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Every small business needs local visibility online to grow.

Whether you sell products exclusively online or operate a brick-and-mortar storefront, your local community can become a significant asset (for direct purchasing and as a referral source).

In the remote parts of Alaska with limited cell service, you may get away with not having a local online marketing strategy for a few years. For the rest of us, however, local visibility online is a must-have marketing goal.

Understanding Your Local Visibility Online

Search engine optimization (SEO) drives all business visibility online. There are several types and focuses of SEO practices, and many of them overlap. By focusing on your local presence, you can effectively boost your business rankings in other search types. First, determine your current local SEO presence with an SEO audit. Here are two guides you can use to conduct a simple DIY audit:

  • Moz’s “Ultimate Local SEO Audit”
  • Search Engine Land’s “12 Things to Check in Your Local Homepage SEO Audit”

Improving Your Visibility, One Step at a Time

During an audit, you may recognize simple changes that can boost your local visibility online. For instance, if your business has recently changed its name, location, or owner, you may notice that the wrong information pops up in certain listings. These fixes are simple, and can go a long way to enhance your local visibility. Consider these additional tips to make your website stand out:

Get listed locally – Focus your attention on local-specific listings such as your newspaper and local magazines, then branch out to more universal listings. Try the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and your local Chamber of Commerce, if you haven’t already. The BBB will boost your online credibility and joining the Chamber of Commerce is a worthwhile business venture online and offline. If you’re already a member, review your online listings to make sure they reflect your business accurately.

Other directories and listings you should look into include social media sites (from Facebook to LinkedIn), Google, Bing, Angie’s List, Yellow Pages, CitySearch, MapQuest, and Apple Map (mobile).

Create a schedule to update listings — Outdated listings don’t produce results. Create a review schedule to update listings routinely, and particularly if the business undergoes changes. Keep a master list of places where you are represented online so you don’t miss one when you update.

Create a standard for listings — Local search ranks businesses on consistency across listings using a simple standard called NAP (name, address, phone number). Wherever your business is listed, this information should look the same, so list “Henrietta’s Feed & Supply Co.” only in that manner, not as “Henrietta’s Feed and Supply Co.” or “Henrietta’s Feed & Supply.”

Encourage and manage online reviews — Online reviews really help local businesses stand out from the crowd. They build credibility, and can promote acquisitions that you may not get through referrals or local listings. Consumers want to see those 4 or 5 stars lit up when they look for a hair salon, restaurant or automotive repair shop.

Maintain a consistent social media presence — Small businesses often fall into the trap of updating social media pages sporadically. Try to make consistent social media engagement a priority, whether you interact online weekly or twice a month. Social search is gaining traction, and these social media engagements could really boost your visibility in 2016.

Some of you may be wondering, “Where am I going to get the time to do all of this?”

Remember that SEO strategy is a series of layered activities. Start with the audit and slowly incorporate these local visibility tips into a business routine. Ask a tech savvy high schooler for some help in return for a resume review or letter of recommendation.