As small business owners, we’ve heard all about local SEO (‘search engine optimization’) and how it can help us stand out on the web. 

Understand what SEO for local business actually is, what it isn’t and how it can help your biz.

I’ve prepared this short guide to help photographers and other business owners who are not SEO / content marketing experts, navigate the ever-changing waters of local SEO. Taking your first steps can be daunting. Likewise, auditing your local business SEO efforts to date in-house can be intimidating. 

That’s why I’ve kept this guide as easy to understand as possible. If you’re totally new, start with my glossary of local SEO terms. This helps lay the foundation for much of what we’ll cover on this here blog!

READ MORE  A seriously helpful local SEO glossary of terms

Wanna watch a super awkward video of me explaining what local SEO is all about, and trying to make myself feel comfortable filming myself? Yes, this incredibly meta experience can be yours, by clicking the video below!

 Local SEO means optimizing your web presence so that Google trusts your website and rewards it with higher visibility.  What does that mean for you? More conversions, more sales! 

So let’s start with this simple guide to starting your SEO journey – so you can confidently look under the hood of your local business website!

It is critical for businesses to rank for local search terms when customers are searching for them. If you are not in front of your potential customers, your competition will be.

Integrated Digital Marketing – What is Local SEO
Understanding and defining local SEO for small businesses
Understanding SEO means learning what Google wants – and more importantly what your customers want

Defining what SEO actually is

Let’s think about this for a second. Say you want to prove to Google that your business’ website is a high-quality a trustworthy one. How would you do that? By making high-quality, trustworthy content – that people actually want to consume! 

 SEO is the ongoing process of optimizing the content on your website so it’s appealing to both human visitors and Google.  Notice I used the word ‘ongoing’. That’s right, SEO is rarely something that’s ‘completed’. It’s part of a workflow and a strategy that will have certain goals in mind. 

SEO is the ongoing process of optimizing your content for search engines - local SEO tips and how it can help your business

Simply put, SEO is a practice of optimizing your website. This optimization will let the search engines know that your website is worth showing in the top positions of search results.

Hostinger, What is SEO?

The aim of SEO is to reach the top ranking in Google for your desired search term. No website is ‘the top result on Google’, but different pages (or posts) may be created with the goal of appearing on page one for particular targeted search terms. 

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For example, when a user types in ‘best hardware store in philadelphia pa’, you want your hardware store in that area to pop up! Those sites that appear on the first page? They’ve used SEO techniques to ensure their prominent visibility, which will ultimately lead to more conversions. That’s a local search term. 

When I first started out on this journey, I knew nothing at all about SEO. It was baffling and I was susceptible to massive amounts of irrelevant and garbage information. Read about my journey, maybe this will resonate with you, too!

READ MORE  11 things I wish I’d known about local SEO when I started my small business

How is local SEO different?

Local SEO isn’t that much different from any normal Google search. But the work that Google does on the back end takes into account a variety of unique ranking signals. tailored to finding something local. It must match search intent as closely as possible and even the exact location of the searcher! 

Some of the SEO signals specific to local search include: 

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youtube videos for local seo - tips for improving visibility in local search

Though it’s not officially a ‘ranking signal’, YouTube videos are considered an increasingly important part of local SEO (and any website’s SEO, really!)  if you want to go the extra mile and really stand out. 

It’s not for everyone, and I am very, very new to creating video content for my businesses. However, this is more of a prediction that in the future, video will be crucial. Currently it’s an easy way to stand out, so use it before every coffee shop owner and plumber is making videos!

What is local SEO for small businesses by taking the slow and steady approach to SEO and you will see great results
Setting up an SEO strategy for your local business can be daunting – but be patient, be consistent and you’ll see results!

What SEO is NOT

An awesome thing about the results on the SERPs page is that they’re not ads. That means you as the business owner are not paying the search engine every time someone clicks on your business’ website. That makes SEO a more sustainable strategy long-term. 

So SEO is not PPC (pay-per-click) advertising. Read more about that on Search Engine Land’s SEO vs PPC article here. What else?

SEO is not using spammy, unethical or outdated ‘hacks’ to try to trick Google. These techniques include: 

  • Keyword stuffing – when you repeat the same keyword over and over again in an unnatural and annoying way. In reality, this offers nothing to a user and does not answer their query.
  • Cloaking – the practice of presenting one type of content to the search engine, while showing something completely different to a human user. It’s again tricking the search engine. 
  • Using private blog networks (PBNs) – this is when a network of websites are either owned by one person or are in cahoots, to all link to each other (or to one target website). The aim of this is to manipulate Google into looking at the backlinks as credible, when they are in fact not genuine. 

These techniques are commonly referred to as ‘black hat SEO’ and you can see why. Apparently, the term originated from Western movies in which the bad guys wore black hats and the good guys wore white ones! I also think there’s a touch of the magician’s black hat – being out to deceive. 

Black hat methods are the tactics some employ in an attempt to “cheat the system” and boost their search engine rank with minimal effort. 

Double Up Digital, Black Hat SEO Strategies That Can Tank Your Google Rankings

The main issue with these practices is that they’re outdated. Sure, even in 2020 you may find some good results using spammy techniques, but its days are severely numbered. 

How would you like to wake up one day after Google’s done a core update, and find that your #1 ranked site is now not even indexed, and has been slapped with a manual penalty? Yikes

how to improve your seo -slow and steady is the way to win at local seo in 2020 and beyond

Slow and steady is the name of the game for SEO. There are no real shortcuts except doing the work (or outsourcing it!). Anything else promising you a get-rich-quick way to success is lying, or the success will be short lived.

What goes into an SEO strategy for local business?

You as the business owner want to make your website as appealing, trustworthy and useful as possible for the people out there who are looking for what you sell. 

tips for making your website as appealing, trustworthy and useful for optimizing for local customers

An SEO strategy today consists of a content strategy, together with off-page techniques like genuine link-building. There are also optimizations to your site you can make, to help Google understand what your business is

how to show up on local search SEO as a business owner

Here are a few pointers for now – I will outline more about SEO strategy in a future post! 

Map out your plan

It’s hard to get anywhere when you don’t know where you want to go. To develop a strategy, you’ll need to look at the big-picture view before diving into the specifics and creating the content etc. You’ll need to do keyword research, competitor analysis and brainstorm what you’d like to create. 

Want to know the best, free keyword research tools for small business blogging beginners? Check out my guide to my favorite free tools linked here:

READ MORE  16 free keyword research tools for your small business in 2020

Figure out your strengths

Don’t blindly follow – let your specific, unique talents guide you. Hate writing but love how quick and easy it is to film a video? Start a YouTube channel, and you can even embed some of your best content on your site! Don’t have the time (or budget) to edit videos, but addicted to Instagram? Then use Instagram as a tool to drive traffic to your business!

Consistent content

Staying at the top in SEO terms means continually proving your relevance with a steady flow of awesome content. Come up with a posting schedule and stick to it. Can’t manage once a week? That’s OK – how about once a month? The important thing is to stick to it. Google loves content – and consistency!. It wants to see lots of fresh content on your site, so it can serve more of that to searchers looking for it. 

Google loves fresh content - tips for being found by local SEO

Quality content

Consistency does not mean sacrificing quality! Having both is an absolute must. You don’t have to write a novel, but make content at least 1,500 words as a minimum. Inject your own personality, or your brand’s voice, into your videos, posts and sales pages. No-one wants bland and generic anymore – savvy web users see right through it. 

Bear in mind though, that as with everything SEO, it’s not all cut and dried.

Depending on your industry, content with local focus, depth, breadth, and knowledge tends to do well. However, just writing long-form content won’t necessarily always produce the best results.

Search Engine Journal, What is Local SEO
What is local SEO - a beginner's guide with examples
Once SEO ‘clicks’ for you and your local biz – it’s a magical feeling! ✨

Increase dwell time

When people spend time on your site, this signals to Google that ‘hey, this must be a great site!’ Sounds pretty simple, right? Ways you can do this is creating content that’s on the longer side (1,500 words is a great minimum), and linking to other posts that are related topics. Embedded videos also help, as users stay on your site to watch them!

Take care of the technical and UX side

It’s always amazing to me how many of my fellow business owners (in the incredibly tech-forward market of San Francisco) have incredibly outdated sites! These days, everyone can tell in one second flat if a site looks modern and trustworthy or outdated, spammy and sloppy. This is an easy area to shine! And if the website looks good, the business must be pretty awesome, too because people are sticking around

Leverage your local community!

You might use user-generated-content (or ‘UGC’) to personalize and give back. You could run a campaign on social media and then use that content for a blog post and send the post to those that were featured.

Another way of utilizing your community is to build genuine, reciprocal relationships with others in the same field, and collaborate on content that then earns you both backlinks.

User-generated content also comes in the form of blog comments and forum posts. If people are talking about your brand or mentioning their pain points with others online, this creates valuable content.

Build genuine, reciprocal relationships to improve your seo strategy - defining local SEO

Hopefully, you’ll see how these factors work hand-in-hand. Once that clicks, as it did for me one day, it really is a magical feeling!

More tips to get started with your own SEO strategy linked below:

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Setting expectations right

The idea is to create a sustainable, realistic strategy. Otherwise, burnout is inevitable. After all, you’re not a content marketer – you’ve got a real-world business to run and customers to serve

In my opinion, it takes something of a mindset shift to stop seeing SEO as another boring task to do. In time, you’ll see it more like an exciting and fulfilling way of connecting with local customers and providing value to them

Every blog post, every social media post is a doorway into your business. (This is even more the case when you’re providing services and you don’t have a physical brick and mortar that customers actually walk into!). 

Each city and town has its own network and community of independent business owners. Chances are, they’re also wrestling with local SEO.

Nextdoor, How to do local SEO for your business

It will however take quite a bit of effort but the good news is, as your content is centered around your industry and your area, you (and your team) are the experts on that! 

how seo can benefit your small local business - leverage the personal connection with your local market

You’re also benefiting from the personal connection that immediately comes from being part of the same community as your customers. National, international and online marketers don’t have that advantage, so leverage it!

Another great way of being found for FREE is leaning into the power & potential of Google Discover – a new form of queryless search. I’ve used this in my business and it’s been a game-changer that currently accounts for 10% of my website’s traffic! Check it out:

READ MORE  Optimizing for Google Discover as a small business owner (with case study)

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Want to get to grips with local SEO but don't know where to start? Try my handy guide to starting out with local SEO when you're a small local business owner! I'll take you through from the very beginning, understanding what SEO actually is (and isn't) through how you can create a local SEO strategy and the scope of what you can accomplish. Local SEO DIY doesn't have to be daunting - start here and you'll soon learn it's really not that scary! #localseo #seo | zoelarkin.com
What is local SEO and how can it help your local business? | zoelarkin.com
Wondering what all the fuss about SEO is - and what local SEO is? In my beginner's guide, I will take you through what SEO is (and isn't), why it matters and how it can benefit your small, local business wherever you are in the world and whatever product or service you sell.  You'll learn why a consistent SEO strategy is the most sustainable way staying on top of your local listings and connecting you with more clients in your local area. #localseo #seo | zoelarkin.com
Local SEO – a beginner’s guide to understanding SEO and local business | zoelarkin.com
Zoe Larkin
Zoe Larkin

I’m Zoe, a wedding photographer based in San Francisco! I also help fellow wedding photographers attract their dream clients with actionable SEO & digital marketing strategies. When I’m not shooting weddings, creating content is my passion! Follow along the blog, Insta and my new YouTube channel for photographers! 

Indepth guide to what local SEO is and how it can help local business owners everywhere! beastlocal.com

What is local SEO? [A small business owner’s guide]

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