Part one of a two part Local SEO series – Off page Local SEO.
Search Engine Optimization (If you are not familiar with SEO read this before continuing) is one of the most time consuming aspects of marketing your website and business, but it also pays the largest dividends over time, driving the highest quality traffic and the largest number of leads. Local SEO takes your general SEO efforts to the next level and adds a geographic focus, targeting the area where your business is located, which for most businesses is where their clients are as well. To better illustrate the process of Local SEO we will use Duluth Minnesota (the home of Faster Solutions) as an example, but the information and tactics discussed can be applied to any location. So let’s get to it.
The Faster Points
- Claim or create your Google My Business and Bing Places for Business Listings Accounts
- Fully Optimize Your Listings with images and Information
- Claim or create your Yelp and TripAdviser accounts and or other industry relevant review platforms
- Reach out to customers let them know you are active on review sites and ask for reviews
- Continually Monitor all these platforms and respond to all reviews (Positive & Negative) Immediately
- Watch your traffic and revenue climb
Why It’s Important
Research shows that more than 65% of locals will turn to search engines to find your business, 50% will seek out your website, and 35% will use mobile search. Which really isn’t too surprising, especially as cities grow and people become less familiar with all the local services that are available, so even if you are not dependent on out of town visitors for the majority of your business don’t assume everyone knows who you are. If however you are dependent on tourism for your revenue, local SEO becomes one of the most important and effective marketing tools there is, if 65% of locals (!) are searching for your business online, Local SEO becomes even more important to getting your business in front of out of town visitors. There are many other reasons Local SEO is so important and beneficial, they will be expanded upon as I go through the process and examples of building up strong Local SEO in Duluth* will be provided.
*Part One assumes you have already done necessary keyword research and focuses on off page Local SEO.
Google My Business and Bing Places for Business
I have just opened a small restaurant in Downtown Duluth Minnesota but my location is in an area that doesn’t get a lot of foot traffic and I know in order to be successful I will need to reach out of town visitors in Duluth. By claiming (or creating a listing if your business is new) my local business, in Google My Business, I can ensure my restaurant will quickly be added to google maps listings and become visible in local search, when someone searches for “Places to eat in Duluth MN” or any other local search terms related to dining in Duluth. In addition I can add my restaurants phone number, business hours, a link to my website, a keyword rich description, quality images and more.
Before my business is “published” by google I must “verify” it. This involves receiving a call from google to the number associated with my business or a mailing to my businesses address. If the business is brand new like my imaginary restaurant, expect the only option to be a mailing, which can take up to 2 weeks to arrive. So for my imaginary Duluth restaurants Local SEO I would likely request my verification letter prior to opening so I have it ready and can get my business published as soon as I open my brick and mortar doors. The process and benefits are largely the same for your bing places for business listing.
- Local SEO Benefits – Now my restaurant will appear in Local search on maps either when someone searches for Duluth MN restaurants on desktop, or based on location data when they search on mobile and are in Duluth. All the business information and images I want to share, my phone number (which mobile users can click-to-call), and all other relevant information is available and most importantly for my restaurant I can now respond to reviews on my google my business listing.
This is an extremely important part of off page Local SEO for my business in Duluth. It amounts to one of the strongest sources of social proof and brand trust. For instance let’s say I own an imaginary boat rental company, but I have no reviews and I have not claimed my listing in google or bing, or on review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor (not all businesses can be listed on TripAdvisor) among others, but my competitors have. When users search for “boat rentals in Duluth” they see two results, my competitors – who have claimed and optimized their listings with images and information on all review platforms. Who also notify their customers they are active on review platforms, ask for reviews, and respond to all reviews (good or bad) – and then there is me. When users see my listings there are no images, and little to no reviews, it is just blank. On some platforms such as TripAdvisor if I haven’t added my rental business as a “Thing to do” in Duluth I won’t even show up. Not only does this look poor to users in comparison to my competitors but I also lose out on the exposure and traffic these platforms can provide my Duluth rental business, and I am unable to respond to negative reviews. Just because I haven’t claimed my business does mean customers are not reviewing me, research shows I need to be responding to them. More than 2/3 of users looking for boat rentals (or any other B2C service) in Duluth will seek out online reviews, these are my potential customers and I need to be certain my business is visible to them.
- Benefits: How review platforms affect my local SEO in Google and Bing – Today for many businesses and industries both google and bing, place review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor above most website listings in search. This means when someone searches for my rental business the results might look something like the image below. With review sites very close to and sometimes at the top of search results. This however is a great growth opportunity for new businesses. If my Duluth rental companies website is brand new and I lack domain authority and back-links, and I show up on page four in search results – by claiming and optimizing my business on review platforms and then letting customers know to review me I can more quickly (than general SEO, which still must be pursued) get my business near the top of search results, drive more traffic and boost revenue. If my Duluth rental business was well established, putting myself on a review platform would be just another strength that allows me to maintain that position of strength, and keep ahead of newcomers.
An Ongoing Process
Off page Local SEO is an ongoing process after the initial setup and optimization of listings. For instance let’s go back to the example of Local SEO for my imaginary restaurant in Duluth Minnesota. I have claimed and fully optimized the google my business profile, claimed and optimized my business on review sites, I have been asking customers for reviews, and or making it clear my business wants reviews. Many businesses stop here, but if I want to be successful, my program of local SEO has actually just begun. Now that customers (both from Duluth and out of town) regularly review my restaurant on these platforms, I must monitor them and respond to all reviews both positive and negative as fast as possible. To increase the number of positive reviews I get, and address negative ones quickly and effectively, which in many cases leads users to remove or change them. Without the use of monitoring and immediate response procedures my positive reviewers may feel underappreciated and my negative reviewers may feel enraged and further spread negative messages about my restaurant. By quickly responding In a kind, appreciative, or understanding manner I can turn positive reviewers into lifelong advocates for my restaurant and spin negative reviews to my benefit.
Now that I respond to all reviews quickly and continue to ask for them from my customers after a great meal, when someone searches for “restaurants in Duluth” or is located in the area. My business now appears at the top of search results every time with nearly 5 stars in google maps, and just below it in the top 10 restaurants in Duluth on both Yelp and TripAdvisor, I have seen a massive increase in traffic to my website and my restaurant and a sizable increase in revenue and awareness I could have never achieved without Local SEO.
Local SEO can be a time consuming and difficult process, but the time, effort, and cost is well worth it for many B2C industries, when weighed against the increased exposure and revenue it generates. If you would like to learn more about Local SEO in the Duluth Minnesota area or anywhere else we would be happy to help. Please Contact Us Today or Request A Quote.
By Benjamin Henniges
Faster Solutions Digital Marketing Manager