The undeniable power of search engine optimization has helped make the technique a marketing powerhouse over the course of the past decade. SEO offers a myriad of benefits for organizations of all shapes and sizes, but local business owners need to address a unique set of criteria to maximize the effectiveness of their optimization efforts. If you’re an entrepreneur looking to boost your site’s marketing prowess in your local market, consider the following essentials for mastering local SEO, once and for all.

Local Directories: Listing Your Business

Long gone are the days when consumers would turn to the Yellow Pages to connect with local business owners. Instead, modern buyers use sites like Google+ Places, Google Maps, Yahoo! Local and Bing Places for Business. Listing your business in these directories has a twofold effect. Firstly, the directories themselves serve as a valuable tool, should web users start their search with one of these portals. Local listings also enhance the overall SEO power of your website, in turn boosting your search rankings.

Social Proof: Demonstrating Your Value

Ask yourself the following question: Would you be more likely to trust the advice of an advertisement or an independent customer? In almost all instances, you’d choose a real customer’s input over a company’s advertising copy, right? This simple exercise demonstrates the incredible potential review sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, and Google+ represent.

It’s not enough to merely claim your business’ listing on one of these sites, however. You need to publicize your presence on review sites. Many entrepreneurs include easy links in their email footers and on their business cards. You can also print signage to include in your storefront, or place small widgets on your site. Remember, it’s important not to directly solicit positive reviews, however, as you could find yourself in violation of the terms and conditions of these directories.

Mobile Users: Making Your Site Responsive

If you didn’t already know, Google changed its algorithms earlier this year to prioritize responsive sites. Responsive websites shift to fit the screen of each unique visitor. If your site isn’t yet responsive, make this a top priority in the months to come. Not only will adopting a responsive design boost your SEO performance, but it will also better convert the 63% of smartphone users performing local searches.

Running a local business and managing a corporate brand differ in a multitude of ways. Utilizing business directories, gathering social proof, and catering to mobile customers may not make much impact on a large conglomerate, but these marketing techniques have far reaching implications for small businesses. By investing your attention and resources in pursuing these marketing channels, you’re bound to increase your site’s traffic count, convert more visitors, and hopefully, grow your bottom line.