For businesses new to the online world, it’s difficult to build a customer base on a minimal budget. Good news though – achieving great results in the home market could be just enough to fuel sustainable growth. We pulled together this digestible local SEO checklist to help your website.
Local SEO Checklist
Believe it or not, most companies don’t need to conquer the world in order to be considered successful. Achieving great results in the home market could be just enough to fuel sustainable growth, and in some cases the geographic area of primary importance might not be larger than several city blocks. It all depends on the business plan, and the same strategic outlook needs drafting in the plans to be translated into a multi-pronged SEO campaign that places an emphasis on local customers.
The background thinking isn’t too hard to comprehend in this case. Customers often use search engines to identify the nearest reliable provider for the product or service they need, and proximity is a key factor influencing purchasing decisions in this scenario. A person might travel extra couple of miles to receive superior service, but probably not much more than that – so who cares if people from another continent regularly find your website. Most businesses are better served with a campaign that aims to build local ties and ensure high placement for all relevant searches originating from the same area.
Of course, novice website owners typically don’t know how to kick off their SEO efforts, other than vaguely wishing to be ‘#1 on Google’. That’s why we’ve provided a Local SEO Checklist of simple activities that can have a dramatic impact on your business fortunes if conducted properly:
Get registered with Google and other search engines
You should regard search engines as your allies in the quest to win new customers and attempt to align your business tactics with their preferences as much as possible. The best way to do that is to complete the registration process and initiate direct interaction with the system, since this will allow you the greatest degree of control over your ranking. Google is the obvious choice since it has the greatest global penetration and offers the best support mechanisms, but other engines such as Bing or Yahoo could also make sense in certain cases.
In most parts of the world, registration procedure isn’t really an obstacle that should prevent you from maximising the impact of your web-based marketing. Google pays a lot of attention to weed out fake accounts, so the verification process might take a few weeks, but it doesn’t require any specific knowledge and you basically need to follow the basic instructions to complete it. This simple action will earn you an instant SEO boost, and your business will start appearing across all Google properties, including the uber-important interactive maps. Becoming a verified partner with the leading online search companies puts you on the business map – quite literally.
Target major portals specialised for local promotion
Your potential customers would like to be served locally, but that doesn’t limit them to collecting info from local sources only. In fact, a large portion of incoming traffic on your website might come from people intending to visit your city in the near future and doing preliminary research in advance. To ensure you get as many hits with this group, you need to be listed on as many trusted online reference sites as you can. You can’t expect strangers to know where to look for you when they arrive, so you should post metaphorical signposts leading straight to your door.
Websites like FourSquare, TripAdvisor or even Yellow Pages are frequently used to mine for info about a particular location, and it is mandatory to get your brand in there by all means necessary. They combine broad appeal with high authority, and as such represent obvious targets for your SEO link building tactics. The exact list of most popular portals varies from country to country and you would be wise to find out which ones make the most sense for your locale, so you can prioritise them.
Acquire a listing on regional portals
The next step in the hierarchy should be online outlets specific to your home region, since such sites are very likely to attract a high concentration of your potential customers. For example, leading media websites covering your city or thematic portals related to your line of business are great places to start, but there is no need to stop at them. There is a rising number of websites that strive to be seen as ‘go-to places’ for local shopping or dining advice, so you could easily place your listing with them, too. Perhaps not each and every one of them will be a big-name site, but you will secure some additional traffic and that’s all that counts.
At this level, a little bit of initiative should get you tremendous results, since most of those websites are actively trying to maintain an accurate database of local businesses. If you call them and let them know what you are doing, they will probably be glad to add you to their listings, since this serves a mutually beneficial purpose. Just remember to use exactly the same company name and contact data that’s already posted on the search engines, or otherwise you could create a royal confusion that damages your SEO positioning, and in turn diminishes your revenues.
Identify high-authority websites for your keywords
The previous part of this guideline is applicable to virtually any company making the first steps on the internet, as it includes only basic techniques that barely depend on the industry you are active in. However, it is essential to understand what keywords are integral to your success and to dedicate most of your budget and attention to them. Search engines assign a lot of importance to inbound links coming from established websites, so you can score ‘bonus points’ for recommendations if you manage to get connected with the most influential sites in your niche.
One effective way to do this is to ‘spy’ on your competition. For example, you can find which companies currently occupy the top spots on searches relevant to your business and try to emulate their link network as much as you can. By doing a simple Google search with the exact name, address and phone number of your competitor, you can see which external sites they are using for promotion, leading to their high ranking. Once you find out what your rivals are doing to outrank you, it becomes simple to follow in their footsteps and join them on top.
Follow up on user reviews
The best side of the online medium is that you can easily track feedback and react to it. User reviews are a good indication how well your company is doing in the marketplace and whether certain aspects need to be changed in order for customers to be completely happy. Even better, they are a free form of customer research that provides plenty of valuable insight into the inner workings of your business, enabling you to adjust the practical details and make long-term plans. If your website doesn’t include a section for user reviews, you need to add it as soon as possible.
Knowing what works and what doesn’t can save you a lot of time and money, while the customers will be pleased to see some of their suggestions were taken seriously. Internet can be a great tool for customer relationship management, all you need to do is to stay flexible for ideas coming from the outside. You may already have most of the components of a killer business plan in place, and user opinions will allow you to recognise the most valuable building blocks and place additional emphasis on them. It could be a product that gets everyone excited or a certain special promotion that went unexpectedly well – you never know until you listen to the customers.
Make sure your website is functional and user-friendly at all times
Maybe you like the way your site is organised, but it can certainly be tightened up to deliver even more functionality. This is particularly important for startup companies that need to maximise their conversion rates and make the most of their traffic, while typically having smaller websites that shouldn’t be too hard to organise efficiently. You worked very hard to get the potential customer to visit your site and you don’t want him to leave just because it’s too difficult to find the online order form in your drop down menu.
The content of the website should also be frequently updated and reflect the evolution of your business. Every new product or service you introduce should be immediately announced online, along with all relevant info that customers might want to know. Practical information must be presented clearly, without forcing the visitor to dig too deep, while you also don’t want to overwhelm them with a flurry of details too soon. Once again, a dialogue with your customers should point you in the right direction and tell you what to add or remove, and there is nothing wrong in seeking professional help if you feel you are unable to judge your own site objectively.