If your business has a location that serves customers in a community, even if you also sell online, you are a “local” business. Brick and mortar locations can get more foot traffic through localized search engine optimization (SEO). By popping up in search results and on sites potential customers are searching on, your business gains visibility that can result in sales.

What impact does local SEO have for businesses? According to the 2017 Local Consumer Review Survey by local SEO tool BrightLocal:

  • 97 percent of consumers looked online for businesses in 2017, and 12 percent look for a local business online every day
  • 85 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as recommendations from personal contacts
  • Consumers read an average of seven reviews before trusting a business, an increase over the amount they read in 2016

With access to so much information at consumers’ fingertips, smartphones and computers are becoming vital research tools for consumers. Local businesses should make sure they’re seen by those who are searching for products and services like their business offers. Here’s what to know about local SEO and how your business can improve local SEO efforts for more sales.

What Does Local SEO Consist Of?

Local SEO consists of all the SEO efforts that help local businesses get seen by local customers online. Denver SEO agency AlphaMind Studios points out local SEO includes all of the following elements:

  • Google My Business listings
  • Citations on local directories like Yelp, Angie’s List and YP
  • Social media presence on sites like Facebook
  • Link-building for your business website, through having your link on high-quality sites like Meetup, awards sites, blogs and news sites
  • Consistent contact information across a business website and on all other websites the business has a presence on

Thorough local SEO strategy requires that a business is visible on all the sites their consumers use, as well as manage their reputations on review sites and get more positive coverage by local influencers, journalists and bloggers.

How to Improve Local SEO Efforts

When you want to climb up local SEO rankings, a best practice is to aim for as many high-quality reviews as possible for your business, in addition to high-quality backlinks pointing back to your website.

Within sites that have review elements, like Google My Business or Yelp, typically the number of reviews as well as the rating of reviews determines ranking. Each algorithm varies, though, and sometimes factors such as the age of a listing can also influence the ranking, which is why it’s important to claim business listings and start managing them as early as possible.

Psychological Science reports that people favor a product with more reviews when products have similar ratings. Outstanding service is one way to achieve more great reviews, but there are other strategies to give local businesses an advantage.

Optimize for Local SEO

The first crucial step in improving local SEO is optimizing business listings. Any site your business is listed on should have up-to-date contact information, a website and phone number that work, and current opening hours.

Think of any directory where your website is as an extension of your website. You want an accurate depiction. If you can claim your own business listing, on a site such as Facebook or Yelp, do so, and create a vanity URL if possible to strengthen branding.

Build Relationships with Audiences

If customers are leaving reviews about your business, get involved and respond to them. The BrightLocal survey found 30 percent of people say responding to reviews is a key factor in judging a business.

When someone leaves a positive review, thank them. If someone leaves a negative review, let them know you’re listening and are investigating the situation. Offer to continue the conversation online, so you can fix the problem and satisfy the customer. They might even remove their negative review.

Let Your Fans Know Where You Are

Nearly 70 percent of consumers will leave a review of a local business when they are asked, BrightLocal reports. That’s encouraging, but according to some review sites’ terms of service (like Yelp’s), business owners are not allowed to ask customers for reviews.

To get more reviews without violating terms, use these techniques:

  • Post links to the sites you’re on throughout your website, in email newsletters and on social media profiles
  • If a customer gives you praise in person, mention you’re on a review site
  • Add icons of review sites you’re on to business cards you hand out to customers

You can also turn positive reviews you receive into testimonials (with the users’ permission) that you feature on social media posts or on a page on your website. Getting recognized for leaving a positive review may motivate others to leave reviews, as well.

Connect with Influencers

A great way to get more people in the door who can then potentially review your business is to get more press coverage. Here are some tips.

  • Use a tool like Klout to find local influencers in your industry. Follow and interact with them on social media to build a relationship. Ask them if they’d be interested in receiving news about your business or in trying a new product, which might lead to coverage.
  • Research journalists in your area. Journalists love getting news tips that help their readers. Find them on Twitter, and message them personalized notes requesting permission to send them your press releases.
  • Check out who covers your competitors. Bloggers and influences who have reviews of local businesses similar to yours might be open to checking out what you have to offer, too.

As you gain press and high-quality links that point back to your business, you can gain a boost that benefits local SEO efforts.

Go Where Your Customers Are – Online

Your local business may be a physical location, but the buying journey today starts online. By focusing your marketing efforts there through review site management, local listing optimization and online press coverage for your business, you can show up in more search results and be the business that your potential customers choose.