Local SEO for Regional Business – Catch More Customers! (Guest Blog)

Contribution by Dana Flannery, Creative Director at Talk About Creative in Brisbane. Talk About Creative have worked with regional businesses across Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania to improve their local SEO.

Being a business owner based in regional Australia creates online marketing challenges and opportunities – it comes down to how well you use national and local SEO strategies to build awareness and customer base.  If you’re not using a digital marketing strategy, you’ll fall behind your local competitors and your national ones too.  Here’s the DIY guide to local SEO for regional business.

Two main Google algorithms affect regional businesses

The general Google algorithm determines the order that websites are listed in the main results.  The Local SEO algorithm puts your business’s marker on the map and in the local list displayed in search results. There are others too, but these are the two you must use!  While these two are separate algorithms, they also interact – so if you fail on the main search results, it will be much harder to come up in local search.

Optimising a website to hook more customers

How Google, Bing and Yahoo choose to display search results comes down to how well they understand your business and how trusted your business appears to be online.  The first step is creating a website that is easy for search engines to find, explore (called crawling) and classify.  This is all about getting great content onto your site, that’s highly relevant to what you do, and easy for search engines to navigate.  You do this by featuring the words that your customers are likely to search on your website.

For example, if you’re running a Bait and Tackle store in Longreach, you might mention “Fishing in Longreach” or “bait and tackle stores in Longreach” in the page titles, the headings, the text and the “meta description”.  You also need to mention words relating to fishing, synonyms of fishing (ie Catching Fish, Angling) and any words you’d expect to read on a fishing website.

The next step is to get other websites to “endorse” your website by making mention of it.  You’d like to see your details mentioned on other Longreach websites (when an address is included this is called a citation) or maybe on other fishing websites. Perhaps a fishing guide based in Longreach can talk about the ideal gear to buy and then direct their readers, via a link, to your online store.  These links that direct readers into your website, are called backlinks.  You want backlinks from the best possible websites – see if your local ABC will do a story on you for example – and you want them to direct people to the most useful page on your website for their needs.  You’d hope that other websites mentioning fly fishing would link to your fly fishing page – not just to your home page.

You’re out to “hook” customers not just from Longreach, but those who are travelling around Australia and love to do a spot of fishing.  By building up your website in general search, you’re going to land more fish!

 How to plan a basic regional search strategy

Let’s say you run ABC Pizza, a centrally located pizza shop in Wagga Wagga.  Chances are you have two main audiences – Wagga Wagga residents (and possibly wider Riverina region residents who regularly visit Wagga Wagga) and then visitors planning a holiday or business trip to Wagga Wagga.

Local residents will be your main audience so you’ll need to optimise your site for them.  You might choose keywords like “Pizza Shops Wagga Wagga”, “Pizza Wagga” or even “Pizza shop on Sturt Highway” if they can’t remember your name.  These are some of the things locals would search when choosing dinner.  You would use these keywords as a focus on your website, but also on your Google My Business listing (this is the program you use to put your local business on the map). 

For those visitors to Wagga Wagga looking for a convenient place to eat, you might wish to target a few other keywords – “places to eat Wagga Wagga city”, “child friendly restaurants Wagga Wagga” or maybe they’ll go for the classic “pizza Wagga” too.  These will need to be on your website, perhaps on a specific page that gives clear instructions about how to find your restaurant or how to order a delivery.

There is no point in trying to rank number one for Pizza.  It will take you forever to do it, will cost you a fortune and you’ll get low ROI if you are ranking for “pizza” in Western Australia – they’re probably a touch out of your delivery region!

Optimising for local SEO results in three steps

These three steps are both simple and time consuming, if you’ve got a web savvy offsider (or teenager) around, it’s the perfect task to outsource!

Step 1 – sign up for, and optimise Google My Business

When you set up your Google My Business account (it takes some time to get the verification codes etc from Google, so start now), be sure to do EVERYTHING they ask.  Add lots of great photos. Link to your YouTube channel if you have one.  Link to your website.  Add your payment methods, parking, opening hours and a nice long, unique description of your business.  Sell it.  Make it great!  But don’t forget the keywords!  Note how you have written your details – you will need to use the same format for all mentions of your business online – if there is a space in your phone number, always use a space in your phone number….  If you share an address with another business, create a unique address for each - even if you add a “Floor 1” to your address for Google’s sake.

Step 2 -Build some of those citations

Next, you’ll need to go list your business on other directories in your niche.  Yelp is a top one – where locals can review your business.  Reach Local, True Local, Hot Frog – all the local directories that allow you to add your business details, including your address.  You might also try the Wagga Wagga Chamber of Commerce, The Wagga Wagga Good Food Guide and any other local websites designed to promote your industry.

Step 3 -Get some testimonials

Got some favourite regulars who can’t stop raving about your pizza?  Ask them to Google your business, find your map listing and leave a review (don’t send them a link to it, their review will be flagged as spam).  Ask them to be honest but descriptive.  Ask them to go into detail about their favourite pizzas.  Ask them to mention your keywords.  Teach your staff to do this too, to close each sale with a request for a review.

 Take advantage of local SEO

In most cases, a local business targeting local keywords will have a much easier time of it than a national business - simply because there are fewer competitors. Regions have the biggest advantage here. A hairdresser in Bankstown near Sydney will target "Hairdresser Bankstown" but chances are she'll have to compete for "hairdresser Sydney" too. In a town where there are fewer than ten hairdressers, it's much simpler to get to page one. Then with a little local SEO knowledge and some elbow grease, it's easier to replace competitors as the top hairdresser in Albury!