Local SEO: Finding a Business in a Local Area

Learn Local SEO - optimize for small local businesses on Websites for Small Biz
Do you like a good challenge? I do. I build websites for businesses, and if the business is local, they usually want their website found when you type certain strings of words into Google. What do I mean? So, let’s say you need an ice scraper. Let’s say you don’t have a lot of time, and you figure if you must you can probably drive to some large chain store or order the ice scraper online. But, no! So you Google “ice scraper store” and include the name of your town and state. What comes up? If you are lucky, you might find some little mom and pop store that carries your ice scraper. So when you get to the store, you get to support a local business, *and* you get your ice scraper. You might even get a familiar, friendly face at the register!

Now what is the challenge? The challenge is for the owner of the mom and pop store. The store or the business wants a website, and the business owner wants the website showing up higher when searching certain keywords. What should one do? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Get a Google for Business page. (How do you do this? Go to Google for Business). In the process, set up the Google+ page. Give the page lots of care – add photos, videos, posts, keywords, location. Ask friends and clients to follow.
  2. Optimize your site for certain keywords. If you are selling ice scrapers, you will want to optimize for your location and ice scraper. If you have a lot of competition, especially with nationwide brands, you may indeed find this a challenge. Learn how to place your keyword phrase in your title, url and in your content as well (but make sure you sound like a human and have something worthwhile to say). One way to learn about keywords already important to your site is using Google Webmaster Tools (look under Google Index –> Content Keywords).
  3. Incoming Links and citations: You may already know about incoming links. It’s good to get links from *good* websites and especially from websites that are related to your business. With local businesses, citations are important as well. A citation is just a mention of your business (with or without address and phone number), without any link – once again, you want these citations from quality websites.
  4. Where is your competition listed? – if you look up your competition in a search engine, what do you see? Can you get those incoming links or citations as well?
  5. Create and maintain social media accounts for your business. If you are just going to create the accounts and not update them, then don’t bother. But you can do well to have strong Facebook, Twitter, Urbanspoon, Yelp or Pinterest accounts, for example. Just remember to add posts, tweets, photos, videos, images – related to your business and eye-catching as well. Talk to people and respond on social media. Sometimes you may get a bad review – you can respond in a short manner and politely (that’s a whole blog post in itself).
  6. Add schema to your website. Schema markup is code to pinpoint important parts of your website. In particular, there is schema for location. Unfortunately, many people have had issues trying to add schema with plugins. You can contact me if you want it added to your theme code (as part of a child theme).
  7. Start a blog? Finally, blog posts can be great to boost local SEO, if you write about topics of interest that include your SEO keywords and local area. However, I have met few small businesses able to keep up or even start a blog, as this is a large commitment and requires good writing skills. Comment to bloggers: if you can convince a local business to start a blog, and you can write for the business, you may have found yourself a part-time gig. Warning to small businesses: don’t start a blog if you can’t keep it up.

Want even more ideas? I started a list in Listly called Local SEO. If you look there, you will find quite a few posts with ideas for local SEO optimization.

By the way, if you are in Highland Park, New Jersey and you need an ice scraper, go to Jack’s Hardware, 128 Raritan Avenue. He doesn’t have a website (yet), but he does have lots of great, useful products!

Your Turn, Please

When you need something in your local area, do you try Google? Does it work? Are the local businesses in your area showing up in your searches, or do you only see national (or international) brands? What do you know about Local SEO business topics?

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38 thoughts on “Local SEO: Finding a Business in a Local Area

  1. Leora, this is great – most of it doesn’t apply to me perse but the last paragraph about writing a blog for small business is one I’ve been thinking about. If I decide to go with that, then the other stuff you mentioned will be invaluable. Thanks.

    1. Lenie, if you are in touch with local businesses and you start a blog, they might just find they love you! There is someone who is an expert on local business blogging named Becky McCray – take a look at her blog, posts or book on small biz.

  2. Leora, I found that many folks open a load or social media accounts and then either grow weary of them or forget about them altogether. Crazy! Maybe better to have the few that you can maintain than social media accounts everywhere that lay dormant.

    1. Yes, the issue of starting and abandoning social media accounts is common. But a lot of folks don’t know if they will like a platform until they try it. They should remember to delete all the links to the abandoned social media accounts on their website (and I doubt many do).

  3. Good suggestions, Leora. Have had a Google Business page for years. But because what I do is of interest to only a few businesses it doesn’t make a difference. But if you sell, I’ll pick something bigger than ice scrapes, childrens clothes it should work the way it is intended.

    Social media accounts is a must for the store selling childrens clothes and will make a difference. If they promote them well it they will get results.

    1. Ice scrapers is only a draw into the store. My husband went there again today and bought something else.

      Children’s clothing sold locally are also valuable. We only have one store I can think of that does that. Hard to compete with the online and national stores with clothing. The one local is a specialty shop.

  4. All the ideas Leora are critical for any small business. I think more and more if a business of any size is not online with some presence, they are going to be left behind in being successful. I think some people may still be of the belief it’s just a fad, or who has time. Then that means they might want to ask some better questions.

    1. Pat, in my experience, many local business owners are just not comfortable with online in general. I try to help them out. Sometimes getting used to a new system or platform takes a little longer.

      And, yes, the ones that don’t go online won’t do as well.

  5. Good tips for businesses. I certainly go to the Internet to search for businesses or shops when I need a particular product or service. It is important for businesses to be able to be found there.

  6. No, I’ve never hunted for an ice scraper that I recall. Small local business owners usually can’t spare the time to keep up but you gave excellent suggestions. I am de-emphacizing my website design business but totally agree with your tips.

    1. Beth, I’ve met a few small business owners who have a knack for social media – they do great, especially when others are not. With similar effort, they could have good SEO as well.

      The ice scraper came to my head because we have so much ice recently! It’s an item that one needs all of sudden (your old one gets lost or broken, for example).

  7. Leora, as a businessman and blogger I never see a way to mesh the two together. This has on my mind lately as I launch a new self-edited website, as opposed to the static one that was created for us years ago. Need to do a little more research into what positive things we could blog about.

  8. I am currently living in a new area. I do google searches which usually lead me to yelp, where I do more in depth searches and actually find things. I know nothing about SEO. My website is recently re-designed. My next focus will have to be on SEO, etc. It’s just not my thing. I’m a creative writer and life coach, and rather low tech.

    1. Michele,

      Sounds like you know a little about SEO without even knowing it. Doing searches and watching the results can teach you a lot. And as for SEO, it’s too bad you didn’t do it as you built your site. On page optimization is what one does to a site itself. And writing skills are excellent for improving SEO – so you do have good skills already – you just need to know how to apply them.

  9. When you search online for a product I don’t think it is usually the case that you get stores like Jack’s Hardware. What usually pops up are chain stores, giant eCommerce sites and some irrelevant stuff. So I hope more local small businesses follow advice like yours.

    1. Ken, you are absolutely right, the big chain stores have taken over even the little town search engine results. It does take work to even show up on the page. But one can get closer, especially for what is called “long tail keywords” – meaning, not just one word but several in a string.

  10. Hi Leora, great advice for businesses. Lately for me when I need something locally, I usually go straight to Yelp. Not only can I find where I can get what I need close by, but get plenty of honest, current feedback on what it is I’m looking for. Its been super helpful and I’ve found the reviews to be pretty close to my impression.

  11. These are all great points Leora. I am terrible about including links. In fact it doesn’t occur to me to use links to ‘big name’ sites, which is silly. Ans I don’t have schema either as I did the website myself, and rely on the kindness of workers as it were. I agree with Susan, I use Yelp a lot, but if the company I choose then either doesn’t have a website, or its a poor one, I move on.

    1. A.K. – I’m not sure what you mean by “including links.” You want people to link to your stuff! Not always so easy. With local SEO, there are directories (like yellowpages and Yelp), so you can submit to those. But writing content that others will link to … that takes talent. What do other writers need that you can provide? That question is one way to start.

  12. Leora I want your mind for a day. ARGGGGHHH SEO is my new 4 letter word! This stuff drives me crazy. Links, backlink, pings nothing makes sense to me. I spend more time trying to figure out what keywords to use than writing my post. Yet, it makes sense the way you lay it out. Have you written a tutorial on how to optimize your blog post?

  13. I hear so much about SEO but it seems to always be changing so a while ago I threw in the towel on learning it. I like Pamela’s suggestion on how to optimize a post. That would be a great benefit to me as well.

  14. Really informative Leora. I live on a small Island and even so I do occasionally Google if I’m looking for something new or out of the norm (for me). I’ve only been blogging for about 5 years and even in that short time I can’t believe how the whole SEO thing has change. I’ve always written for my readers first and I am so grateful for helpful plug-ins that provide reminders before we push the publish button! Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. Marquita, in the blogging world, five years is a lot! Neat that you live on island. I can see how Google results could be interesting in an area like that.

      So important to write for your readers! The SEO changes should just flow with the text.

  15. This is great advice for local business. When we search anything, I do not think I have got any link to my local market but always big , far away places.

    This is really an informative post. I do not know much about SEO now, nor I tried to find much about it. But I am learning a lot with posts like this.

    Thank you.

  16. Hi Leora,

    If I’m just looking for a phone number, I use Google. Showing up in the Google listings is critical for small businesses that don’t have brand recognition.

    All too often small businesses don’t have websites. Then, I turn to Facebook.

  17. Leora — Good SEO advice for local businesses — and any business, for that matter. Yes, I type in a long phrase with the key words I’m looking for and Google almost always comes through. I couldn’t think of the name of the Spanish restaurant I wanted to dine at at a week ago so I typed in, “Spanish restaurant on West 46 St. in NYC.” Voila!

  18. Hi Leora- I sell ice scrappers to any location that wants them. Just being funny. I like when I get business from someone in NJ. They will say I am in Cherry Hill also. People do like to be able to find local businesses. Even if a local business just has a billboard page for a website, their local business would improve.

  19. I believe schema is one of the most underused plugins for local SEO even though, it helps you increase your clickthrough rate in a great deal. Hence, increasing your SEO in general.

    Also, there’s one thing I’d love to ask you. Where can you get citations for local SEO?

    I’ve done SEO for a while and gotten several pages to rank for competitive keywords, however, I’ve never done local SEO. Are citations hard to get?

    Thank you for the time you took to read my question.
    Have a great day.

    Jonathan Nuñez
    Jonathan Nuñez recently posted…5 SEO Tactics To Jump-start Your Small BusinessMy Profile

    1. Jonathan, if a local business works well with other local businesses, then, no, it shouldn’t be hard to get citations; it should be just part of networking!

      I find with schema sometimes it works better if you work with the code, so sometimes doing schema is better via theme instead of plugin. This might mean a little higher of a technical prowess is needed.

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