Too often, entrepreneurs leave money on the table (and customers in the dark) by failing to drive traffic to their business.
Small-business owners should formulate a creative content plan that focuses on dominating local search engine optimization searches. Otherwise, content plans might be too general or not tailored toward a local target audience.
Some entrepreneurs just build a website and hope people stumble upon it. If you want to get an edge, however, your content should be optimized for your unique local markets, and your site must be crafted with mobile browsers in mind.
Here are five SEO tips to keep in mind:
1. Set up your Google My Business page.
When people are looking for a local business, Google is typically the first place they look.
To makes sure your business shows up at the top of the Google search, claim your Google Business Page. To do this, click here, then follow the prompts. If your business does not appear, click on “Add Your Business.” The next step requires a two- to three-week wait for a postcard to arrive via snail mail.
After receiving your postcard, you can verify your business and add information, almost like a social media page. Then you can add business hours, photos, phone numbers and a link to your website.
Another great aspect of claiming your business is being able to receive and respond to reviews, which is a wonderful tool for customer engagement.
Here are additional tips to optimize your Google My Business page:
- Don’t skip the description section. Write a thorough, detailed, catchy description of products or services your company offers.
- Choose the correct categories for your business. This ensures that a general search for “plumbers (or whatever) near me” will include your business.
- Upload plenty of flattering business photos. Be sure your business is neither too empty nor too busy when you photograph it. It should appear to be popular, but not so busy that it turns people off.
- Ask loyal customers to post honest reviews of your business on Google.
2. Blog about local events and news.
Write about topics that locals will be searching for. Is the annual Renaissance Fair approaching? Take time to blog about the subject, and make it relate to your business in a relevant way. Attend local events, and invite your audience to join you.
Write about local events on social media sites, too. Ask followers whether they plan to attend local events, and let popular opinion influence your content strategy. This fosters genuine customer engagement. Piggybacking off local events is a clever way to boost your local SEO.
3. Add local area meta descriptions.
Writing an effective meta description is about anticipating potential clients’ needs when searching for businesses. Google recently changed its meta description length from 160 to 320 characters. This doesn’t mean that you should use all 320 characters, but use the space wisely by including relevant local phrases.
A good meta description should account for three specific pieces of information:
- Your customer’s problem
- Your business’s solution
- The outcome of your service
To optimize these steps for your area, include geographically specific terms, such as:
Q & A plumbing has been serving the South Beach area for 40 years. We specialize in clogged drains, leak repair, garbage disposal installation and water heater repair for Miami, Coral Gables, Fontainebleau and Hialeah. Call us now to fix all your plumbing problems.
Meta descriptions do not directly affect your website ranking in Google, but they will affect the relevance of your website for certain keywords consumers might use. So, review your meta descriptions to see how they could be better tailored to your local market. If need be, beef up your descriptions by taking advantage of Google’s expanded character allotment.
4. Encourage customers to leave reviews.
One survey found that 97 percent of consumers read online reviews for local businesses. Don’t be shy about asking friends, family and loyal customers for help. Google, Yelp, Angie’s List and Facebook are all important platforms for garnering reviews.
Unfortunately, people are more apt to leave a negative review than to take the time to leave a positive one. One grumpy customer will take the initiative to write a one-star review, while 10 delighted customers simply move on with their day. To remedy this, always encourage happy customers to leave reviews for your business.
However, do not offer incentives for leaving reviews. This practice is illegal, so don’t even consider it.
Whatever type of review you receive, be sure to respond. Bad reviews can be mitigated by responding professionally and offering to do better the next time. Discounts never hurt, either.
Online reviews have an outsize influence on your business, so take control of this SEO linchpin.
5. Network with other local businesses.
Make nice with neighboring companies and nearby nonprofits.
Follow other local businesses online, and comment on their posts. Most are likely to reciprocate, and adding to others’ discussions can help you reach new people.
Form symbiotic content relationships. Consider welcoming local guest writers onto your blog. Invite business owners with complementary interests to write for your site. For example, if you run an RV company, forge a partnership with local campgrounds to expand your audience.
Successfully manage local SEO content
With a little extra work, you can dominate your local SEO content. Think of yourself as a consumer, and use that insight to help with SEO optimization. How do you conduct online research? Which keywords do you use?
Try to anticipate what local consumers will be searching for, then include relevant keywords on your site, in your meta descriptions and in your social media accounts. Optimizing your content will attract more customers, generate more traffic and, hopefully, bring in more revenue.
A version of this post first appeared on Content Equals Money.