Local SEO for Small and Medium-sized Businesses in the Rhode Island and Massachusetts Area

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Local customers are looking for your SMB (small to medium-sized business). Make sure they find you before they find your competitors, by optimizing your website for local search.

In this post we’ll review steps you can take on your own to help increase local rankings for your small business, including the following tips:

  • Figuring out what keywords you should be targeting
  • Optimizing your site the correct way
  • Creating or claiming your local listings
  • Building your online reputation
  • Other tools and tips

As more and more customers turn away from traditional printed yellow pages and towards the internet to find local businesses, it becomes more and more critical for your business to be found online.

Without search engine optimization, your site can easily get lost in the vastness of Internet space. But, if you can rank well for local search, you can increase web traffic for your business, and profits.

Here are some tips from Black Point Interactive that can help increase your search engine rankings for local search for your small to medium-sized Rhode Island business.

The First Step in SEO: Identifying Keywords

First, the most basic step in optimizing your website for search engine rankings is to make sure you’re targeting the correct keywords on your site. What words do customers actually use when searching for a company like yours?

Ask yourself the following questions to come up with your initial list of keywords:

  • What are your key products or service offerings?
  • What does your business do?
  • What are some of the questions that your customers frequently ask you?

Then you have to make sure that these keywords and phrases are actually what people search for. Don’t target your whole site to phrases like “plumbing services” if people are actually searching for the word “plumbers” instead.

Also, check out your competitors’ websites to see what keywords and phrases they are targeting. Focus especially on those companies that are already ranking well in searches.

You can tell what words and phrases they are targeting by looking at:

  • Words used in the headlines and subheads
  • Words and phrases that are repeated often on a page

Free Keyword Research Tools

There are also free tools you can find online to help you determine exactly what phrases people search for. For example, go to a Google or Bing search page and type in one of your keywords, but don’t hit enter.

As you type in your keyword, a list of related searches will pop up under the search field. Try different combinations and variations of words and Google and Bing will display popular searches using those words for you!

You can also use Google Trends to compare search volumes for various keyword combinations and phrases and get a list of related search terms. Google Trends will let you focus in on your geographic area to see local search volumes for words and phrases. ….

That said, please be aware that the search volumes on Google Trends are actually a percentage value based on past data, and even though a particular keyword or phrase may be trending down, it might still be a phrase that offers lots of opportunity for your business, because it’s high volume.

Google AdWords might be a tool to help you gauge this; it’s free to sign up for Google AdWords. And keywordtool.io is pretty good at finding alternative keywords. There are other, better tools out there, but we’re mentioning those that are free…

Targeting Keywords on Your Site

Once you have determined what keywords you should be targeting, you have to target them on your site.

For small businesses wanting to rank well locally, be sure to include city- or region-specific keywords on your site as well. “We proudly offer plumbing services to Providence, RI, and surrounding areas!” for example.

You’ll want to target no more than 1-3 keywords or keyword phrases per page depending on the amount of text on the page. Don’t target more than one page to a particular keyword.

Work keywords into the headlines and subheads on your pages. It’s good to include a fair amount of subheads throughout your text if your pages have a lot of content, as many internet visitors don’t really read your site; they just skim it.

When working keywords into the text of your pages, be sure you don’t try to stuff too many instances of the keyword onto the page; search engines will punish you for that, and it will make for unpleasant reading as well.

Your website still needs to be easy and inviting to read. Remember, you’re writing for people, not search engines.

Repeat each keyword you are targeting no more than 2-3 times per page. You can break keyword phrases apart and use them in different places and in a different order on the page. You don’t always have to repeat the exact same phrase the same way.

You should also use keywords in your site’s urls, if possible, and work them into the title tags for each page.

The title tag is the piece of text that shows up at the top of your browser window when you are on a website. It also shows up as the first line of the site’s listing in search results.

That’s getting into the coding of your site though, which may not be something you can tackle on your own. For help, contact a local reputable web development team that has experience with small business needs.

Create/Claim Your Local Pages and Local Listings

Another step you can take to help increase rankings for your Rhode Island/Massachusetts-area business that is free and relatively simple is to create or claim all local pages and listings for your business.

Of course, we say relatively simple because while it does not require advanced coding or SEO knowledge, it is very time consuming and labor intensive.

Google, Bing and Yahoo! all have local places pages for local businesses and it’s likely one already exists for your company, even if you never created one. If a page does not already exist for your company, create one and make sure you fill out all the information it asks you to provide.

Upload good quality photos to your pages – customers like to see pictures, especially of food, but you want to make sure photos of food look appetizing.

For pages that already exist for your company, claim them. Look on the page of the entry and there will be an option to claim the page. You’ll probably need to confirm you’re the owner via phone, email or regular mail, but it’s worth it.

Make sure all your information is correct and consistent on all local pages and listings. And make sure they all link back to your website. This will help customers find your business and help increase search engine rankings and traffic for your site.

For the Rhode Island area, some of the top local listings include, in addition to local pages for Google, Bing and Yahoo!:

  • Yelp
  • yellowpages.com
  • CitySearch
  • superpages.com

Other good local listing sites are:

  • Foursquare
  • Hotfrog

Best of the Web’s Regional Directory

For restaurants:

  • Urbanspoon
  • TripAdvisor

When entering your business’ information in local pages, it’s important to select the correct categories for your business. Google, for example, lets you pick up to five categories.

The first two categories you have to select from the available options, but you can type in the text for the next three, which is a good opportunity to use good descriptive keywords for your products or services.

Google Places even lets you include coupons on your company’s page!

Encourage Customers to Write Online Reviews

Your online reputation is also important. Encourage happy customers to provide online reviews for your business. You can even offer them a coupon or discount for doing so, but don’t write fake reviews for your business.

You can also include links to review sites like Yelp from your website and have a reminder pop up to customers after they complete an online transaction on your site. Signage in your store or location can help as well, in addition to just talking to your customers about it.

Good Search Engine Optimization Tools and Other Tips

Other steps you can take to help you in optimizing your site are adding Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics to your site. This will help you get valuable information, like keywords that are leading people to your site, primary traffic sources, and most visited pages on your site.

Also, try to avoid duplicating any content on your site. Having the exact same, or very similar, block of text on more than one page of your site can lead to search engine penalties. Similarly, avoid copying content from other websites as well.

Making sure your website is mobile-friendly can also greatly help your business. 50% of all mobile searches are conducted in hopes of finding local results. And 50% of consumers who conduct a local search on their smartphones visit a store within one day of the search.

Utilizing social media can help drive traffic to your site and help increase your search engine rankings as well.

And there’s video. YouTube is now the 2nd largest search engine on the planet, with billions of unique searches per month. Creating quality video content for your business can be easy, with the right help. Look for a Rhode Island company with SMB experience and lots of examples you can view.

SEO for SMBs: Get a FREE Assessment

These are a few simple tips to optimize your site. But you also should know that the search engines are constantly changing, with upgrades and updates. So, you need to also be monitoring and changing your SEO. That’s why it may be more than a little bit difficult to fully optimize your site on your own.

Black Point Interactive can help. We have years of experience in local search marketing services and a foundation of working with small and medium-sized businesses on local search.

Fill out the form below for a free assessment of:

  • your website
  • your search engine performance
  • how you compare to your competition

See how we can put our local internet marketing expertise to work for you!

At Black Point Interactive, we help Small and Medium-Sized Businesses
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