When it comes to competing with the world for search engine real estate, SEO is a beast to be reckoned with. However, when it comes to local small business SEO, it’s more like a cat; easy to please if you know how to.
Local small business SEO is becoming more important everyday as more people are using their mobile phones to search, shop and compare. When someone searches for “pizza” or “wine” in Google on their phone, Google uses their location in assuming they’re looking for pizza or wine nearby.
Try searching for the type of business that you represent on your phone and see if you show up within the top three. If you don’t show up, completing these five tasks will help you dramatically. If you do show up, it’s still worth going through these tasks to remain at the top (Your competition might be reading this.)
Here is the shortened form of the task-list so that you can come back any time to be reminded on what to do:
- Build an excellent “Google My Business” page.
- Have relevant content on your website.
- List your business on many platforms.
- Collect back-links
- Get reviews.
Build an Excellent “Google My Business” Page
This is probably the most important SEO task that any small business can do. If you’re going to avoid any of the tasks, this is not the task for you to avoid.
Don’t have a Google My Business page? head over to https://www.google.com/intl/en/business/ to get started.
Already have a Google My Business page? simply go to https://business.google.com/ to manage it.
Be sure to fill out every box of information and as accurately as you can. One of the more confusing boxes to fill is the category your business belongs to because there can be many to choose from. It’s very important that you choose the most accurate category. Fortunately, Google is now allowing for multiple categories. If you are unsure as to which category to place your business, go to http://www.blumenthals.com/google-lbc-categories/ and you can use the search feature there to help you decide which category you belong in. Are you a bakery? type ‘bakery’. If you are a gas station, type ‘gas station’. This website will list the top viable categories that you belong in.
Get your Google My Business verified. You will need to do that to be seen on Google. When you click to verify, Google will send you a postcard in the mail with a code and instructions. Follow those instructions to complete your verification. This step can take up to a couple of weeks, but it’s typically a few days.
Once your postcard is in the mail, don’t make any changes to the address unless you’ve made a mistake. In either case, you would need to request a new code as the original one will become void. I suggest that you not change anything at all until you are verified.
The key takeaway here is to have a verified Google My Business page with as much accurate information as possible. Add pictures, hours of operation including special holiday hours, and your phone number.
Google My Business is very easy to set up and very rewarding, yet most small businesses do not know that this is within their control and that it is the biggest factor in local SEO.
Write Relevant Content for Your Website
If you don’t have a website for your business, you might want to look in to having one created for you as soon as possible. Not having a website is keeping you from a large portion of people who might want to be your customer, but just want some more information.
If you already have a website, great! And if you have a blog/article section even better.
I highly recommend that you write an article from time to time pertaining to what you have to offer.
For example, if you are a photographer, you may want to write about ‘Why It’s Important to Have Professional Photos in an Age of Selfies’ or ‘The Top 10 Questions to Ask Your Photographer’.
Write about topics that are relevant to your business.
You want to do this for authority; Google periodically looks at your website and determines how much authority you have. There are several ways it does this, and one of them is by the content that you publish. Is it unique? relevant? recent? The more legitimate, relevant content that you publish, the more authority that you have.
Also, avoid plagiarising content. Google will know almost instantaneously and you will be penalized for it.
List Your Business on Many Platforms
I’m sure that you’ve heard of online directories like the YellowPages and Yelp. These websites are very important for you to be a part of. Their citations about your business will boost your authority and increase your chances of being found. Remember, there are people that prefer Yelp to YellowPages or other sites. If you’re not on the site your customer prefers to get their business info, your customer won’t find you.
Also, your Google Authority increases every time Google sees your business indexed somewhere else on the internet.
Here is a list of websites that index within Canada. I suggest you check out and possibly sign up for all of them. There are other websites that you may want to look in to yourself if you are specialist of some sort such as a mortgage broker, brain surgeon, or photographer:
I also recommend that you check out your local Chamber of Commerce and sign up with them. They will likely have a government associated website which has a lot of authority. If your website is linked there, you will increase in the ranks significantly. The downside is that most Chambers of Commerce want a yearly fee, however it could be a small price to pay to be number one in Google, bringing many customers through your door or calling your phone plus the many other benefits that a Chamber of Commerce offers.
The last thing that I’d like to mention about listing your business on these websites is to be consistent with the information. If your Google My Business is registered as ‘1289 Main St Unit 7’ then all of the listings should be just that and not ‘7-1289 Main St’. Many businesses make this mistake and it’s little things like that that make your efforts fruitful or fruitless.
Back-links are simply a link the leads to your website from some other website. The higher quality back-links that you have, the more authority you have.
They key word there is ‘quality’. People used to horde back-links from thousands of irrelevant websites to increase their Google authority. However, Google learned from this mistake and checks to see if that website is relevant and if it has authority in your niche of business.
It’s okay if you have a back-link from an irrelevant site, especially if it’s a local business you are collaborating with. The fact they are local with you, gives them authority with you relative to Google.
With that, it would be wise to contact other local businesses and ask them for a spot on their website. Perhaps a list of recommended local businesses on your and their page.
Another way to acquire backlinks would be to contact local journalists and see if they’d be willing to write a piece about you and your business for a back-link. Most journalists are perfectly okay with this.
If you want to know where all your back-links are coming from, check out https://moz.com/researchtools/ose/
Reviews are probably the second most important thing you can do. As much linking and indexing you do, nothing gives you more authority (or takes it away) than an actual live human being who’s experienced your service. Reviews trump everything else, so long as they can find you. Personally, I check out reviews all the time, and they seriously influence my decision.
Most of the websites in the above list have some sort of review feature, however let’s not worry about most of them. The only one you really need to focus on getting good reviews is Google. After that you may want to consider getting reviews on Yelp and YellowPages.
Personally, I’ve never came across anything other than those sites when looking for reviews unless that business only had reviews on other websites, which is bad for small business SEO.
Also, since I use Google so often, I have this associated trust with them. I am more likely to trust a review that Google is offering me over some other site. That trust branches out to YellowPages and Yelp because of their brand. Some people prefer Yelp, while other prefer YellowPages.
How can you get reviews? Well first and foremost, make sure that your reviews are genuine and not paid for by some shady service that will leave you 500 reviews of “Great store!”, “The food was great!”, “The bartender is hawt!”in a matter of a few days. Google will see the sudden increase of reviews as unnatural and penalize you for it. They will also see the reviews are short and probably irrelevant. Google will penalize you further for that as well.
There are many ways to get a review, but the best shot at getting one is to ask. One time I was sitting in a restaurant with a date, and the server asked us if we’d like 10% off our meal. After promptly agreeing, she asked that one us leave a positive review after the meal if we felt the experience was positive. We had done as she asked and got 10% off our meal. It’s only a few dollars short on a single plate of food at that restaurant, but the review that I left will certainly aid in converting dozens of potential customers.
Finally, you could always ask friends and family to leave a review of your business.
Small Business SEO Conclusion
These 5 tasks here should be easy to understand, however they are not as easily implemented. Small business SEO is by no means easy (neither is running your business.) Setting up all of these tasks will take hours of continuous work. Google does not like stale content. Google takes time to index your site so the sooner you start your SEO the better.
Be sure to produce a quality Google My Business page. Get started on writing and sharing relevant written content. Get alternate internet citations for your business by listing your business on many of the websites I listed above. Speak with some local businesses about sharing backlinks to boost your local small business SEO. Finally, get reviews.
Another way to stay on top of small business SEO and staying relevant is to use social media, but I will leave that for another article.