Use organic SEO to get your small business on the first page of local search results.

Oct 16 2018 | Julie Warshaw, PayPal Editorial Staff

If you’re ever searched Google for a restaurant or dry cleaner “near me,” you’re probably familiar with the local three-pack – the three listings that appear under a map on the first page of results. So, how does a business use organic SEO to get one of those coveted spots?
When you shift your focus from global to local, you reduce the number of sites you’re competing with. And with less competition, achieving number-one status in search results becomes a lot more feasible. Optimizing for local search is a no-brainer if you have a brick and mortar location, but a business without a physical storefront can benefit from local optimization, too. Do you sell organic juices at the local farmer’s market? Do you offer lawn or maintenance services in your town? Any business conducted centrally can benefit from a local SEO strategy.
Now that you know why you need to optimize for local search, let’s move onto how.
  1. Get listed.
Make sure to claim your business’s name, address, and phone number – or “NAP” – listing in top local business directories, search engines, and social media platforms. Refer to our handy checklist below for the NAP listings that carry the most weight for SEO.
When you’re creating your directory listings, make sure to fill out every relevant section so that your listing is complete; things like your hours of operation, accepted payment types, and so on. Be prepared to provide an accurate description of your business with a few of your target keywords sprinkled in. You should also upload your company’s logo and if the directory allows, a few high-quality photos of your business – consider showcasing your storefront or some of the products you sell.
And remember to be consistent across all listings.  If your business has a suite number, do you say, “Suite 4” or “Ste. 4”? Whichever you decide, make sure it’s entered the same way in every listing. Variations can confuse search engines and result in a lower rank on organic search.
Tip: To get listed in GMB and Bing Places, you’ll need to verify the physical address of your local business (no PO Boxes). Google asks you to provide your address at sign-up, then mails you a postcard with your PIN number. Once you submit your PIN number, your business will be verified and you’ll be able to create your listing. Bing is a little bit more lenient and allows you to request your PIN via phone or email.
Now that your business is listed in all the right places, let’s tackle the next step: optimizing your website for search. If you already have an SEO strategy in place, great! Let’s tweak it to get you ranking locally. And if you haven’t done any SEO for your site, don’t worry – local SEO is a great place to start.
  1. Optimize for mobile.
 Are you tired of having marketing professionals reiterate the importance of making your website mobile-responsive? It may seem like we’re nagging, but it’s really that important – especially for local SEO. Think about the times you’ve used search to find a business “near me.” Were you on a desktop or mobile device? If you want to get your website in the local 3-pack, you’d better make sure it’s optimized for mobile search.
  1. Include location keywords in your content.
Your title tags, meta descriptions, and headers may already target a keyword, but what about a location? Updating your tags to include the target location makes it clear to both search engines and potential customers that your business services a specific area. Think about how a page's title and description will appear in the search results. In order for organic SEO to be effective, your tags need to read naturally, so avoid keyword stuffing.
The rest of your website content should also align with your local optimization strategy. This might be something as simple as adding your location to the existing content and alt text on a page, or it may be a little more intensive, like creating a whole landing page. An easy way to add localized content is by publishing blog posts. Google particularly loves what’s known as ‘evergreen’ content – content that is always relevant and helpful. Come up with an editorial calendar of topics to support your organic SEO efforts and include long-tail keywords that contain your target location.
By following the steps we’ve outlined this far, you’ve laid a solid foundation for local optimization. Now, comes the fun part: Reviews!
  1. Encourage and respond to reviews.
Reviews and testimonials are vital for local SEO. While it’s helpful for online shoppers to see reviews on your website, those reviews may not show up on organic search. But do you know what will? The social media pages and directory listings you created in the first step!
Engaging with customers on review platforms will give your listings traction and help your local business get better visibility in search. Most businesses get the majority of their reviews on Yelp, Facebook, and Google, so those sites are a great place to start. And don’t be afraid to encourage customers to leave reviews. Consider offering a discount or some other incentive to get the ball rolling. You may even find that just asking nicely does the trick.
Of course, the occasional bad review is inevitable. And while you can’t necessarily control what a local customer posts about your business online, you can control what happens next. The top review sites measure a business’s responsiveness, so be responsive! Good, bad, neutral – regardless of the review, a speedy response will benefit your SEO in the long-run. Depending on the situation, you may even find that a quick response results in an updated review.
Crossing the finish line.
When it comes to organic SEO, there is no finish line. (Sorry.) But! It's a lot easier to defend a top position in search than it is to get there. By following the steps above, you'll put your business on the right track to reaching number one. 
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