There is a huge difference between the needs of an online company targeting a global audience and a local company seeking local customers online.

The global company can operate from a basement or a barn, and can cast a huge net to capture anybody online. My own writing business focuses on a global clientele, so I cast that wide net all the time (but I don’t work out of a basement or a bar, just for the record).

For SEO purposes, this means focusing on some major searches and all the variant keywords involved. For social, this means that any follower is a good follower, from the UK, from Argentina, from Australia or from Italy. The more followers the better, and it is worth my while to interact with anybody and everybody.

For a local company, including a good number of my clients, both SEO and social are simpler. And also more complicated.

SEO is simpler, because the local company does not have to compete for massively competitive searches, such as “dental insurance” or “time management software”. The local element alone cuts the competition by a factor of at least 100. “Colorado roof repair” is much less competitive, just because the searches are restricted to Colorado. “Greensboro Chevrolet” is much less competitive, just because the searches are restricted to Greensboro.

At the same time, local SEO is more complicated, because the universe for link-building is so much smaller, and so over saturated with your immediate competitors.

Social is simpler, because you don’t have to sign up 50,000 Twitter followers from all over the world. You just need local followers, and that’s a much smaller pool to go fishing in.

At the same time, local social is more complicated, since every follower is not necessarily a good follower. More is still better, but mostly you want to focus on geo-targeted followers. That is not always easy.

local SEO

Here are a few key ways to think local for SEO and social:

1. Keep an inventory of local Web properties where you would like to be mentioned. This includes local directories where you want to be listed. This includes local blogs. This includes non-local blogs run by local bloggers. This includes local radio, newspaper and magazine websites.
You will want to make waves, you will want to create news. These Web properties will be important for getting coverage, resulting in short term traffic and long-term SEO value.

2. Build local followership on social media. 50,000 followers from around the world is not a bad thing to have, even if your business is restricted to Chicago. After all, some of those 50,000 probably come from Chicago, and others have friends and family in Chicago.

Furthermore, if you really rock your social media, followers from all over will reshare and maybe even blog about what you post. And that is good for overall visibility, as well as for SEO. Don’t turn somebody away just because she’s from Calgary.

But you will get most value by interacting with local folks. So find them. Follow them. And give them a reason to follow you back.

Start with your current customers. They, of all people, should be following you on social media. Check out their followers, who will mostly be local, as well.

Most of your local radio personalities can also be found on Twitter or Facebook. Check out their following, which will be primarily local. Yes, even if you listen to classic rock, follow the pop radio hosts and the easy listening radio hosts. This is not about your taste, but about the tastes of your market.

Don’t forget to engage. You want to build a sense of community, in which your business is a central player. That’s how local businesses have used advertising and sponsorship dollars offline for years. Online, it can work just as well. That’s the local advantage.

3. Connect with other local businesses. Make a list of all the businesses you work with: clients, suppliers, colleagues in the local Chamber of Commerce or Rotary Club. Follow them on social media, and unless you are in mutually exclusive niches, start connecting with their followers.

Consider also adding to your website a “Local Businesses We Recommend” page. This is a great way to show good will to other local companies, who in turn might send business your way. If you can convince them to set up a similar page, you can get inbound links with a high local SEO value.

4. Your address is golden. After all, that’s what makes you local. Melissa Jones suggests using Schema markup for your address, just to make sure the point is not lost on the search engines.

Decide how to write your address and stick to it. However your address is written in the Schema markup on your own website, make sure it is written the same way in every other place it appears, including local directories and social media.

For instance, if you write “Ave.” on your website, don’t use “Avenue” on your Twitter profile. Be consistent. Don’t leave any room for the search engines to disassociate some of your mentions and citations from your main business website.

This is especially important for your Google My Business page, as that will have a bearing on whether you show up on Google’s local map in the search results.

5. Get reviews. One of the very best ways to build a profile online is to get reviews in appropriate places. Local SEO expert Gerald Weber, of SEM Group, says that too many local businesses miss this obvious opportunity “because most of them simply have no idea how to go about it.”

Almost every sector has at least one place online where people give reviews, sites Like TripAdvisor and Houzz. Plus there are the obvious generic ones like Yelp and Google Local. You know who your best customers are, ask them to review you. One way is to take your laptop out, open it up to a review site, place it in front of them while they are in your waiting room and ask, “Would you be kind enough to post a review of our business?” Let them leave the review while they wait.

Even better, to keep the IPs submitting the reviews varied is to ask them to review from their mobile devices while they wait. It’s that simple.

Or ask if you can send them a link via email. Most will say “Yes”, especially your most loyal customers. They won’t all follow through, but that’s OK. Some will. And that’s enough.

6. Outsource, because local business doesn’t have all the skills in-house. Web-based business sometimes outsource and sometimes don’t. Since most of their activities are based on online outreach, they often have Web marketing experts on their team. Local business doesn’t.

You don’t have to have the expertise in-house. Make sure to hire people who know what they are doing, whether they have all the skills you need themselves or just know how to assemble a team that does. With the right team, you can dominate local search and local social, and the ROI can be quite spectacular.

If your local business has not gotten with the SEO and social program yet, what are you waiting for?