You keep hearing about how you need local SEO.
It’s important. Essential. Vital even.
But that doesn’t make it any less confusing.
As someone who specializes in SEO for a living, I’m thrilled that more and more people (like you!) are thinking about how it affects your business.
But those massive technical SEO guides that you find when you search “local SEO for small business” would be enough to put anyone off the idea.
Good news: Building local SEO for your business doesn’t have to be hard or even time-consuming.
In fact, to start building local SEO for your small business, you don’t need any complicated tools or much tech prowess at all.
This 15-minute explainer will give you some much-needed direction and includes seven simple steps you can use to start building local SEO right away.
Included in this guide to local SEO:
- What is Local SEO?
- The Perks of Building Local SEO
- How to Build SEO for Your Salon or Small Business: A 7-Step Guide
Who this local SEO guide is for:
Whether you’re a hairstylist, massage therapist, or nail artist, this free guide is designed with you in mind.
(That said, it’s a great SEO starting point for any small business owner or solo provider anywhere.)
What is Local SEO?
SEO stands for “search engine optimization.”
Put simply, SEO is the process of making your business easy to find through Google and other search engines.
There are different approaches to building SEO depending on a business’s goals.
For anyone who relies on foot traffic for revenue — meaning most salons, fitness studios, spas, and other service providers — local SEO will matter most.
Building local SEO means that your business pops up in — you guessed it — local search results.
And it means that new clients find you organically without you having to hunt them down through paid marketing.
So, let’s say you’re an esthetician in Bozeman, Montana.
The goal of local SEO is for someone to find your business as the top search result when they search “facials Bozeman” or “facials near me.”
If you’re a massage therapist in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, you want to turn up whenever someone searches for “Beverly Hills massage,” “massage Westside Los Angeles”, “massage 90210,” etc.
In each of these cases, the people who wind up booking with you found you organically through local SEO — which is a huge boon for business.
“Building local SEO means that your business pops up in — you guessed it — local search results. And it means that new clients find you organically without you having to hunt them down through paid marketing.”
The Perks of Great Local SEO
Paid Google Ads or paid social media campaigns tend to get pricey fast.
The same goes for sending mailers or placing ads in local magazines.
When you’re the first listing to show up in Google search results, thanks to local SEO, you’re paying $0 for those clicks and, ultimately, for those new client bookings.
Most people know that Google recommends the most relevant businesses first when you search for a topic.
So, if Google thinks you’re the best option, why shouldn’t they?
When you’re spending less time planning and managing marketing for your business, you’re spending more time with clients.
…Or you’re taking a much-deserved vacation.
Social Media Marketing 101
Deep-dive into trends, tools, and hashtags that will take your brand – and small business – to the next level.Get the Guide
How To Build or Improve Local SEO for Your Salon or Business
The Quick Checklist:
- Start using Google My Business
- Fill in your site SEO with primary and secondary keywords
- Claim your Yelp business listing
- Get local coverage
- Tie all your web profiles together
- Respond to reviews in an SEO-friendly format
- Look at your site with a new client’s eyes
1. Embrace Google My Business
Google determines the rules of SEO, including who ranks highest for local SEO, so even if you do nothing else in this guide, do this:
Make sure your Google business listing is accurate, active, and thorough.
To do this, head to Google My Business and set up your business profile. (It’s free!)
Google then recommends you complete the following checklist:
- Fill out your full business listing
- Make sure your hours, location, and other business details are (always!) up to date
- Respond to every Google business review. Says Google, “According to consumers, businesses that respond to reviews are 1.7x more trustworthy than businesses who don’t (76% vs. 46%)”
2. Make Sure You’ve Filled Out Your Site SEO
Whether you use Squarespace, WordPress, Wix, or another host, make sure the SEO basics on your site are filled in and that your site pages are clearly organized.
In terms of “optimizing” a site for SEO, you don’t need to complicate it.
Think about what people will search for when you’d like them to find your business, then make sure you’re naturally using those keywords (that’s the technical SEO term) wherever relevant.
On your site that means thinking about:
- Site title (usually found in the “Settings” area of your website account)
- Meta-description (usually found directly below the site title in your settings)
- Headers (these are just like headers in a PowerPoint but on your site pages)
- Content (any text on your site pages!)
How to Pick the Right Keywords
When thinking about which keywords to use on your site, it’s good to split up the work into two categories: primary keywords and secondary keywords.
For local SEO, your primary keywords should be pretty straightforward: your industry or service specialty, plus your location.
“Nail salon in Omaha, Nebraska.”
These are the words you’ll emphasize most across your site, including site title and metadescription.
Secondary keywords capture people who are searching for more specific needs, such as a particular type of product you use or service you offer.
These are the folks who want to find a salon that offers a specific type of massage or a specific brand of non-toxic nail polish.
You can fold these keywords into your site to reach even more new people through Google search.
Example: Lacy Mullen, Owner of Skin Deep Facials
Lacy Mullen is an esthetician in the neighborhood of Echo Park, Los Angeles. Her business is called Skin Deep. She offers both organic facials using Eminence products and bespoke facials using several cult brands including Cosmedix. Her add-on services include microcurrent and microdermabrasion sessions. She also offers teen facials and facials for men. All of these details should be included on her site where relevant.
Skin Deep of Echo Park, Los Angeles | Organic Facials and Customized Treatments for All Skin Types
Skin Deep is located in Echo Park, Los Angeles, California and offers organic and bespoke facial treatments for all. Founded by esthetician Lacy Mullen. Book appointments online. By appointment only.
Lacy will want to include:
1. A location page, complete with an embedded Google map and any relevant parking information. She’ll also want to add surrounding neighborhoods to this page to capture people searching for facials in nearby neighborhoods:
“The Skin Deep studio offers facials and skin treatments in the Northeast Los Angeles neighborhood of Echo Park, which is near Highland Park (90042), Mount Washington, and Glassell Park (90065). Our studio is only ten minutes from Downtown Los Angeles, South Pasadena, and Atwater Village.”
2. A services page that captures keywords including “microdermabrasion” and “microcurrent” as well as “teen facials” and “facials for men”
3. A list of products available, which will capture anyone searching for an “Eminence facial” in her area
4. Hours and booking information that match everywhere else she has them listed. She should also link to her booking platform (like Schedulicity!)
How to Find More Common Keywords
The above tips should get you started, but if you’re not sure what words locals are searching for, here’s a trick:
Google yourself, then look at what Google suggests as “people also searched for” or “related searches.”
These are the areas where Google recommends other similar searches that people are typing in.
Sometimes, you’ll find some you weren’t expecting.
Avoid “Keyword Stuffing”
Moderation in everything.
You might think that adding the term “organic nail salon in Los Angeles 90041 90065 90064” a dozen times on your homepage will increase your chances of getting Google’s attention — but Google is smarter than this nowadays!
In fact, stuffing your keywords in where they don’t make sense can sometimes backfire. Instead, add your keywords whenever logical.
The ultimate goal of local SEO is to make your site as easy to find — and as easy to understand — as possible for a potential client.
3. Claim Your Yelp Business Listing
Yelp business listings tend to pop up pretty high in Google search results, so make sure yours is accurate and active.
Head to https://biz.yelp.com/ to manage your listing. You can follow roughly the same checklist that you did for your Google listing.
(As with your Google, you’ll want to respond to every review — good or bad — on your Yelp profile!)
4. Get Local Coverage
Getting people to link to your site, known as “backlinking,” is another important element of building local SEO. Again, this doesn’t have to be complicated.
If you live in a smaller city or town, make sure your business is listed in any local directories or on chamber of commerce recommendation pages.
You can also reach out to your local papers to try to get some news coverage on your business or partner with businesses in your area or shared salon suite to recommend and link to each other on your respective sites.
5. Harness the Power of Links
Interlink Your Social, Site, and Booking Profile
Since links matter, you should take advantage of the ones that already belong to you.
Make sure you’re linking all of your web presence together, so it’s easy to hop from one listing to the next and back again.
Include links to your social accounts and your online booking listing on your website.
Link to your site from your Instagram profile.
Add a “Drop a review for us on Yelp and Google” link to your website, too. You get the drift.
Build Backlinks from Relevant Local Sites
Local link building is all about “getting backlinks from relevant local websites” in your area.
With other sites in your area linking to your website, your site’s search result position can grow, helping you reach a wider audience.
Backlinks are an important piece of any local business’s SEO efforts, so the more quality websites you have pointing to your site, the more your business can grow.
Curious to learn more about backlinks? Check out these local link building pro tips to learn the best strategies and see some real-life examples.
6. Respond to Reviews in Local SEO Lingo
We covered several other reasons why reviews can make all the difference in your business model and your bottom line, but you can also add local SEO to that list.
According to the marketing whizzes at Hubspot, one savvy way you can increase your chances of popping up higher in search results is to use your responses to Google business reviews to naturally add local keywords.
Here’s the template HubSpot recommends you follow:
“Respond authentically to reviews, specifying location.
For example, ‘We appreciate your feedback on [product/service] in [city, state]. We value your input and look forward to working with you again. Thank you from the [full company name] team.’”
7. Have a Friend or Client Look At Your Site
Ultimately, SEO is about making your online presence simple enough for potential clients or customers to understand right away.
That’s especially true after 2020 when so many people were uncertain what was open and when or what businesses’ safety policies were.
Start by trying to imagine what your site looks like for someone who’s never heard of you before. Ask a few questions:
- Is it easy to find where you’re located?
- Your hours?
- How about pricing policies?
- How quickly and easily can someone book online?
Even if you think your website and web presence is clear, it’s good to have someone else who’s less familiar with it take a look.
Often, we’re too close to our own work.
When a regular client comes in after booking online with you, ask them what they thought of the experience.
If they say, “I’m not sure where I go to see what days you have available” or “I was confused the first time I came about where you were located in this salon suite,” that’s valuable feedback you can work with.
Final Tip: Don’t Overthink It!
Ultimately, Google will reward you for making the online experience for visitors as stellar as the experience you already provide in person.
You are an expert in supporting and delighting clients.
So, treat local SEO like you do every other aspect of your business: Make it about putting the client’s needs first. You can’t go wrong.