I just got back from the State of Search Digital Marketing Conference in Dallas, Texas, where SEO experts from around the world shared their knowledge on how businesses can improve their search rankings online. The good news is that SEO is not just for huge corporations with substantial budgets—there are plenty of strategies a small, local business can use to climb the search engine ranks. If you have a brick-and-mortar location that you want more people to discover through organic search, a Google Business listing is one of the best available resources at your disposal.
Create a Google Business listing if you haven’t already
Google Business listings are incredibly powerful tools for local businesses that want to be discovered online. These listing have upsides and downsides, but generally being included in the listing has more benefits than not. The downside of Google Business listings is that it provides most of your store’s important information (hours, phone number, address, etc.) directly on a Google page. That means that those looking for your services have less of a reason to click through to your website, which could decrease the number of visitors and impressions that your site gets. However, Google Business listings are some of the first things that people look at while searching for a particular good or service in their area. Even if people aren’t directly visiting your website, having your store listed on Google Business could mean more people visiting your physical location and making purchases.
Use the most accurate business category
Listing your business in the right category is essential for showing up in Google Business results when someone searches for your services. While this may sound easy, keep in mind that there are thousands of business categories available. Try to be as specific as possible when choosing your category to get the most qualified traffic viewing your store’s information. Google also tends to add and remove business categories regularly without reporting these changes to users. Regularly review the business categories available so you’re sure that you do not miss an update to your industry tag.
Report black hat SEO tactics
Unfortunately, competitors have ways of spoofing business details to unfairly jump to the top of local search results. Google is pretty good about catching this, but sometimes they need a little bit of help to prevent such practices from happening. If you happen to notice one of your competitors is using unfair tactics to gain rank, you are within your rights to report it to Google. For example, if someone is using obviously fake business reviews, showing up as a local business when they do not have a physical business presence in your area, or is very obviously keyword stuffing, you can report unfair behavior to Google. But remember, you can’t just report a competitor because they rightfully have a better rank than you—be mindful and courteous and only report behavior that you know is in violation of Google’s rules.
Continue to employ good SEO strategies on your website
As with all location-based search results, even if you rank extremely well when a search is done within your city or town, you might not see that same rank outside of your geographic location. For some businesses, that’s ok. For example, a small local grocer likely depends on a steady flow of local traffic more than it does the occasional out of town visitor. However, for a locally-owned hotel or bed and breakfast, top rankings outside of their actual geographic location could be more important than ranking well within it. Even if your business is ranking well in Google Business listings in one location, it’s worthwhile to continue to improve your site’s SEO strategies so that Google has even more of a reason to rank your business well no matter where the potential visitor is searching from.
Remember, SEO is a fickle thing and what might work well for some businesses could be less helpful than other. Always exercise caution while making SEO changes for your site and be ready to revert changes if necessary.
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