Some of the most affordable local SEO tips for small businesses are ones that you’ve probably heard of but may not realize the importance. As they may come across as simple, the value of this article is to learn where to start, how to be consistent, and most importantly, not waste time.
Because I get asked tons of local SEO questions, I decided to share one that seems to get asked more than others.
“What’s your most affordable local SEO tips for small businesses?
I have quite a few local SEO tips that are affordable for every small business, but I decided to share how I conduct an effective local SEO campaign.
To get started, you will need;
- Spreadsheet editor (Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets)
- Internet connection
- A cup of coffee
Feel free to bookmark this page and or reach out to me if you have any questions.
Most Affordable Local SEO Tips for Small Businesses
Before we get started on the guide to an effective free local SEO campaign, I am going to give you a quick background on local SEO and examples on what happens when your customers perform a local search.
Google’s famous algorithm includes the user’s intent of the search when deciding which results to return first. This means if a person is searching for the term “best seafood restaurants in Annapolis, Maryland” Google will likely return; first, it’s “local pack,” followed by websites that contain reviews/ratings of seafood restaurants in Annapolis. Take a look at the example below.
Notice the local pack. The top three results usually show in Google’s local pack. The top results in the organic list shows; Trip Advisor, Yelp, and an article from The Baltimore Sun.
Why does Google return review sites and an article in The Baltimore Sun?
Google thinks the searcher is looking to find the highest rated seafood restaurant in Annapolis, so it makes sense for Google to return restaurant reviews. The Baltimore Sun provides research and data that also supports a restaurant’s reputation.
A few years ago, SEOs would have just placed the long-tail keywords “Best Seafood Restaraunt in Annapolis, Maryland” and Google would have likely returned that. Now Google searches for intent and proof of the claim.
If you own a seafood restaurant in Annapolis, you should;
- Make sure you have a Google My Business page (verified and completed),
- List your business on Trip Advisor and Yelp
- Ask happy customers and clients to leave reviews on these sites.
Website directories or mostly free to set up and help both your off-page SEO and local SEO. Google My Business, Trip Advisor, and Yelp are only the tip of the ice burg in affordable thing a small business can do to better their search rankings.
Most Affordable Local SEO Tips for Small Businesses: List your business in the right places.
Step One: Be Your Target Audience
Pretend you are one of your target customers and search Google for your products and services as if you intended to buy them. Do this just like the Annapolis based seafood restaurants.
There are multiple stages in a customer’s buying cycle. Sometimes your target audience intends to research a product or service rather than to make a purchase or visit your store. Make sure your website contains content for each buying cycle. For now, we’ll only discuss users who are motivated to buy. For more information about the stages in the customers buying cycle, I encourage you to read the article titled, “Understanding the Customer Buying Cycle and Triggers” by David Skok of For Entrepreneurs.
What showed up in Google’s local pack when you search for your service offerings? What were the top three results?
Write a list of the websites that turned up in Googles top 3 pages (not results, but pages.) It’s important not to get too excited and fill out the directories yet, as there are a few more things you must do first.
Step Two: Find Search Competitors
Grab the name of the competing businesses from both the local pack and review sites like Yelp. Add these names to a spreadsheet, (DO NOT rely on memory) as you will need them later.
After you made the list of competitors, search them in Google. Search each competitor one by one (at least three competitors.) Take notes on each website that appear in Google’s search results.
Step Three: Search Competitor Listings
Combine two or more competitors into a single Google search query and separate them using a + sign. An example of a search combination is below.
“Competitor 1” + “Competitor 2” + “Competitor 3”
Combining competitor names wrapped in quotation marks will return websites that list all three competitors. Is your small business on these websites? If not, create a profile and add it.
Warning: Some of your competitors may have paid for or submitted their website to low-quality link farms in an attempt to gain backlinks. I’m not going to get into backlinks and link-farms in this post, but know that link-farms are a spammy way trying to game search engines. If a website doesn’t look like a quality site, don’t create a profile for your business.
Are you not sure if a site is safe or not, feel free to contact me, and I’ll take a look.
Interested in learning more about backlinks, read the article titled, “What is a Backlink and How do you start getting backlinks to your blog?” By Harsh Agrawal.
Step Four: Gather findings + Branded content
I previously mentioned adding competitor names and directory websites to a spreadsheet before creating your small business profiles. The two main reasons I say this is;
- If you need to stop, you have it all in one place.
- You must perform these queries monthly to measure results
Number 1: I don’t think people intend to no complete an online profile. However, I know from experience that profile submissions often don’t save and force you to start over. The frustration can be overwhelming and cause you to push it off for you never to complete.
Since most business profiles ask similar questions, it’s a good idea to open a new document and start jotting down answers to common questions. For example, you’ll want to include;
- A branding/mission statement
- A two to three sentence paragraph describing products/services
- Hours of operations – include special holiday hours
- Your logo + a few good images of your business
Save the information in a separate document and use it to copy and paste throughout each of the online profiles. Trust me, having this information in a separate document will save you time re-writing the same thing over again on multiple websites, plus it helps maintain consistency.
Sign up for my SEO newsletter, and I’ll send you a questionnaire that contains a checklist, questionnaire, and spreadsheet template to get you started.
Step 5: Ask for Reviews
A few months ago I was hired by a dentist office in Omaha, Nebraska to provide an SEO consultation. The practice was having trouble with their local SEO and was getting hammered by competitors in local search. I noticed that the dentist office had an incomplete Google My Business profile and that they used the name of the Doctor instead of the name of the practice.
My recommendation was to change the name of their Google My Business page to match their business name, complete the overall business profile, respond to their negative reviews and ask their happiest patients to leave reviews. Believe it or not, reviews have become a significant part of the success of any business.
Recently, I called the client to see how they were doing and to their satisfaction, they started appearing in Google’s local pack and were getting more appointments from Google searches.
Create an email template to send to your happy customers and ask them to leave you a review. Google allows you to easily create a link to share with your clients that will take them directly to your Google page and leave a review.
Here are Google’s instructions on how to create a link for customers to write reviews for your small business.
Step 6: Measure and Do It Again
The final step is to set up a measurement plan. Once a month, run the same searches and take notes of the results. Does your small business come up when searching for your products and services? Are there any new competitors showing up? If so, add them to your list. Take note of any new website directories and create a profile.
As technology changes, new websites and review sites emerge. This affordable local SEO tips for small businesses will keep your small business relevant in local searches.
I hope you enjoyed learning these affordable local SEO tips for small businesses. To recap;
- Search as if you were your target customer
- Find your competitors
- Search your competitors
- Gather your findings and branded content
- Ask for reviews
- Do it again
If you have any questions or would like to learn more affordable SEO tips for small business, consider signing up for one of my free 30-minute SEO consultations, and I will gladly review your small business on a personal level.