local search seoEspecially if you are developing an online presence for your small business without the help of an expert SEO, understanding a few basic principles of SEO in regards to local search will revolutionize your business’ online potential. You may be familiar with SEO, but local search poses an entirely different set of issues. Since small businesses are usually on a budget, these tips will focus on strategies that are inexpensive and efficient in improving your organic rankings.

Focus on Consistency

The most important element of getting found in local search rankings is consistency. On each listing that you claim, make sure that the name of your business, your address, and your phone number are all correct and consistent. If one of the search engines detects conflicting information, you may lose ground in the rankings. Plus, if your information is inaccurate, you’re going to lose potential customers who can’t contact or find you.

Speaking of your address, let’s discuss the importance of physical addresses in local search. Clearly, the point of local search is that it finds businesses in the near vicinity to the searcher. So if an individual is searching for a business in your category, your proximity will get you higher rankings. In addition, if you are the type of business that has a general service area, it is crucial for you to detail that in your listings so that search engines are aware of your relevance throughout the whole area.

Clean Up Your Site

An attractive, clean web design will appeal to customers. If visitors like your site, they will be less likely to bounce back to the search engine, which can hurt your ranking. Keep your site up to date and relevant, so that visitors see an active, engaged business.

Establish Authority

Building your reputation as an authority will also influence your place on the SERPs. According to Jessica Ward, authority is built on a base of technical optimization and strong content that encourages organic link building and social media sharing. Another way to establish authority is to clarify your small business’s association with a regional or national chain.

In order to inform people about your authority, you must identify the proper categories to describe your business in listings. Connecting yourself with categories opens up a new way for consumers to discover your business if they are browsing through a site. Don’t forget to mention all of your different services.

Spread the Word

As you claim your listings, identify as many relevant local directories as possible. Obviously, you must claim your space on Google+ Local, the Bing Business Portal, Yahoo Local, and Yelp. However, find out what other sites have authority in your area. Your region might rely on Angie’s List, Craigslist, Citysearch, or a myriad of other niche sites. Take the time to research which ones are popular and then build your presence accordingly.

Reviews and ratings on these sites are also highly influential on the search rankings since they are a signal of your popularity. Other popularity indicators include your Click Thru Rate, any likes or check-ins on social media sites, and user-generated content that indicates customer interaction.

One final tip – search engines pay attention to advertiser value. Essentially, we all love to save money, so search engines promote sites that run deals or coupons. Andrew Shotland’s recent article on local search has greater insight into advertiser value.

Watch for Part 2 of this post, which will focus on major problems that small businesses face with local search.