For small businesses wanting to improve their visibility online, the best way to begin your Search Engine Optimization is to start locally. A common misconception many small business owners make about about local SEO is thinking they need to reach the top of Google for a variety of different keywords. While this is no doubt an important step, the first phase could be seen as building a rapport with Google. Aside from regular maintenance and best practices, which are essential to the web development process and help with your search optimization, you want to make sure Google has all the accurate information about your business.
Google is a business. Like any business, they want to provide their customers (people searching for information) with the best possible experience. As such, a business cannot expect to plug in a list of keywords and expect Google to automatically vault that business to some of the most coveted landscape (the first page of Google) on the Internet.
An important part of a local SEO strategy is knowing where you stand before you start. Having an accurate outlook and a strong set of data is the best way to start with any project. The process begins with surveying your local search engine landscape. When you have a good idea of where your company stand, there are three main ways to get your information out there. What it will do is make your company look more reputable in the eyes of Google, therefore giving you more visibility and a higher search ranking. Customers will be able to find you easier and you will have a much easier time making improvements in the future.
Google My Business
The part of Local SEO is making sure your Google My Business listing is up-to-date. This means claiming the listing and making any necessary changes. The first benefit of claiming your GMB listing is that you will be able to adjust your knowledge panel. This is the information hub for your business that appears on the right side of the results page when someone Googles your business. Having an accurate knowledge panel with address, phone number, pictures, and links will make a huge different in the engagement you receive from Google. Users now have an easy way to get to know your business, without having to dig deep.
Another crucial aspect of Local SEO is having your business listed on local directories. Each directory on which you are displaying accurate information is increasing your chance of driving business. Even if the directory gets very little traffic, you still want to be listed on it. Directories offer valuable backlinks which Google loves. When Google sees that your site is being linked to from all over the web, it gives your site credibility and improves your standing with Google. Having as many accurate listings as possible is the best way to get backlinks quickly.
Data Aggregators are a great way to quickly get listed on a lot of directories. They crawl hundreds of directories for missing or inaccurate information and replace it with the correct info that you submitted. There are a few aggregators that spread your listing to a lot of different directories. While this is the more costly method, it is much easier than trudging from site to site and jumping through hoops to manually get your site listed. Spending some dollars up front could be worth the time you save.
Many search engines offer free trials for small businesses looking to dip their toes into online advertising. Both Microsoft Advertising and Google AdWords offer free $100 starter packages to small businesses who open new accounts. The advantage to online advertising (aside from more online visibility) is the mountain of data you are provided with during and after your campaign, which provides valuable insight into which types of ads are working, what days of the week are the most successful and plenty other reporting mechanisms to increase your ROI on future campaigns. If you’ve ever thought about experimenting with online advertising, check out this post where we experimented with of Google Adwords, Microsoft Advertising, Facebook Ads and LinkedIn Advertising.