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Local SEO and marketing: The nine best practices to know

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2nd Apr 2014
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Algorithms for search engine optimisation (SEO) and local search engine optimisation (LSEO) are constantly changing, which is why it’s paramount for every person and business with any online presence to know exactly which trends are on deck for 2014. More and more, LSEO is taking precedence over SEO and is gaining in importance, with Google experts pointing out that 97% of people “search for local businesses online.” In other words, who care if there’s a great music school in Tampa when someone needs classes in Houston? Local is where it’s at going into 2014.

So how can you implement local SEO into your marketing campaign? Here are nine pieces of advice. 

  1. Make the most of Google Places. It’s fast, simple and immediately connects businesses with area consumers who might actually benefit from the services or products. Via Google Maps and Google Search, you’ll be linked to customers in your area and all it takes is a few minutes to fill out the applicable profile. Basic data is necessary, like contact information, the name of the business and hours of operation. Want to get even more serious about LSEO? Include keywords in the profile - Google’s free Adwords Keywords tool can help with this. Finally, add in some photos to catch everyone’s eyes and you’re in business.
  2. Get on the right social media. You probably have a Facebook page, tweet regularly and have maybe even slipped a blog into the works. However, Google+ is the true up and coming social media platform. Some think it’s a frail attempt at competing with the big boys, but the reality is that Google+ is set to take over SM business platforms. The best part? Google+ business pages are featured when someone searches for your LSEO/SEO keywords, doubling your odds of turning up in the first page of results.
  3. Indulge in traditional approaches like local business directories. Yes, Google is the ultimate avenue for getting local exposure, but don’t discount other - sometimes more traditional—directories. These avenues are designed exclusively to connect consumers and businesses, so even if you don’t make it to the first pages of results, the people perusing these directories are more likely to dig deeper. Opt for directories which are reputable, free and well-known. Great options include Yahoo! Local, Yelp, Yellowpages.com, and Local.com. These directories offer quick and easy setups, so little time is spent for maximum exposure.
  4. Know your keywords. There’s subtle, intricate difference between SEO and LSEO, and those who are adept at SEO might particularly struggle with straddling this fence. Make sure you use Google Analytics to pinpoint the best geographic keywords for your online content, including at times local slang for neighborhoods or districts that your consumers may be searching. Plus, people may search for “food carts Portland” or “food carts Multnomah County” in lieu of just searching for “food carts.” However, don’t give your clients too much credit - it’s smart to include a radius of about 25 miles, just in case someone searches for a smaller town or suburb, when they’d be more than happy to find a business like yours a few miles away.
  5. Go KML. Perhaps one of the most underutilised options, KML is a type of file formal that showcases geographic data via an Earth Browser - think Google Maps or Google Earth, either on laptops or a mobile platform. With the help of a tag-based approach, key attributes are nestled into this format which has an XML foundation. Practice makes perfect, and once customers are regularly finding your business in this way, more traffic gets driven in your direction. The best part? Since KLM is an underdog, it’s easy to outrank the competition (at least for now).
  6. Get responsive. Responsive design is more important than ever, which means that your online content needs to be constantly updated to present well on every possible platform, whether it’s a lumbering old desktop or the latest smartphone. A lucrative client might pass you by if your website doesn’t display well on their tablet. There are many ways to get more mobile friendly, and adding an option like an Upside plugin that utilises HTML5 to turn sites into easy mobile apps can work wonders.
  7. Keep it fresh. There’s no substitute for fresh, geo-friendly content that was written by a pro. Search engines will always prefer sites with quality content, and that will be reflected in where your site is listed as well as how much quality, return business you get. A blog that’s updated once a week is a good idea, plus it helps build community engagement.
  8. Remember that LSEO isn’t static content. Not only are best practices for LSEO and abiding by algorithm preferences always changing, your geo targets might be constantly shifting, too. For example, maybe you’ve expanded services or opened a new location, or you’ve simply discovered that a big chunk of your online customers live in a key area. Constantly updating your LSEO is crucial, and leaving is static means it starts to get stale. This isn’t a one-time update or fix, but a constantly effort.
  9. Take statistics and analysis seriously. You know those reports you can get from Google Analytics for free, that showcase everything from your bounceback rate to the most popular pages? That’s some serious data, but it’s worthless unless you actually read it, understand it and put it to use. It can dictate where your LSEO efforts should be focused and let you know what’s working so you can fix it and/or not waste your time anymore. Reports are meant to be interpreted and read, not glanced over, and yet so many business owners shelve these reports. Carve out some time at least once per week to give them the attention they deserve, and instantly make your own work load lighter, easier and your marketing efforts pay off more.

Whether you’re a brick and mortar operation or an online shop that appeals to certain geo-targets, “going local” means more than shopping at local farmers markets. Is your business ready to compete in the LSEO arena?

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specialising in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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