Written by: John Paul, co-CEO, 2Marketing.com

As a small business, it can sometimes seem impossible to reach your target market without resorting to low-quality ads in local freebie papers or other bush-league methods.

However, if you have a physical address, your business can leverage that to show up in local searches and nearby areas. With the right mix of local SEO tactics, your small business can even outrank the big boys in search results because Google will hone in on your address and give you priority over geographically-inferior options.

How Does Google Help Local Customers Find Your Business?

Google might seem like a combination of intuition and magic, but there is a lot of math, algorithms and other factors working in the background to get searchers the results they’re most likely to want. Part of utilizing local SEO for your business is having some insight into what these search engines are looking for. Google uses your NAP (name, address and phone number) along with a searcher’s GPS, to help refine searches to produce relevant results. For example, if someone taps in “mechanics in Ajax,” Google will pick up on and give priority to pages that are optimized for the words “mechanics” and “Ajax.”

Know Your Search Engine Ranking Factors

Along with your NAP data, Google also uses these factors to decide if you’re cool enough to get bumped up to the popular table:

  • Domain Authority: Your site’s level of authority is based on three things: age of your site, popularity, and size.  Using an algorithm based on these factors is one of the things that has leveled the playing field for smaller businesses and there are plenty of ways to increase your domain authority using SEO.
  • Meta Tags: While there is some argument for saying that meta tags aren’t as important as they once were, they still play a vital role on the SERP. More often than not, these short descriptions are what show up in the results and are the first thing a searcher will see. Because of this, you should always give relevant information in your metas and incorporate keywords when possible. Cover your bases and use metas to your advantage by following this guide to writing better tags.
  • Page Titles: Your page titles and subheadings are prime SEO real estate, with Google giving them more weight than other words on your page. Seriously, if your homepage is titled “homepage,” drop everything and go fix it immediately. Titles like that won’t do you any favors. Not only are you missing out on an SEO opportunity, you’re skipping a chance to introduce yourself to potential customers. Bonus points if you can work in a city name into your page titles!
  • NAP Data: As mentioned before, this is your name, address and phone number. To make this information work for you, you need to ensure the text is “crawlable,” meaning Google can pick up on it. Therefore, no matter how great it might look as part of a picture, you need to resist the urge and make it in text form. Your NAP should also be consistent across all pages and on other websites where your information is listed.

Strategies for Boosting Your Local SEO

Once you’ve got a handle on these basics of what to include on your website for local SEO, it’s time to dig a bit deeper and incorporate these same terms and tactics in other ways:

Manage Listings on Other Sites: Having your business’s profile on sites like Google My Business, Yelp, FourSquare and other similar review sites is beneficial to getting you more exposure. However, the advantages are increased if you create a unique profile for these sites. All too often, a generic profile is put in place without utilizing relevant details about your company and services. Fix this and give yourself a chance to make a proper introduction to potential customers, include your correct NAP data and incorporate relevant keywords.

Make Use of Local Directories: While the paper version of the Yellow Pages may be obsolete, Yellowpages.com and similar local directories are alive, thriving and a good way to up your search rankings. Register your business with consistent, accurate NAP data and get an easy, free way to boost your rankings. This is an absolute must if you don’t have a website of your own yet since you can list your physical address and phone number without including a domain name.

Optimize Your Contact Us Page: Along with including your NAP data here, it’s a good idea to incorporate a Google map on your contact page. Google isn’t above vanity and likes seeing one of its tools at work on your site. It’s also handy for your customers to have a visual of where you are and an easy way to one-click for directions.

Create Location-Specific Pages: While your physical address is likely enough to get you noticed in the search rankings for that city, it won’t help you rank in surrounding areas. Obviously, for many businesses, a service area is not limited to a single city and this can pose a problem. To overcome this, it’s often a good idea to create dedicated pages for each city you serve. For example, if you have a Greek restaurant located in Detroit, the bulk of your site should focus right on the Motor City.  However, you’ll also want to create pages for surrounding communities with titles and subheadings which include keywords such as: “Greek Restaurant Troy” or “Dearborn Greek Food.”

Optimize Your Site with GEOTags: These tags let search engines know where you’re based and can be included on each of your pages. This is also a way to optimize videos and photos. Quickly generate your tags with this GEOTag Generator.

Add Relevant Schema Markup: Include interesting snippets of information that are relevant to your business with schema markups.  By including info, such as business happenings, school events and other local stories, you give Google a better idea of what your site is all about. This makes it easier to classify your site and rank it in relevant search results. For more info on this underutilized local SEO tactic, visit this guide to schema markup.

Bottom-line, there are tons of small ways to get big results with local SEO for your small business. While there is plenty you can do on your own, it can often be overwhelming and easy to miss a critical step. When in doubt, it’s often best to hire a marketing team with extensive local SEO experience to get you get your business off to the right start.

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