You’ve probably heard the joke about two men in the woods who stumble across a bear. As the bear starts to chase them the first man remarks, “I’m glad I wore my running shoes today.” The second man responds, “running shoes won’t help you outrun a bear!” To which the first man replies, “I don’t need to outrun the bear. I just need to be faster than you…”
Silly joke, but how is it relevant to Google ranks and local SEO (Search Engine Optimization)?
We all know that ranking #1 in Google is unbelievably tough. But what if it isn’t quite as hard as you imagine?
Here’s the thing. If you’re a local business then you don’t need to outrank everyone in your industry. You just need to outrank your competitors in your town or city. And fortunately, that’s pretty easy to achieve in most industries.
In this article, we’ll look at the 6 steps you need to take to dominate your industry, and crush your local competition in Google.
Google Knows Everything?
Before we get started, it’s worth taking a moment to think about how local SEO actually works.
Imagine you move to a town called Springfield. After you settle in, you decide to find a local accountant to help with your business. You probably begin by searching Google (or any search engine) for, “accountant in Springfield” or something similar.
But here’s the crazy part. How does Google know who’s the best accountant?
The short answer is, Google has no idea who is the most talented accountant in Springfield.
However, they are VERY good at figuring out where it’s safe to take your business. They don’t know who’s the best, but they have a good idea who can consistently create a positive outcome for their clients.
How does it work? Google relies on ‘trust signals’ to determine ranking order. The more trust signals your company exhibits, the more likely Google will be to rank your business higher.
So here’s the thing…
When you understand what signals Google expects to find, it’s relatively easy to generate those signals and rank number 1 for local SEO. And in many towns, it doesn’t take a whole of trust signals to rank #1 for your industry.
Why local SEO is important?
Discoverability -> online and offline traffic -> conversions and sales. Local SEO gives local businesses everything it needs to beat the local competition and grow their circle of influence.
- 93% of online experiences begin with a search.
- 50 percent of people who did a local search on their mobile went to a physical store within one day.
- 72% of consumers who perform a local search visit a store within 5 miles of their current location
- 88% of consumers people trust online reviews as if they're coming from their friends.
- 78% of location-based mobile searches result in an offline purchase
- 18% of location-based mobile searches result in a sale within one day.
Benefits of local SEO
In short, local SEO gives your business total domination over your local competitors. Imagine you have a Yoga studio and you rank in the first spot for the keyword "yoga studio near me" for a year. Everybody will come to your place or call you via phone, leave reviews, and as Google sees these trust signals, it'll cause a snowball effect. After a year, other yoga studios won't be able to compete with you.
Here are some other benefits:
- Dominant web presence in your local market.
- Higher search engine rankings
- Higher number of reviews
- Increase in website traffic
- Authority content that grabs visitors to your website
- More calls from potential customers
- More people coming to your store
- Increased sales revenue
- Opportunity to create a local community
Now let's explore how you can apply and benefit from all these perks with a 6-step local SEO framework.
Step One: Decide Your Primary Keyword
The first step to getting found is making your website reflect what people are actually searching for. What’s their searcher intent when they find your website?
If you are an accountant in Springfield then popular search terms for your business probably include:
“Springfield Accountant” or “Accountant in Springfield”
The search term people most use to find your solution is your primary keyword.
Now check your website. How prominent is that term on your site? It’s very possible it’s nowhere to be found. Fortunately, this is easy to fix.
1- Add your primary keyword to your browser tab tagline. That’s the text that appears in the browser tab of your website. If you are using WordPress just go to General Settings and find the ‘Tagline’ field. If your primary keyword is “accountant in Springfield” then use that.
2- Put your primary keyword in your homepage URL. This will disappear because your homepage is the root of your domain. But it’s good practice to put your target keywords in the URL of the page.
3- Your homepage should have a title. It’s usually the first thing people see when they open your website. This title is usually assigned a header tag (or H1 tag). Change your H1 tag to include your primary keyword. For example, your existing title might be “Expert Small Business Accountants.” Change this to “Expert Accountant in Springfield.”
4- If your home page has sub-titles then change those to something related to your primary keyword. For example, ‘Small Business Accounting.’ These sub-headings don’t have to include your location, but they should describe what people are searching for.
5- Sprinkle words related to your primary search term in the text of your copy. If you have any images on your website then change the ALT text to your primary keyword.
The goal of all the steps above is one thing: to signal search engines that your content is about the given topic or keyword. SEO is a discipline of talking and getting along with search engines, that's it.
Step Two: Write 10 Guest Posts
The first trust signal Google looks at is quality backlinks pointing to your website. A backlink refers to a link from one website to your own. If the site linking to your own is considered authoritative then it’s a good indication to Google that you can be trusted, too.
Using the accounting example, it would be reasonable for an accountant to have a link from the national accounting association pointing to their website. This tells Google that the accounting authority recognizes that company.
There are several ways to build high-quality backlinks to your website. One of the easiest ways to get started is to guest post. Just share your ideas in an article on an industry-relevant website. For example, an accounting firm might reach out to their accounting software partner and ask if they can contribute an article (or any type of content) to their blog.
Guest posting is a bit time-consuming because you have to find the right people to contact. And then write a quality article for their website. You can save a ton of time by using a company that does list building to help you manage outreach and find appropriate places to contribute.
Don’t underestimate the power of backlinks to help your business. Getting links to your website is a proven way to establish your industry expertise. Start with 10 guest posts and evaluate your results. You’ll almost certainly see an improvement in your Google ranking.
Step Three: Set Your NAP
The next part is easy. Decide on your company’s Name, Address, and Phone (NAP).
Here’s the thing. How you write your company’s name, address, and phone number matters. It CAN’T change. They are fixed in one variation forever, so choose wisely. For example, you might refer to your company as ‘Happy Accountants’ or ‘Happy Accountants LLC’. Either is fine, but pick one and stick with it.
Having NAP consistency will make it easy for Google to associate local citations to your business to your website.
Next, put your name, address, and phone number on your website. Consider putting it in the footer of your website. This way it is automatically included on every page of your site. All this work will make it easier to rank on Google my business listing.
Step Four: Create a Google My Business Profile
The title says it all. Create a Google My Business profile. Google My Business is a free tool that helps you promote your business locally.
When you create your profile put a lot of effort into your company description. You want to include your primary keywords in a natural and organic way. This makes it easy for Google to match your solutions with searcher intent.
Google My Business is also your key to getting added to Google Maps. If you’ve ever searched anything local then you know the maps are an awesome way to get discovered. So don’t skip this step!
Step Five: Create 10 Citations
Now that you’ve established your NAP, it’s time to create citations. Citations are websites that list your company online and usually include a link. You’ll want to create 10 strong citations that are a strong fit for your company.
There are thousands of online directories where you can list your website. But don’t just find 10 random places. Instead, look for citations that meet one of two criteria. Above all, look for quality and relevance over volume.
Local: If you want to dominate the local landscape then local directories can help. Look for directories in places like the local newspaper or chamber of commerce. These websites will reinforce to Google that you are a local player and should be shown in local search results.
Industry Specific: Find directories that are specific to your industry niche. In the accounting example, these would include places like accounting associations, or accounting software providers.
Step Six: Get 5 Star Reviews
Last step! The final trust signal Google wants to see is strong reviews from your customers. The more 5 star reviews you get from REAL people, the more love Google will send your way.
Ideally, reviews should be put on Google My Business. But other review sites like Yelp or Facebook are also possible.
Many customers aren’t familiar with how to leave a review on Google My Business so you’ll probably have to help them. Here are a few tips for strong reviews:
1- Broach the subject of a review gently. Try asking, “customer satisfaction is our #1 goal. Did you have a 5-star experience with us?” It’s a tough question, but any honest answer will improve your business. So make sure you ask it!
2- Ask clients that provide strong responses to leave a review.
3 – Getting to the online reviews page is a bit complicated and some people won’t be able to do it. Worse, they’ll get busy and forget. Ask people to pull out their phone and show them how to leave a review while you are there. Just by being beside them, you can raise your star rating by at least one level!
So there you have it. In just six simple steps you can dominate your local competition in Google. Getting to the top ranks is never easy (especially in competitive industries), but it’s pretty predictable. Companies that consistently demonstrate strong trust signals perform well in search engines. So find your primary keyword, earn a few backlinks, and start getting some 5-star reviews to dominate local search results. You can schedule a free call with our expert to discuss the details.
Discover this week’s guest blogger Matthew Murray. He is Managing Director of Sales Higher. Sales Higher is a B2B lead generation solution for small and medium businesses all over the world. Because sales people should be focused on closing deals, not finding new opportunities.