Local SEO: 3 steps to get your local business ranked on search engines

local seo tips for businesses

Running a business is tough. Really, really tough.

But running a business is infinitely more tear-jerkingly difficult and frustrating when your business offers an amazing product or service that people are actively searching for but can’t find.

This is happening every single day to businesses with websites that aren’t optimized for local search and social media.

Because I don’t like to see people cry, this post will show you several online marketing steps you can use right now to help your website rank higher on popular search engines like Google and Bing.

Keyword research for local search

First, you have to identify the keywords and keyword phrases you should optimize your website for. For brick and mortar businesses, your target keyword phrases will be a mixture of geo- and industry-specific phrases.

Let’s use Google Adwords Keyword Planner to conduct some keyword research for a fictitious residential construction company located in Louisville, KY called Builders, Inc. Builders, Inc. does new home construction, additions and remodels.

To begin, research phrases that follow the format of “City + Keyword.” For example, we might search for Louisville Home Builders, Louisville Residential Builders, Louisville Contractors and Louisville Homes for Sale.

google keyword planner

Select the “Keyword Ideas” tab. You’ll see the keyword phrases, average monthly searches and competition columns from left to right.

local home builder keyword research

What you’ll notice is that the keyword phrase Louisville Homes for Sale has the highest monthly search volume (1,600) of the group by far. Note: these numbers aren’t exact, but they are good enough for this exercise.

Targeting that phrase is tempting, but we have to ask, “Is this actually what Builders, Inc’s target market is using to find businesses like theirs?”

Although Builders, Inc. might have some spec homes that it sells and promotes on its website, its core competency isn’t selling homes, it’s building new homes. So the answer is no.

Therefore, you’d want to skip Louisville Homes for Sale and consider the next best option: Louisville Home Builders.

For more keyword ideas, type an identified target keyword phrase like Louisville Home Builders into Google, scroll to the bottom of the search results and see searches related to it…

google related keyword phrases

If you think your target market would use these phrases to find your business, run them through the Keyword Planner to check their search volumes.

Another way to do keyword research is to analyze your competitions’ websites – especially those that are ranking well on search engines right now.

Use SEMRush to do this for free and with ease…

SEMRush competitive keyword research

After going through this exercise, jot down the keywords and phrases that boast the best combination of high search volume and high relevancy to what your business offers. Lower competition is also ideal, but less important in a geo-specific region.

Further research confirms that the ideal primary target keyword phrase to optimize Builders, Inc.’s website for is Louisville Home Builders. 

On-Site Optimization for Local Search

Now that you know what keywords and phrases people are using to find companies like yours, you’ll want to optimize your website and web pages accordingly.

I’m all about keeping things simple. Here are the most crucial things I recommend you tackle:

Optimize title tags for local search

The title tag is what Google shows most prominently in the search results and it’s one of the most important components of optimizing a page for local SEO. You’ll want to include your primary keywords and the name of your company in the title tag. You want to keep the title tag at or below 70 characters in length.

For example, an optimized title tag for Builders, Inc. might be “Louisville Home Builders – Builders, Inc.”

louisville home builder title tag for local seo

Optimize meta descriptions for local search

Meta descriptions are found below the title tag on search results pages. Google doesn’t take meta descriptions into consideration when ranking websites. However, it does help encourage a website browser to click over to your website, so it’s still important. Make it enticing and clear what a searcher will see if and when they click your listing.

Optimize headlines for local search

Headlines are useful tools to make content easier to read. They are also great ways to boost local search rankings. Headlines are text wrapped in HTML code like <h1>Hello World</h1>. The headline above – Optimize headlines for local search – is inside <h3> tags.

Google’s bots look at this text as an important indicator of what the page is about. Ideally, your target keyword phrase should be wrapped in h1 or h2 tags somewhere toward the top of your web page. For example, Builders, Inc. might have an h1 headline on its homepage that reads, “Looking for a Louisville home builder? Think Builders, Inc.”

Be careful not to overuse your target keyword phrase. For instance, you don’t want to include this exact phrase over and over again in headlines. Google is smart and they’ll notice you’re trying to game the system. Instead, do it at least once but no more than two or three times in your headlines depending on the length of your content.

Consider using synonyms like Louisville Home Contractor if you feel like you might be going overboard, but still need to include the phrase. An added benefit of doing this is possibly improving your search ranking for these alternative keywords.

Add rich, valuable content

Back in the early days of the internet, simply setting up a website with some decent content was often good enough to get ranked on search engines, especially if the webmaster wasn’t targeting highly competitive keywords like insurance, cars or loans.

These days, it’s far more difficult to rank a site because there’s more competition. There are more sites and quality articles on the ‘net now than ever before.

I’m a numbers guy. Recently, BuzzSumo analyzed 100 million articles. Here’s what they found:

  • Articles that were between 3,000 and 10,000 words in length got the most average shares.
  • Including at least one image in your post gets more Facebook and Twitter shares
  • The most sharable content invokes awe, laughter and/or amusement; anger and sadness were the least likely to get shared
  • People love sharing infographics and lists
  • 10 is the magic number for lists
  • People share content that looks trustworthy
  • Getting an influencer to share your article has a multiplier effect
  • Promote your articles multiple times
  • The best time to post your content on social media is on Tuesdays

Let’s get one thing straight: if you want your site to get ranked, it needs content. But not just any content – AMAZING content. Otherwise, people won’t want to share and link to it even if it’s as search engine optimized as it can be.

My three step strategy when it comes to SEO is this:

  1. Write amazing content for people, not for bots (like the Google bots that determine where sites rank).
  2. Go back through the content and try to touch it up so it’s more optimized for search engines (without sacrificing how well it reads)
  3. Promote it strategically and consistently (after all, if nobody knows it exists, it will never reach its true potential)

For a super robust list of tips to make your content remarkable, check out my post titled: Content marketing checklist: 42 questions to ask before publishing your next article.

Include business contact info

This is another obvious tip, but one that’s often overlooked or poorly executed. On every page (likely in the header or footer of your website), you need to include your business’ name, phone number, physical address and email address.

All of this information should be exactly in the same format as the contact information included on your local listings page (see next tip for more information).

Your email address should be an @yourdomainname.com email address, not a generic email address like buildersinc@gmail.com.

Also, use Schema.org to make sure search engines can easily recognize your business’ contact information. Here’s a video I recorded to show you how to use Schema.org markup…

Embed a map

On a desktop computer…

  1. Go to Google Maps
  2. Type in your business’ address
  3. In the bottom righthand corner, click on the Settings cog
  4. Click on the “Share and embed map” link
  5. Click on the “Embed Map” link
  6. Copy the HTML code and paste it into a page on your website

how to embed a Google map on a website

This will help your website visitors know exactly where your business is located. Some SEO veterans also believe that this is one of the factors the Google bots take into consideration when ranking sites.

Claim and Optimize Your Local Listings

This tip could take up an entire how to book, but – again – let’s keep things simple. At a minimum, I recommend that you claim and/or setup business profiles on the following websites:

There are hundreds – if not thousands – of other websites that you could list your business on. But for the sake of keeping things simple and building momentum, these are the sites I recommend you target first because they are reputable and highly trafficked.

When filling out a profile on each website, it’s vital that you include the exact same contact information and format it in the exact same way. On many of the sites, you will be asked to categorize your business. Try to use the exact same business categories, or make them as close as you can possibly make them, given the options presented to you.

Finally, make sure that your business only has one profile per website. I’ve seen and dealt with businesses that have multiple Google Plus profiles. This might be because they setup a new one when they changed locations or one of their employees setup a profile page to represent themselves and included the same contact information. The best practice is to just have one profile page with your business’ contact information on it per directory site. Otherwise, it will likely confuse Google and discredit the validity of your listings altogether.

So there you go – three actionable steps you can take today to help your local business’ website get ranked on search engines.

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Has another strategy worked especially well for your local business? If so, please share what’s worked with fellow readers below.

Matt Langan is the Founder of Heine Ventures, a user interface/experience design and digital marketing firm.