Local search engine optimization (SEO) is a vital part of any competitive strategy since it can help your business rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs) for queries related to your business and location. To harness the power of local SEO, though, you need to optimize your website and online content for specific keywords.
If you’re new to the concept of local SEO, this guide will help you understand what it is, why it matters, and how you can get started either on your own or with the help of a seasoned local SEO agency like Victorious.
What Is Local SEO?
Local SEO is the practice of optimizing your business’s online presence to improve your visibility in local search results for a specific region, city, or neighborhood.
Optimizing for local SEO is a must for businesses based out of a physical location, like restaurants, retail stores, and local service-based businesses. And with the rise of mobile searches and the growing popularity of “near me” searches, local SEO has become increasingly valuable, even for larger businesses that are less location-specific.
By investing in local SEO, your business can increase online visibility, attract more relevant traffic to your website, and ultimately bring in more sales and revenue. Local SEO even helps you translate online views to in-store traffic. What more could you ask for?
Why Does Local SEO Matter?
What happens when you’re looking for a nearby spot to grab a bite to eat? Or if you need to hire a plumber because your sink is leaking?
If you’re like most people, you run a search. These searches have local intent — you really only want results that are near you. A hoagie shop or a plumber two states over isn’t going to do you any good.
Businesses that serve specific geographic areas need to focus on local SEO so when someone within their service zone runs that critical search, they show up. Thus, if you have one or more physical locations or otherwise rely on local customers, increasing your visibility in local online searches should be a top priority.
Increased Visibility in Local Search Results
When someone uses location-based search for localized queries or incorporates local search terms, like a city name or the words “near me,” search engines like Google understand that the person is looking for a business in their area. If you haven’t optimized your website for local search, you might not show up, which can lead to countless missed opportunities.
Local SEO will increase your chances of ranking at the top of search results whenever someone in your area searches for terms related to your products or services.
Better Targeting of Local Customers
Creating content for general keywords in your industry may lead to people visiting your website who aren’t able to use your services. For example, if you have an event planning business in San Francisco, reaching people in Des Moines doesn’t help you increase your bookings.
Targeting localized keywords can help you appear higher in those local search results, allowing you to attract people looking for the products or services you offer and get in front of them at the exact moment they need your offerings.
Increased Foot Traffic and In-Store Sales
When you do a local search, chances are, you’ll see a Google 3-pack showing businesses near you.
This is some highly coveted real estate! Not only is it near the top of search results, but it clearly shows a local business’s location and makes it easy for potential customers to ask for directions or go to their website. That means by improving your local SEO, you can actually increase the number of people who walk through your doors or call you.
Higher Conversion Rates
When you consistently stay top-of-mind for local customers by appearing in relevant search results and sharing quality content, you accomplish a number of goals. You’ll generate more interest in your business by getting more eyes on your offerings. On top of that, your content and reputation will help nurture people through the decision process, increasing your conversion rate over time.
Who Needs Local SEO?
Local SEO isn’t just for small-town businesses. While it can play a critical role in growing a small local business, local SEO is important for companies in all of the following positions:
- Brick-and-mortar businesses: Businesses with one or more physical locations, such as retail stores and restaurants, need local SEO to attract customers in their area. This is true even for national retail and restaurant chains with multiple locations across the country.
- Service-based businesses: Businesses that offer services within a specific geographic area, such as plumbers, electricians, and home cleaners, need local SEO to reach potential customers in their service area.
- Franchise businesses: Franchise businesses with multiple locations need local SEO to optimize each location’s online presence and attract customers in their area.
- Online businesses with local intent: Even businesses that operate solely online can benefit from local SEO if they have local intent. For example, an e-commerce business offering free local delivery or pickup can benefit from local SEO to reach potential customers.
- Small businesses: Local SEO is vital for a small, local business like a mom-and-pop shop since most of their customer base tends to be local citizens and tourists. By investing in local SEO, small businesses can compete with larger businesses in the area and perhaps even gain a bigger slice of the market thanks to their small-business charm.
Overall, practically any business that operates in a specific region can benefit from local SEO. By optimizing your online presence for local search, your business can attract more customers, improve its online reputation, and increase its revenue.
How To Get Started With Local SEO
Search engine optimization is notoriously complex, and local SEO is even more so, but implementing a handful of strategies can put your business on track to ranking for local keywords.
Google uses a separate ranking algorithm for local from that of “traditional” SEO. Understanding what those different factors are can help propel your business up the local rankings. (Check out our post about local SEO vs. traditional SEO here.)
Here’s an overview of some of the methods you can use to create a comprehensive local SEO strategy.
Local Keyword Research
A keyword is a term or phrase people frequently search. Users sometimes string together a series of terms to form a more specific search query known as a long-tail keyword.
For instance, someone searching for a plumber may search for “plumber,” “commercial plumber,” or “commercial plumber in San Antonio.”
Local keyword research is a critical first step that will lay the foundation for your SEO plan. By conducting keyword research, you can identify locally relevant keywords that potential customers are searching for in your area.
When finding keywords you want to rank for, consider the search terms people in your area would use to find local businesses, identify your products/services, and express relevant needs.
For instance, a potential home buyer may search for “real estate agent in Denver,” but they may also search for “homes for sale in Denver.”
On-Page Optimization for Local SEO
Once you’ve completed your keyword research, it’s time to optimize your pages.
Optimizing your website’s content and structure, including title tags, meta descriptions, header tags, and content, with appropriate local keywords can help you rank higher for local search results. When creating additional content for your site, make keyword research a part of your process! That way, you can gauge what content to create and how to structure it.
In addition to optimizing on-page elements, you’ll also want to consider how to improve your technical SEO. Improving page speed, checking that Google is indexing your pages, and properly redirecting pages when you want to remove them from your site can all impact your search performance. On-page SEO and technical SEO are the same for small or large sites — the only real difference is scale. These posts explain more:
Google Business Profile Optimization
Google Business Profile (GBP), formerly Google My Business (GMB), is a free tool from Google that allows businesses to manage their online presence across Google, including in Google Search and on Google Maps. Creating and verifying a Google Business Profile listing lets you provide people with your business name, address, phone number, website, hours, photos, and customer reviews. GBP listings also allow businesses to post updates and share helpful information with their customers, such as special promotions or events.
Creating a GBP listing can help you maintain accurate information about your business, which creates an easy reference next time a customer is looking for information about where you’re located or when you’re open. However, your GBP listing can also help boost your local SEO presence if you use it correctly.
If you already have a listing, that’s a good first step, but optimizing your Google My Business listing is critical — especially if you’re in a highly competitive market where multiple businesses are offering similar products or services. Optimizing your GBP listing means adding images, geotagging your photos, eliminating duplicate listings, adding your products/services/menu, and posting updates, among other things. Follow the steps we’ve outlined here.
Reviews and Ratings
Collecting reviews and ratings is essential to building your digital presence and reputation. Positive reviews give potential customers the confidence to take that first step and contact or visit your business.
Reviews also play a critical role in search rankings. Positive reviews can help your business rank higher in local search results. Plus, especially in the case of your Google Business Profile listing and local search services like Yelp, positive reviews can help you stand out from competitors.
Even if you receive a negative review, showcasing the quality and integrity of your customer service through a thoughtful public response can help shape your business’s image. With that in mind, it’s important to remember you aren’t entirely at the mercy of whoever decides to leave a review.
Asking your existing customers to leave you a review online can help you kickstart your local SEO presence. You can also invite customers to review your business with reminders on receipts, business cards, and via a sign at checkout.
Citations and NAP SEO
Building local citations might look like submitting your business to local directories, which may sound mundane, but it can play a critical role in your off-page optimization strategy. These listings often lead to local backlinks, which can help search engines understand where you’re located and the services you provide, while also building your authority and increasing your online visibility.
Of course, to use citations effectively, you have to understand the importance of NAP in SEO. NAP refers to Name, Address, and Phone Number citations. NAP is a critical component of local SEO because it provides search engines with the necessary information to accurately identify and display your business in local search results.
Using consistent NAP information across all online platforms, including directories, helps search engines verify your business’s information. Having inaccurate or inconsistent NAP SEO can negatively impact your local search rankings and online reputation. Take the time to confirm and update your business’s online listings and information regularly. Learn more about this in our local SEO tools post.
While links hold a large amount of weight in Google’s traditional algorithm, they can hold even more importance in Google’s local algorithm. In Google’s “eyes,” links are like popularity votes (don’t worry, I won’t bring up any high school memories with this one). Since many local businesses operate at a smaller scale compared to enterprise businesses, they tend to have only a couple hundred or fewer linking domains. Thus, local links can be a great differentiating factor when attempting to outrank other businesses.
Rather than only focusing on acquiring links from high authority websites as you would with traditional SEO, focus on building local links that help showcase your relevance and proximity.
Local links come from a local business’s or organization’s website, and they’re top-tier links when it comes to local SEO. SEOs often ignore these lower authority links, but with local SEO, they make a huge difference. Yes, links from relevant businesses or blogs talking about your industry are important to go after, as well, and they still carry value — but if you’re looking to move the needle, local links are where the magic happens.
Want to know a secret to getting local links without too much effort? Ok, some effort is involved, but it’s going to really put you on “the map.” (Little local SEO joke for you.)
If you get involved in your local community, gaining links will be easier than you think.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Event Sponsorships: Donate to support a team or event, and you’ve got yourself a link from their website. Think sporting tournaments, 5k races, community fairs, library events, youth sports, you name it.
- Local Meetups: Remember Meetup? If you have the space to host a community group, you can snag a local link from their website. Don’t have extra space to loan out? Offer to be a group sponsor.
- Bloggers: Chances are, there are people in your community who love to blog. Maybe you can offer to donate a product or service, and if the blog mentions you, BOOM, another local link. Or, if the blog focuses on area events, let them know about any events you’re sponsoring.
These are just three options for getting local links, but the list can go on and on. Use Google to your advantage! When in doubt, search it out. Can we get that on a shirt?
Reap the Benefits of Local SEO
Learning how to optimize your local search engine ranking is a worthwhile investment. Not only will it increase your online visibility and lead to more traffic and sales, but it also gives you the chance to impress potential customers by sharing valuable information and resources. (Dive deeper with our Local SEO Checklist!)
For most businesses, the question of whether or not to invest in local SEO is easy enough to answer. The real challenge is learning how to strategize and implement an SEO plan that actually drives results. At Victorious, we know just how hard it can be for teams, particularly at small businesses, to find the time and information necessary to approach local SEO with confidence.
If you’re thinking about what a local SEO strategy could do for your business but aren’t sure about the next step, our skilled team is standing by to help. We’re proud to be experts in local SEO techniques, and we’ve helped countless local businesses establish and strengthen their SEO presences to drive sustainable, profitable results.