Small business SEO and local search: the ultimate guide

Are you tired of feeling overshadowed and underestimated as a small business or local company regarding SEO? Well, here’s some good news! You can take your local search results from average to awesome with the right strategy and tools. Whether starting from scratch or already having a website, this ultimate guide to small business SEO will help you leverage local SEO to drive more traffic to your business. So, get ready to make the most of your online presence and stand out in the search results!

Table of contents

Note: This guide is about SEO for small/medium businesses, particularly those with a specific region to target and a limited budget. If your business has multiple locations, you might want to check out our article about creating local landing pages instead. Alternatively, if your website is aimed at a wider audience, you’re probably better off with our regular SEO guide. Our local search guide has more insights on how it works in the background.

Local SEO vs. SEO — what’s the difference?

The key difference between SEO and local SEO is which search results you want to appear in. SEO is about ranking in search results that don’t depend on a specific location (i.e., national or international search results). On the other hand, local SEO is about optimizing pages and sites for region-specific results, such as ‘near me’ searches. These searches enable users to find products and services available in their area.

Of course, optimizing your small business website for local searches involves many of the same steps as regular SEO. Our guide will help you through the SEO basics in a way that makes sense for a smaller website, plus the extras you need to know about local SEO.

Small business SEO and local search ranking factors

When search engines are deciding what to rank in a local search result, there are four main factors they take into consideration:

  1. Is your website up to scratch?
  2. Where are you (or your store/services) located? Is that near to the person who is searching?
  3. What do you offer, and is it relevant to the person searching for?
  4. Do you have a good (online) reputation?

If you want to optimize your website to rank better but are unsure where to start, you might want to look at our free SEO course for beginners. In the rest of this guide, we’ll cover the most important factors for succeeding at local SEO in more detail.

Keep reading: Local ranking factors that help your small business SEO »

Step 1: Make a good website

Let’s be honest; your site is probably not the ‘Mona Lisa’ of websites. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but it does need to meet certain standards. For instance, site structure, loading speed, and security are important for SEO and user experience. Look at our article about what makes a good website to ensure yours will meet expectations.

If you don’t already have a website, you can start with WordPress. Other options are available, but our SEO plugins work best with WordPress. Of course, we have Yoast SEO for Shopify if you run an ecommerce store on said platform. You might also be interested in following our free WordPress for beginners training.

Learn more: Holistic SEO: Improve every aspect of your website »

Low-budget branding for small business SEO

We have talked about this repeatedly: branding is very important for SEO. Branding means stuff like your logo and tagline. Do they represent your company without further explanation? What do your logo and tagline reveal about your values and your field of expertise? It’s all about recognition, and it’s just as important for small business SEO as it is for big companies.

You can work on your branding without investing a lot of money. Yes, low-budget branding is a thing, even if you’re a non-profit organization. When working on your branding with limited resources, there are several budget-friendly tips to consider. One of the most crucial steps is to claim and optimize your Google Business Profile listing. This helps ensure you provide accurate information, such as your name, address, and phone number. Consistency is also key across all platforms, ensuring your NAP information remains consistent on online directories and social media profiles. We’ll dive into this later.

Develop a unique brand language that sets you apart from your competitors. Make sure it is consistently used across all platforms, including social media. Blogging provides a cost-effective way to build brand identity while establishing yourself as an authority in your industry. Attending local events allows you to network with potential customers while establishing your trusted authority in the field.

Encouraging online reviews can significantly boost your visibility. It’s worth encouraging satisfied customers to leave reviews on platforms like Google, Yelp, and TripAdvisor. By implementing these tips, you can work toward building a strong brand presence without breaking the bank. It allows you to showcase your business in the best possible light while capturing the attention of your target audience.

Read more: Low budget branding tips for small businesses »

Step 2: Let Google know your location

To help Google understand where your business is located and put you in the right local results, it’s essential to have up-to-date contact information in all the right places. So it’s very important to align your info on all the platforms you operate on. Search engines will check and double-check your details to ensure everything adds up.

Make a contact page

Aside from search engines, your (potential) customers must know how they can contact you, too. You should always add your contact details in places where users would expect to find them — for example, in your website footer — and, of course, on your contact page.

Local business structured data

Many factors influence small business SEO, but one very obvious is your NAP. NAP stands for Name, Address, Phone number. In the case of a local business, details like addresses, phone numbers, geo-coordinates, opening hours, etc., should be correct at all times. The best way to present these details to search engines is by using local business structured data. Yoast SEO has a lot of options for adding structured data.

Structured data is an essential component of local SEO. LocalBusiness structured data, in particular, provides an excellent opportunity for local businesses to improve their visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs). By incorporating localBusiness structured data, you can provide search engines with details about your business. Details include your name, address, phone number, and opening hours. This information helps search engines better understand your business, making listing your business in relevant search results easier.

Structured data also provides a better user experience for potential customers. Customers can easily find you by providing accurate information about your business, such as your location. Search results that include rich snippets, such as business ratings and reviews, can help customers decide to visit your business. These factors improve your click-through rate (CTR) and drive more traffic to your website and physical store. By incorporating localBusiness structured data into your website’s code, you’re providing search engines and potential customers with valuable information that can help boost your visibility and generate business.

Read more: Putting local stadiums, aquariums, and museums on the map with Yoast Local SEO »

Google Business Profile

Google Business Profile, formally known as Google My Business, is a free profile you can set up to help promote your business in the search results and on Google Maps. This official Google tool can help you to rank in your specific geographical area. Not only that, but the tool also gives you many options to manage and improve your listings. By making a GBP listing, you can connect with your customers better. You’ll get insights about how they interact with your business on Google. You can add extras like photos and opening hours to your profile too.

Want results that look like this? You must set up a Google Business Profile and add data about your company

Always use the same name, address, and phone number on your website and your Google Business Profile listing. Be sure to include your website link in your GBP listing too! This is the only way for Google to understand the relationship between them.

Keep reading: Improve local SEO with Google My Business a.k.a. Google Business Profile »

Step 3: Write content about what you offer

When you want to rank for a search term, it’s important to provide relevant content for that search. Google is a bit like a matchmaker — ultimately, they’re just trying to connect users with what they want. So, you need to clarify what your business does, and you can do that by writing about it. Of course, for local businesses, that also means talking about your local environment.

Before diving in and writing, consider your niche and which keywords you want to target. That way, you can focus on making the strategic content you need.

Find your niche and your long-tail keywords

Alright, you can do more to make your business stand out. Determining your niche is vital for local or small businesses. When you know your niche, you can emphasize what makes your brand or products unique, improving your chances of ranking well for them. If you have a clear niche, you can compete locally with large national brands – despite their multi-million dollar advertising budgets.

Find out who your customers are and which words they use to describe your product or service because people will use the same terms to find your website. These terms can help you optimize your local business SEO when you turn them into long-tail keywords, and these keywords should be as specific as possible. Once you’ve done all this, regularly assess your niche as it evolves with your company’s growth.

Start making great content

Your small business SEO will get a significant boost from the right content. Too many small business owners just put their products and contact details on their website and leave it at that. But there is so much more to tell and share!

Focus on making an awesome first impression on your potential customer. Write about your business, your business goals, how great your products are, and things like that. You could also discuss market developments or events that relate to your business. These are just a few tips for your local SEO content strategy.

When writing your content, be realistic about the chances of getting that content to rank in search. If you are in a highly competitive market, content works very well as a marketing tool and as input for social media, but it probably won’t get you that number-one spot in Google, and that’s OK. Manage your expectations.

Picking the right keywords to optimize for is very important. Usually, it’s a good idea to pick mid-tail keywords, including the local area you are targeting. It doesn’t matter if you add this content to your site as a page or blog post. Just make sure you write about things people want to discuss or things that make people positively talk about your business.

Keep reading: What is quality content and how do you make it? »

Write great local-oriented content for small business SEO

Creating local content is a powerful way to improve your business’s visibility in local search results. Here are a few ways you can create compelling, locally-focused content:

  1. Include local keywords: Use local keywords in your blog posts, meta tags, and other website content. For example, if you own a coffee shop in Tacoma, including keywords like “Tacoma coffee shop” and “best coffee in Tacoma” can help attract local customers searching for a coffee shop in that area.
  2. Highlight local events: Showcase your business’s involvement in local events by creating content about upcoming festivals, holiday celebrations, or other local events. This content engages local readers and helps search engines recognize your business’s relevance in the community.
  3. Create location-specific landing pages: Make landing pages that target specific neighborhoods or regions within your city. This allows you to create content that speaks directly to that area’s interests and needs.
  4. Provide local news and updates: Stay on top of local news and events to create useful content that appeals to your local audience. For example, if a new park is opening up nearby, write about it and include information about how your business can benefit.
  5. Use local imagery: Incorporate photos and images of your local area to showcase your business’s connection to the community. This helps your audience feel more connected to your brand and helps search engines understand your business’s relevance to the local area.

Creating local content requires effort and time, but the payoffs can be significant, including improved search engine visibility, increased website traffic, and a more engaged local audience. Keep your content relevant, engaging, and shareable to maximize its impact. Remember that good local-oriented content can earn you valuable links from relevant sources.

Step 4: Share your expertise and reputation

Once you have all that set up, there are a few very good reasons you should reach out and get involved with your business community and customers. Getting people talking about you and your business will help your website grow, whether directly or indirectly.

Firstly, when other people link to your website from their pages, this can signal to search engines that you’re well known, and your website will be a good choice for them to put in their search results. Secondly, you can increase your website traffic significantly with a great social media strategy. And thirdly, ratings and reviews help to build trust with your customers, meaning they’re more likely to buy from you (and hopefully come back for more, too!).

Social ‘proof’, like the ratings and reviews mentioned below, should be backed up with links from relevant sites. Getting links to your business site is still important in local SEO. You should work hard to get mentions or citations of your business on other sites. How and where you do that differs in every industry, but these include Yelp, Bing Places, Yahoo! Local, Apple Maps, among many other sites and services. Moz has a handy tool that checks your online presence.

You should get a listing on these sites because you also get a link to your website. If you can get some links from other related local websites, that will also help your site’s findability. Note that links from other local websites should be from sites in a related profession. Having your bakery website linked to an accountant’s website is useless.

If your small business is closely related to other businesses not located in the same area, you should also ask those businesses for a link. Google crawls the web link by link, so if your business is linked to a website in the same field of business, that link is extra valuable to you.

Social media

While you can sell your products on social media platforms, in most cases, we recommend using social media for brand awareness or to lead potential customers to your website for sale. Using social media as a small business is all about promoting your brand, your company, and your products to establish your image and get the right traffic to your company website. When used in this way, social media can really help small business SEO.

I like to compare social media to a market where all the stall owners know each other, and customers browse the products. At some point, someone will tell other visitors where to go for a product: “The cheese over there is delicious,” “You should check out the fruit over there,” that kind of thing. So make sure people start talking about you. And start talking about yourself online to make others talk to you on social platforms. Lastly, actively engage in social media conversations to let people know you are listening. 

Read more: Learn how to use social media to increase your sales »

Ratings and reviews

Google Business Profile, like Facebook, allows others to leave a review of your company. If your company has a good rating, people will be more likely to click through to your website from either of these two platforms. Make sure you monitor and maintain these reviews.

If you get a negative review, respond by solving your customer’s problem. Then, once you have, ask them to change their review afterward. In other words, turn that dissatisfied customer into a brand ambassador!

It’s easy to make use of these reviews and ratings. If you need some tips, find out more in this article:

Read on: Get local reviews and ratings »

Step 5: Keep your online information up to date

Building a website for your business is just the first step toward establishing a strong online presence. Once your site is up and running, it’s important not to forget about it. Regularly checking your site to ensure everything is running smoothly and it hasn’t been hacked can save you from potential headaches later on. Don’t forget to add fresh content regularly or improve your already existing content.

In addition, it’s crucial to keep your contact information up-to-date across all the different platforms and tools you’re using for local SEO. Even if you think you may not need the website in the future, your customers could still be Googling you. They might need directions to your store, want to make a special request, or leave a positive review. By keeping your contact information up to date, you won’t miss out on any potential opportunities that could come your way. Don’t let opportunity knock on the wrong door; ensure your correct contact information is visible to your customers and search engines.

Have you found this article helpful? We have lots more articles about Local SEO you can read. Don’t forget to check out the Yoast Local Premium bundle — designed to make local SEO easier and quicker!

The Yoast Local Premium bundle helps small business SEO

Now you know the recipe for success, let’s take a quick look at some of the ways our dedicated plugin bundle can help:

  • Automatically convert your contact info (and more) to the structured data format
  • Automatic configuration of Google Maps on your website with your store location and a route planner
  • Tools to help with keyword research and optimization
  • Tools to help you make quality, targeted content
  • Previews for Google search results and social media shares
  • A year of free access to 24/7 support plus full access to all Yoast SEO academy courses

Enjoy these features and loads more when buying the Yoast Local Premium bundle!

Show ’em what you’re made of!

Make a bigger impact in your local search results with the Local SEO plugin from Yoast

Get the Local bundle Only $145 USD / year (ex VAT)

Coming up next!