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Every online marketer knows the importance of SEO for pushing a website or real estate into profit. Unfortunately, as the online search space becomes increasingly saturated, it’s even more difficult for a smaller site to rank against the major players.

However, there’s an alternative route to search engine traffic that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. If your business has a physical presence, local SEO can bring in a slew of lucrative traffic even without reaching the competitive heights of the leading organic rankings. Why is local SEO so valuable?

  • Many customers are loyal to local companies, and exposure to this audience generates excellent returns.
  • Local businesses get extra real estate on Google results pages.
  • Concentrating on local search opens up new promotional avenues to take advantage of.
  • Local search results are less competitive, and easier to rank in.
  • Increasing numbers of people are searching using mobile, where local results receive high priority. These customers could be right outside your door.

Local SEO has a lot going for it. But how can you start to see the benefits? It’s a seven-step process.

1) Claim Your Google Page
The first step for any local SEO campaign so to claim your listing on Google My Business (find it at google.com/business/). It’s simple to sign up and add the essential details of your business; this will serve as the foundation for everything that follows.

Claiming this page lets Google know that your business is real and has a local presence. Your regional SEO strategy is then all about reinforcing the importance and relevance of this listing to gain more exposure.

2) Gain Citations
When you list your business name and the physical address on a web page, this is known as a citation. The debate has raged for years whether these citations are helpful for traditional SEO, but for local SEO there’s no doubt at all. Having a large number of citations helps to anchor your business in its location in the eyes of the Google algorithm.

There are many sites where you can gain a citation, from major players such as Yelp to smaller operations covering a single niche. Almost any citation you can get will help with your local SEO effort, so long as the details match the information in your Google business listing. And if there’s a website link as well, then this is a welcome bonus, but not the aim of the game.

3) Build Local Links
However, this is still Google and links still matter for local SEO. Traditional link building places emphasis on topic relevance, where pages on related subjects give a stronger boost when linking to your site. A similar effect applies to local, but here the location is more relevant than the topic. Building links from local sites will send strong signals to the Google algorithm that your site has a useful appeal to searchers in your location.

Try to build links with other local businesses, media outfits, charities, sports clubs, and other websites with strong foundations in your community. However, don’t let this dominate your link building efforts at the expense of your regular link building. Don’t swamp your link profile’s topic relevancy – add an extra local element to the side.

4) Localize Your Website
Your website content also plays a huge role in local rankings. Weave your site into the fabric of your location by mentioning your town or area wherever you can. Location text placed close to your business name and service description is especially significant.

Go further by starting a blog focusing on your area. Include posts about local issues, local people using your service, events in which your company was involved, and so on. Anything which can tie your business into its location will be helpful. But again, don’t let this overwhelm your primary marketing activities.

5) Optimize Your Contact Page
All this localization effort will get undermined if your contact page isn’t strong enough to back it up. A simple online contact form won’t cut it. Confirm your location by adding a full mail address, and a telephone number including area code. Add a location map, preferably powered by Google Maps, and also include detailed directions for finding your physical address.

6) Go Local with Social
Aim to follow and be followed by local accounts on social media. Start sharing content related to your area, preferably items that relate to your business niche in some way. Even if you’re not actively promoting your business using social media, using it to establish your local credentials is still very worthwhile. Amarki can help to automate these processes by integrating with your MLS account and automatically importing new listings, then creating posts for each, which further emphasizes your local market reach.

7) Embrace Reviews
Lastly, customer reviews on sites such as Yelp, Facebook, and Google play a vital role in local SEO. Not only do they help establish your location, but they also provide extra exposure on search results pages. What’s more, they can even sway readers toward choosing your business over your competitors.

Positive reviews are a powerful way of boosting your local rankings. Unfortunately, it’s inevitable you’ll receive some negative feedback – and even malicious reviews by competitors – but you can take steps to swing the balance in your favor.

Encourage happy customers to leave positive reviews by embedding easy links to review sites in your customer emails and on your sales pages. If you can reach out to local customers and convince them to leave a review, then all the better; their location profile will reinforce yours.

Local SEO isn’t suitable for every business. But if your efforts pay off with good local prominence, you could easily find it becomes a productive part of your overall marketing strategy.