A Beginner’s Guide to SEO for Local Businesses

These days, it’s not enough just to have a website; you need to make sure that your website gets found!

Ensure that your local business gets found

Having a website is a must for any local business in this day and age. People search for just about everything you can think of online, and that’s not a trend that will die down any time soon.

However, simply having a website is only the first step toward success; you also need to make sure that your website will be found. It could even be argued that, if your website isn’t among the top search results for relevant keywords, it might as well not even exist.

According to searchenginepeople, around 75% of clicks go to the first page of results in organic searches, with 33% going to the first position, 15% going to the second position and 9% going to the third position.

SEO is a vital part of reputation management.

If you’ve read many of our Top Rated Local® blogs, then we don’t need to tell you how important your business’s online reputation is to your success, and you may be wondering where SEO (search engine optimization) ties into it. The truth is that SEO and reputation management go hand in hand, and you can’t really have one without the other.

Did you know that customer reviews can actually help you rank higher in the SERP (search engine results pages)? Did you know that claiming and optimizing your listings can help to improve your rankings as well? Did you know that, while you can’t always control what other people say about your business online, you can work to ensure that the top search results for your business name are your website and social media pages instead of negative press?

Start taking control of your business’s online reputation by implementing a local SEO strategy.

5 beginner SEO tips for local businesses

#1. Get started with Google My Business.

The first and most important thing a local business can do from an SEO standpoint is to create their listing on Google My Business, and then to optimize it.

Your Google My Business listing is what ensures that your business ranks in the maps result for local, “near-me” searches.

This is incredibly important for any local business, but especially for those that have brick and mortar locations where clients or customers can visit you, like flower shops, restaurants, jewelry stores, etc.

Your business’s listing on Google will often be the first thing prospective customers see when they come across your business online, so in addition to creating a listing on Google My Business, you also need to optimize your listing.

Optimizing your Google My Business page means adding photos, posting about upcoming events and promotions, updating your business information, gathering reviews and making your page as complete and as active as possible.

What if there’s already a Google My Business listing for your business? Don’t worry; this sometimes happens. And as long as you have the authorization to manage the listing, you can request that the ownership be transferred through Google.

#2. Create and/or claim listings on local directories and review sites

The more websites your business is listed on, the more exposure your website — and your business — will get. Plus, when your contact information is listed accurately and consistently across many different websites, it ensures that your customers are able to get ahold of you when they need to, and it will help to improve your website’s standing in the rankings.

When you go to create a listing on sites, like Top Rated Local, you may find that a profile or listing already exists. If that’s the case, it’s advisable to claim the listing as your own. This will allow you to update the contact information, respond to any reviews you get on the platform and, on some websites, to write a few words about who you are and what you do.

Consistency across listings will also help to build trust with prospective clients, and it makes it easier to get reviews from your clients because they’ll have a higher chance of already having a profile set up on a site you’re listed on.

Does the idea of updating listings across a plethora of directories and review sites seem daunting? Luckily, there are plenty of citation building services out there that can simplify the process for you, like Marketing 360®’s Listings app, which will help you easily get your business listed on more than 50 local directories, sites and apps.

#3. Publish local-friendly content on your website

If you’re not new to our blog, then you’ve probably seen the phrase, “Content is king,” more than once. That’s because, in terms of SEO, absolutely nothing beats consistently publishing quality content on your website. And when you want your business to rank locally, it pays to learn how to write local-friendly content. Here are a few local-friendly blog topics you could write about:

  • Customer case studies and success stories – If you have a great success story with a happy client, ask them for permission to share it online! Case studies are an amazing way to show off how much of an impact your service or product can make for real-life customers and you can add in the local flavor by adding in relevant details about the location.
  • Volunteer work and local causes – Giving back will not only make you feel good; it will make you look good, too. And, it makes for great, local content because it helps you demonstrate your love for your local community.
  • Local partnerships – Lots of businesses could benefit from partnering with other local businesses. For example, a pet groomer may partner with a veterinarian to get referrals, or the other way around. If you partner with any local businesses, it will make a great, local blog topic.

#4. Don’t skip the on-site basics

Setting your website up for SEO success is a little more involved than you might first think, but it will be worth it.

These are called the on-site basics, and they consist of a variety of small, on-page tasks to improve your website’s ranking. Here are a few of the on-site basics you should complete on your website for a better ranking in the SERP:

  • Optimize title tags and meta descriptions – Title tags and meta descriptions are what people see in the SERP when your website comes up. Optimizing your title tag and meta description with your location (or the areas you serve) will help to improve your rankings in the SERP, as well as your click-through rate. Did you know that pages with meta descriptions rank an average of 5.8% higher than pages that don’t?
  • Add alt image tags to your photos – Part of mastering SEO includes getting as many keywords onto your website as you can, and adding alt image tags to your photos could give your business a small bump in the rankings.
  • Have a unique page for each location – Does your business have multiple locations? If so, it’s important to have a unique page on your website for every individual location.

#5. Build links to your website

The more links that point to your website, the better, as link building will help to improve your business’s rankings in the SERP. This is another reason why it’s important to get your business listed across a variety of directories and social media sites. Here are a few tips to help you build local links that point to your website:

  • Utilize your partners – If you partner with other local businesses, this is a great opportunity to get some links pointed to your website. Reach out to the local businesses you partner with, offer to promote them on your website and ask that they do the same.
  • Sponsor organizations and events – Most organizations and event planners will publish information about their sponsors with links to their websites.
  • Send out press releases – If you’ve got an announcement, creating a local press release is a great way to spread the word about it, and as a bonus, you’ll get a host of new links pointing back to your site.
  • Write some guest posts – As a business owner, chances are, you’re a subject matter expert in whatever industry you’re in, which means that you have a lot of knowledge to share. Offering to write guest posts for local bloggers with an audience that might be interested in what you have to say is an excellent way to flex your writing skills and gain some links for your business.

Get listed or claim your listing with Top Rated Local!

Now that you know the importance of getting listed and how it can help improve your business’s rankings in the SERP, it’s time to create/claim your Top Rated Local listing today! Learn more about the benefits of becoming a Top Rated Local business, and sign up for free!

Originally published 11/23/19

Content Marketing Tips for Local Businesses

With content marketing, you control the conversation online.

There are many aspects to a business’ online reputation — one of which consists of what people say about your business online, and the other has to do with what comes up when someone searches for your business online, which is all about SEO (search engine optimization).

You can’t control everything people say about your business online, and, in many cases, you probably won’t be able to get it removed or taken down — at least not without a good amount of effort on your part. But, through SEO, you have a lot more control over what people see when they look for your business using Google, Bing, or another search engine.

SEO can be intimidating, and a lot of business owners don’t even attempt to master it because they believe they don’t have the technical skill or know-how. But, if you had a chance to read our previous blog this week — Simplifying SEO for Local Businesses — then you already know that it really doesn’t have to be complicated. The basics of SEO are keyword research, content, and backlinking, and once you have those down, you don’t have to worry too much about the technical side of things.

Today, my focus is on just one aspect of those SEO basics, and that’s content.

We’ve said it many, many times before in past blogs, but it bears repeating — when it comes to SEO, content is king. But, it’s in producing that content that many business owners get caught in the weeds.

5 Content Marketing Tips to Help You Get Started

#1. Know your target audience.

When you’re creating content for your brand, it’s important that you always do so with your target audience in mind, which means that, before you start creating content, you need to know who your target audience is.

Take a few minutes to think about the customers you have, as well as the ones you’re trying to reach. Do you work mostly with homeowners, or do you work with other businesses? Are your services geared toward a specific gender or age group; what about a specific socioeconomic group? Do you want to target people within so many miles of your shop, office, or warehouse? Are your services designed for married couples, or are your services most useful for people with certain kinds of lifestyles?

Your target audience can be as broad or as narrow as you want it to be, but before you start creating content, it’s essential that you define what it is. Once you do, you’ll be able to start creating content specifically for them.

#2. Don’t limit yourself to a content type.

Too often, when business owners think of creating content, they think of writing blogs. And, while blogs are certainly a powerful form of content that you should absolutely utilize as a part of your SEO strategy, they aren’t the end-all-be-all that they are made out to be.

There are so many different types of content that you could create for your audience, including videos, images, articles, and more — all of which can be incredibly effective when used correctly. The type of content you choose to produce will depend on what the message is that you’re trying to get across, as well as where you’re trying to get that message across.

For example, let’s say you own an HVAC business. Your blog may be the perfect place to share tips and advice for choosing the right furnace for your needs, but if you’re looking to share that information on Facebook or Instagram, you’ll have better luck if you do so with an infographic or a video.

#3. Think about your keywords.

Knowing which keywords you want to target is another important aspect of content marketing (be sure to read more about it in our previous blog — Finding the Best Keywords for Your Brand). And, once you identify which keywords you want to target, you need to start using them!

Whether you’re writing blogs, social media posts, or creating descriptions for your YouTube videos, you should always keep your keywords in mind. The most important thing about using keywords in your content is that you use them naturally. If you try to stuff keywords into awkward places, Google can actually penalize you for keyword stuffing, which can hurt your website’s ranking in the SERP.

You also don’t have to worry about using your keywords exactly. While exact-match keywords are great, the most important thing is still that keywords are used naturally, even if it ends up being a variation of a keyword.

#4. Include a call to action.

When creating content, it’s important to take the time to think about what you want the end result to be. Are you hoping to convince people to buy a product or use a service, or are you just hoping to establish yourself as an authority in your field? Once you identify the result you’re looking for, create a CTA (call to action) to support it.

Whether your goal is to earn more followers on Facebook, get people to visit your store, or to subscribe to your monthly newsletter, direct your audience toward it by including a CTA in your content.

Be sure to test out your CTAs, the wording, the placement, the format — everything. You may think you know what kind of CTA will get you the most engagement, but there’s no way to know unless you test it.

#5. Get help!

The thought of being the one person managing and producing all of your own content can get overwhelming quickly. And, you’ll be glad to know that you don’t necessarily have to do it on your own.

Collaborating with others is a great way to keep your brand content fresh and original, and it automatically leads to a bigger audience, as the person you’re collaborating will likely want to share it, too. If that person links back to your website, that will also help to improve your rankings in the SERP.

Who should you collaborate with? Industry associations, your local chamber of commerce, and businesses that are related to yours (but are not your competitors) are all great options.


Content marketing is one small aspect of your business’ online reputation. Learn how to take control of your online reputation today by signing up/claiming your Top Rated Local® listing!

Simplifying SEO for Local Businesses

SEO isn’t as complicated as you may think.

Being visible online isn’t something any local should take lightly in this day and age, and there are two basic ways to ensure that your website is visible online — paid ads and organic results. Paid search ads are a great way to get your name out there when you’re just starting out, but when you’ve dominated the organic search results, you’ll save money with each and every lead that you get.

SEO (search engine optimization) is all about increasing both the quality and the quantity of the organic traffic that your website gets from search engines. And it’s something that every local business should think about. After all, a business that learns how to dominate local search results through SEO not only saves money on paid search ads but also benefits from better, more qualified traffic to their website.

As important as SEO is, it’s often an overlooked piece of the online reputation management puzzle for many business owners. That’s because SEO can seem like an overly complicated thing, and while it’s true that it takes time and hard work, it’s actually a lot more simple than you probably think.

The Basics of SEO for Local Businesses

Keyword Research

Keywords are what people type into Google, Bing, or other search engines to find the topic they’re searching for. Identifying the appropriate keywords to optimize your website for is done through keyword research, and it’s the first — and arguably the most important — aspect of your entire SEO strategy. The bottom line is that you need to be able to identify which terms you want your website to rank for, and once you do, you’ll be able to base the entire rest of your SEO strategy off of it.

The keywords you choose will have a direct impact on both the quantity of the traffic your website gets and the quality of that traffic. Choosing broader, more general keywords will mean more competition, and choosing irrelevant keywords will hurt your ranking and diminish the quality of your organic leads.

Want to learn all about how to find the best keywords for business? Check out our previous blog.

Content

If you’ve talked to many people who work in digital marketing, there’s a common saying about SEO you’ve probably heard — “content is king.” Everything in SEO has to do with content, and it’s one of the easiest and also one of the most challenging aspects of SEO for local business owners.

The good news is that SEO won’t require you to have a whole lot of technical knowledge or marketing savvy, but the bad news is that it requires you to create original, high-quality content on your website, social platforms, and beyond on a regular basis. That can be daunting for business owners who may not exactly think of themselves as writers or who may already have an over-flowing schedule to contend with.

Luckily, Google doesn’t expect every business owner to be Hemingway, but they do expect them to create content that adds value. And for the benefit of your website’s SEO, that content should be built around your keyword research. Keep in mind that it’s more important to use keywords naturally than it is to force them into your content as many times as possible.

As a business owner, you have a lot of knowledge about your industry that the average consumer does not, and a great strategy is to use that knowledge to create content for your website. Tips, how-to articles, and client testimonials are the perfect things to put in your blog.

It’s important to know that content isn’t just text. There are many different types of content that should be added to your website, and when optimized correctly, videos and photos can be valuable commodities when it comes to organic rankings.

Not many businesses think of them this way, but reviews are actually another type of content that can help a business rank higher organically in the SERP, and the best part about reviews is that you don’t have to write them yourself! Google also weighs what other people say about your business more heavily than what you say about yourself, and reviews can be a major boon for your SEO.

In addition to adding content to your website consistently, posting on social media should be a regular part of your SEO strategy. Excerpts from blogs on your site, tips and tricks, photos of your team, and client testimonials are just a few examples of the kind of content that works well on social media.

Links

The other major aspect of SEO is link building. Link acquisition can be challenging, and it will take a solid investment of time and hard work to achieve it. One of the most straightforward ways to acquire it is to email website owners directly to earn links.

Contacting website owners directly is just one aspect of earning links; you also need to have link-worthy pages on your website to link to. What makes a page linkable? Here are a few questions to ask yourself in order to determine linkability:

  • Is the content useful? – Link-worthy pages are informative and useful. How-to guides, advice, and concept explanations are just a few examples of the kind of pages that are linkable.
  • Is the content original? – In order for a page to be link-worthy, it can’t have the same information that’s available everywhere else. Use your industry expertise by taking a new perspective on something, or share original data or research to create link-worthy content.
  • Is the content entertaining? – There are a lot of ways to make an impact with your content, but the best way is by creating content that entertains. Humorous content, as well as interactive content, like quizzes or games, can be very entertaining and link-worthy.

In general, the most linkable pages appeal to a wider audience, which means that they probably won’t be your highest-ranking pages. But as long as your content is strong enough, you’ll earn links to those pages anyway through your manual efforts to reach out to site owners. And when you do, those links will add credibility and authority to your website and your brand.

SEO often gets a bad reputation for being overly complicated, but it really doesn’t have to be. Neglecting SEO can hurt your business’ visibility and online reputation, so it really isn’t something you should overlook.

Take the first step toward building a strong online reputation by becoming a Top Rated Local business today!

The Basics of Online Reputation Management for HVAC Companies

HVAC companies depend on having a solid online reputation.

In this day and age, HVAC companies can’t depend on word of mouth as much as they used to. While word of mouth is still the most powerful form of advertising today, it’s also not something people seek out like they did back in the day.

It used to be that, when someone needed air conditioning repair or furnace replacement, they’d ask for referrals from their friends and family. Now, most of those people will simply turn to Google or the search engine of their choice to find the right HVAC company to work with.

Chances are, you’re already well aware of how much competition your business has online. There’s no shortage of companies people could turn to for their heating and cooling needs, and the only thing that separates your business from the pack among all of those listings is your online reputation.

While it’s true that aspects of your online reputation are out of your hands, you’ll be glad to know that there are a lot of things you can do to influence and build on that reputation.

Online Reputation Basics for HVAC Companies

Claim your listings.

The first step you should take when building your online reputation is to claim your many business listings across review sites and directories. There’s a strong possibility that, whether you know it or not, your business is already listed on many of these sites, and if you don’t take the time to claim those listings, there may be inaccurate or outdated information about your business out there.

When you take the time to claim your listings and update your business’ information, you can create a more cohesive brand across the web. You can also ensure that, whether someone finds your business on Facebook, Google, or Yelp, they’ll always be calling an active number or visiting your current address. This helps to establish trust, which could easily be undermined if someone ends up calling a number that’s no longer active or travels all the way out to your old, now-abandoned location.

Provide great service.

Not every aspect of online reputation management happens online. In fact, a strong online reputation starts with providing great service to the people you serve each and every day. After all, your online reputation is just a reflection of your service, and If you don’t provide great service in-person, how can you expect to have a good online reputation?

People expect at least decent customer service, and while they may not always jump at the chance to write a review for your business based on good customer service alone, you can bet that, if they’re upset, they’ll tell the world about it. People can be reluctant to share a positive experience, but that reluctance evaporates in a negative experience. When people feel they have been wronged, they typically want to shout it from the rooftops.

Focusing on providing great service is something you should be doing anyway, but it’s also a key part of online reputation management. And while it may not generate a whole lot of five-star reviews, it can go a long way toward helping you avoid one-star reviews.

Start asking for reviews.

Reviews are the bread and butter of your business’ online reputation, and there’s never such a thing as too many of them. People like to read about other people’s experiences, and many of them use reviews when determining which local companies to work with. So if the decision comes down between an HVAC company with a handful of reviews and an HVAC company with thousands of reviews, it’s easy to tell which option people are likely to choose.

There are a lot of dos and don’ts when it comes to generating reviews for your business online, and the first place you’ll want to start is by looking at the rules of various review platforms. But in general, you’ll want to avoid bribing people to write reviews, trying to influence how many stars people give you or what they say about you in reviews, or only asking specific clients for reviews. As long as you’re following these rules, most review sites are perfectly fine with you asking clients for reviews, which is a good thing since it’s also the most straightforward way to actually get them.

Respond to your reviews, negative and positive.

While it’s true that most people will write reviews if you ask them, in time, you’ll come to really appreciate the people who take the time to write reviews for you. Although you may not see the problem in taking five minutes to write a few sentences about your business online, you have no idea how busy a client’s schedule is or what’s going on in their life. The fact that they took the time to give you feedback online means something, and whether that feedback is positive or negative, it’s important that you respond to it.

Not only does responding to your reviews demonstrate how thankful you are that your client took the time to write them for you in the first place, but it gives you a chance to show the world how dedicated you are to great service.

It’s not always easy to get negative feedback, especially in such a public way, like with a negative review, but if you really listen and learn from that feedback, you can use it to make your business better and make your clients happier. The right response to a negative review should always include thanks for the feedback, an apology for the bad experience (even if it wasn’t your fault), a commitment to making the situation right, and a gameplan for how you’ll use that feedback to get better. This kind of response could not only win back the dissatisfied customer but could convince anyone else reading it to choose your business over the competition.


These are all great first steps toward building and maintaining a solid online reputation for any HVAC company, but truly effective online reputation management is an ongoing thing, and one of the best weapons you have in your arsenal is Top Rated Local®. Claim your Top Rated Local listing today!

Finding the Best Keywords for Your Brand

Keyword research is a key part of any online reputation management strategy.

Maintaining your online reputation is a multi-faceted beast, and a major part of any successful online reputation management strategy involves being in control of what people see when they search for your business online. This is accomplished through search engine optimization (SEO).

SEO is all about managing both the quality and the quantity of the traffic your website gets through organic search results, and it all starts with keyword research.

While often overlooked as just a small aspect of SEO, keyword research is actually the single most important aspect of any digital marketing strategy, as well as any online reputation management strategy. If you don’t know which keywords will lead to your website — and which keywords to optimize your website for — you won’t find success in driving traffic to your website. Furthermore, when you optimize your website for certain keywords, you’re telling search engines what your website is all about.

Understanding the importance of keyword research is one thing, but actually doing it effectively is a whole other ballgame.

How to Find the Right Keyword for Your Website

Use your intuition.

As a business owner, you understand what your business is all about and what you have to offer better than anyone else. You also probably have a pretty good idea of what kinds of keywords people may search that are relevant to your business.

Put together a list of possible keywords that you think people may enter when looking for businesses like yours. Add any keywords that are relevant to the services and products you offer as well. It also doesn’t hurt to ask for ideas from friends, family, or even your team.

When brainstorming keywords, put yourself in a consumer’s shoes when they might need your services. For instance, if you were a homeowner with a frozen pipe that burst, you might use keywords like, “emergency plumber near me,” “local plumber,” or “emergency plumbing services.”

Use the Google Keyword Planner tool.

Google offers a free keyword planning tool that business owners can use to find relevant keywords for their website. With the Google Keyword Planner tool, the keywords you’ve come up with when brainstorming can be used to find thousands of related keywords.

People search in all kinds of ways, and the Google Keyword Planner tool can help you pinpoint the most common ones. The great thing about the tool is that it shows you search volumes for each term, helping you avoid optimizing your website for a search term that only a few people are using, or a search term that is far too competitive. Google’s keyword research tool also allows you to search by location, helping you to find the keywords people in your area are using.

Tips for Finding the Right Keywords

You’ll find that keyword research tools generate thousands upon thousands of results, and not all of them will be relevant to your website. Besides, it’s not going to be possible to optimize your website for all of those keywords, and you’re going to want to choose a few top options to focus on primarily. Here are a few tips for finding the best keywords to focus on:

#1. Make sure that keywords are relevant.

No matter how much search volume a keyword gets, it won’t pay off to optimize your website for it unless it’s relevant to your website. The biggest benefit of SEO is that it drives better, more relevant traffic to your website, and it does so without the need to pay for ads.

Relevancy is probably the most important aspect of keyword research, and in addition to driving the right kind of traffic to your website, choosing to optimize your website with relevant keywords will also help to establish trust in your brand.

Think about it. If you optimize your website for “emergency plumber near me,” but you’re only available Monday through Friday 9 – 5, it’s not going to create a good impression of your business if someone who really needs emergency plumbing services during after-hours can’t get ahold of you.

#2. Get the best results with long-tail keywords.

The more search results a keyword has, in general, the more competition you’ll have in trying to rank for it. Small to medium-sized businesses often don’t have the resources of large corporations, which means trying to compete with them on Google can be a real challenge. But when you target long-tail keywords, you’ll have less competition and a higher chance of success.

Let’s say that you own a men’s shoe company. You’ll never compete with an overly basic keyword, like “shoes” or even “men’s shoes,” but you’ll have a lot more luck when you target relevant, long-tail keywords, like “brown leather oxford shoes for men.”

Not only does targeting long-tail keywords make it possible for small businesses to be competitive players online, but they also lead to increased conversions. People who use more specific keywords are more likely to be ready to buy; whereas, people using more general search terms are more likely to still be in the research phase.

#3. Look at what keywords your competition is using.

When you need a few more ideas for keywords to target, looking at what your competition is doing is a great place to start. Knowing which keywords your competitors are going after can help you determine which keywords you might be forgetting. It will also help you expand your ideas,

Start by making a list of your competitors, and then find their websites online. From there, you can look at the metadata and read their content to figure out which keywords they are targeting. There are also tools out there that can help you figure out what keywords your competitors are actually ranking for.


Keyword research and SEO are just one aspect of online reputation management. With Top Rated Local, you’ll gain an understanding of your online reputation overall. Claim your Top Rated Local listing today to start managing your business’ online reputation like a pro.