In 2000, Jason Toews and Dustin Coupal founded GasBuddy.com, a website that helps people find the cheapest gas in their area. The first thing they had to do was convince drivers to log into the website and share the prices of fuel where they filled up. It was not an easy task—just like anything done manually when the internet could only be accessed with a computer.
In 2009, the app revolution was beginning to take hold, and GasBuddy found its way to iPhones, iPads, and Android devices. Six million people now use the app, turning a once fledgling and struggling idea into a hit that delivers on its promise of helping people save money on gas.
The Tiny Yet Powerful App
Apps are easy to use; you don’t need to launch a web browser and wait for a website to load. With an app, all you have to do is tap the icon and you’re right where you need to be. The most important part, of course, is that it’s mobile.
Businesses are turning to apps to make their presence felt. There’s a good reason SEO practitioners and web developers and designers advise building an app, or at least creating a website optimized for mobile first and desktop second. Mobilegeddon has affected mobile search rankings, and mobile searches have changed the game for good.
When doing local SEO on your website, this is one of the first things you should remember. Make it mobile-friendly and, if possible, create an app. Google puts a premium on websites that load easily on any device.
Dominating Local Search
Here’s one scenario: two local businesses face each other along a narrow street. Both offer the same product – coffee and donuts. They’re approximately the same size and both opened shop at roughly the same time. The owners do the same things, marketing- and SEO-wise. They use Instagram to promote their goods and their websites are optimized for mobile. They use the same keywords. The question is, “Which one has the upper hand in marketing to their customers?”
Struggling with the same situation? There’s one way to dominate this battle for local search, or gain a slight edge at least. Know where to start by defining your primary goals.
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Making your business website rank in Google’s local results means knowing what you want to achieve. For a coffee and donuts business, you probably want to invite more people to have breakfast at your shop or to drop by for take-out before hitting the office. You also want local professionals to use your place for meetings and such. Setting your primary goals before anything else will help you drive SEO for your small business.
These days, you don’t trust ads any more than you trust a highly paid celebrity endorser. But influencers are the new breed of “trustworthy” people. If you have a local influencer on your side (a well-known and respected business leader in your area, for instance), chances are their one-line, five-star review of your place counts for a lot.
Websites with more reviews are likely to enjoy higher local SEO and organic ranking. Invite and encourage customers to drop a review on your website or through your app, and help your website build a following. Ratings and reviews will give you the credibility you need for your business.
People tend to trust websites with those tiny review stars on their search engine results. And because you have more reviews, you are more likely to get clicks or taps.
Click-through rate is a ranking factor. The more people click on your website, the more search engines will see how people trust your website’s authority. Get those reviews and, in effect, you can get more clicks, leading to better local rankings.
Do a Link Cleanup
Backlinks either add value or take it away from a website. A thorough link cleanup is necessary because you don’t want your website burdened by unnatural and bad links. There are backlink measuring tools you can use: Majestic, Moz, Ahrefs, Link Research Tools, among many others.
Here’s a quick tutorial on Majestic’s Backlink History tool:
Those who think SEO is a dying or dead art are missing out on the tremendous ranking weight of using backlinks. Links are still particularly helpful in making your website grab local search superiority.
Don’t Move Away from Organic
Local rankings benefit largely from the same things that power your organic SEO. Keywords, for example, are useful for both, despite Google’s claim that they are slowly moving away from the old methods and on to more sophisticated ones. Adjust your local SEO efforts for your small business when that happens, but right now organic is still the way to go.
Citations Still Count for Something
Whatever your off-site efforts have done for your organic search results, consider working on your citation game for local. Consistent citations may get you far in the digital landscape if you’re gunning for the top spots. Just like links, you may have to do a proper cleanup of your citations.
One of the best tools to monitor your citations is Buzzsumo. Here’s how you can view your citations on the tool:
Google My Business
If you’re not on GMB, you’re losing out. With all your efforts producing better rankings, your profile is likely to get more views, and that will also help with ranking while also being genuinely helpful to users. If you’re only just building a website, or intend to build a new one, think about using Keyword in Business Name. Ranking signals point to this practice as something heavily favored even today.
There is no one way to rank in search, just as there is no one way to search. Even in this age of machine learning, people still have that human side that will never be perfectly emulated by any algorithm. The quality of your products and services, and the way you prioritize your goals will spell the difference between you and that other shop across the street.