Three steps for local search engine optimization

By Sherry Bonelli / Guest Column

If you’re a local business, your digital marketing strategies need to be a little different than those bigger brands who are marketing to a national, or even an international, audience.

One way to help get your business exposure online is through search engine optimization (SEO) which are strategies to help your website rank higher in the search engines. Here are three SEO strategies you can use to give your site a boost.

Get listed on online directories

There are certain SEO ranking factors that can help your website appear higher on search engine result pages (SERPs). One is getting your business listed on credible online business directories such as Google My Business, Bing Places for Business, Yelp, Citysearch and YellowPages.

To get started, find high-quality online directories and check to see if they already have your business’ information in their database. To see a list of some of the best sites, visit If a directory already has your business listed, make sure your business’ information is correct. If they don’t have your business listed, you usually can add your business – often for free.

When you claim an online business listing, make sure you include/add important business information and make sure that your company’s name, address and phone number are exactly the same on all of the various directories. As an example, Google would see 214 1st Street and 214 First Street as two different locations. The search engine is then not sure which address is correct, so in many cases, it won’t show either of them in the results.

To see if your business has been claimed on Google My Business, visit Enter your business’ name (and sometimes address) and see what pops up.

The SCORE East Central Iowa Chapter has partnered with Google to help local Corridor businesses claim and optimize their Google My Business pages. SCORE routinely gives live Getting Your Business Online with Google workshops that walks you through this process. To find out when the next workshop will be, email

Once you get your Google My Business page set up, move on to Bing Places for Business and then get listed on other online business directories. But make sure that the online business directory you’re getting listed on is credible.

Write local-related content on your blog

Most business owners cringe at the thought of writing a blog post. Typically, your blog posts should be approximately 1,000-plus words and ideally have a “local” slant to the story. For instance, you might write a blog post about a local customer you recently helped, or talk about a local event your company is sponsoring. Be sure to include the name of the city your business is in or a few cities your service business serves.

Get online reviews

In the modern-day shopping experience, your customers are watching videos, reading blog posts, reviewing your website’s content, asking their friends on social media and reading reviews before they figure out what product, service or business to try. According to BrightLocal, 84 percent of people trust an online review as much as a personal recommendation.

If your business doesn’t have a reputation marketing strategy in place, now’s the time to get going. Reviews not only help people make purchasing decisions, but positive reviews can also help with your SEO rankings.

It’s important that you ask your happy customers to leave an online review for your business. Print out a little card with a note asking for a review. Providing your customers with the exact website URL where they can go to leave a review will make it much easier on them.

These local SEO suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg. I’d love to hear what questions you have or what other digital marketing topics you’d be interested in learning more about.

Sherry Bonelli, digital marketer and presenter/speaker, has been a digital marketing professional since 1998. She is currently the owner of early bird digital marketing, a full-service digital marketing agency Cedar Rapids. She can be reached at or (319) 409-3287.