The massive growth of e-commerce doesn’t mean the extinction of brick-and-mortar stores. If you’re a retailer, e-commerce can’t replace the physical experience of physically feeling the products or trying them on. If you’re a restaurant, eating your food at home isn’t the same as dining in. That’s why thinking about local SEO matters: it enables us to find local businesses we’re looking to visit in person. Our Beginner’s Guide to Local SEO will help you be more easily found by people situated nearby.
According to a study from Google, 4 out of 5 consumers want ads customized to their current location. 50% of users who searched for a local listing visited the location on the same day. If your business has a physical location you want customers to visit, you’ll want to be known to people who are nearby.
Our Beginner’s Guide to Local SEO is for the businesses who need in-person traffic, not just online clicks. You’re letting the people around know you’re here and running. You’re an actual place, not just an online resource that can be accessed anywhere. For example, an online makeup tutorial versus a brick-and-mortar makeup store that sells the needed products. For example, if you’re in Los Angeles and search for “makeup store Los Angeles”, the search results at the top are the most locally optimized. If a user isn’t looking to take their chances ordering makeup online without trying it out in-person, they’ll want to visit your store.
In locally optimizing your business, you’re trying to reach out to the people who live nearby looking for a place like yours, letting them know you’re here and running. Learn some local #SEO today! #letsgaux #digitalmarketing Click To Tweet
Now that you probably understand the importance of local SEO, let’s look at how you can optimize your business for local, in-person foot traffic:
Pay Attention To Your Mobile Optimization
This is something you should do before going through any local SEO guide. The first important fact you need to remember for local optimization is most local searches are performed on mobile, so your website must be mobile-optimized. Although they can happen before one leaves the house, lot of local searches happen unplanned once you’re already out and about. Imagine locals and tourists walking around downtown Los Angeles and are suddenly craving spicy food. They won’t be looking for spicy food recipes, as none of them have time to grocery shop and find a kitchen to cook in! Of course, they’ll be looking for a restaurant, and they’ll be doing it on their phones. Once they enter “spicy food downtown Los Angeles”, their screen will be filled with local restaurants of various cuisines with visible descriptions and ratings.
Optimize for Local Keywords
Local SEO has to include local keywords to optimize for. Once your site is mobile-optimized, you’ll need to make it obvious you’re in the location(s) you’re at. Search engines need to see that you’re not just serving spicy food, you’re doing it in Los Angeles. Los Angeles is big, so mention the neighborhood or city you’re in: Hollywood, Culver City, or Long Beach. Don’t fall victim to keyword stuffing. Keep your content natural-looking and easy to read.
Some of you will have more than one location. Your website should clearly display them all. One factor determining how high you rank in a local search is how physically close you are to the searcher. If you’ve got a restaurant merely three miles from them, you’ll want them to know. If you’re the closest restaurant serving spicy food to someone searching “spicy restaurant near me”, you’ll pop up in the top three results… provided everything else is great, so stick around.
Aside from just a “where to find us” page, you can also write on your homepage just how uniquely spicy your food is relative to local restaurants. Go into detail about where your spices come from or anything distinctive about your food. Mention your spicy challenge hardly anyone can finish and the peppers used. Start your own blog on your site if you think it’ll fit and if you can provide quality writing. A blog will give you more opportunities to insert keywords. Put out content that addresses an issue or trend in your area, such as your own list of “Up and Coming Vegetarian-Friendly Restaurants in Los Angeles”.
If you already know some SEO, you already know that publishing content constantly helps, but only if it’s high-quality content. Search engines have evolved to figure out when you’re spamming content merely for increased visibility and not actually contributing anything useful.
Get Featured Locally
The aforementioned content won’t just give you more opportunities to insert keywords ethically, they’ll give other sites content to feature on their site. If you’re in a major city, there should already be plenty of sites with local SEO being already performed, so you’ll want to ride on their success. You already know increasing your amount of inbound links will have search engines reading you as more credible and popular. Appearing on a list called “Where To Burn Your Mouth in Los Angeles” on a popular news site or blog would make quite a difference, not just in SEO but exposure. Appearing in local listings would also boost your local credibility, such as a local newspaper or blog post by a local organization.
Are you hosting the toughest spicy challenge in Los Angeles? Devote a page to it. Are you a local beauty store? Write about makeup trends to watch out for in Los Angeles. Find a local blog and offer to be a guest blogger, writing about your business and how it’s made a difference in your city.
Get As Many Reviews As You Can
A crucial part of a local SEO checklist is reviews. If you look up any restaurant or service, highly-rated, highly-reviewed venues often are at the top. The positivity of the reviews will make a profound difference too, not just for the machines but for the humans. It would be reasonable to assume a spice lover would be more inclined to eat at a restaurant with a thousand 5-star rankings and several mentions of “the habanero tacos made me cry, but they were worth it. Would definitely come back again!”
But how do you incentivize patrons to leave a review?
A study shows 70% of customers will leave a review if asked. 84% trust online reviews just as much as a personal recommendation. So you might want to implement some incentive for customers to leave reviews. You can start by being registered on as many review sites as you can, such as Yelp or Glassdoor. Facebook pages also allow users to leave reviews and also appear on search results.
However, don’t get too caught up in the power of reviews and start leaving fake ones posing as random customers. Customers are aware that fake reviews exist and can spot them, which can hurt your business. Wouldn’t you be suspicious if a restaurant had too many five-star reviews in a row…with many of them using eerily similar vocabulary, some that no human would use?
Your Google My Business Profile
Now let’s go back to the hungry, spice-loving, wandering humans on their day out. It’s 6:30 pm and there’s quite a few runny noses from the ghost peppers you put in your tacos, burritos, or ramen. Some of these customers had been led to your site due to your well-written, keyword-rich website letting them know that you dial up the heat more than the other local restaurants. That’s all they needed to know to come over.
However, those customers don’t represent everybody. Other potential customers may have other inquiries, such as whether your ghost pepper ramen can be made vegan or what time you close. Perhaps they’ll have an unusual request or question your reviews and website can’t answer, which means they might want a phone number. Perhaps they’re gluten-free or need to know whether their unusual allergy will be safe there.
This is where your local information will make a difference, so you’ll want to take your Google My Business profile very seriously. After all, it’s free! Your Google My Business listing should include your full name, address, a working phone number, your menu, your hours open for every day, and any other details you can fit in. If you take online orders, let them know. Keep in mind that many of these searches are performed via mobile, so a call button would be extremely helpful so no hungry user has to copy and paste your number.
Take that Google My Business Profile Very Seriously
Your name, address, and phone number (NAP) serve as your thumbprint for search engines. Because of that, they must be consistent everywhere. They’ll be used in citations pointing to your website to determine your rankings. The real value of these citations is that they don’t require an actual link to your website. Google will pick up on these citations and match them to what you’ve registered in Google My Business. Just like with backlinks, a citation on a well-known, credible, high-ranking website will do more for you than a relatively unknown site.
Citation inconsistency has been found to be the number one factor hurting local SEO. Ever searched for a restaurant you’d heard about only to find multiple addresses for it? Then tried to call for the correct address? That’s no fun. If your Yelp page says you’re in Los Angeles, make sure your Facebook page doesn’t say you’re in Orange County. Duplicate Google+ listings, even if they contain the correct information, can also be detrimental. Even small mistakes can make a difference, such as a misspelling or one numerical digit being off.
As mentioned before, you should be appropriately categorized. Your category shouldn’t just be anywhere you fit, it should be the category that fits you most. Don’t categorize yourself as a takeout restaurant if you’re mainly a dine-in place, even if you do offer a takeout option. If you’re known for certain spicy dishes, “spicy food” is too general of a category. Classifying yourself by your overall cuisine would be better, such as Thai, New American, Indian, or Chinese.
Make Your Keyword Research Local
Use keyword research tools and the Google search bar to see what fans of your food might be searching for in your area. If you sell spicy ramen, you might want to rank for “Japanese food Los Angeles”, especially if Los Angeles is where your main location is. “Ramen near me” would also work.
With many people owning devices such as Echo and Alexa, keep voice search in mind. “Where can I get spicy food nearby?” might be a question voiced. To optimize even further for local search, research which relevant keywords are most popular in your local area. If you sell some pretty spicy tacos, you may be located in an area where “tacos near me” may be more popular than “spicy food near me”. Google Keyword Planner allows you to view keyword details in the location you choose.
Register With Social Media & Local Directories
Establishing helpful, detailed, accurate social media pages may not directly help with rankings, but it does make you seem more credible to the people who find you. Social media profiles often appear at the top of the search results for brand names. This visibility indirectly influences your rankings, as visibility spreads awareness, which leads to more people leaving reviews and inbound links to your site. If some of those links make it on local-oriented sites, that’ll leave an impact on your local SEO. A spot on a popular site like Discover Los Angeles will most likely drive foot traffic to your restaurant. The more social media you have (with great marketing, of course), the more likely a writer from one of those sites will find you and be impressed.
Setting up aesthetically pleasing, informative social media profiles and getting articles to link to you will take some time. In the meantime, you should boost your business’s local visibility by registering with local directories. YP, Yahoo Local, Manta, Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List, and Superpages will boost your business’s credibility and increase exposure. Of course, your information should be consistent across all these directories down to every letter and number.
Locally Optimize Your Title & Meta Description
In 2016, Google expanded the size of a search result, allowing for longer titles. This means you can put your city in your title without altering your business’s name. Your meta description instantly grabs the attention of the user, quickly describing what you’re about. That means at least one of your locally-oriented keywords should appear in it. The H1 tag is a fantastic page to put a keyword with the local modifier.
If you want to make things a little technical, you can add Schema markup for local businesses. The purpose of this is to create a common language to unite Bing, Google, and Yahoo search. You can use Hall Analysis to generate the code which you’ll be pasting in the <head> section of your site’s HTML.
No matter how amazing your business is in person, it’s what happens online that drives a lot of those in-person visits. Start reaching out to your community if you haven’t been doing so. Write those blogs and reach out to those local journalists!
Meanwhile, you can start by contacting us about our SEO services. It’s a lot of work, and we’re here to help.