I’ve noticed a trend. In urban areas, many companies are savvy about the power of local SEO strategy. Most industries have at least 3 companies that stand out in their search engine optimization.
But in more rural areas, something entirely different is happening. The top three companies that show up for most industries and trades — ‘electrician near me,’ for example — show up almost by chance. Some of them don’t have websites. There are no Google reviews. People have to resort to asking Facebook groups for recommendations because their online searches are fruitless.
This coincides with another trend. With the increase in working-from-home, people are fleeing cities for more suburban and rural living. That means more Google searches for plumbers, electricians, interior design, home remodelers, car repair, and every other service one needs when new in town.
Small businesses in rural and suburban areas have, for years, largely eschewed technology. Word-of-mouth and referrals are all they’ve needed for decades.
But there is a *huge* opportunity for small businesses in suburban and rural areas. Because there is so little competition for keywords in their industry/region, the barrier of entry into showing up in Google’s “3 pack” (the first 3 businesses listed under a keyword) is very low. Bare bones activity may get them on the 3 pack … but a solid strategy will help them dominate their chosen keywords. This will lead to a tremendous amount of inquiries and inbound calls.
So What Does a Solid Local SEO Strategy Look Like?
First, you should know that a website is mandatory. If you already have a website, you can incorporate the following steps by restructuring your site, creating new content, and improving your meta-data. If you don’t have a site, do not be afraid! In some ways, it can be easier for you to get started with a clean slate.
To create a website that comes up in the search results when people search for what you do, first conduct a strategic assessment of your industry in your local geography.
Do Your SEO Keyword Research
To get started, identify keywords to target. You can use Google’s Keyword Planner Tool to search by your city or county. This tool will help you see both search volume and competition level. Do not be scared off by low search volume (10-100 monthly local searches) – those who are searching are likely looking to buy!
This keyword research is fundamental for creating the structure for your website. A critical analysis of your initial list of, say, 30 keywords will help you identify your target keywords. Then, organize keywords into clusters that support your goals. Clusters of content could be text links, images, hub pages that would be grouped around things like service areas, types of service, perhaps manufacturers/brands. As you build out your site, you’ll create web pages and content based on those clusters. For target keywords, feature 1-2 per page. For secondary keywords, feature 3-5 per page.
Perform a Local SEO Competitive Analysis
A competitive analysis of competitors in the local region will also help you. Do any stand out in organic search? Are their sites built with free site builders or are they using more robust content management platforms like WordPress? Do they have backlinks to their site? Are they secure? Does the site load quickly? Have they been built with a solid keyword, geo-targeting, and meta-data strategy? (Note: these are all things you’ll want to have in your website!) Do they provide helpful content? Do they have a solid promise to solve their customers problems? How is their social presence?
Also, are there any competitors using Google Ads? If so, what keywords are they using? If no one is running ads, competition for bids could be low. A small scale Google Ads campaign will often give you a real street level view to uncover which keywords are best – then we can aggressively target these on your website to drive this traffic organically. Even better, when you claim your Google My Business page, Google may provide some free advertising on their platform.
Google My Business: Key to Local SEO
What is Google My Business, you ask? Google My Business “is a free and easy-to-use tool for businesses and organizations to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps. To help customers find your business, and to tell them your story, you can verify your business and edit your business information.”
Essentially, it’s another way to let Google know that your business is legit, and what “category” of business you are in. This is critical for local businesses – and many do not take advantage of this. Be sure to claim your GMB profile!
Citations and Reviews Boost SEO!
Business profile assessment – In looking into Google My Business, Yelp, and other top indexed directories in the target area, does your business show up? If so, are the citations correct? If not, look to change this!
Reviews – Reviews from happy customers are a powerful signal to others that you do good work. In fact, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. There are several services that will help you with this. Whatever you choose to do, make sure it is a part of your local SEO strategy.
Reporting and Tracking ROI
Tracking and Reporting – Obviously as a first step, you’ll want to set up Google Analytics to get a feel for your overall site performance and progress in hitting your goals. Goals are often converstions – how many people fill out your “Contact Us” form, for example. Next level tracking will identify where those inquiries come from – what keyword, what ad, etc. Software tools like CallRail can really help here. CallRail provides tracking and analytics for phone calls and web forms. By being able to zero in on which keywords and platforms are driving the most inquiries, you’ll optimize your marketing and increase ROI on your PPC, SEO, and offline ad campaigns.
Website Strategies to Consider
Ideal client profile and messaging – When considering your homepage, think about your ideal client. Who are they? What is the fundamental problem they are looking to solve? And what sets you apart? What makes you stand out and close sales? What do clients respect and appreciate? Are there noticeable buying triggers? You’ll need a simple, easy to convey difference – for your homepage – to set as a hook. This is basic and simple, but so many people miss this! And it is the key to increasing conversions. Even if it’s something like “The most reliable XYZ,” to get started.
Geo-targeting. Target 3-5 local communities. You’ll want to create local content and reference these cities on our pages to ensure that your page shows up when people search there.
Hub Pages – Lastly, as you create your content and structure your site, consider the use of ‘hub pages’ as a new SEO strategy. Hub pages are collections of educational content on a particular issue relevant to your target buyers. For example, check out the Ultimate Guide to Rainwater Harvesting. This site features all content that would help someone on this topic – FAQs, lists of regulations, filtration and water quality, and so forth. By linking everything on the same page, not only do you make it easier on the buyer, but you also make it easier on search engines like Google! These pages contain many more keywords and links to provide more ‘power’ to get found on page 1 in Google.
Creating Content and Meta-data – When you begin creating content, don’t forget to optimize your meta-data. Meta-data are the behind the scenes (off page) things like titles, keywords on images, and the like. These are located in the code of the webpage and provide information that can be read by search engines and web crawlers. They are very important! A great way to make sure you are taking advantage of meta-data is to use Yoast’s SEO WordPress plug-in. It gives each page/post a grade and provides techniques to optimize your content. It also provides a way to create a snippet that Google will use to highlight your content. Using the right schema is also important, and Yoast helps with this.