May 22, 2024
Local SEO for dog trainers
What is it and how can you harness it to grow your business?

woman with dog talking to pet store worker; blog post on local SEO

Did you know there are only 6 ways for someone to find your website? And one of the best is via “organic search” — typing a query into Google or another search engine. (Want to know the other 5 ways? Check out our blog post on getting more website traffic.)

But to maximize the effectiveness of organic search for your local dog training services you need to understand SEO — especially local SEO.

What the heck is SEO? I hear you cry. Never heard of it? No worries. Check out our SEO basics blog to get you started. Come back when you’re done, I’ll check my Facebook while I wait…

All up to speed? Great! 

Now you have the basics of standard SEO under your belt, let’s look at local SEO and how dog trainers like you can use it to boost their visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs).

What is local SEO?

When someone asks Google to show them dog trainers near me” or puppy school in Wildwood” they expect Google to give them information about local businesses.

These types of searches are common: according to Statista, 75% of consumers use Google to find information about local businesses. So, if you’ve not set yourself up to be found in this type of search you’re very definitely missing out.

You’ve probably done the same thing yourself. Maybe you’ve looked for a specific type of restaurant, or perhaps a pet store or vet when you’ve been away from home? 

Whatever you’ve been looking for, you’ve undoubtedly seen the search results with a list of local businesses and a map, like this:

Known as the local pack, or map pack, these results appear at the very top of the SERP — leapfrogging the standard SEO results listings. 

And if you run an in-person training service, that’s exactly where you want to be — front and center — so you get noticed.

How does Local SEO work?

Google uses three main things to rank a business in a map pack:

  • Proximity – how close the business is to the searcher.
  • Prominence – how important Google thinks a business is to potential customers.
  • Relevance – how closely a business matches the searcher’s query.

Google uses local content, social media pages, and inbound links and citations (more on these later) to evaluate how well a business fits with a searcher’s query. 

You can’t do much about proximity; the searcher either is or isn’t close to you. But the other two factors? You can do a lot to influence them. 

Here’s how…

Create your Google Business Profile (GBP) page

Previously known as the Google My Business page, this is THE key to getting noticed in local searches. You’ll need to set it up by answering the questions and then getting your business verified. Sounds intimidating but it’s not too complicated. 

Once it’s set up, optimize your GBP by:

1. Uploading your business photos:

  • A profile photo; usually your logo
  • A cover photo; maybe your training space or the outside of your facility
  • Informational photos; you, your team, relevant spaces a customer might like to see

2. Providing your opening hours and service areas.

Maintain its relevance by updating it regularly with:

1. Upcoming events 

2. New promotions

3. General updates

Reviews on GBP

Everyone loves to see social proof and Google is no different. Testimonials on your website are great but if you want to boost your local SEO encourage your clients to leave reviews on your GBP instead. You can make this easy by including a link for them to follow when you ask for a review. 

And don’t forget to respond to those reviews — no matter whether they’re fabulous or not so great. Google wants to see that you’re a genuine business and that you interact with your clients and customers in an authentic, honest (but polite!) way. 

Setting up your GBP isn’t the only way to increase your local SEO. Let’s look at some others…

Get listed locally

Google looks for any information linking a business to its location. So another way to get that information out there is to register your business with online business directories. 

When you list your business with a directory you create what’s called a citation”. The more of these you can have with respected directories, the better. They indicate to Google that your business is genuine and build trust with searchers. 

For U.S.-based businesses, the big ones are:

  • Express Update
  • Neustar Localeze
  • Foursquare 
  • Factual

If you’ve already registered with any directories make sure you remove duplicate entries.

Be consistent with formatting

Now this is such an obvious thing when you think about it but it’s amazing how often people get this wrong. If you’ve ever used a database you’ll know that “John Smith”, “john smith” and “John smith” are not all equal — even if they all refer to the same person. 

For the internet, which is just a super-glorified database, spelling and formatting can matter. A lot. 

So, no matter where you list your name, address, and phone number (NAP), be sure to use exactly the same spelling and formatting. 

If you use abbreviations make sure you always use them consistently. Don’t use “street” in one place, “st” in another and “st.” somewhere else.

On your website have your NAP on your header, your footer, and on your contact page. Include your area code with your phone number. Also, don’t have your NAP as an image, make sure it’s crawlable text so Google can read it.

Optimize your website for local SEO

You’ve probably already optimized your website for your service keywords and to be mobile friendly (this is a *must do* for local SEO) but now let’s look at how you can optimize for your location.

Add location info to your main pages

Purposely add location details to your web pages so both human visitors and Google know where you are. It’s surprisingly easy to do. Include them in:

  • your meta description, like this: “Muddy Puppy is Dunedin’s premier dog training service. See us for…” *
  • your page titles and title tags *
  • Header and subheader text *
  • the alt text and file name of relevant photos. (Alt text is the descriptive text used for accessibility. It’s read by Google so it has some influence on your SEO.)

*(Not sure what these are? Check out our intro to SEO post.)

You can also subtly weave location references into your body copy. Try mentioning local landmarks like this: 

Muddy Puppy is nestled in Dunedin’s West Harbor, a quick 7-minute drive from Otago University.” 

Google will recognize your business is located near those well-documented landmarks.

You could also add a Google map to your website, but you might need a developer to do this for you properly.

Create location-specific blog posts

Another great way to tell Google where you are — and how tightly knit you are within the community — is to create helpful, local content. Make sure you clearly include your location and references to local landmarks or businesses: In Dunedin…”, not around here…” or in my city…”

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Best local walking spots
  • Best dog-friendly cafes
  • Pet store reviews
  • Your favorite animal-related local businesses
  • Case studies that include place names or local businesses
  • Success stories that include place names or business names

Other ways to improve your local SEO

One of the metrics Google uses is prominence, or how important Google thinks a business is to potential customers. Part of that is how well networked you are. So, the more times your business links to other local businesses, the better you’ll rank in a local SEO search for your type of service.

It pays to get out and network in your community. Here are some ideas to get you started: 

  • Guest blog for other local businesses
  • Partner with a nonprofit
  • Sponsor an event
  • Write something for the local newspaper. (Most are available online now.)
  • Do dog/child safety demos for schools

No matter what you choose to do, always ask for a backlink to your website from any resulting posts, marketing, or promotional material created. 

Local SEO in a nutshell

Google wants to give searchers the very best information it can. By optimizing your website for general SEO, being active in your community, and including plenty of locational information in all your digital marketing, local SEO will basically take care of itself.

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