Local SEO is a tough skill to master and has always been this way. While marketers are debating on the must-have strategies for local search optimization, small business owners are confused on where to even begin.

The competition between local businesses is always fierce. And if you’re not doing everything to stay on top of the local rankings, your direct competitors will get there first. According to Google, well over 50% of the current mobile users are susceptible to physically visit a storefront after conducting a local search online. With these numbers in mind, it becomes pretty clear that you need to dominate local search ASAP.

If you’re wondering where to start optimizing your business for local search, use the following tactics to kickstart your local SEO campaign.

1. Creating business pages for search engines

If you didn’t already do this, start your local search optimization quest by creating a local business page on all the major search engines. It will net you incredible local exposure if your business is optimized enough to show up in the top three-pack. I know you’re probably thinking that creating a Google Local Listing is enough, but it really isn’t. It’s never a good idea to close doors on potential customers, even more so if you don’t have to pay anything for it.

bike shop - Local Search Optimization for Small Businesses - Where to Start

Creating a local business page is a pretty straightforward process. Start by visiting this link (here) to create one for Google – it requires the most amount of information. Once you got that going, create one for Bing (here) and one for Yahoo (here). All you need to do is provide some basic information, so it shouldn’t take you more than an hour to create some basic versions.

2. Let them visualize your business

Now that you have a business page on all the major search engines, it’s time to work on optimizing them for the best results. Start by uploading quality photos that put your business in its best light, but make sure they depict the actual place of operations – both the inside and the outside.

local search optimization - Local Search Optimization for Small Businesses - Where to Start

Try to have at least 10 pictures on each local business page. You can make them look artistic, but don’t go too far – otherwise, you’ll hear all about it in the Reviews section. If you have fancy equipment, you can integrate 360° photos to your business store listing – it will make you seem ahead of the competition.

3. Reviews, Reviews, Reviews

Sure, images are important, but customer reviews are arguably even more crucial –mainly because they have a direct impact on your business local search ranking. Close to 80% of users that research a business online will end up trusting a business more after reading positive reviews. Even more, a recent Harvard study proved that replying to customer reviews will actually net you better ratings from future reviewers.

reviews - Local Search Optimization for Small Businesses - Where to Start

With this in mind, it’s your job to offer the 3rd party validation that consumers are looking for. You can do this by asking your loyal customers to review the business – you can even include this request on your receipts. But tread carefully as you shouldn’t go too far. Getting too many positive reviews in a short time frame can raise red flags and penalize your local search ranking.

4. On-Site Optimization

If you got a website to go along with your local business, make sure it’s optimized to merit a high local ranking. Optimised titles and meta descriptions still play a huge role in local SEO. Since title and description tags are displayed in search results, look at them as opportunities to promote your business. Craft each description carefully in order to take full advantage of the space at your disposal.

And last but not least, use a structured data markup. This is often referred to as a schema markup and is added in order to provide search engines with more information about your business – services, products, collected reviews, etc. You can use this Google-developed tool to check if your site’s markup is properly configured.

Now you have the basic means of starting your local SEO optimization campaign. Be sure to keep an eye on our articles for other, more advanced techniques of boosting your local search engine ranking.