We are in the beginning of what promises to be a very turbulent spring for small business owners.
Instead of having March Madness and St. Patty Day parades, we are at home…with our kids… scouring the internet for toilet paper.
For the next few weeks, we will be working from home, not going out to coffee shops or museums or libraries. We won’t be driving our kids to practice or stopping by the nail salon. We will be staying in and not supporting local small businesses.
Social Distancing may help slow down the spread of the coronavirus, but it is devastating to local business.
If you are small, local business Clapping Dog Media is here to help you understand and to implement the very best Local SEO optimizations, things you can do now even while quarantined.
We are going to cover some big-impact Local SEO optimizations: Google My Business and Local Citations.
Later in the series we will dive into keyword research and on-page strategies specifically for local SEO. Before we dive into Google My Business, lets’ back up and talk about Local SEO.
What is Local SEO?
The big goal of Local SEO is to increase the search visibility for businesses that serve their clients face-to-face. This can be brick and mortar store fronts like coffee shops or salons or service-area businesses like an electrician or a house cleaner.
Local SEO is different from regular SEO specially because of Local Intent, according to Google, 46% of searches have a local intent.
Local Intent is the difference between searching for “how to brew the best cup of coffee” vs. “best coffee near me.”
If you search for “how to brew the best cup of coffee” the results on the search page can be from anywhere, but if the search engines understand that there is local intent as in the “best coffee near me” inquiry, then Google will suggest businesses based on location.
This difference in the search results is the essence of Local SEO and why now, more than ever, you should focus on local SEO.
The very first and most important step in boosting your local SEO is free and easy to set up, Google My Business.
Google My Business (GMB) is a free business profile on Google that allows you to manage how your business appears on Google Search and Maps.
Setting up GMB is straight forward, the basic steps are:
Step 1: go to Google.com/business
Step 2: Click on “Manage Now’
Step 3: Search for your business, if you can’t find it click “Add Your Business to Google”
Step 4: Remember the exact info used to set up your profile, we will need it when we get to the citations section (it is SUPER important that the info is consistent across the web)
Step 5: Check your regular mail, Google will send a postcard via snail mail to confirm the location
Step 6: Enter the PIN from the postcard and select “verify business”
Once the GMB profile is set up and verified, you will need to:
- Add hi-res images to the profile
- Write a keyword rich business description
- Add a hi-res logo
- Add primary keywords when you name the images, like WeddingPhotographer_Boston.jpg or InteriorDesigner_Chicago.jpb
- Add business categories
- Manage Reviews
- Post mini blogs using the Post feature, Posts are essentially tiny blog posts which can be used to give a short news update, share an offer, publish details of an upcoming event or showcase a product.
Google My Business is crucial for Local SEO, if you have local clients then setting this up is a must, and during this time of social distancing, ensuring that the info is current and consistent is important.
Remember in Step 4 of the GMB set up, I noted that it was very important to know exactly what you entered for your business info, especially the NAP (Name, Address, Phone), we are going to need that next when we dive into Local Citations.
Local Citations are profiles on the web that lists the name, address and phone number (NAP) of a business
Citations are found on 3rd party sites, like Facebook, Apple Maps, Foursquare, YELP, and Angie’s List.
Even though, Google My Business is arguably the most important citation, having your site listed on many directories is very important because it is the primary avenue for people to find your business. Simply put a site with more valid location citations will rank higher than one with fewer citations.
Local citations allow Google and other search engines to acquire important data about local business — anytime a search engine has more info about a business the rankings improve.
Local citations are one of Google’s ranking factors for Local SEO
How to get more local citations?
In my experience as a SEO Consultant for creative small businesses, the more effective and efficient way to grow local citations is to use a 3rd party vendor, my absolute favorite is BrightLocal.
Bright Local is a local marketing platform that helps local businesses get found on Google.
I have personally tried several citation builders in the past including Moz Local, WhiteSpark, YEXT and I even attempted to manually maintain citations for a while. I prefer BrightLocal for several reasons:
- There are no recurring fees
- BrightLocal adds your business profile by hand, ensuring a clean and accurate profile listing
- You get to pick which directories they submit to, they have hundreds of niche directories in over 40 industries
- BL tracks organic and mobile rankings
- They audit and maintain your NAP
The set up of BrightLocal Citation Builder is straightforward and is covered in detail here. The steps are:
- Set up your location –either manually type in the NAP or find the location (if you have set up GMB, Bright Local will find this location)
- Select Citation Builder on the sidebar menu
- Set up business and campaign details
Citation Submission Options on BrightLocal
There are three options for citation submissions, Manual, Duplicate and Aggregator.
Which one I select is dependent on the business category and the location. If the business is in a large metro area and is a popular category like plumber, Chicago, then I opt for aggregator submissions because you get the most links for one price.
If the business is in a less populated area and has more of a niche market like, Barre Class, Purcellville, then I select the top 25 manual citations, I also choose the citations that have a high or very high value.
Once the campaign is set up in BrightLocal, you are all set. The BL team will manually enter and monitor the accuracy of the citations.
There are a lot of really remarkable and helpful graphs and reports that you can monitor for more strategic SEO-ing. I am a huge fan of the Review manager, we will get into that more later in this Local SEO Series.
I am happy to help you understand those and make a strategic local plan moving forward, but know that for now setting up Google My Business and growing your local citation links are two very impactful and Corona-approved things you can do to be found locally.