Local SEO for Minneapolis & St. Paul
Search engine optimization (SEO) is essential to help you rank with Google and other search engines. People, including your potential customers, often search using popular keywords related to your business. The sites that are optimized are the ones that appear first in the results. Increasingly, location plays a big part in search results. That’s where local SEO comes into play. Let’s look at exactly what local SEO is and why it’s important for your business.
An Overview of Local SEO
The internet has always been a global phenomenon. Recently, however, it’s also gotten very local. People want to know what restaurants, plumbers, dentists, hairdressers, and other businesses they can trust right in their home towns (or in the area in which they’re traveling). People looking for a steakhouse in Minneapolis, for example, might do a search for “Minneapolis steakhouse.” Many searches on mobile devices, in particular, are focused on local businesses.
If you want your customers to find you nowadays, you need to optimize your website for local search. This is especially true for brick and mortar businesses and those that provide services to the local population. However, even online businesses can benefit from local SEO as many people like to do business in their own cities. Local search has grown quite a bit in the last few years. Social Media Today reports that 97% of search engine users have searched for local businesses online. There’s also a direct connection between local searches and people actually visiting businesses. According to SEO Tribunal, 78% of local mobile searches resulted in an offline sale.
Another thing to understand about local search is that smartphones and other devices are set up to conduct local searches whether or not people specify local results. For example, someone who brings up Google Maps and types in “coffee” will get a list of coffee shops nearby. Local search is simply the new way that searches are conducted.
Aspects of Local SEO
There are several key points to consider when optimizing your website for local search.
Google My Business
As Google is, by far, the largest search engine, it follows that one of your priorities is to rank well with them. When it comes to local search, the first step is to optimize your site with Google My Business. It’s free and fairly simple to list your business with Google. There are just a few points to consider.
- Make sure your listing is complete and accurate. Be sure to include information such as your physical address, phone number, and business hours.
- Choose the appropriate category for your business. Read through the entire list of categories so that you choose the most accurate one. There are currently over 3,000 categories to choose from.
- Add photos. Quality images make your listing more noticeable. In addition to a cover photo, Google lets you submit additional photos. You can show your business from various viewpoints, yourself and your employees, products, or anything else that helps tell your story.
- If your business has more than one location, you’ll want to create listings for each location. Google provides a “Manage My Locations” feature for this purpose.
- Google will send you a PIN to verify your business, either by mail, phone, or text. Be sure to complete this step as it’s essential to get listed.
A listing with Google helps you accomplish several things. Aside from making your website more visible, it literally puts you on the map, making it easy for customers to find you on Google Maps. Customers can also use Google to leave reviews for your business.
Local citations are business listings in various directories. Google My Business itself is actually the most important citation you need. However, for maximum exposure, you’ll want to acquire others as well.
For each citation, you need to include essential information about your business. Most important is NAP info, which stands for name, address, and phone number. It’s sometimes written as NAPW to include a website URL, another crucial item you need.
Where to Submit
Aside from Google, it’s helpful to have citations with as many directories as possible. Depending on the type of business you have, this may include:
- Trip Advisor (for restaurants, hotels, and other travel-related businesses)
- Angieslist (for businesses that provide home services)
- Avvo & Lawyers.com (for lawyers)
- Healthgrades, ZocDoc & RateMDs (for doctors)
- The above is by no means a comprehensive list. Search for smaller directories that are specific to your industry, as these can help you gain visibility with your target market.
Using as many relevant local keywords in all your website content helps to optimize your site for local search. This includes not only your city or town but other identifying criteria such as your neighborhood or section of the city (e.g. West Hollywood, North Philadelphia). Landmarks can also be useful. If your business is close to City Hall, a museum or convention center you can mention that when describing your location. This is useful for people trying to find your business as well as for SEO.
Reviews and Your Online Reputation
Online reviews are getting more important all the time. Many customers today won’t consider trying a new business until they see at least a few positive reviews about it. Reviews and local SEO go hand-in-hand. Having more reviews helps boost your SEO as it’s a signal that your business is popular. Here are some tips to help you attract more reviews.
- Make sure you’re listed on sites where customers can leave reviews. Aside from Google, Facebook, and Yelp don’t overlook industry-specific sites.
- Monitor your reviews. Set up Google Alerts or work with a service that provides social monitoring services so you know when people are commenting about your business.
- Respond to reviews. Always respond to reviews, if only to say “thank you” when you get a compliment. This encourages more people to leave reviews.
- Reply to negative reviews with care. Don’t let yourself get drawn into public conflict with a hostile reviewer. Respond politely and apologize if you were in the wrong. Correct any factual errors made by the reviewer in a reasonable manner. If you suspect a review is fake (e.g. that the reviewer never did business with you), report it to the site.
- Encourage customers to leave reviews. Do this in a low-key way, though. Never ask specifically for positive reviews or offer rewards in exchange for positive reviews as you don’t want to violate the TOS of review sites. You can, however, place buttons for review sites on your own website and have signs or stickers for them in your physical business. Review sites provide resources for this purpose. For example, there are stickers such as “Find Us on Yelp.”
Local SEO is Crucial For Growing Your Business
SEO is getting more local all the time. This is related to a few other trends, such as the growth of mobile devices and voice search (e.g. drivers can ask for local recommendations by using voice commands in Google Maps). Optimizing your site for local search depends on quite a few factors such as citations, reviews, and using the appropriate local keywords in connection with your business. It also helps to keep up with the latest local SEO trends so you can more easily rank your site.
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