There has been a lot of content created about the best practices that small businesses must follow in order to rank highly on Google, Bing, and other search engines. What many of these content guides fail to take into account is the local emphasis that is on modern SEO services. A small business on the outskirts of Seattle doesn’t necessarily need to be ranked #1 in the search results from someone from Liechtenstein happens to put in a search term.
Search engine optimization needs to apply locally before it applies globally.
There are some basic factors that drive how a small business can be ranked higher in search engine results from local consumers. Let’s take a look at them today.
How Do Customers Find Local Businesses Today?
Let’s flashback 10 years from today. The internet was growing and becoming strong, but the average person didn’t have DSL or Broadband internet services. They were stuck on some crazy slow dial-up modem that would load websites in a minute or two at best. Most people used the internet for email, some basic social needs through chat, and some basic games.
Is it any wonder why people used the Yellow Pages so often?
Today’s Internet is a very different beast. People are connecting at speeds of up to 1 GB. Movies can be downloaded in minutes and songs can be downloaded in seconds. Add in the mobile devices the people have and accessing the Internet for information has become second nature. This is why local search engine optimization is such a need.
Just like in the Yellow Pages, a small business needs to have listing placed within the scope of the Internet in order to be found. This means that the first step for local SEO is to get your business listed. Once that information is on the Internet, you can begin working to create citations.
What Is a Local SEO Citation?
In basic terms, a citation is any mention of your business that happens on the Internet. It can be in the form of basic content and it can appear with or without a link. It may just be a company name, the name and the phone number of the company, or a complete link to a small business website. Sometimes the best local SEO citation is just a company’s phone number.
Why do these mentions matter? It boils down to two factors: expertise and popularity. If you are a local expert who has popularity through a number of different citations, then you will rank higher as a small business in local web searches for your targeted keywords. It’s really that simple. If you can accumulate multiple citations like other websites accumulate multiple incoming links, then there’s a good chance that you can reach a #1 ranking on your preferred search engine fairly rapidly.
There Are Two Types of Citations to Think About
Many small businesses pursue just one form of a local SEO citation: the structured citation. These are the citations that look a lot like the listings from the Yellow Pages. You actually find most structured citations on listing sites that are based on the information that comes from the Yellow Pages. Other websites, like Yelp or Angie’s List, are also referred to as structured citations because they have formal listing included as well.
Unstructured citations are just as important as structured citations. These are the mentions that a small business would receive from local blogs, newspapers, or even government websites. They cannot be ignored because they are extremely valuable. Some may be more useful than others, especially if local businesses are referring to your own small business, but most mentions are going to be beneficial in some way.
The one exception to this rule are websites that create a lot of spam or have a bad reputation because of malware and adware distribution or other negative components. A website that was created just to provide low quality links to other sites will not be as beneficial as another small business in your community mentioning your business name in a blog.
The Other Ranking Factors Cannot Be Ignored
Citations are only one component of the local search engine optimization experience. Although you need to focus on obtaining citations, working to create a positive online reputation is just as important. You can do this by having positive reviews of services rendered placed directly onto Google and other websites that asked for customer reviews.
Having valuable content that shows off your expertise is always going to help your websites ranking on local searches as well. Having a lot of citations without having good content is a lot like having a Ferrari sitting in your driveway without any money to put gas in it. You really need both to be able to make an impact on your local SEO efforts.
It’s also important to remember that although citations and location information placed on the Internet at the lot like an incoming link, they are not a replacement for an incoming link. Links make up just as much of the search engine optimization puzzle as local citations. It’s another way for you to prove to the Internet that your expertise in your chosen industry is proven and respected.
Are Local SEO Citations a Guarantee For More Business?
There are no guarantees in marketing. Placing your listing in the Yellow Pages in 2004 didn’t guarantee that people would call you. It simply gave people the option to be able to call you if they needed what your small business was able to provide. The same is true with an emphasis on local SEO citations. If people who need what you have can find you before they find your competition, then you’ll have a better chance to score their business.
Encourage blogs to mention your business. Ask for names and phone numbers to be printed in local stories about your company. Combine that with solid content and you’ll be set to experience success.