Small businesses in many cities and towns cater to a local market. They generally focus on a specific geographical area and rely entirely on that area for their customer base.
Even most mom-and-pop operations now have a web presence that contains information about their company, products/services, location and contact information. Most of the sites are maintained in-house or by a local web design company with limited knowledge of search engine optimization (SEO).
Unfortunately, many of these small operations are missing a major opportunity to dominate their competition in web search and attract local customers from their service areas because they don’t utilize SEO.
What is SEO?
SEO is the art of making websites rank well in search results such as those returned by Google and Bing. If done correctly it allows people to find your websites and have your websites appear at the top of the search results pages, giving you a major advantage over your competition.
Optimizing your website can be both labour intensive and costly. However, there is no reason for small businesses to spend major time and money resources.
With a little knowledge of local SEO technique, small businesses can easily outrank the competition. Follow these local SEO tips to get a heads-up on your competition.
- Identify your target audience. Develop an understanding of what your potential customer is looking for and how find you. Match their actions with your products/services and develop a set of keyword phrases. These will be used to optimize your website for local search.
- Include your keyword phrases in your page titles. Page titles are the words that appear at the top of your web browser and are probably one of the most important elements of what is referred to as on page optimization. They also show up as the links in search results and indentify your site to potential visitors.
- Include your city or town in your page titles. Many people will use searches such as “Widgets in Baltimore” when looking for something. Including your location in the page title with your keyword causes your pages to become a better match for this search query. For example, if your page title tags was “Widget Company in Baltimore, Maryland” this would likely match searches such as “Widgets in Baltimore” or “Widgets in Maryland” before your competition, especially if they were using something like “XYZ Widget Company” on their site.
- Include basic information on your main homepage. This is likely to be the first page displayed in the search results. By including items such as company name, address, phone number, location and hours of operation visitors can get everything they need immediately from one visit. Include a brief description of what you do, weaving in some of your main keyword phrases selected.
- Include your contact information on every page. Regardless of how people find your website, by including his information people know how to contact you. Include your address, phone number (complete with area code), city, state/province, and area/zip code. Search engines are likely to recognize this as your location and rank you for searches performed in your local area, regardless of keywords used. You may also want to include the area you service or in close proximity to your service area. This will allow you to potentially rank for local searches in close proximity to where you are located.
- Include detailed information on appropriate pages. Expand your About page to include what you do, how long you’ve been doing it and why you are the best. Use several of your keywords or keyword phrases in appropriate locations throughout your site. On your Products/Services page, spell out exactly what products you offer or what you do. Use pictures with appropriate descriptions, keeping in mind the keywords you’ve selected.
- Use appropriate Meta description tags for your pages. When your page shows up in the search engine results, this is the information that will serve as the mini advertisement about your site. You want to be descriptive and promotional, including your most important keyword phrases.
- Claim your local business listings. Google and Yahoo have local business centres have listings about businesses and services in local geographic areas. Chances are your business listing is already included but you will have to claim the listing. Once you have access to this information, modify it to include a link to your website and any missing information.
- Create internal links to your own pages. Where possible, create links to other pages on your site. This will benefit the search engine spiders and your site visitors. Both can “crawl” through your site and leap to another one of your pages.
- Get several links to your site. Link building is an important portion of SEO even for local businesses and each external link to your site will increase your ranking in the search engines. The search engines (especially Google) sees these links as an indicator of trust. Contact your local chamber of commerce, business groups, local newspapers, suppliers and friends with websites can easily provide you a link.
Keep in mind this information is for very small businesses focusing on capturing local clientele from their local area. It will do nothing for these businesses ranking against national competitors for highly competitive keywords. Following these tips will give you an advantage over competition in your local area and should have your website ranking very well for local searches.