Every local retail business would love to leverage search engines and social media to bring in more customers. But there just don’t seem to be enough hours in the day and SEO seems to be so damn complicated. And yet, SEO has never been more important for small businesses.
We get it. We’re telling you there are enough minutes in the day for it and it isn’t as complicated as it seems. So let’s talk about how to attract more customers to your physical store through search engine optimization, shall we?
Why SEO Matters for Small Business
We’ll begin with a quick refresher. First, what’s “local” SEO anyway? Local SEO is, put in formal terms, the process of optimizing your website to rank higher in search results in your geographic area. This makes it easier for potential customers to find your business online, especially if they happen to be in your neck of the woods.
Obviously, it’s a great way to get tourists and visitors to find your local business. But what you should really be leveraging it for is getting return customers and promoting sales to the folks who live in your area.
Solid local SEO should and will lead to better search engine rankings for your business in general, on a national and even global level. So, once you see the results coming in, start thinking about adding ecommerce options to your existing brick-and-mortar business.
Let’s take a stroll through steps to optimize your website for local SEO and attract more traffic to your store.
Claim Your Google My Business Listing
We cannot stress enough how important it is, in today’s always-on and connected age, for local businesses to make sure they’re visible to potential customers online. And remind existing customers that they’re still around and have new offerings can’t hurt either. One of the best and easiest ways to immediately improve ranking and SEO for small business is by claiming your Google My Business listing.
So our almost stupid simple advice for getting started in optimizing your website for local SEO is to claim your Google My Business listing. This step is incredibly easy, free and most small local businesses, for reasons that escape us, just aren’t doing it.
GMB is yet another free Google tool that allows business owners to manage how your business appears in Google search results and on Google Maps. It also allows your customers to leave reviews and lets you add images to showcase your products, services, and store, to give potential customers a glimpse of what you’re about and attract them to your business.
This free tool allows you to manage how your business appears in Google search results and on Google Maps. We’ll walk you through how to claim your Google My Business listing and you can get started with that right away. No excuses.
Step 1: Go to the Google My Business Website
The first step in claiming your Google My Business listing is, naturally, to go to the Google My Business page.
Step 2: Sign in or Create a Google Account
Seems self-explanatory but let’s go over it anyway. If you already have a Google account, go ahead and sign in with your email address and password. If you don’t have a Google account, you’ll need to create one. If you plan on having others help you in managing GMB, probably best not to use a personal Google account. So if you don’t have a Google account for your business, go ahead and create a new one.
Step 3: Enter Your Business Information
Once you’re signed in, you’ll be prompted to enter your business information, including your business name, address, phone number, website, and category. Make sure to enter this information accurately, as it will appear publicly in Google search results.
Step 4: Verify Your Business
After entering your business information, you’ll need to verify your business. This is to ensure that you are the rightful owner or authorized representative of the business. Google offers several verification methods, including by phone, email, or mail. Choose the method that works best for you and follow the instructions to complete the verification process. Sometimes Google will insist on verifying your business by mail. This just means they’ll send a postcard with a unique code to your business address and ask you to enter that code on your Google My Business account, to make sure that it’s really you requesting to claim your business profile.
Step 5: Manage Your Listing
Once your business is verified, you can manage your Google My Business listing. This includes updating your business information, adding photos (do eeeet!), responding to customer reviews, and creating posts to promote your business.
And yes, we realize there’s a risk and a fear of folks complaining and being downright beeps! When afforded the space to leave a review. Your fear is far greater than the risk. People don’t usually do that. And besides, townsfolk and people online are already talking about your business. You’re just not seeing it most of the time and you have zero control over it. With tools like Google My Business at least you can keep an eye on them and respond as needed.
Tips for Optimizing Your Google My Business Listing:
- Make sure your business information is accurate and up to date.
- Choose the correct category for your business. This is particularly important for local SEO for small business.
- Add high-quality photos that showcase your products, services, or location. (Do this for your website too!)
- Respond to customer reviews, both positive and negative. You can use canned responses, but we recommend writing each response individually as reviews or comments come in. After all, that personal touch is exactly what sets small local businesses apart from big corporate stores.
- Create posts on GMB to promote your business, like promotions or upcoming events. Yup, GMB is like a social network for businesses. Use it.
Claiming your Google My Business listing is an important step in improving and maintaining your online visibility and attracting more customers to your business. Get it done.
Optimize Your Website Content
The content on your website is an important factor in not just SEO in general, but local SEO specifically. What use is it for a small business in Nebraska with no e-commerce option for customers to rank on the first page of Google nationwide?
You want to hit Google where it matters. (No, not there!) To optimize your website content for local search, make sure to include relevant keywords that describe your business, products, services, and location.
For example, if you own a local restaurant, you want to avoid keywords like “Italian restaurant,” “best carbonara recipe,” and “local restaurant” throughout your website content. Instead, make them more localized, like “best Italian restaurant Lincoln Nebraska,” “Nebraska’s favorite carbonara recipe,” and “local restaurant Lincoln.” And we’re not hung up on Lincoln, Nebraska. Really. It’s just a really good example for what we’re talking about.
Once upon a time, just having a website was enough to attract customers to your store. Now, with every Tom, Dick and Mary online, having a website is just the first step. These days, you’ll also have to optimize your website content for search engines to attract potential customers to your site and, ultimately, your store.
How to Optimize Your Website Content
Research Relevant Keywords
The first step in optimizing your website content is to research relevant keywords. These are the words and phrases that potential customers use to search for products or services like yours. Use a keyword research tool to find keywords related to your business and products. One of our favorite tools for that is Ubersuggest.
Use Keywords in Page Titles and Meta Descriptions
Once you have a list of relevant keywords, use them in your website’s page titles and meta descriptions. These are the titles and descriptions that appear in the search engine results pages. By including relevant keywords, you can help search engines understand what your website is about and improve your visibility in search results.
Optimize Your Content
Make sure to include relevant keywords throughout your website content, including in headings, subheadings, and body copy. But don’t overuse keywords, as they can seriously hurt your search engine rankings. Learn about so-called keyword stuffing and how these practices affect SEO, for small business and anyone else creating content.
Write High Quality Content
Especially with the recent boom in AI content generation, search engines are now super sensitive to low quality content and have algorithms in place to exclude it from search results. Even if you’re not adding content to your website regularly, just make sure any content on your website is genuine, informative, and engaging for your current and potential customers. This can include product descriptions, blog posts, and other types of content that showcase your products and services. High quality, engaging content, whether static or dynamic, is the foundation of your SEO, for small business in particular. Especially because small businesses don’t have the advertising budgets that big business pours into search engines.
Bonus Tip: Contrary to popular belief, search engines don’t “recognize” or penalize AI-generated content because it’s AI generated, but rather because it’s poor quality or irrelevant. So you can go ahead and use that AI tool to help you generate fresh content, as long as you proof and edit it to make it factual, genuine, and unique.
Add Images and Videos
Have you noticed lately that when you Google something, the top third of the first page of results are all video and images? Adding images and videos to your website can also help improve your search engine rankings. Make sure to use alt tags and captions to describe the images and videos, as search engines can’t read the content of images and videos.
Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly (a.k.a. Responsive)
In this day and age, we can’t believe we need to say this. Make sure your website is responsive. With most people today accessing search engines on their mobile devices, having a mobile-friendly website is essential for improving your search engine rankings and attracting more customers to your store.
The easiest way to do this is to make sure that your website design is responsive in the first place. If you’re new to the website design game, that just means that the website is designed to respond to the website visitors behavior and environment. The website recognizes the type of device, screen size, platform, and orientation, then displays appropriately for each user. Before you hire a developer to redesign your website, note that there are plenty of free and premium pre-designed responsive website options out there on CMSs like WordPress, Wix, and others.
Optimizing your website content is a must in attracting more customers to your small local retail business.
Use Local Keywords in Your Meta Tags
We kind of just went over this, but are driving the point home by giving keywords a brief section of their own. Meta tags are pieces of code that help search engines understand what your website is about. To optimize your website for local SEO, make sure to include local keywords in your meta tags, including your page titles, descriptions, and header tags.
For example, your page title might be “Local Clothing Boutique in [City], [State] – Shop Our Collection Today,” and your description might be “Looking for the best selection of women’s clothing and fashion accessories in [City], [State]? Visit our local boutique today.”
Needless to say, that’s just an example and terrible copy. Definitely don’t use that. Make your page titles pop, but keep your descriptions simple and SEO friendly.
Create Local Content
Another effective way to optimize your website for local SEO is to create local content that appeals to and connects the locals, a.k.a. Your main target audience. This might include blog posts, videos, or other types of content that highlight your products, services, and local community. Or it could include social media activity, but make sure to link that social media back to your website.
As just one example, you might create a TikTok video that showcases the top fashion trends in your local area or features customers talking about their favorite products from your store. Or you could just keep it as simple as doing a quick Facebook or Instagram live every morning when you open your store. Sit down with a cup of coffee, wish everyone a good morning, and let folks know what you have planned for your business that day.
Local content is particularly effective as it showcases your business’s connection to the community and helps to build and expand a loyal customer base.
Why Creating Local Content is Imperative
Creating local content is imperative for several reasons. It helps to build a sense of community around your business. Which means people will get to know you, embrace you as one of their own, and support you. By featuring local events, news, and trends, you can connect with your audience on a more personal level, showing them that you are indeed invested in the local community.
It doesn’t hurt that creating local content also improves your business’ search engine rankings. Do it well enough, and you’ll find yourself becoming somewhat of a local influencer yourself. Soon enough, you’ll be attracting outsiders to your city or neighborhood, and bringing even more benefit to your community. By featuring local influencers, customers, and businesses, you can build a sense of trust and authenticity around your brand.
Ideas for Creating Local Content
Create a Local Guide
Creating a local guide to your town or city is a great way to showcase your knowledge of the local area and provide value to your audience. You can include recommendations for local restaurants, attractions, and events, as well as tips for navigating the area. This type of content is shareable and can attract a wide audience to your website and social media.
Host Local Events
Hosting local events is a great way to connect with your audience and showcase your products and services. You can host events such as product launches, customer appreciation days, or pop-up shops. Make sure to promote your events on your website and social media and use local hashtags to attract a wider audience.
Highlight Other Local Businesses or Influencers
Highlighting other local businesses or local influencers on your website and social media is a great way to build a sense of community around your brand. It’s also likely to get you more engagement online, which translates into yet more visibility. You can feature local businesses, bloggers, photographers, and influencers who align with your brand values, and showcase their work. This type of content can attract a wider audience to your website and social media – or even to your area.
Create Local Content on Social Media
Creating local content on social media is a great way to build engagement and connect with your audience. You can post photos and videos of local landmarks, events, and businesses, as well as highlight local customers and their experiences with your brand. Make sure to use local hashtags to attract a wider audience and encourage user-generated content.
Showcase Local Products
Showcasing local products on your website and social media is a great way to build authenticity and showcase your support for the local community. You can feature local artisans, designers, and makers who create products that align with your brand values. This type of content can attract a wider audience to your website and social media.
Creating local content is an effective way for small local retail businesses to build a sense of community around their brand and attract potential customers to their store. By using local keywords, featuring local influencers, hosting local events, and showcasing local products, you can improve your search engine rankings and connect with your target audience on a more personal level.
Build High-Quality Local Backlinks
Backlinks are links from other websites to your website, and they are one of the oldest and still among the most efficient strategies to improve SEO. For your local SEO, focus on building high-quality backlinks from other local websites, such as local business directories or community organizations.
Why Backlinking is Important
Backlinking is important, to SEO for small business in particular, because search engines use backlinks as a way to measure a website’s authority and relevance. When other websites link to your website, it signals to search engines that your website is reputable and trustworthy. This can improve your search engine rankings, making it easier for potential customers to find your website.
However, it’s important to note that not all backlinks are created equal. High-quality backlinks can improve your website’s authority and traffic, while low-quality backlinks can hurt your website’s reputation and traffic. It’s important to focus on building high-quality backlinks from reputable websites that are relevant to your business.
High-Quality Backlinks vs. Low-Quality Backlinks
Just like with content and anything else, quality is key. This is where we see a lot of folks making the mistake of thinking that any backlink is a good backlink. This is easy to get wrong and difficult to correct in the landscape of your website SEO, for small business especially because it tends to require professional cleanup.
There are two main “types” of backlinks: high-quality backlinks and low-quality backlinks. High-quality backlinks come from reputable websites that are relevant to your business, have high authority, and use anchor text that is relevant to your website’s content. Low-quality backlinks, on the other hand, come from websites that are spammy, irrelevant, and have low authority. To avoid mistakes, focus on getting a few high-quality backlinks instead of a bunch of low-quality ones.
Here are three simple ways that a beginner can get started with backlinking for their small business website:
Reach out to Local Websites
Identify local websites that are relevant to your business and reach out to them for a potential backlink. Offer a guest post on your channels or provide valuable content for their website that links back to yours.
Leverage Social Media
Share your website content on social media platforms and engage with other businesses in your industry. By building relationships with other businesses, you can potentially secure a backlink from their website. But also, it’s just plain good for the community.
Put Business Directories to Work
Submit your business information to relevant business directories, such as Google My Business and any local directories. These directories often include a backlink to your website, which can improve your website’s authority and search engine rankings.
Backlinking was and remains one of the most important aspects of SEO for small business websites. By building high-quality backlinks, you improve your website’s authority and search engine rankings. To be clear, this makes it easier for potential customers to find your website online. By keeping it local, you improve your own business’ visibility and contribute to your community. What’s not to like?
Bonus Tip: We mentioned social media marketing activities in a couple of places in this post. If you’re trying to figure out which social media channels work best for your small business, read our post about what works on social media for small business in 2023.