At CIRA, our mission is to support Canadian internet, and by proxy, all Canadian businesses be they big or small. We work with domain owners to provide everyday resources like CIRA Canadian Shield and Cybersecurity Awareness Training, but sometimes it’s not about protecting yourself on the internet so much as it is being seen. We know small biz, and we know you're always looking for ways to improve your online visibility and attract more customers.
One of the most effective ways to do this is through local search engine optimization (SEO). By optimizing your website and online presence for local search, you can improve your Google rankings and attract more local customers. In this blog post, we’ll share seven effective strategies for boosting your local SEO ranking, vetted by our internal team of both internet experts and security wizards.
What is local SEO and why is it so important?
Local SEO is the process of optimizing your website and online presence to attract more local customers. This includes curating your website content towards local search terms, building links and online directories, and encouraging customer reviews. Local SEO is particularly important for small businesses that rely on local customers for their revenue—for someone like Costco, with their billion-dollar ad budget, local-friendly search terms like “optometrist near me” or “Ottawa florist” aren’t really on the radar. That’s what makes these types of search terms so important and accessible.
According to Google, 46% of all searches have a local intent, meaning that people are searching for products and services in their area. If your business isn't optimized for local search, you could be missing out on a significant amount of traffic and potential customers.
What is “the algorithm” and how does it affect local SEO?
To understand exactly how to optimize your website for local search, you need to understand just how the Google algorithm works. Google’s position as the dominant search engine didn’t come through luck; their algorithms used to determine what information is valuable are sophisticated and multifaceted in nature. Luckily, it’s our team’s job to study these so you don’t have to.
Google uses a variety of factors to determine the relevance and authority of a website. For local search, Google mostly considers factors such as location, relevance and prominence.
Location refers to the physical location of the searcher and the businesses being searched for. Relevance refers to how well the website's content matches the searcher's query. Prominence refers to how well-known and authoritative a website is in its industry.
By understanding these factors, you can optimize your website and online presence to improve your local SEO ranking.
How do I conduct keyword research for local SEO?
Keyword research is an essential part of any SEO strategy, including local SEO. By researching the keywords that people are using to search for products and services in your area, you can optimize your website and online presence to match those keywords, thereby appearing to more potential customers and converting those valuable leads.
To conduct keyword research for local SEO, start by brainstorming a list of potential keywords that people might use to search for your products or services. It helps to put on your customer hat and do some preliminary groundwork—would you type “florist” or “florist near me”? Would you search “florist same day delivery”?
Once you’ve narrowed it down, you can use a keyword research tool such as Moz or Google’s proprietary Keyword Planner to see which keywords have the highest search volume (more people searching them) and the lowest competition (fewer online resources already available).
How do I optimize my website for local search?
Optimizing your website for local search involves several different strategies, some of which we’ve already noted. First, make sure that your website is mobile-friendly and loads quickly. Google prioritizes websites that provide a good user experience, so you need to ensure that your website is easy to use and navigate.
Next, optimize your website's content for local search terms. This includes incorporating your target keywords into your website's content, meta descriptions and title tags. Ensuring you’ve incorporated these into different areas of your content means that Google will have more opportunity to pull from your website above your competitors.
You should also include your business's name, address and phone number on your website, as well as a map of your location.
Finally, make sure that your website is structured in a way that makes it easy for Google to crawl and index. This means using a clean, organized design and avoiding duplicate content. That’s right—just like your high school English teacher, Google will know if you’ve plagiarized content. Whether from someone else’s website, or your own, this adversely affects your Google rating and will sometimes exclude you from appearing on searches altogether.
Build a strong online presence through local directories and citations
Online directories and citations (also known as hyperlinks to your site from other reputable sources) are a critical part of local SEO. By listing your business in online directories, you can improve your visibility and attract more local customers.
Start by listing your business in major directories such as Google My Business, Yelp and Yellow Pages—then look for niche directories that are specific to your industry or location. For example, if you're a local restaurant, you might want to list your business in local restaurant directories, but if you’re a tech company or a photographer, try other service directories in your area. Even Facebook posts on groups count as part of your holistic online blueprint. How many times have you Googled something and found a fitting Reddit thread? These are all particularly important factors to consider.
When listing your business in these groups and directories, make sure that your business's name, address and website are consistent across all listings. Inconsistent information can hurt your local SEO ranking.
Create high-quality content for local SEO
While content itself is a powerful tool, high-quality content is essential for any SEO strategy, including local SEO. By creating high-quality content that's relevant to your target audience, you can attract more traffic and improve your search engine rankings. “High-quality” in this case, and in Google’s view, simply means lengthy, informative, original content that answers some of its most sought-after questions.
It's best practice when creating content for local SEO to focus on topics that are relevant to your local area. For example, if you're a local roofing company, you might create content about the best roofing materials for your area or tips for maintaining your roof in harsh weather conditions.
Make sure that your content is well-written, informative and engaging. Use images and videos to break up the text to not only make the content more visually appealing but allow use for multiple search fields and functions. Google prioritizes content that looks like it took time and effort, so while it might be tempting to use Chat GPT for all your blogs and web pages, doing that too much might lead to a penalty. Robots can detect other robots more easily than not, and Google can tell if the content is meaningful based on the verbiage and structure used.
Encourage customer reviews and manage your online reputation
Customer reviews are an essential part of local SEO. By encouraging your customers to leave reviews on sites like Google My Business and Yelp, you can improve your visibility and attract more local customers.
To encourage customer reviews, ask your customers to leave some kind words after they've made a purchase or used your services either by email automation or in-person. You can also offer incentives for leaving a review, such as a discount on their next buy.
It's also essential to manage your online reputation by responding to these customer reviews, both positive and negative. Responding shows that you value your customers and are committed to providing excellent service.
Analyze and track your local SEO performance
To determine the effectiveness of your local SEO strategy, you need to track your performance. This involves analyzing metrics such as website traffic, keyword rankings and customer engagement.
Using proprietary tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console to track your website's traffic and search engine rankings can be beneficial, but third-party tools like SEMrush also offer a deeper insight for marketing newbies. You can also use social media analytics tools to track your social media engagement, such as Monday or Sprout Social.
By tracking your performance, whether that’s monthly, weekly, or quarterly, you can identify areas where you need to improve and adjust your strategy accordingly. Seeing a dip in impressions? Try posting once more per week. Seeing a spike in engagement or click through? Try duplicating that content style and call-to-action for future posts.
Register your .CA
Last, but certainly not least, registering your .CA offers its own set of exclusive benefits. All individuals with a registered .CA have free WHOIS privacy protection, ensuring your contact information is kept separate from the WHOIS directory.
While registering your .CA, it’s important to ensure you’re maximizing your domain. We’ve put together a list of helpful tips to ensure you’re getting the most out of your .CA, including website building tips, protection recommendations, and more.
Be sure to take advantage of CIRA’s infrastructure by becoming a member, which is free and open to any .CA holder. As a member, you can participate in local networking events, influence the direction of CIRA, voice your opinion, and stay up to date on industry issues that affect Canadians every day.
Final thoughts on improving your local SEO ranking
Improving your local SEO ranking is essential for small businesses that rely on local customers for their revenue. By following the checklist above, you can optimize your website and online presence for local search and attract more customers.
To further maximize your business online, consider registering your domain or read more marketing tips on our blog.
Start building your online identity. See if your domain name is available as a .CA by doing a quick search!