Posted by MiriamEllis
I’ve written this post for two of my favorite groups of people: local SEOs and local business owners.
Local SEOs: We’ve had this conversation again and again in the community over the years. On a regular basis, you receive calls from extremely nice local business owners whom you’d love to help but who just haven’t set aside appropriate funding to obtain your services. You have to give them the bad news and turn them away. You feel sort of glum about this and may even be worried that the business owner will sign up for something enticingly cheap and potentially harmful elsewhere. The point of this post is to give you a single link you can share with such business owners, encouraging them to invest time in free education until they have saved up the budget to hire a pro. This article will let you end these tough conversations on a truly positive note!
Local Business Owners: If you don’t yet have the funding to engage a pro, making time to learn about basic local SEO practices is the smartest thing you can do. This article contains my top pick links to exceptional free educational resources. Make use of the fact that experts gladly share what they know in blog posts, guides and studies and you can begin your local search marketing on your own, firmly grounded in best practices. Here, you will find everything you need to know about the foundational major components of a local search campaign, all in one place. If you can’t yet invest the money, invest the time to learn how to get your local business off to a great start on the web!
Launch your education by gaining a clear picture of what local SEO is, who the major players are and what typically happens in a local search marketing campaign. You’ll be taking many steps along the way; having a sense of what they all add up to should help keep you focused and inspired!
1. Start with this excellent little definition of local SEO from Local U so that you understand the basic concept.
2. Next, hop over to this great guide from Search Engine Journal. It tackles some important local SEO FAQs that will provide that ‘big picture’ view of the work ahead of you.
3. Your next stop is a big one! The Moz Local Learning Center comprises more information about local SEO all in one place than you’ll find in any other guide on the web. Prepare to spend at least a couple of days carefully reading through this incredibly comprehensive resource. You’ll know oodles about the subject when you’ve finished!
4. Once you’ve perused the Moz Local Learning Center, you’ll have attained a solid understanding of the various parts of a local search marketing campaign. You’re now ready to see how big a punch is packed by each component. Study Local Search Ranking Factors 2013 – the industry’s finest annual survey of local search experts who weigh in on which elements appear to exhibit the most powerful influence on Google’s local algorithm.
5. Having a bit of trouble envisioning some of the local search ranking factors? This Moz Blog post illustrates the top 20, making it easy to visualize and implement core best practices for your business.
Like any good website, a strong local business website will feature sensible architecture, clear navigation and great content. Stretch your shoestring budget to cover the purchase of a domain name and basic annual hosting from a reliable provider. WordPress currently offers nearly 2500 free themes you can play around with to design the best site you are capable of building at your current budget. Your website is your most important Internet asset, so it deserves all the skill and time you can invest in it. And, you’ve got to know what kinds of pages to build and how to optimize them. Read on!
1. Start with this exceptional video and infographic from Small Business Online Coach. This resource explains exactly how to locally optimize your local business website. Pay careful attention to each element highlighted in the video and graphic and then bring that knowledge to each page you build on your site.
2. Gain an edge on less knowledgeable competitors in your geographic region by understanding these 8 Keys To a Successful Local Business Website, as published by Search Engine Land.
3. User-friendy, search-engine-friendly site architecture and good local SEO are vital to the health of your site, but the main difference between a poor website and an excellent one is the quality of the content it offers users. Learn how to develop those all-important pages detailing your physical locale and other locations in which you serve by reading this Moz Blog post about local landing pages.
4. Having trouble coming up with content that is unique, helpful and interesting on each of the pages you’re building? This super post from Local Visibility System will help you brainstorm creative, solid ideas that will turn your website into a comprehensive resource for your customers.
Every local business owner needs to be familiar with the creation and purpose of local business citations. These web-based references to your business NAP (name, address, phone number) will require some on-going effort on your part, and learning to build them correctly is essential to pursuing high local rankings.
1. Start with this basic definition of citations from Moz.
2. Whitespark is a widely-recognized authority in the field of citation building, and they offer this terrific free advice on local citation building best practices. Remember, clean, consistent citations are an asset to your business, but inconsistencies confuse customers and imperil your chances of ranking well. Be sure you fully understand best practices before you start building citations.
3. Next, check out these helpful tips from Casey Meraz on
finding and building citations like an agency. Learn how to tackle this necessary work like a pro!
4. Data about your business NAP is shared around the web between minor and major entities. Understand exactly how this works by visiting this page which includes a David Mihm video, article and links to infographics portraying the local search ecosystem in the US, Canada, Germany, Brazil and the UK. If you’re about to buckle down on your first citation building session, this would also be a good time to review the content you read earlier on the topic of citations in the Moz Local Learning Center.
Did you know that as many as 79% of people trust online reviews as much as they do personal recommendations? This was the conclusion reached in a
2013 study by Bright Local. Over time, you will be working to achieve a mostly positive body of customer reviews on diverse online platforms. Many local business owners feel justly nervous about handling this important reputation and ranking factor correctly, but you’ll be more confident, thanks to these wonderful resources.
1. Begin with a basic definition of reviews as they relate to the local sphere, from Moz.
2. Wondering which review sites you should focus on first? Local Visibility System delivers the goods in this peerless review site comparison graphic.
3. Before you get started on a review acquisition campaign, you must understand that each platform has its own guidelines as to allowable practices. Access the guidelines of major review sites, all in one place, via this helpful page in the Moz Local Learning Center. By knowing the rules, you will lessen your chances of wasting your time, and your customers’ time, with reviews getting filtered out because they don’t adhere to the guidelines.
4. If the possibility of negative reviews strikes fear into your heart, take comfort in knowing that they happen to just about every business, sooner or later. Businesses have bad days and some customers are impossible to please. Reasonable people understand this. Be prepared to deal positively with a negative review, if you get one, with these
right-on tips from Search Engine Land.
Google is top dog in local search, hands down. While you’ll need to develop a presence in numerous places, getting it right in your Google-specific activities is second only to getting it right on your company’s website. As you undertake your own local SEO work, you will almost certainly be spending more time thinking about Google than any other entity. Begin your education with the following resources.
1. Commit the Google Places Quality Guidelines to memory and check back on them from time to time for updates. This is the best advice you will ever receive from Google about what they allow and what they forbid in regards to Google+ Local pages. Guideline violations can destroy your chances of a gaining a place in those all-important local search results, so heed Google’s dictates well!
2. Every qualifying local business is eligible for a Google+ Local page, but Google offers other types of pages, too. This great guide from Local U will help you to identify and understand the various types of pages so that you can determine what’s best for your business.
3. Lack of consistency in terminology has been the hobgoblin of Google’s local products since day one. Over the past decade we’ve seen terms like Google Places, the Local Business Center and Google+ Local pages come and go. At the time of writing this guide, the most current product terminology consists of having a Google+ Local Page which you create via the Google Places For Business Dashboard. The rollout of the newest dashboard has happened slowly in some countries, so if you’re just now starting to see it, check out
Mike Blumenthal’s fine visual guide so that you understand what to expect.
4. As you’re gaining your local SEO education, you will see frequent mention of the social possibilities of Google’s products. Read Brady Callahan’s super post on how local businesses can use Google+ as a way to connect with customers and build a strong social presence.
5. Even with the best grounding in local SEO best practices, you are likely to run into a problem with Google’s local products sooner or later. Guidelines updates, new system filters, new penalties and bugs happen with predictable frequency. If you encounter a problem that is affecting how Google is displaying information about your business, your best bet for free advice is the Google And Your Business Forum. The forum is monitored by volunteer Top Contributors (TCs) and some questions asked will even receive direct responses from Google staffers. You may also want to check out this Moz Blog post on troubleshooting local ranking failures if you’ve experienced a ranking drop.
What’s missing from this post?
If you’ve reached these concluding paragraphs, having first studied each of the above resources with due diligence, you’ve just obtained an excellent introduction to the basics of local SEO. You can now begin putting all of this education to work for your business. What I haven’t included here is information about additional topics like earning links, developing a broad social presence, video marketing, or entering the exciting world of mobile search.
Why haven’t I included such information in this post? It’s my hope that if you implement all of the above disciplines, your company will begin to see profits once your hard work has time to go into effect. With these profits in hand, you will either have the leisure to continue your local SEO education or the funds to hire professional assistance to help you explore new opportunities for further promotion of your brand on the web.
It’s no shame to start small. Whole Foods was founded by a college kid who dropped out and borrowed money from his folks. Owner John Mackey reputedly had to take his showers using the hose of the store’s dishwasher because he had no place else to live but the store’s premises. The largest scented candle maker in the US, Yankee Candle Company, was founded by a boy who made his first candle out of melted crayons for his mom. Even Google started out in a garage. With dedication and the right education, there is nothing your local business can’t do!
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