Local search optimization can make or break your small business. So once in awhile, ask yourself, can customers find your business with a quick Google search?

To succeed online, all businesses have to implement some level of search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. At the most basic level, this means organizing web content with keywords that will help potential customers find your website.

But as a small business there are additional considerations specific to Local SEO. When someone in your neighborhood does a “near me” search related to your product or service, the goal is to make sure your business ranks at the top of the search engine’s results page.

Time-starved and cash-strapped business owners need not get into the weeds of backlinking, guest blogging and content marketing to see a boost in their online presence. Here are some basic tips to improve your website’s local search rankings, and hopefully bring in more traffic to your business’ website, and ultimately, new customers to your store, restaurant or office.


1.) Get on Google My Business. This free service helps you set up a business listing on Google that works with Google Search and Google Maps. Whenever someone types in a relevant search term, your business profile–which lists an address, phone number and reviews–will pop up in the results page or the map. Don’t rely on an automated listing, you need to actively claim and verify your information to boost credibility.


2.) Bing, Yelp, Yahoo, too: Once you set up your information on Google My Business, do the same for other local search directories. Think of the best platforms for your business: Angie’s List, Manta, TripAdvisor, YP.com, etc.The key here is consistency. Make sure your business name, address and phone (NAP) are consistent across all directory websites. If your business is located on “Main Street” in Google My Business, spell out “Street” in the other listings, too. This way, the search engine can easily find you and verify information across all sites.


3.) Get your website in order: Having presence on multiple listings is not enough. As an entrepreneur, you should secure a URL for your business and launch a website that houses more information about what makes your product or service special. Think of it as your branding hub for marketing and speaking to the community. Whether you run the most trusted law firm in town or opened a bakery that sells the most authentic French cannelle pastries, establishing an official website is key.


4.) But what if you’re strapped for cash? Luckily, you can take advantage of the .tel domain which offers a free and optional hosting service. With .tel, small businesses can store and manage all their relevant information on a professional website without having to hire a web designer or host to manage a complex website. As a top-level domain, .tel may be all you need to establish your small business’ online presence.


5.) Optimize your web content for local searchers: After you secure your domain, it’s time to populate your website with content. Make sure the text you add across the site is optimized for local search. Include your location in easily accessible locations across your website, a good rule of thumb is to add it to the header or footer so that it displays on all pages, not just the About Us and Contact Us page. Be sure to add your business hours, too.Use conversational terms and keywords that mimic the way an everyday customer would search for your product or service. While you may be proud that your new shop in Alpharetta serves only Lavazza coffee, don’t lead your content with “we serve only Lavazza coffee and espresso, fresh from Italy”. Instead, keep it basic and think of the local customer’s search mentality. “Downtown Alpharetta coffee shop” or “Alpharetta’s best cafe and coffee shop” might work better for search.


6.) Study your competition: Understanding the four steps above will go a long way to boost visibility for your local business. If you find that you’re ranking low in results, here’s another fix: Click on the top three search results. Study their websites for how they present their content, URLs, keywords and contact information. Are there any best practice tips you can take and apply to your own site? Then ask yourself if your website communicates all the essential information to the folks in your neighborhood, be they local regulars or curious tourists and other passersby.