We all want to rank high on the first page of Google. For some competitive industries, it’s easier said then done. Ranking for a large city like Washington DC or an entire state like Maryland or Virginia can be difficult. It all depends on your business location and how many competitors you have in your area. That being said, most local businesses still have an amazing opportunity to rank high in a Google search within their local community, if they apply the right local SEO strategy. An effective strategy for search engine optimization starts by answering the following 10 questions.

1) Do you have a website?

This question may seem obvious, but according to Google more than 50% of small businesses still don’t have a website. This means they are relying on a Facebook or Google Plus page to maintain an online presence, providing them very little opportunity for success to win the local search battle for their business. Now that costs for a basic website have decreased in recent years, their really isn’t a good reason not to have a website in 2015.

2) Do you have a Google Plus page?

This one is still surprising but not as obvious to most people yet. Google controls most of the search market in the United States. Google Plus influences search more and more everyday. Ever notice a post on Google Plus shows up in a search result within a couple days after you created it? Also Google Plus is not just a social network anymore. It’s really become a blend of all Google products from Gmail to Hangouts and most importantly Google My Business. That’s right, your Google listing that shows on Google maps has merged with Google Plus and can be updated from there as well.

3) Have you optimized your Google Plus page?

Now that you have created a Google Plus page and verified all of your company’s information, it’s time to optimize it. First you will want to create a profile image and cover photo at the right specifications. Then upload them including your target keywords as part of the file name.

Pro Tip: When uploading your picture or an image of your team, make sure you’re smiling or at least the photo is inviting!

Also, take time to craft an engaging introduction for the “About” section, focusing on your Tagline and Intro. These two fields will contribute to the meta description if your page pops up in a Google search result. Finally make sure to add the appropriate links to your website and business contact information.

4) Is your business contact information consistent across the web?

It’s important that your business Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP) is consistent everywhere online. Create a uniformed local listing for your company that you can use for your website, social media and online business listing directories. Nothing is worse for a business than when a perspective client finds your listing online and the phone number or address is wrong. Missing out on a new customer never feels good!  You can test your business with this directory testing tool to make sure your company’s contact info is up-to-date.

5) Do you have online Google or Yelp reviews?

Reviews are a great way to drive traffic to your website and to convert potential customers who are ready to buy. While Google and Yelp aren’t the only places online to be reviewed by previous customers, they do carry the most weight. We often find it easy to rank our clients in the Google local search result pack by focusing their local SEO strategy on increasing their business reviews.

6) Have you received a new review in the past few months?

It’s important to receive a new review every few months to make sure to get the most Internet marketing value out of your reviews. Current 4 and 5 star reviews are a strong indicator to Google that your company is alive, well and a trustworthy company to return in search results.

7) Do you have social media accounts setup for your business?

While every business will find success with different social media channels based on their industry and customer’s needs, it’s important to consider Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus. Engage with your audience and provide them with useful information related to your products or services. Don’t make every post or Tweet an advertisement, remember I said, “engage.” Also make sure all your accounts are optimized and have consistent branding.

8) Have you optimized your contact and location pages?

It’s important to optimize your contact page and location pages (if you have multiple locations) so users don’t have to leave the page to find out how to contact you or find your business. Your NAP should be listed consistently as it is on your Google Plus profile and your other online business listings. Also provide a map and driving directions to make it easy for your customers to find you. If you want extra points, add more content about your city/town and surrounding areas to help people get an idea of where you’re located. This also reinforces for search engines, that your presence is local and can boost your rankings in Google.

9) Do you have a content creation strategy?

Keeping your website and social media channels updated with engaging original content is the best way to acquire high authority links and to get people to share your updates. Many businesses can benefit from creating a blog and updating it monthly with content that their customers will find value in reading. You can also create infographics, images or videos that can give your customers a behind the scene look into your world or can show them how to do something (like how to use your product or service). Creating content is important and it’s also important to stay consistent with content production. Create a calendar for you and your team to help keep on schedule with creating remarkable content.

10) What is your link building strategy?

You’ve heard content is king but the truth is links are still number 1 in the SEO world. It used to be the number of links pointing to your website would help rank you higher and now it’s more about the quality. Gaining high authority links from websites like publications, government sites, education websites, household brand names, or top blogs within your industry are paramount in your local SEO strategy. Make sure you’re reaching out to websites and blogs within your industry that have a high domain authority ranking, to try and form relationships with the people behind those sites. Creating relationships will make it easier to obtain links from these sites and could possibly happen naturally overtime, if you share your remarkable content with them. If they see value in the content and know you through meaningful email exchange, they will link to your content.

If you have answers for all of these questions then your business should be ranking well locally for many of your chosen keywords. If you haven’t considered these questions yet, then plan to add time in your schedule to contemplate what your strategy is for local SEO. If you have additional questions or would like to find out more about how to create a local SEO plan, then send us an email or call us at 202-683-6881 to find out more information.

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