. Read and reply to your reviews
Google will consider whether you pay attention to your business profile or let it collect metaphorical dust after you create it.
One way to show you care is to reply to reviews. It’s also essential to do so to defend yourself from negative comments.
At the same time, reading and replying to reviews will help boost your search engine ranking and show the clients you care. There’s no downside to staying in touch with customers.
6. Set your site right
You will probably include your website in your business profile. It’s a great way to rank better in search engine results. And that will happen – as long as you set your site right.
What does that mean?
You have to structure your site in an SEO-friendly way. Think of the correct meta descriptions, title tags, subheadings, etc.
What happens if you ignore your website structure? Google penalizes you for it – and your business profile also takes a hit.
When you’re about to change something about your business profile, make sure it’s mobile-friendly.
7. Look for local keywords
Targeting local keywords is a great way to rank better in local search engine results. Doing so is pretty straightforward – the perfect local keyword would be what your company offers, plus your location.
So, if you own an HVAC repair company in Virginia, a relevant HVAC marketing keyword would be “HVAC repair companies in Virginia” or “HVAC repair in Virginia.”
Avoid keyword stuffing, and create content that naturally incorporates these local keywords. Otherwise, Google will penalize you – and your local SEO will suffer.
8. Build more backlinks
Backlinks are pretty straightforward: they are links (found on other websites) that send people to your site. The more backlinks, the better.
Because you want people to visit your store, both online and offline!
There’s also another byproduct of collecting backlinks. Google will rank your business higher in search engine results if their algorithms recognize that many people write about and add links to your website in their content.
Internal links also help—these links on your website direct visitors to other parts of that site.
9. Wait before you rewrite your content
Google uses crawlers to find information online and put it in its search results. They’re not magic workers but algorithms – even though they work faster than humans, they take their time.
So, don’t get desperate if you see no results after updating your local SEO page. Wait for a month or, better yet, two months or so before rethinking your SEO strategy. And remember to implement local rank tracking so that you can monitor your local SEO efforts.
At the same time, think and rethink what you want out of your marketing strategy before you start uploading content or making changes.
10. Don’t dial it down to local SEO alone
Local SEO is a must for small businesses – but it’s not the only tool of the trade you need. Take advantage of both online and offline opportunities as you see fit.
For example, promote your products in local markets and donate money to local charities. That’s the perfect offline marketing campaign.
Make sure you also pay attention to social media – that’s how clients and would-be customers stay updated with what you do offline. It’s the perfect supplement to your local SEO strategy.
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