What is local SEO?
Local SEO is just “Local Search Engine Optimization” So rather than trying to rank at number 1 on google globally. you’re just trying to rank in your immediate area. This is an incredibly effective way of marketing your business online and helps you promote your products or services directly to people in your local area.
There are a variety of methods to do this some is similar to standard SEO. Some not so much. Some of it is much easier as you generally will have less competition but may require tools specific to local SEO rather than SEO more broadly.
Here are some interesting stats regarding local SEO:
- 46% of searches are seeking local information.
- 88% of consumer local business searches from mobile devices result in either a call or a visit within the next 24 hours
- 97% of people have searched online for a local business
- 72% of consumers who search for local businesses will visit a store within five miles
- Between 20% – 25% of organic traffic converts in to a lead.
These are just a few examples of why Local SEO can be so valuable to small business.
Anyone in the world with good enough SEO authority can end up at number one on google for “How to fix a broken pipe”. But when this is no longer a question but has purchase intent behind it, it becomes more like “Plumbers near me” or “Plumbers in [location]”.
Even though the location or “near me” isn’t actually required as google assumes local intent and so will automatically show results in your area (Unless you have location services turned off). Search engines understand when there is purchase intent rather than you simply looking for a general answer to a question and so will give you business suggestions based on the location. The difference in intent is what is key here and why Local SEO is definitely worth looking in to.
Local SEO means Local SERPS.
The number one goal for local businesses is to get into what is called the “local pack” or “the 3-pack” This is the separated block of three businesses that shows at the top of the first page on google (After the sponsored ads) right below the map showing you where they are.
This will usually list things such as the business name, opening hours, contact number, contact e-mail, reviews and photos. All of this information is drawn from your business’ “Google My Business Profile” which is essential to your local SEO marketing as it can be difficult to rank without this.
Google my business.
Google my business used to be called Google Local. This is your Google business profile. This gives the information to google needed to get you into the three pack. The 3-pack get the majority of all clicks that land on that page, so you want to be in it. Information from Google Maps is also used in the 3-pack so it’s good to have some pictures of your business up as well.
If you click on “More Businesses” it will open a larger version of the map with more listings.
Citations Citations Citations.
When your NAPW (Name,Address,Phone number, Website URL) appear together somewhere online, usually in a directory or business listing website, this counts as a citation.
These are very important in local SEO otherwise you can easily be over taken by your competition that are listed in such directories if you aren’t.
A listing in a directory or business listing is an example of a structured citation. But there are also “unstructured” citations. This is usually when somebody has mentioned your business on social media or as a result of your business being mentioned in local press (along with your NAPW).
Citations are incredibly important in local SEO as if you don’t get some you essentially have no chance of getting into the 3-pack. This needs to be a foundational aspect of your local SEO strategy and needs to be done on relevant websites. If these aren’t regularly updated and kept accurate then you can end up losing your spot.
Local SEO Best Practices.
It is important to google that they’re able to verify your business as they don’t want to promote content they cant verify. Which means your business profile is important.
Your GMB (Google My Business) Profile can contain a fair bit of information submitted by you such as the different services you offer, contact details such as phone numbers or e-mail, a description of your business, opening times as well as your website if you have one. Keep in mind some information of here is generated and submitted by users, such as reviews from consumers who hopefully have experience with your business. A good idea here would be to encourage your customers to write a short review for you.
It is important to keep your profile up-to-date in order to keep your chances of ranking in the 3-pack high. Out-of-date or inaccurate information simply looks less appealing to consumers and this can hurt your ranking. Make sure that your NAPW is available as readable text and isn’t just part of an image. This is a more common mistake than you might think. Google won’t read the text of an image so it needs to be in actual text. Generally your NAPW will be included in either the header or footer of your site.
It is also important to improve your on-page SEO if you have a website and to try and keep load times nice and quick.
Other factors affecting your Local SEO Ranking.
- Proximity: How close your business is to the person searching.
- Relevance: How relevant is your service or product to the query?
- Prominence: What do other consumers in the area have to say about your business?
Keeping your website up to date.
Internal Link Structure.
Although external links pointing to your site are best (Backlinks) keeping your internal link structure up-to-date and functional will help to boost your ranking.
It is important to keep your internal links functioning they help to navigate your website as well as assisting with the information hierarchy of your website. Having a functional link structure and correct hierarchy helps to distribute page authority and ranking power among all of your pages.
Optimize the Meta Data.
Every new blog post or page added to your website is indexed and is another opportunity for you to get found in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Page). Your content should be optimized for SEO by using high volume keywords, ideally, however you can also target long string key words or lower volume keywords (but target a lot of them) if a keyword only has 50 searches per month, but you have 20 of them. That can add up to quite a bit of traffic. Try to stick to high volume keywords for things such as your URL, titles, headers and meta description.
If you have more than physical location then you should created location pages containing your NAPW, opening hours and any other store specific information. Try to keep location specific information unique to that page and don’t duplicate information across multiple pages. If you can add a Google map to your website to show your location, even if you only have one store this will help you out a lot.
Optimize for your consumers, not just Google.
Search Engines are much better at delivering relevant content than they used to be which means you no longer need to focus on making content that Google will like. You can now focus more on your consumers and Google will get it to them. Try not to create more general or broad content as although this may bring a wider audience. It may not be the people you’re looking for. Create content about local or industry specific news. You want to be the local authority for your industry. This means promoting industry gatherings (if there are any) News, Employees and other relevant educational content. Depending on your industry, this may be more difficult. People don’t generally read about plumbing for example, unless they need one at the time.
If you’re selling a product rather than a service, try to write content that, while focused, goes a little beyond what you sell. If you sell tents for example. Write about the best local camping spots in order to get people interested and hopefully convert them into a customer.
As mentioned earlier, 88% of consumer local business searches from mobile devices result in either a call or a visit within the next 24 hours. Which means you want your website to run well on mobile. If pages take too long to load or load incorrectly people will very quickly click off of it and find a different one.
People will very commonly look up reviews for your site so it helps to have some positive ones. People also look up directions to a location or contact information regularly so make sure this information is easy to find.
Get your business on directories.
GMB isn’t the only place you need to keep an up-to-date profile. Get yourself on to business directories like Checkatrade. (Think yellow pages for the internet only more industry specific). getting your NAPW on to these sites will get you citations as well as backlinks which are both important to your local SEO ranking and will help you get into the local pack.
Optimize your online Directories.
Much of the map data for Apple, Yelp, Bing and Google are aggregated from:
- Express Update
- Neustar Localeze
- My Business Listing Manager
Keeping your citations complete, consistent and up-to-date across these four data aggregators is important. Any discrepancies such as misspellings, wrong or lack of suite numbers in your address, out of date or incorrect phone number, abbreviations can all become a problem for you. Google needs to be able to determine which information is correct, and if google cant verify this it simply won’t promote it.
Relevant and Authoritative Inbound links.
an Inbound link, or more commonly, a backlink is just a link pointing to your website from another. Backlinks tell Google that you’re a legitimate company especially if these links come from authoritative sites. This will improve your own authority within Googles rankings. If your business has a blog, then writing guest posts on another blog is a great way to get some backlinks.
Start with your own network. Depending on your industry this could be anything from the Chamber of commerce, licensing bureaus, trade associations, vendors, manufacturers or suppliers. Actively participate in your community and community conversations. Whether you host or attend local meetups or community event or any number of other things. Get involved. Talk to other people in your industry and become a resource provider. This can get people talking about your business within the community and can result in backlinks to your site, social media growth or local media coverage.
Optimize for Voice Search.
Voice search is already a popular option (Siri, in the case of Apple. Cortana for Microsoft) and is set to grow even more in the coming years. So try to optimize your local SEO for the way in which people ask questions when they speak as well as how they would type it.
When using voice search people tend to use more long tail keywords compared to when they type. Optimize some of your keywords with a more conversational tone.
Users will often be querying with a specific intent such as finding a piece of information. “Siri, what time is (business) open”. Make sure information like this is readily available.
Local SEO Tools.
As with SEO. Local SEO also has a lot of tools to help you with optimization.
Whitespark is a local citation finder. You may remember from earlier, that these are important. Actively managing your citations is important as this information needs to be kept up-to-date accurate and consistent. Whitespark can help manage these. It offers local listing management and also recommends where you should list your business. It also keeps up with your competition and monitors your citations meaning you can save time managing them and keep yourself at the top of the rankings.
Screaming Frog crawls website links, images, CSS script as well as apps as if it were a search engine. So if there are any issues with your SEO such as broken links, missing meta data such as descriptions or url slugs it will let you know. You can use Screaming Frog for free to Analyze up to 500 URLs.
Moz Local will help you to ensure that you’ve been verified on Google and Facebook as well as help to distribute your listing. Moz Local collaborates with data aggregators in order to help it better push listings and increase your business’ visibility.
BuzzStream helps you to earn backlinks, find local influencers for you to build relationships with as well as tracking their conversations and giving you some insights into your outreach campaigns and link placements.
Google particularly considers social media to be important. so be sure to share your GMB on social media.
Hopefully this gives you some insight into why Local SEO is so important and a brief overview of how to get started. Some of these steps are more active than others. Putting your NAPW on your site or directories will usually only need to be done once. Getting reviews and creating or publishing local relevant content on the other hand is something you’ll need to be more active with to ensure you keep your SEO rankings.
Sources: Nectafy, HubSpot,