Your rankings in the local search engine algorithms can make or break your business.

The days where you could easily and effortlessly rank your page on the first page of Google by spamming keywords or buying cheap backlinks are over.

Ever since Google rolled out its Penguin and Panda updates, things have gotten a lot more complicated.

With all of the changes that have taken place, it is harder than ever for small businesses to manage the seemingly endless task of optimizing their websites.

If you’re a business owner, you get that marketing is important to grow your business, and you get that digital marketing is way more powerful than traditional marketing, but you may feel completely incapable of even getting started.

No worries.

There’s a few really easy ways to get started that I always focus on first at True Marketing to help small businesses get their name on the map (literally) so they can start connecting with new customers.

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What are the top SEO priorities for local businesses?

Local businesses interested in boosting their search engine rankings should focus on the following digital marketing tasks:

  1. Their Google My Business listing
  2. Their website
  3. Their brand citations

Google My Business for Local Businesses

If your businesses does not have a GMB (or Google My Business) listing, then you are seriously behind the times and you are losing business to competitors who do have their business listed on the top search engine.

Fortunately, Google makes it super easy to set up this absolutely essential listing.

Just visit Google’s dedicated sign-up page, and follow their steps.

One problem…

You need to verify your business using a verification code from Google before anyone will actually be able to find you.

If you are a brick-and-mortar business, you will probably be able to verify your business by text phone call—super easy!

For many businesses, however, you’re going to have to wait for a postcard to come in the mail.

Note: don’t change anything on your listing after you request the postcard!

When I was signing up my first GMB for True Marketing, I waited 12 days for the postcard to come, which seemed like a long time.

When it arrived, I tried to verify with it, but my listing said I had to apply for a new postcard… Which came 12 days after that.

Bummer.

Make sure once you request your verification code you do not change anything on your listing (AT ALL) or you will need to wait all over again.

Your business’s website

Once you have your GMB set up, you can link to your website.

This is a great way for customers to learn more about your services, your brand, and get in touch with you.

One thing you need to be careful of is not scaring away leads with an out-of-date or obviously neglected website.

When in doubt, keep things simple.

In fact, you can publish a website right from your GMB account, for free! If you have no other options, then do this.

One thing I would really recommend, however, is getting your own domain name. You can read more about domain names in True Marketing’s comprehensive checklist (which will be published soon!).

Your own domain name signals you have an actual brand identity.

Your own domain name tells people you are serious, and so they can rest easy and take your seriously.

As soon as you can afford it, then get a professional website.

If you want to know whether this is really essential, think back to the last time you needed a product or service.

Where did you look?

That’s right, you pulled out your phone or laptop and searched for it.

Did you go to the second page of results? Probably not. Most searchers never go past the first page, and more than half click on the first search result that isn’t an ad.

Whatever the case may be, after your GMB is set up your next priority is getting a website that won’t scare off potential customers (at the very least).

Your business’s brand citations

What are brand citations?

These are places on the internet where you create (usually free) profiles for your business.

These are great from an SEO standpoint, since they are an easy way of helping customers find your main website.

Most web directories (one kind of place where you can get a citation) allow you to backlink to your main website.

In some cases this can be a do-follow link, in which case you raise the authority of your main page, but they are often no-follow links, which are simply there to help you build your brand.

No-follow links are not useless, since they can still be clicked and bring people to your site.

Not only that, they are still indexed by major search engines.

This means they build trust in your brand by boosting your web presence.

Check out this amazing video on building backlinks for your brand:

Conclusion

These three priorities should be your very first focus when it comes to digital marketing for your local business.

Your GMB listing gets you onto Google’s map.

Your website gives you a branded web presence where you can make a solid impression on potential and returning customers.

And your brand citations will help you get more traffic to your website, will lock in your brand, and will make it clear to search engines that you aren’t spam.

If you want to learn more about SEO for growing your business, don’t forget to check out True Marketing’s main website (since this one is just a Web 2.0 site where I am distributing my web presence!).

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