Search engine optimization is the foundation of every successful content marketing strategy. Content marketing to startups is the same as electricity to a Tesla: you can’t propel forward without it. It’s the key to increasing your online influence and attracting more traffic from search engines.

Traditional search engine optimization differs significantly from local SEO and is specifically targeting a geographic area. For location-specific businesses and geographic lead generation, strategic and effective deployment of local SEO strategies should be at the core of your marketing efforts.

According to Hubspot, 72% of consumers visited a brick-and-mortar store within five miles of their location after searching online.[1] If you’re a community-focused business with a local customer base, how are you ensuring your business is visible? How do local customers know what you have to offer?

Properly executed search engine optimization can help you convert online traffic into walk-in, on-site sales. Of course, this isn’t the overnight success strategy. In fact, no startup truly is. Statista reports that 19% of startups fail because they lost out to the competition and 14% close up shop due to poor marketing.[2]

Here are my top strategies for successful local SEO campaigns to fuel first-year growth for your startup!

Update and Optimize All Local Listings

Start by Googling your own company! What comes up? What’s missing? What’s all wrong? Update as much information as possible. The more you’re able to control your data and remove misinformation, the more your rankings will improve.

Google My Business and the Powerful “Snack Pack”

If you haven’t already, claim and verify your business listing for Google My Business and optimize the immediate snippets of information. These are your visibility superpowers!

The powerful “Snack Pack” or “Local Pack” is a grouping of the top four businesses that Google will serve to a searcher that it has determined is a match for their inquiry. It will show all four in a row with essential information listed:

  • Name
  • Review ranking or stars
  • Business category
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Hours and if you’re currently open or closed
  • Link to your website
  • Link to driving directions

Often a listing will have a green square that says “ad” beside the star ranking. This indicates a paid promotion. While Google is able to collect all this data directly from your website, that’s not how these “local pack” listings are compiled.

Google crawlers pull this information directly from any relevant GMB profiles making it crucial to keep them updated and accurate. According to Google, their algorithm will organize and serve your information as determined by the following three categories[3]:

  • Relevance to the search
  • Distance from the searcher
  • Prominence and online credibility

For local searches, if Google’s crawlers determine that your store is a better product or offer match than a competitor who is geographically closer, your store is more likely to rank higher, despite the distance.

To fully optimize your Google My Business listing, focus on these elements[4]:

  • Remove incomplete or inaccurate data
  • Verify your physical location
  • Uphold a transparent review management strategy
  • Display your most popular products or services listings
  • Only upload clear, high-quality photos

You want Google to like you. It is by far the most popular search engine on the internet today and has been for at least the last twelve years. In another report from Statista, they reveal that Google has dominated with no less than 85% of the search engine market share, some years coming in at over 91% since 2010.[5]

Other Search Engines

Now, the very fact that Google is powerful and popular means that it’s also crowded and competitive. That alone is enough to prove that it’s not the smart play to completely ignore other browsers.

Use these same strategies above to optimize your business listings on other search engines such as Bing and Yahoo. Always make sure to use original images or upload a high-quality version of your logo.

They won’t be the traffic drivers that Google is, but it’s important to ensure your data remains consistent everywhere you are on the internet.

Use Targeted Local Keywords To Fuel Growth In Your First Year

Keywords are the most basic element of any SEO strategy. These are phrases and words that your intended audience is searching for based on questions they have, problems they’re trying to solve, or products and services they want.

Injecting these keywords into your content will boost your business on SERPs but with a local SEO strategy, you also need a geographic element. For example, if you’re a luxury candle shop, you can give your brand a local focus by incorporating your city, state, region, or county.

“Candle shop” as a search term will give you mega-brands like Yankee and Bath and Body Works. Whereas “candle shop in San Diego” will serve completely different results that are far more relevant to a local searcher. As a local business, you want to be in the latter category and show up for shoppers in your community.

That’s not to say those major labels aren’t your competition, they probably still are. But the more frequently local searchers see you online, the faster your brand will establish its credibility.

If your market is your local community, a solid keyword strategy will get your products and services in front of the right eyeballs. When used in combination with your enticing offer, this is how you get them off the page and in your doors.

Do your research and learn what phrases and longtail keywords have the best chance of boosting your rankings online. Look for focused keywords that are commonly associated with topics in your industry and connect them to your local area.

Keyword Research Help

There are a number of free or inexpensive online tools to help you conduct your own keyword research. The more comprehensive tools require some expense and as a startup, you’ll have to weigh the cost.

Just remember that you want to make it past your first year and should be prepared to do whatever it takes to make that happen. Try out Answer The Public as well as Google’s Keyword Planner. Or skip to the good part and hire an SEO agency with a proven skill set to do the heavy lifting for you.

Citations and “NAPW” Data

Undervalued and often overlooked, a local citation is anywhere online where your business information lives. Your “NAPW” is basic contact information such as:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone Number
  • Website URL

This data is fed to online directories and serves as a reliable and objective source that verifies your business info is legitimate. This helps to inform search engines how that’s it’s safe to display your business.

Where your information is listed also matters. Posting it on garbage, spammy websites will hurt your overall online reputation and tank your rankings. High-credibility, high-traffic websites will enhance your credibility and boost your ranking.

You want a mix of structured listings and unstructured listings. Structured listings would be provided by intentionally filling out forms on directories and business listings in places like Yelp and Yellow Pages. Unstructured listings are more content-driven listings from media exposure, social media, and even bank links.

Wherever it comes from, search engines use these citations to verify the legitimacy of your business by washing out any potentially fraudulent results