Avoiding Digital Oblivion: Essential Local SEO For Small Business

Isaac is an online marketing specialist and Asia Pacific Director at 3WhiteHats a digital marketing company located in Auckland. Isaac shares insights below for optimising your website to take advantage of local SEO and get more visibility within the Google search results.

There’s a running joke in the digital marketing industry that if you have to look on the second page of Google’s search results, you must be desperate.

As a small business it can be difficult and expensive to compete against larger national and foreign businesses. However, Google has a maps insert or maps pack which sits above the organic listings just for local businesses - like yours. By implementing local SEO best practice and having a physical business in the vicinity of people looking for your offerings, you also can compete and claim your share of this highly relevant search traffic.

SEO for small business

Here’s a few simple steps you can take to make your business more visible to Google and ensure you have a fighting chance of competing in the maps pack.

Take Your First Steps Offline

In a surprising turn of events, good SEO implementation actually begins with critical offline real-world foundational work. A good place to start is ensuring your business has an authentic address and phone number. You need to have this vital business information to be eligible to appear in local search results.

It is important for your business to have a physical address to legitimise it in the eyes of your potential customers (we advise against a P.O. Box as it negates this purpose). The final offline step to focus on is getting a phone number that has the same area code as the physical address, giving your local customers an immediately recognisable and trustworthy way to get ahold of your company. This also validates your business in a way that an 0800 number simply cannot - a local number guarantees a real person and quick responses rather than a machine and that makes you wait in the long automated queues typically associated with 0800 calls, making it more likely that the customer will pick up the phone and engage with your business.  

Local Optimisation Starts On The (Digital) Home Front

Once you have your offline resources confirmed, the most logical next step is to implement structured data on your website so SEO crawlers like Google’s search engine recognises your website as a listing potential customers will want to see. There are many small ways you can tweak your website to accommodate SEO best practices, like including your business' name, address and phone number on your website. However, sometimes these tweaks include changes to the on-page factors in the HTML code of your website. If you are comfortable with editing HTML or have a more visual Content Management System like WordPress, this should be straightforward. Otherwise you might want to leave it to the pros and consult your developer.

With that, let’s start simple: We all know Google uses keywords, so it stands to reason that using keywords to do with your business, location and products (or services) is essential. This includes the URLs and titles you use on your website – take time to think about how you can structure them correctly while leveraging keywords potential customers would use to solve their problems in relation to your product or service and make sure they are within the URLs and titles of your website so that it shows up in the Google results. While your customers cannot see the title on your web page, you'll notice it is in the browser tab and when you search for your business in Google you'll see it displaying within your listing in blue.

Today, most people are searching on Google using a mobile device, which makes responsive design imperative. Responsive design means that your business’ website will look great no matter what the device. Google has recently announced they are going mobile-first, which means that Google’s Search Engine algorithms will “eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages [on their search engine] from that site”. This means that if your website is responsive, you are more likely to be listed higher in Google’s search results. Many customers are using their mobiles to try and find you, so it is easy to see why mobile-first design is worth your investment.

Managing your brand’s external online presence

Being aware of how your business is portrayed online outside of your own faculties is essential. A good place to start is with Google My Business, checking the listings for your business’ physical addresses are already present. If you find they are not, you can claim that listing as your business and Google will send you a postcard to confirm ownership. Carefully choose your categories and check your business name, address and telephone number is correct - this feeds into Google’s search results and variations often cause sub optimal ranking.

The next step is reaching out quality local business directories, otherwise known as ‘citations’, think of sites like the Yellow Pages where you can add or claim your business listing.

Before you start claiming business listings, it may be helpful to put together a list of business directories in a spreadsheet. A quick search for business directories NZ should reveal lots of opportunities and lists of local business directories.

Finally, online reviews play a critical role in determining whether a customer will proceed with their sale or not and also help to boost your business within the local search results. Getting past 10 is where things really start to kick off! Build review call to actions into your sales process to save time.

If you have any questions or would like more information on local SEO please leave a comment below or reach out directly to Isaac via LinkedIn.