Local SEO refers to the techniques used to get a website to rank higher for local queries within search engines.
People often turn to the internet to find local shopping options or discover businesses on the go.
A solid local SEO campaign will make your business easy to find for those who are researching products and services available nearby so you can connect with local prospects and boost your traffic.
Local SEO Is A Must For Small Businesses
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is optimizing your web property and social media to help you get found within search engines.
You can think of local SEO as just one of the aspects of your SEO campaign, but targeting those who are nearby in their proximity or search query.
While an SEO campaign with a wider scope will focus on on-page signals and links, a local SEO campaign will prioritize the resources prospects use when making decisions about local businesses.
How Does Local SEO Work?
The journey which eventually takes a customer to a local brick-and-mortar store often begins online.
Looking up nearby businesses on the go is the new norm since 96% of Americans have a mobile phone.
In fact, more than 40% of Google searches have a local intent.
Local SEO helps you rank for searches from people who are looking for a nearby business because they typically need a product or service right away.
You will also rank for mobile and desktop searches issued by users who are researching local options. These searches often convey the intent of finding products and services with the best reviews or best value in the area.
When a search engine identifies a query with a local search intent, it will return results based on proximity to the user’s location or area specified in the query.
Local SEO ensures Google and other search engines don’t overlook your business for these queries.
What Is A Local Search Query?
Some queries have an obvious intent. Think of users adding ‘near me’ at the end of their query, or including the name of a city or zip code.
Some queries refer to a specific business by name and have a clear local intent, too.
Other queries have a local intent even though they don’t use any keywords related to location. Some users infer their local intent by looking up products or services that require an in-person visit to a business.
- hair salons
- movie theaters
- medical practices
There are, of course, queries which are ambiguous.
For instance, a user looking for an accountant might be interested in hiring a remote accountant or in finding nearby businesses.
Shoppers looking for clothes or shoes might want to shop online or prefer brick-and-mortar stores where they can see and try the products before making a purchase.
Proper optimization will help the local businesses show up when the search engine deems it appropriate even if the query isn’t definable as local.
What Are Local SERPs?
Search Engine Result Pages, or SERPs, are what search engines serve up as the “answers” to the queries. They’re the blue links you click on that have short descriptions beneath them.
Familiarizing yourself with SERPs will give you a better idea of the kind of experience users have when looking for local options and the tools they can use to inform their decision.
Google Maps results are one of the most common types of results you will find on a local SERP.
Local SERPs from Google typically include a top result with a map showing red pins indicating nearby businesses and a list of the top three options.
These options include reviews, ratings and a brief description of the business category.
If users keep scrolling, additional results often include links to directories like Yelp, social media results, and official websites from local businesses.
In a perfect world, your business should be in the Map and in the organic results below.
When a query clearly refers to a specific local business, Google will usually display a block result with some or all the following information:
- business’ location on a map
- address of the business
- photos of the business
- link to the business’ official website
- call button
- reviews and ratings
- popular times
- questions and answers
Users can access additional local results easily by clicking on the Maps tab at the top of every SERP, or by interacting with these two common Maps results.
What Are the Core Local Ranking Factors?
The following signals help search engines determine which businesses to list for local queries.
On-page signals like consistent Name, Address, Phone, and website (sometimes referred to as the NAP/W) on every page can boost your rankings for local results.
Using keywords related to your city, area, and nearby landmarks in your content, titles, headers, and image alt text and captions can make a difference.
A lot of local searches come from mobile users.
Google will prioritize results from websites that are responsive on mobile.
Link Signals and External Signals
Your local SEO campaign should include external links from authoritative sites for your areas. Local publications who review and recommend businesses can make a difference.
Links from business listings and local citation sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, or the Yellow Pages can boost your rankings, especially if your NAP/W is consistent.
Social media profiles with plenty of likes from local users, as well as connections with authoritative social media pages in your area can be another positive signal for local SEO.
Google My Business
Google My Business is the primary tool Google uses to aggregate and share information about local businesses. The information you see in local SERPs block results comes from Google My Business.
You can claim your Google My Business listing (if you haven’t already done so) and update the information, add images of your business, and make sure the business category is accurate.
Claim Your Listings
Other maps, like Bing Places or Apple Maps, are also worth claiming your listing.
Reviews & Ratings
Social proof is an important signal for local SEO.
A business with a lot of positive, recent reviews will typically rank higher.
Taking the time to respond to negative reviews can improve rankings as well.
Google may look at behaviors from users to determine how relevant a local result is, as well.
Things like a high click-through rate for your official website, a lot of users clicking on the call button for your business, or check-ins on social media may influence local rankings.
Where Do I Start Optimizing for my Area?
The following steps will help you get started with local SEO:
- Start with your website. Make sure NAP is present and consistent on all your pages, and add location-related keywords in your titles, headers, copy, and URLs.
- Claim your Google My Business listing to update your information and make your listing more appealing.
- Claim your listing on Bing Places and add information if needed.
- Claim listings on directories like Yelp, TripAdvisor, FourSquare, the Yellow Pages, and any directories that are relevant for your industry and target audience.
- Develop your social media presence. Post more frequently and look for ways to engage with local users.
- Keep track of the reviews and ratings you get. Respond to negative reviews and look for ways to get more positive reviews.
In a sentence, how valuable is local SEO?
It’s the key to turning your online presence into a powerful driver of foot traffic for your business.