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What is Local SEO and Why Is it Important?

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Let me tell you a short story about the power of local SEO –

Rachel Forrest graduated from Greenville Technical College in March 2020 with an Associate Degree in Animal Care Studies and Pet Grooming. She had spent the previous 2 years soaking up as much knowledge as she could and now that graduation was upon her, she was trying to figure out he next step. However, as we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic ramped up in March 2020 and the world changed.  Suddenly, nobody was hiring and Rachel couldn’t find a job. Encouraged by some friends of hers, Rachel decided to take the brave step of starting out on her own, and using her pet grooming skills to start her own small business – initially, only as a way to pay the bills until she could find something more permanent.

Well, something quickly happened that Rachel did not expect – she started getting customers. Her expert grooming skills left those initial few customers VERY satisfied, and they told their friends. Soon, she had more work than she could handle, and needed to expand. So, she took the big step of signing a lease on a building, and opening up her pet grooming studio. She had to hire a few staff to help her, and suddenly she had shifted from college graduate struggling to get by, to business owner.

Then Rachel realized that in order to keep the lights on and pay her employees, she was going to need more than a handful of family and friend recommendations. That is when Rachel stumbled across the term Local Search Engine Optimization or SEO. By implementing a Local SEO strategy, she was able to improve her online presence for her local market, and soon she started to attract customers organically – meaning, NOT through a recommendation from friends and family.

Fast forward to today, and Rachel’s business is thriving. She actually spends only a few hours a week grooming these days, as most of her time is spent on business operations and managing her company’s online local SEO presence. She credits her ability to implement a solid Local SEO strategy as the key to helping her grow so quickly, and to remaining one of the top choices for pet grooming in her local area.

How can you find online success in your pet business like Rachel? Read on, and we’ll tell you exactly how she did it!

The Pillars of Local SEO

Google Business Profile

One of the most important tools you can use to improve your local search rankings is to build and optimize your Google Business Profile (formerly known as Google My Business). This free tool from Google allows you to claim your local business location and create a profile that contains all of the information a prospective customer might like to know about you. In a way this profile acts as an extension of your social media presence, and in many ways is even more effective than any social media profile.

On this profile you can post your hours, photos of your business, website links, phone number, direct booking links, business updates and even send messages back and forth with your customers.

If you have not created or optimized your Google Business Profile, here is our detailed explainer on how to get started.

Name, Address, Phone (NAP)

Google likes information to be consistent. This starts with the information you enter into your Google Business profile. Specifically, your business Name, Address and Phone. Google will compare these three data points from your Google Business Profile and will expect them to be exactly the same on every listing they appear throughout the web.

There are free tools to help you find every instance of your NAP that is inconsistent, and then it is just a manual slog through updating each of these references. The more consistent your NAP is across the web, the more authority you will earn from Google.

Online Reputation Management

In today’s hyper connected world, it is more important than ever to maintain your business reputation online. One terrible business review could literally shut down your business. Thankfully, there are many ways to be proactive about this without living in fear of an internet troll bringing down all of your hard work.

The first place to start is by getting as many reviews as possible on your Google Business Profile. We really cannot stress enough how important this free tool is. Next, you want to make sure that all of your social media profiles have positive review and feedback scores. Next up are all of the directories that pertain to your business – Yelp, Capterra, TrustPilot, etc.

Finally, you will need to make sure you have a system in place to handle any negative feedback that may come. Whether the feedback is warranted or not, if it happens, you will need to respond. A business owner response to negative feedback ALWAYS looks better than a complaint with no response.

Citation Link Building

Links are the lifeblood of traffic and authority to your website. Think of it this way – the only way that Google knows you exist and to trust your website, is by looking at other “trustworthy” website that link to your website. It’s like a restaurant recommendation from a close friend. You’re much more likely to trust this new restaurant if your best friend has already eaten there and love it. Google, likewise, will give your website more authority and trust if it sees that other trustworthy websites are linking to your website. The more high quality the website, the more the trust increases. Sometimes one website link from a high profile website like The New York Times or Chewy.com and your website could literally explode with traffic.

How do you build citations? Unfortunately, it’s a lot of hard work. You can try writing guest blog posts for website that are in your target niche, you can be a guest on a podcast in your niche, you could do a demonstration and get a citation from your local news station, or you could even go viral with a stunt or giveaway on social media. There are many ways to increase the citations and backlinks for your business website, and it will not be easy, but it will always be worth the effort.

Quality Content

Finally, the last pillar of a good Local SEO strategy is having excellent written content on your website. This begins with all of the copy of your website – your About Us page, the descriptions of your services, your process, etc. But it also could include starting a blog and writing about your expertise in the pet industry. Much the same as with high quality backlinks – Google wants to provide the best answer to someone’s search in Google, and by writing excellent content that answers popular questions – Google is much more likely to show your website to a potential customer.

Also, if you optimize your content for local search keywords, such as “(your city) dog groomer” or “best god kennel in (your city)” Google will know that you are relevant when people search for those keywords in your area. If you are a pet groomer in Miami, FL, you most likely don’t want to get a customer in California all excited about having their dog groomed at your salon. Focusing on local search intent will ensure that you rank for the keywords that really matter to your business.