COVID-19 has affected UK small businesses to the tune of over £11k each, on average, and even as restrictions start to lift, confidence levels amongst SMEs remain low.
The reality is, we’re set for hard times ahead. Sorry to be the one to break it to you. While this is never good news, there are always ways to pivot the approach and make the most of what 2020 has thrown at us.
While we hesitate to throw about platitudes like “we’re all in this together”, one of the silver linings of this year has been seeing a renewed focus on community, and in particular the groundswell of support we’ve seen for local businesses online and via social.
Taking advantage of this increased local focus could be vital for businesses of all types over the coming months and years, so we’ve put together some easy-to-implement advice for how to make sure your business’ website is set up for Local SEO success, without restricting your potential to drive business from further afield.
Local SEO – our pointers…
Add clear contact details
It should go without saying that for maximum local SEO visibility, you need to include your location as clearly as possible on your website.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t always seem to be the case. Many businesses make it hard to identify their location, often in the hope that this will make them seem bigger than they are, or out of the mistaken belief that looking “local” might stop people from further afield from getting in touch.
Far too often, we see contact pages which include only an anonymous form, with address details hidden in the depths of Privacy Policies or even missing altogether. This is a huge missed opportunity. Not only is publishing your contact details as a business a legal requirement, including your business address in full on your website is a huge boost for both your local and non-local performance.
Getting a good contact page set up is the single easiest way to improve local visibility, by making it clear to search engines where you’re based. For an extra boost, get some Local Business Schema on there while you’re at it, and look at adding maps, photos, driving directions, or anything else you feel is appropriate.
Being clear about where your company is based is also a trust factor even if your customers are coming from further afield – who wants to buy from somebody who looks like they’re hiding from you?
Now, more than ever, people are buying from people, not some faceless company with ambiguous details. If you don’t accept visitors or would rather people didn’t drop in, feel free to add “by appointment only”, but in 2020 there’s really no excuse for not ensuring you’re easy to find.
Understand your modifiers
For the single quickest boost to your local visibility for SEO, understand your potential location modifiers and use them liberally.
A modifier is something you’d add to a keyword to make it more specific. Location modifiers are one of the most common examples, taking a popular keyword which describes your business and narrowing things down a bit by including your location on the end.
Choosing the best modifier for your business can be a bit of a balancing act – do you go with the bigger regional option (“[your services] North East” for example), or something more specific (“[what you do] in Jarrow”)? That all depends on the type of business you run, how far your customers might be willing to travel, or how easily you’d be able to serve them if they lived further afield.
Whatever you choose, adding a local modifier like “In The North East” or “Based in Newcastle” to your website’s title tags could be an easy quick win.
It’ll have minimal impact on your existing SEO visibility (providing you don’t go crazy, of course), and could help your business be seen more often by people searching in your local area. Just make sure you’re using the one which is most appropriate to your business, and your customers’ needs.
Localise your content
A lot of businesses would love to build more visibility in their local area, but are afraid that by appearing too locally focussed, they might lose business from further afield. This is a fair concern, but can be avoided if you manage your locally-targeted content carefully.
Having a separate location-specific page alongside more general content on your main website pages can seem a bit old hat in modern SEO, harking back to the days where sites would set up thousands of near-identical landing pages covering every city, town and hamlet in a 300-mile radius of their front door.
However, local landing pages can still be a valid tactic, providing they’re used in a way which adds real value to your website visitors.
Above all else, don’t be tempted to create local pages for every conceivable area you serve – stick to the one you’ve chosen as your local modifier, or (if you must), a couple of other high priority areas you do business in. If you create multiple pages, make sure that each location page has its own unique content, for example, information on the office you have there, or the work you do in that area.
Define your Local USPs
Creating pages to explain your services in your local area can still be a useful tactic, but it’s important to go beyond the basics and create something that’ll really add value. So, it’s time for some brainstorming – what do you put on your location pages to make them useful for your visitors?
To do this, you need to define your local USPs; if you work both nationally and locally, what could you offer to local customers that go above and beyond the standard offer?
If you have a shop or other visitable premises, this is an easy one. Your local landing page would be dedicated to photos and information on how to visit you in person, how lovely and friendly you are, and all the ways you can make your customers’ lives easier if they drop in for a chat. If you have multiple shops in different locations, feel free to create a unique page for each of them.
If you work within a specific catchment area, then again, this is pretty easy – your location page will explain how far you’ll travel, the areas you serve and what you’re able to offer in each area, if this differs from place to place. If you’re able to, specific client case studies or testimonials can be a nice additional feature to local pages, and can help prove you’ve got a good reputation in the area you’re targeting.
If you’re not really the sort of business people travel to, and you don’t have a specific catchment area you work within, making a local page can be a bit more challenging. However, even if you work on an anonymous industrial estate, there are still plenty of things you could offer to somebody who’s nearby that might not be practical at a national level.
Same-day delivery in your branded van, perhaps? A cheeky discount or introductory offer for orders within your postcode area? Sponsorship of local events, or contributions to local charities to show your community spirit? Strong relationships with other local businesses they might already know and trust? Or just the comfort of knowing that they’re doing business with somebody who’s just round the corner?
Whatever your local USP might be, include it on your newly-created local landing pages to make your locally-targeted content a cut above the norm.
Be proud of your roots
Wherever you’re based, having a strong regional focus can be a difficult balancing act – being proud of where you’re from whilst not seeming to exclude business from further afield isn’t always easy. However, simple tricks like adding the right Schema, local modifiers and targeted location content can help boost your local visibility whilst not putting any hard-won national business at risk.