SEO for local business, especially if you are the business owner, is not complicated though it can get tough to understand what's important and what you need to do in-order to keep your SEO rankings up (and is it worth it). Today we'll explore SEO for local business and how to go about it and when to NOT do more.
SEO for local business (owners) is different than if you're doing SEO for an online marketing program or for a Fortune 500. Internet marketing experts have to know (some) SEO in-order to be financially successful in the long run and larger companies can easily hire full time experts for it, though for those of us who either can't afford to hire an SEO expert (though I'll venture to say there really is no such thing, but that's another story) or don't have the time to learn it what are we to do?
With limited time and resources your options are limited to:
- Hire someone small and local to do it partially for you (or fully depending on their prices)
- Go learn it yourself bit by bit then go do it yourself
- Don't do it
If you have the spare money, I highly recommend that you do hire it out. Find someone local who is a trust worthy person with a good reputation and let them handle it bit by bit. Though even if you have the money to hire it out a bit, you should learn enough to understand the basics so that you can invest your resources properly.
So let's teach you the very basics you, as a local business owner, need to understand about SEO.
Understanding SEO for local business (owner) – the basics
The #1 thing to understand about local SEO is that is it a lot like the real world rat race, and it's not something you can win. Just like with casinos, in SEO the house always wins where the house is the search engines. Thankfully we can stack some cards on our side.
Simple SEO for local business initial on-site setup:
First and foremost you can't have good SEO if your website isn't setup well. If you're using a system such as WordPress you should use an SEO plugin such as WordPress SEO by Yoast. Other systems will probably have their own plugins or extensions for SEO as well. If you're not using a CMS like WordPress, but instead have a simple HTML (usually the pages on your site end in .html) then it becomes a bit tougher and I'll cover that in another article, so for those of you not using an CMS system: you should be, though you can at least get the basics from this article.
When setting up your SEO on your site you will want to give each page and post it's own proper treatment. The front page is one the most important. As a local business here are the basic settings you'll want to use for the front page:
- Title: your companies name
- Tagline/description: either your tag-line if you have one or the what you do and where (e.g. Chicago Plumber)
That's it. You don't have to play around with keywords or stuff like that. Keep it simple to get started.
The rest of your pages would have the title in this format: [Page title] – [Company name]. The description for the page needs to be kept short, so write something that describes exactly whats on that specific page. For the About us page it would look like: “About Us – John Sheppard's Family Plumbing”.
It also helps to have your service type in the name, if not you can alway tack it on at the end of your page titles. And yes, each page should have it's own unique title and description!
If you're running your local business site from WordPress, then each blog post should also have it's own title and description.
And that's it for On-site stuff! There is more you could do, but you probably have other work to do (like running your store) so let's set to the stuff that will get you results!
Simple SEO for local business initial off-site setup:
This part is easy and most of you probably have already done some of it: create social profiles and local listings that point back to your business website. That's it.
Gather a list of where you want your website listed, an excel spreadsheet works well for this, and write down the usernames, passwords and public URL's for those profiles and pages. You'll want to create accounts (or pages) specifically for your business on at least these websites (assuming your based in the USA):
- Facebook (create a Facebook Page)
- Twitter (an account)
- Google + (an account and a Page)
- Yelp (an account, the free one)
- Bing (use bingplaces.com to create an account easily)
- Yahoo Local
- LinkedIn (a business page)
- and possibly on Pinterest if you have stuff to show off (jewelry products, clothing, cars, ect…)
You can also try to find more hyper local directory listing sites or service sites (like Angie's List), though that's something you can do in the future when you have more time and energy to devote to this.
The best part is that creating all those accounts above is free to do (except it'll cost you your time) and all the information you put in there is copy and paste! The only variation on information you enter should be to make it fit in their data sizes: for example you can't have a long description on Twitter, so your description will be short. On Facebook on the other hand, you have some space to play around with words.
Make sure the URL (link) points to the same place on your website. So if you're website is example.com then all your profiles will point to example.com.
You're done with setting up your initial local SEO.
Really, you are. If you have more time to invest: great! If not, this will work well enough for you for now.
When not to focus on SEO
So now you know the basics, at what point should you stop? That's a very good question to which I give them same answer to all my clients: what's more important for you as this very moment: SEO rankings or getting customers in the door? They all answers getting people in the door.
SEO takes time … a lot of time. If you truly have lots of time creating LOTS of content then yes: it's good to be on social media and create SEO worthy high quality content. Otherwise: I recommend you focus on brining in sales either via ads/marketing, networking or even plain ol pound the pavement knock on doors.
If you're just getting your site going: focus on getting people to know about you and your business the conventional ways as they are more direct and will give you more immediate results.
“What if I have time to do the SEO thing?” If you have the time, then you should invest it in creating and doing marketing strategies along with creating CONTENT that you can then optimize for search engines.
What to watch out for?
Many companies (and people) claim to do SEO well, though if they are promising you “to get you to the #1 spot on google” or just “building links” all for the low low cost of a few Starbucks' lattes? Run. To do SEO properly takes a lot of time, money and expertise. No reputable company will do quality SEO work for cheap because it is that labor intensive. Why? SEO is largely about content, and the strategy of using that content: thus you have to be making quality content.
You can expect to pay a minimum of a few hundred dollars per month for on-going quality SEO that gets ‘some' results, all of which cannot ever be guaranteed.
Speaking of guarantees: there are none in SEO. If, for example, you invest $1000 USD in a several month SEO campaign and somehow you did get to the #1 position for your keyword, there is certainly someone willing to spend $2000 for twice as much effort/content/links/whatever that will push you down in the rankings and them up. Think of it this way: there is always someone bigger, better, stronger, faster to market and with more time, money and expertise who can (and will) eventually out rank you.
So is it worth investing in SEO then? Yes, to a point. Be careful not to invest too many resources on it when you have other things that will get you more immediate (and long term) returns. Though if you have the resources (time or money) it's worth investing more effort into it.
If you guys have any other thoughts on SEO, speak your minds below in the comments!