I’ve watched digital marketing evolve considerably over the past 20 years of working online. The ability to geo-target local consumers is one of the most exciting, yet underutilized, developments. The following budget-friendly tips have allowed me to help hundreds of small businesses improve their local search ranking.
Here are eleven local search engine optimization strategies for BC small businesses:
- Purchase a provincial domain extension (.bc.ca) so search engines can easily identify your business as located in British Columbia. Add your location manually to major search engines if you prefer an international domain extension.
- Use localized phrases in your content by making a list of your keywords and add a location to them. For example, “whale watching British Columbia”. Place them where they fit naturally, and don’t overuse them.
- Your website must be optimized for mobile devices. Local consumers will find you when they’re on the move and it’s also a Google ranking factor.
- Your name, address and phone number (NAP) can be included at the bottom of every website page. It will boost your local keyword count, but more importantly, it’s used by major search engines to verify legitimate local businesses. The importance of accurate NAP information extends beyond your website to online phone and business directories so be sure to keep them updated.
- Manual submission to search engines and directories:
- Submit your website to Canadian, provincial and city directories, such as YellowPages.ca, ca, Industry Canada, Canada One and CdnPages.ca.
- Submit to directories that facilitate local searches, such as the Open Directory Project and Bing.
- Use Google My Business to enter and update your business location information across all Google properties, including Google+, Google Maps and Google Search.
- Reviews and testimonials can be included on product pages with the customer’s name, city and province. Additionally, Google places significant weight on Google+ reviews for local search results and the ratings show up when someone searches for your business. Keep in mind that while you can ask for reviews, you cannot offer compensation for them.
- Use your location keywords in image file names, alt tags and captions. For example, if you sell First Nations art you could name the product photo “first_nations_carving-surrey_bc.jpg”. You can also include “First Nations carving Surrey BC” in your HTML alt tag, caption and product details.
- Link to BC authority sites to enhance your content. Authority sites are recognized by search engines as reputable sources of information, which in turn boosts your own content credibility. Websites with high authority have a high page rank and often include education (.edu) and government (.gov) domains.
- Submit guest posts to BC blogs and include your website link in the author bio. Any mention of your company online (even if it isn’t hyperlinked to your website) identifies you as a local business to search engines. These citations are a key factor in local search ranking.
- Add your location to your social media profiles. Additionally, it’s important to engage social media users and encourage interaction with your posts. Search engines view these social signals as a positive vote for your business.
- Sponsor BC events and give organizers your NAP and website URL. Most events are shared online and it’s standard practice to mention sponsors.
British Columbians love to support local businesses. Make sure they find yours first!