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For professional services providers, marketing your business to the public in 2017 wouldn’t be possible without the web, particularly local SEO. New customers, clients, and patients turn to the internet — often from their smartphone on the go — to find the service providers they need.
Many savvy accountants, dentists, financial planners, lawyers, and more, understand that if their business doesn’t have a website, profits suffer. Yet, technology is always changing, and it’s no longer enough to build a basic website and wait for clients to call or visit. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for local businesses is the next step for connecting with your clientele when and where you need to.
If you’ve ever wondered how some businesses get listed on smartphone maps or how to get more neighborhood clients, read on to learn about local SEO for professional services providers.
The Basics of SEO
SEO stands for search engine optimization. This is a fancy term for maximizing what your website does in terms of free marketing for your practice. Suppose a new visitor to your website doesn’t know the web address of your site. How do they find you? With search engines, like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
These search engines scan the web for information about your business and serve it up to people looking for what you do. When a search user does a search from a mobile phone or types a location-based search like “dentist in Flat Rock” into a desktop browser, search engines like Google will show those prospective customers your business’s listing — if you’ve properly optimized for local SEO.
Five Local SEO Stats You Need to Know
Believe it or not, local searches on search engines like Google are the primary way customers now find local businesses. More customers are using smartphones to search, and the number of location-specific searches is also growing.
- 97% of local customers search for local businesses online.
- 64% are turning to search engines or online directories to find providers.
- 72% of consumers who do a local search visited a business within five miles.
- 50% of mobile searches led to a store visit within 24 hours.
- And searches with the location terms “near me” were up 100% in 2016.
In other words, Google is the new Yellow Pages and it’s available right from your smartphone. Search engine results are free advertising for your business, all it takes is a little time and effort spent optimizing your SEO.
How to Get Started With Local SEO
A website is a great start for being found online by search users. But there are a few other things you can do to help boost your ranking higher up on the search engine results pages (SERPs).
The words and phrases used when typical search users are looking for your business, the services you provide, or your industry, are called keywords in SEO — think “tax help Detroit” or “kids dentist Bloomfield”. Use a free tool like Google Keyword Planner to determine the most popular keywords and see related suggestions.
With your list of the most relevant and high-traffic keywords, optimize your website. Make sure these keywords are featured prominently on your homepage and develop service pages around them. Beyond the visible text users can read on your site, include important service and location keywords in site metadata, such as your title tag, meta description, page headers, and footers. These info blocks are scanned by Google in addition to the primary body copy.
Google My Business Setup
Sites appear in the Map section of Google local listings by setting up Google My Business. You can claim your business’s profile and optimize the hours, location, services, contact info, and keywords for your listing. The free directory service improves your online presence, makes you visible to more search users, and can even boost your rankings.
Social and Local Directories Listings
Besides Google My Business, creating a profile for your business on other social media and online local directories also boosts your local SEO. Links from social media sites and high-authority local directories back to your website can have a big impact on your book of business.
Yext Local Marketing
However, it’s important to keep your business name, address, phone number, and hours information updated across all social media and directory platforms, and use the exact same formatting for each (i.e., always Road or always Rd., without variation). Of course that can get tedious with holiday hours, new services, and multiple locations. Yext, a location data and presence management tool, is one easy solution we recommend to our own clients as a Yext Certified Agency Partner.
From here, you can further refine your SEO game with high-quality links and customer reviews. With link-building, it’s important to get links to your website from the reputable publishers. The wrong strategy can actually hurt your SEO. For reviews, ask happy customers to review your website on your Google My Business listing, as well as on your Facebook or Yelp.
SEO is often a process, so tracking results and making adjustments to further improve your rankings and visibility to prospective customers is usually an ongoing project. With gradual, step-by-step work, local SEO success is not only attainable, but one of the best marketing investments you can make for your business.
However, if you’ve gotten this far and find yourself thinking “I’m a dentist, not a computer whiz,” you’re not the first. Improving your business’s local SEO is something that tech savvy folks can certainly get started with on their own. However, many professional services providers would prefer to focus on running their business and tending to the needs of their clients and patients. If that’s you, working with an SEO expert is another possibility.