If you’re a local business looking to increase traffic to your website and physical store, then adopting a local SEO strategy is a must to thrive!
Similar to traditional SEO, local SEO focuses on improving your website’s visibility in local search results. There are many factors that matter to local search but not so much to the traditional one. In this comprehensive guide, you will learn why local SEO is so important and what you can do to improve your presence in local search results.
What is local SEO and why is it so important?
Local SEO is a strategy that helps your business be more visible in local searches. It includes optimizing signals both on and off your site. When optimizing your website for local search, remember that you want to attract people looking for information based on their location.
As a local business, you can appear in the local pack, Google Maps and the organic search results simultaneously.
Google's local algorithm is more complex than its traditional search algorithm, as it includes additional signals to deliver the best results for the user’s query. The main three categories of local ranking factors are prominence, relevance, and distance.
- Prominence – Does your website and Google Business Profile stand out from other search results?
- Relevance – How well your business matches what the user is searching for.
- Distance – How far the potential search result is from a user.
Last year, Google globally updated the local search algorithm to place more prominence on distance. However, as more and more local businesses build their online presence, ranking well in local search results is getting harder and harder.
With nearly half of all Google searches being local, it is important to utilise local SEO to put your business in front of those who are looking for services or products in their area.
- Emily Swinscoe, SEO Consultant, Hallam
There are many factors you need to consider when optimizing your website. This set of unique ranking factors also includes:
- Proximity of address to the location of search
- Presence of Google Business Profile listing
- Primary GBP category and your additional categories
- NAP consistency and citations
- On-page factors
- Geographic keyword relevance of your website content
- Number of “check-ins” at your location
- Social media signals
Based on the data from Whitespark's Local Search Ranking Factors survey, it seems that Google Business Profile together with Reviews have the biggest impact on local pack rankings. Meanwhile, on-page factors and links are the most powerful signals to help rank in local organic search results.
Image source: Whitespark
How to check local organic rankings
You don't have to drive in your car around the town to perform searches in different locations to check your local rankings. Instead, use the SERP Position miner to view Google search results from different locations.
After logging into Marketing Miner, click on the Create Report button in the right top corner to select the SERP Position tool.
After selecting the tool, click on the Advanced Settings option to add your business name in the local pack and enter a specific location you want to check the search results for.
Thanks to this tool, you can view search results for multiple keywords in one go to save time. After you fill in all your details in Advanced Settings, click on the Add button to continue. In the next step, enter all keywords you want to check your local rankings for.
You can either add keywords manually, upload your keyword spreadsheet, or simply connect your Google Search Console/Google Analytics account to automatically import your data. Don’t worry, if your business is large. You can analyze your local rankings for up to 100,000 keywords in one report!
Or simply add your domain name below to quickly see if your website appears in the local pack:
Google Business Profile
To earn higher rankings for local searches and increase your business's visibility, you need to optimize your Google Business Profile first. Your potential customers can find everything about your business without visiting the website, so make sure your information is complete and accurate. Choosing the right business category for your listing is crucial, as it acts as a label that helps people find you on Google. If you can't decide what category to select, you can use the PlePer tool to help you choose the most relevant categories for your business.
Let’s take a look at what an optimized Google Business Profile looks like:
Reviews - first impressions count
Reviews play a major part in the local algorithm. While online reviews do not necessarily reflect your services, more consumers are reading online reviews than ever before. In fact, nearly 90% of people who search online are influenced by positive online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Keywords in reviews help Google understand what your business does and how your customers perceive it.
Responding to reviews is more important than ever, with 30% users naming this as key when judging local businesses. Remember, your replies to the negative reviews aren't just to the person who left the review – they're also for the rest of the world who want to see how you deal with disgruntled customers.
Posts and products - local justifications
You can publish your offers, events, products, and services directly to Google Search and Maps. Using Google Business Profile posts is key to communicate directly with your local customers, promote your news, special deals, new products, events etc. They also provide additional information about your entity. On mobile search, they are blended into other search results and increase your visibility even more. You can also create Product posts to help generate traffic to your website and increase conversions, so don't forget to leverage them in your favor.
Include UTM tracking on all CTA buttons and website link to measure the effectiveness of your Google Business Profile. You can download our free Ultimate local SEO checklist for more tips and the UTM tracking examples.
Local SEO is all about providing accurate and useful information about your business and communicating well with your audience across many platforms. It involves:
- providing excellent experience in the store,
- representing your business online utilizing the tools available,
- responding to online queries over Google Business Profile, and engaging with your audience over your website, social media and other platforms you're on and
- building good relationship with business partners to indirectly promote your business both online and offline.
My biggest and probably the only overarching evergreen tip is to be consistent in all of these efforts. Local visibility comes automatically when you:
- accurately provide NAP of your business across many platforms,
- provide services & products information in GBP
- keep an eye on GBP to see if there are relevant categories you can select,
- monitoring and responding to positive and NEGATIVE reviews,
- proactively ask your vendors/business partners to link to your site,
- publish useful information for your audience as blog posts, GBP Q&As or Google Posts and you keep on doing it periodically.
If you want to put in the effort and go a step further, I would recommend expanding your local business schema. Recently, I've been testing if additional structured data elements (e.g. currenciesAccepted, hasOfferCatalog) would make a detectable impact.
- Begum Kaya, SEO Consultant, BK Solutions
Building your local authority (local links and citations)
Authority is key when it comes to local SEO and it can help outrank your local competitors in search results. You can build your online local authority through on and off-site SEO, including a strong local link building strategy.
A local citation is any mention of your business's name, address, and phone number (commonly called NAP) on other websites. Google’s algorithm regularly checks if your business information is the same across different platforms – as well as its own. NAP consistency is one of the local pack ranking factors and is not just important to search engine ranking, but it also has a direct impact on your consumer perception.
Local citations still matter – and for more than just local SEO. Potential customers see these citations whether they’re searching for what you do in Google search or they go directly to one, like Yelp or Angi, to help them make a final decision based on customer reviews. While citations still impact local search results, they’re much more powerful when you look at the big picture of how people choose to do business with you. Your reputation on sites that fall into the local citation bucket can make or break the trust needed to pick up the phone and do business with a company.
- Melissa Popp, Friendly Neighborhood Content Strategist, RicketyRoo
Find local business directories
Being listed on these sites provides important industry specific relevancy signals, as well as important location signals to search engines. You can focus on the main directories that often appear in search results when you look for keywords from your niche. Simply search for relevant keywords and your city to find specific directories:
- (city) (keyword) business listings
- (city) (keyword) business directory
- (city) directory
Or use Google’s Advanced Search to only return search results for your target phrase (e.g. search only for results that contain “directory for restaurants” in their title).
The best way to find the right local citations is by thinking about what directories your potential customers use to search for businesses like yours. You don’t have to be everywhere, just where your target audience will visit.
- Celeste Gonzalez, SEO Specialist
Build local links
Local link building is the process of acquiring locally relevant links from sources such as local blogs, guides, newspapers, organizations, or business associations. Local links are different from your other backlinks, as they come from websites that are relevant to your geographical area. They are also based on relationships that your competitors often don’t have.
A strong link building strategy is a great way to grow your local search presence and expose your business to more customers. Building locally relevant links helps search engines understand that your website is relevant to your local community. This time, you’re not just building links. You’re building a strong local community network.
Start with leveraging existing relationships you already have. Approach people and businesses that already know you. If they don’t have an appropriate “Partners” page, you can also consider writing them a testimonial or case study. Reach out to local blogs, news, and community forums. Can your business offer any services or sponsorship to local charities and non-profit organizations? You can also offer a specific offer that is relevant to the audience of the sponsored organization or team.
Don’t forget to look for other local sites linking to your competitors but not to your website. Contact them straight away if you spot any outdated content or broken links.
Your social media presence is more important for your local search strategy than you think. Social signals such as shares, likes, mentions and overall social media visibility are perceived by search engines, and they contribute to your organic search visibility. Your strong social media presence will help build up your brand as credible and trustworthy. Include your NAP information and website link to the listing bio or description across all social media platforms you use. Take advantage of geotagging your posts and using local keywords and hashtags to attract more local followers.
Join local Facebook groups to help spread the news about upcoming local events or share your business news. Instagram also recently added a searchable map that lets you discover popular local businesses near you and filter them by categories. When searching businesses on the map, users can also discover Related Guides. It is a feature that helps people quickly discover useful tips from local creators to know where to eat, what places to visit, and more. They’re like a miniature blog on Instagram, so don’t forget to leverage them in your favor.
Create locally relevant content
Creating content that speaks to your local audience is a great way to help build authority for your website. For local content, think about topics relevant to your business and useful for your customers. Do your local keyword research to find keywords that people search when looking for products or services you are offering.
When writing your blog post, remember that local content is not about being unique. It’s about being local and useful. For this reason, ensure you also include your location keywords in all the important page elements, such as title tags, H1, URL, meta description, alt tags, anchor text, and others. If possible, become a community resource. Focus on creating local guides, answer questions that people often ask on your Google Business Profile, write about local events, or interview other local figures. Ego-bait content tends to work quite well, as people will likely share your posts to broaden your reach.
On-page optimization includes so many factors and there are different strategies you can implement to increase your local search presence.
Nearly 59% of all traffic worldwide is generated through mobile phones. We use them to answer questions when we want to know, go, do and buy. One of the most important factors is page speed. The slower a page loads, the worst the page experience becomes.
Having your website populated with content that performs well on mobile devices is crucial for targeting your local audience. Ensuring that your site has a responsive design is also important for search engines, as Google now uses the mobile version of your site for indexing and ranking purposes.
Schema markup tells the search engines what specific information your site contains and where it is located. It’s the backend code that tells search engines “This is our address” and “This is our business”, so when people will be searching for “(your business category) in (your city)” your website will more likely show up as search engines will have a better understanding of these entities.
Use the power of internal linking throughout your website. Internal links provide additional insights into how pages relate to each other and enhance the user experience. Optimize your anchor text to let users and search engines know what your page content is about.
Here are a few more improvements you can make to your website to increase your local search visibility:
- Tailor your pages for local search intent
- Make sure your NAP information on your website is consistent
- Include keywords in your meta titles and descriptions
- Use descriptive URLs
- Optimize your header tags and images
- Include details that matter to your audience
- Improve your Core Web Vitals
- Use HTTPS
- Optimize your Contact Us page and keep up-to-date the About Us page
Local competitor research
Always audit your local competitors to see how they are positioning themselves online. Explore their ranking keywords, check their landing pages, and learn what schema and other features they use to convert visitors and build trust.
I recommend narrowing down your research to 2-3 competitors per location to prioritize your next steps. Check your competitors’ backlinks and monitor their brand mentions to reach out to different publications and build new partnerships.
When doing your competitor analysis, look at their content to find out what topics they are writing about and what keywords they focus on to adapt your content strategy accordingly. You can also use Content Gap analysis to find holes in your existing content.
It takes only two clicks to carry out your content gap analysis in Marketing Miner. Simply enter your domain name to the Website Profiler. Navigate to the Content gap section and enter your local competitors to discover your missed opportunities.
And now it's your turn!
Now that you know how to gather your local search data, find your competitors and have all important information well in hand, you’re ready to start working on your local SEO strategy. I hope you found this article helpful in your journey to attract more local customers.
The Ultimate Local SEO checklist
We also put together this Ultimate SEO checklist for 2023 to help you get started with your local SEO strategy. To make your work easier, we included a checklist with all important on-page and off-page optimization tasks, NAP citations tracking sheet and useful tips for optimizing your Google Business Profile.