If you’ve been in business for a while and have had a website, you’ve probably heard of this term: “SEO.” It stands for search engine optimization, and is the process of optimizing the pages of a website so they appear in Google whenever a search is made. It typically involves trying to “rank” (show up higher in Google) for certain “keywords” (what people type into Google). For example:
A plumber would want to rank in the #1 spot for the keyword “(city) plumber” or “plumber in (city).”
An HVAC company would want to rank on the first page for the keyword “(city) heat pump repair” or “ac repair (city).”
There can be hundreds – even thousands – of keywords that people use to find services you offer. Great “SEO” helps you rank for as many of these as possible.
Example #1 of Local SEO: How Many Visitors Can You Get?
Google has a tool called Keyword Planner that tells you how many people (on average) are searching for your keywords. It even offers up suggestions to keywords you had not thought of. The below example is using their data:
I entered the first 8 keywords up top – which were really just 2 variations of 4. The bottom set of three are suggestions that came back from Google. It had 564 suggestions, by the way.
If you’re a plumber that services Nashville, you can see how beneficial it would be to show up for these keywords. Smaller cities will of course have fewer people searching these keywords, but there is benefit all the same.
The Basics of Local SEO
Generally speaking, there are two facets to proper SEO: optimizing the website itself (on-page optimization), and placing a link to your website on other websites (called backlinks). We’ll tackle on-page optimization first. It involves the components below, in descending order of importance:
- Your domain name. Most choose their company name, if it’s available. What’s better is if you can register your primary keyword (ex. nashvilleplumber.com) as your domain name. This carries a lot of weight, in Google’s eyes.
- Your URL. You need to optimize every page on your website, not just the home page. Your URL is a valuable place to put your primary keyword. Ex: www.yourdomain.com/nashville-plumber/
- Your Title tags. The Title tag of this page is “Local SEO: What is it and Why Does it Matter?” and can be find on the top tab of your Internet browser. This is what Google looks at first to determine what your page is all about. You’ll want to put your keyword here, along with similar phrases. Ex: “Nashville Plumbers | Plumbing Contractors in Nashville, Tn”.
- Your Header tags. These are the headlines on your pages. They go in descending order (H1, H2, H3, etc…) indicating a descending order of importance. Variations of your keywords, along with other information, should go here as well. Ex: “H1: Nashville Plumber and Heating & Air Conditioning Expert … H2: What to Look for in a Nashville Plumber … H3: Plumbing Repair & Service Contractors Awaiting Your Call”
- Image file names and ALT tags. Keywords and keyword variations should go here.
- Interlinking your website. Google loves links – it’s one of the ways the find all the pages on your website. Ex: If you mention maintenance on your plumbing repair page, link to it. Link to all of your services on the side of your page. Link to pages you’ve built for other locations. Link to your portfolio and contact page. To do this properly, you need a lot of content.
- XML sitemap generation. This tells Google about all the pages on your website. One can be generated and submitted using Google Webmaster Tools.
These compenents, aside from the sitemap, need to be optimized on every page. Speaking of pages, you need a lot of them on your website to target all the keywords you want to rank for.
It’s important to note that people searching locally for services generally do so with the city name in the search. To show up in locations outside your main area, you need to have dedicated pages for each location. The example below illustrates this idea perfectly.
Example #2 of Local SEO: Showing Up in Multiple Cities
Type “Nashville plumber” (without quotes) into Google. A company called Hiller Plumbing should be the first result you see.
They’re not a client, but they’re doing everything right when it comes to local SEO. The website is huge – it details every service they offer and even individual facts within each service.
The bottom of the page is what I want you to focus on, though. Do you notice that they list every location they service, and that you can click on each location? Following along and lets pick one at random. The top of the middle row for Tennessee – Arrington.
Notice how they use all of the components listed above. Notice the pages they link to – they’re all targeted to Arrington. Every page is relevant to both the service and the location.
Go back to Google and type in “Arrington plumber” without the quotes. Not only are they #1… they’re also #2. They rank for many of the areas listed at the bottom of their website.
The first reason is they have content specifically written for the Arrington area. The second reason is that they’re optimizing the components explained above with local SEO in mind.
Getting Backlinks for Local SEO
Generally speaking, the on-page optimization part of local SEO will get you 70-100% of the way to showing up for local keywords. Be that as it may, this second part is not a part you should neglect, as it can very well mean the difference between being #1 and being the last listing on the page.
In another blog post I talked about citations. They are places online that show your business name, address, phone number and even website. By following that link you’ll find 35 places to get quality backlinks to your website.
There are other ways to get valuable backlinks:
- Trade links with other local websites. Say you offer plumbing but not electrical work. You can ask your local electrician if he will place a link to your website if you place one pointing to his. It’s beneficial for both parties, and can be done with as many local businesses as you want.
- You can publish blog posts and submit them to article directories. Two of the best ones are EzineArticles and GoArticles. You can place a “resource box” at the bottom of the article and place and link back to your website. You don’t have to go overboard with this – a couple times a month will do fine.
- You can offer content for blog owners to use. Find a good blog related to your industry and email the owner to ask if they would like some free content. Some won’t, but many of them will, so it’s important to send out a few emails. Bloggers are always in need of fresh content, and sometimes they don’t have time to write it themselves. Simply ask that they link back to your website in return for the free article.
- Local online directories are quick and easy. Search for local online directories that accept new website submissions. Especially if you live in a big metro area, you can find a ton of these on Google.
- Post your content on Facebook. Sharing is caring.
- Upload a video to YouTube and put your website link in the description box.
These are just a few examples. Not all backlinks are created equal – some are more valuable to others in the eyes of Google. But using any one of the above means will produce a quality backlink that can only help your search engine rankings.
Types of SEO Companies & Practices to Avoid
If you get an automated call claiming to be a representative of Google about your Google Places profile, hang up the phone. They’re not from Google.
If you see a special for $99/mo. SEO on one website or another, run far away. Proper SEO can not be done at that price point.
If someone offers to get your website hundreds or thousands of backlinks, those backlinks will do more harm than good.
Look for someone knowledgeable about local SEO. That means they understand and can aptly explain the components written above. The provide you choose should also focus on one thing: getting you more visitors. At the end of the day, that’s all it’s about.
Price points can vary from $500/mo. to thousands and more. If you live in a city with high population, or if you have a very large website (or if you want one), the price will generally be higher, as there’s more competition.
If your provider can produce results at a reasonable fee, in the end it’s well worth the cost.