12 Local SEO Strategies for Small Businesses That Work in 2018

Written by Matthew King, time it takes to read this article is  minute(s).

Think of the last time you used your phone to look for a restaurant or auto repair shop near you.

Your instinct was probably to click the first listing with multiple positive reviews or that has turn-by-turn directions. This may feel like a natural process, but good listings are actually the result of an SEO strategy designed to boost a business’s search visibility and ultimately, its potential to attract new customers.

If you have a brick-and-mortar location or own a company that operates in a specific city or geographic area, integrating local SEO into your digital marketing strategy helps your prospects find you in their exact moment of need. It also lets you tap into the surrounding community and expand your client base.


Local search is powerful for SMBs. Up to 95% of consumer engagement is local, and it happens through local web pages, local listings, and other local search results. Considering that more than four out of five consumers use local search to find information, you could be missing out on a significant portion of potential customers if your business isn’t optimized.

We list down tips on how you can outrank your local competitors through a solid organic SEO strategy that works in 2018:

Make Your NAP Consistent

NAP (name, address, and phone number) is fundamental to local SEO. By making sure your NAP is accurate on your website and across listings such as Google My Business, Facebook, and Yelp, you’re making an impression of trust and allowing search engines to authenticate and validate your business.

On the other hand, even the littlest discrepancy in your contact information such as inconsistent phone numbers or an incorrect suite number can do so much to negatively impact your search rankings.

Set Up Your Google My Business Listings

We talked about setting up Google My Business (GMB) in our previous blogs, but we cannot stress its importance enough. This is because Google My Business is perhaps the biggest contributor to local SEO success. GMB is the key to making your local business rank high in organic Google search results as well as on Google Maps. It also lets you access free data insights on how your customers find you.

We have discussed the benefits of GMB, let’s talk about how to set it up:

  • 1
    Step 1: Go to https://www.google.com/business/ and click “Start Now”
  • 2
    Step 2: Select the Google account you want to use or create a new one specifically for your business. Sign in.
  • 3
    Step 3: Search for your business by name and address.
  • 4
    Step 4: Once you have selected or created the correct business, location, and type, click on it.
  • 5
    Step 5: Google will generate a Google+ page with the address you provided. Check “I am authorized to manage this business” and click continue.
  • 6
    Step 6: Click on “Mail me my Code”. To verify your business, Google will send your code to your business location.

Now that you have set up your GMB, here are a few things to remember:

  • Verify your business once you receive the pin, so you can have access to all features
  • Add a profile photo and photos of your business
  • Provide Google with the correct and complete business data including NAP, operating hours, and categories
  • Double check if you have provided the right location(s) and keep your hours accurate
  • Manage your reviews and make sure to respond

Embed a Google Map

Embedding a Google Map into the contact page of your website is a simple, yet effective way to boost your local rankings. For one, it gives your customers a visual idea of your business location. Two, it tells Google to pull clues and information from both your content and the map itself, driving your website higher up the organic search results as well as on Google+ Local.

Build Local Citations

A local citation is any reference to your business made on the Internet. It could be a mention on websites such as Yelp, BBB, Yellowpages, Angie’s List, and other authoritative sites. Like an accurate NAP, local citations are important in Google’s ranking algorithm, so make sure they are accurate on every listing or business directory.

Perform Website Audits

You may perform several different types of audits on your website, including on-page audits, link audits, and local citation audits.

Local citation audits work in identifying inconsistent NAP data and duplicate listings. Some businesses practice bad SEO, such as building for their competitor local listings with bad data, with the intention of dragging down the competition. Local citation audits can help you spot these issues and address them accordingly.

As local map algorithms are starting to rely more heavily on link data, low-quality links and off-topic links can hurt your rankings. Link audits help you identify bad links that point to your website.

On-page audits, meanwhile, are important when identifying areas for improvement on your site. This type of audit lets you spot problems with page headings, metadata, formatting, and even page load speed to improve your rankings.

Encourage User Reviews

Reach out to your loyal customers and encourage them to leave reviews about your service or product. When suggesting options, Google prioritizes businesses with positive user testimonials. The more positive reviews your business has, the more “social proof” you have to offer search engines, which increases your chances of appearing on the first page of results.

Negative reviews are inevitable. They will happen at some point, so it pays to develop a review management strategy. You can mitigate the damage by acknowledging the fault or solving the customer’s issue. Remember, your responses are available to the public, including future customers, business partners, and even potential investors, so it’s important to keep your replies helpful and professional. Forget about posting fake reviews: it’s not worth the hassle of recovering from a penalty.

Get started by collecting reviews through major review platforms:

  • Google + Local
  • Yelp
  • Better Business Bureau
  • Trip Advisor
  • FourSquare
  • Yellow Pages
  • Angie's List
  • Facebook

Optimize for Mobile and Use AMP

It probably hasn’t been long since the last time you used your smartphone to search for a local product or service. Like you, consumers on the go turn to the most convenient means (i.e. smartphones) when looking for local shops to do business with.

By making your website mobile-friendly and responsive, you make it so much easier for your potential customers to find you. To make sure your website is optimized for mobile, take advantage of Google’s free Mobile-Friendly Test.

Following the Google Speed Update that went live in July 2018, page load speed time on mobile devices has now become a crucial ranking factor. This means that if your website loads slowly, your ranking on search results will most likely drop.

Google encourages the use of AMP (accelerated mobile pages) to enable webpages to load quickly. AMP hits two birds with one stone as it improves two major factors in Google’s ranking algorithm: readability and user experience.

Get High-Quality Backlinks from Authoritative Websites

Getting high-quality backlinks from authority sites can significantly boost your ranking. Backlinks ramp up referral traffic as it builds your reputation with Google. The way it works is similar to user reviews: the more backlinks you have, the more evidence you have to show Google so it perceives your site as a credible business.

How and where do you get backlinks?

Start with your own personal network. Tap into your vendors, resellers, manufacturers, trade associations, and even the Chamber of Commerce, business improvement districts, and licensing bureaus. You may sponsor a webinar or host a community event, so you can build relationships with influencers and prominent people in your industry.

Wear your PR hat and try to get local media attention through news and publications. You can also try sponsoring an event or collaborating with businesses in a similar industry and inspire them to link their pages back to yours through guest blog posting. If you work with business partners, reach out to see if they can feature you on their partner directory.

Create Local Content and Optimize for Local Keywords

When creating on-page content, many writers lean towards general topics that attract a wide crowd. But, if the goal is to draw a local audience to your site, it’s more effective to write about local or industry news. Become the authority in your industry by promoting local news, industry gatherings, and other informational content.

For example, if you own a cafe and you’re trying to attract customers visiting the area, create a helpful source to introduce them to your city. A map of local attractions or a calendar of city-wide events, for example, can provide value for your persona and contain relevant on-page local signals.

It also pays to optimize your website pages for local keywords. Hungry customers, for example, include the city when looking for nearby shops, to which Google will show only relevant listings.

Allow potential customers to find your business, include the name of the city in the following:

  • URL structure
  • Title tag
  • Meta description
  • H1 tag
  • Body Text
  • Alt text on relevant images
  • Any other header tags where relevant

Optimize Your Website for “Near Me” Search Queries

For your businesses to show up on “near me” searches, you only have to be located in the city. Being geographically closer to the customer conducting the query doesn’t necessarily mean higher rankings.

But there are factors that influence the local SEO ranking factors for “near me” searches. These include:

  • Google reviews
  • Profile views
  • Backlinks with the city in the anchor text
  • Percent of backlinks within the city in the anchor text

Add “near me” or “nearby” in the title tag of pages on your site. If, for instance, you have a Store Locator on your site or a contact page or one that lists your locations, insert “Near Me” or “Nearby” in the title tag of that page. You can also mention that your location is, for example, “near the police station.” Using the names of other city landmarks or popular locations that people might search increases the likelihood of search engines finding you.

Optimize for Voice Search and Digital Assistants

Scrolling down social media will tell you that 2018 has been a big year for voice search. The many memes and posts dedicated to Apple’s “Siri,” Google’s “Google Assistant,” and Amazon’s “Alexa” suggest that consumers are getting more comfortable with doing searches on their mobile phones and in-home smart devices.

This being said, focus on writing for humans. Rather than padding your website and blog with keywords, use more conversational phrases. Title a blog to match an informal voice search, for example, or write a blog that answers a popular voice search query.

Maximize Local PPC

Applying the tips above can significantly expand your online prominence and ultimately, drive more clients to your business. But using Google Ads to target potential customers in your city can give you serious leverage, especially if you’re in a highly competitive industry. A local pay-per-click ad campaign shows results with immediate effect. 

While your site is attracting traffic organically, PPC is a cost-effective addition to complement your local organic ranking. With PPC ads, you have a clear idea of how many searchers have a genuine interest in your business and can easily track and measure the results.

Grow Your SMB Through SEO

Harness the power of SEO to grow your brand with help from Alkries LLC. Our SEO agency in VA has been instrumental to the growth of many SMBs from within and outside the state. We can do the same for your business.

With a team of certified specialists who live and breathe digital marketing, count on us to combine proven techniques and the latest trends to put your business under the spotlight. We maximize your website, social media accounts, and other online marketing tools to build your online presence and elevate your ranking power.

Rise above your bigger, more prominent competitors with the right digital marketing partner. Call us at (540) 808-0996 to schedule a consultation.

About the author

Matthew King is the owner of Alkries LLC and partner at TR King Insurance Marketing LLC. When he's not building links, growing organic traffic, developing internet marketing strategies and measuring positive returns on investments for clients, he likes to spend time with his wife playing video games and going on walks.

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