By Bailey Dunphy, Intern from Thomas College’s Harold Alfond Center for Business Innovation at Marshall Communications

As the need for growing your online presence increases, many small businesses are looking for ways to increase their visibility among larger competitors. Building a strong, local online presence can be highly beneficial for your business and is attainable, no matter your size.

Local SEO

Why is it important to build local SEO?

Local SEO (search engine optimization) targets consumers in more localized areas and brings attention to businesses in their vicinity that are relevant to their search. After all, Google knows where we are and aims to provide us with search results that perfectly align with what we are looking for.

Local SEO provides a great opportunity to improve the visibility of your small business to customers. Boosting consumer awareness may feel like a daunting task, but there are steps you can take to achieve this. The best part: every small, independent business can utilize these methods to its advantage.

How do you go about boosting your online findability?

Here are some active steps you can take to improve your business’s SEO visibility:

Understand Google’s Local Algorithm

Google takes several data points into consideration to provide the user with the best results possible. As Google’s technology evolves, so does their algorithm. For a detailed explanation of Google’s algorithm, click here. In summary, Google’s local algorithm takes into consideration relevance, prominence and location when choosing search results. Google is looking for results that match the user’s search input, so choosing the right keywords plays a heavy hand in helping your company show up. Let’s delve into some specifics regarding relevance, prominence and location.

Use Relevant Keywords and Settings

It is crucial to make sure that you are selecting appropriate categories for your business in the directory section of Google Admin. This shows Google that your business is relevant to the user’s search. Be sure to include keywords in your business description and the content portion of your Google account and website. To discover what keywords you should use, try looking at online reviews of your business or do your own Google search to discover what your competitors are using for keywords. Keywords should be relevant both to your business and the language of your customer. Another great tip is to update the title tag, the headline that will be shown in the search results, using relevant word choice. This can encourage a user to click on your website’s results, versus competing results.

Build Online Prominence

Building online prominence can take time. In this case, prominence refers to how well your brand appears on search results. It is helpful to build a strong reputation and community with your previous and existing consumers. Encourage your consumers to leave online reviews and engage them on your social media pages. Growing your business’s social media pages is a great way to improve prominence.

It pays to build strong relationships with your local press. Local press is credible, and Google looks for information from credible sources. When you have a newsworthy story idea, connect with local reporters and editors to propose a story. The most effective results come from a targeted pitch emailed to the reporter or editor directly. In two or three sentences, explain why your story is newsworthy and ask if they would like to cover it.

Now, don’t confuse this with advertising. You can’t reach out and say “I have a fabulous business. Do a story on us.” That will be an immediate turn-off. Instead, you could send a message saying, “Our sales have increased by 300% during COVID-19 because we adapted a new method of advertising to customers walking by our shop using geofencing.” That would be newsworthy and relevant. Or you could say, “Our business just landed a contract with a federal agency that is going to allow us to create 100 new jobs.”

Those two pitches would be relevant and newsworthy, and the reporter or editor will tell you if they want to do a story on it. You can’t be too pushy, or they won’t respond to you. However, if you can get several of these kinds of stories from local newspapers, radio news stations, TV news stations or even podcasts, they will show up in a Google search and add to your business’s credibility.

Set the Correct Location for Your Business

Proximity is probably the most important ranking factor to local SEO since Google is trying to provide its users with local results. You have little control over this factor, so make sure you are entering the proper location information on your business’s website and Google account.

In Conclusion

Today, SEO can play a huge role in the success of your brand. Not only does improving your online profile bring in more business, but it also helps to build a strong customer community. With today’s advanced technological capabilities and the COVID-19 pandemic causing many businesses to close or limit capacity at their physical locations, enhancing your brand’s online presence is vital to maintain a successful, engaging relationship with your customers.