Roughly 46% of Google searches are users looking for local information. If your business isn’t optimized for local search, you could miss out on local customers and prospects looking for products and services in your area.
Improving local search engine optimization (SEO) can seem overwhelming, especially if you’re new to SEO, but it’s your best chance of getting that coveted organic traffic from local customers. Here’s everything you need to know about local SEO.
Local SEO is the process of boosting search engine visibility for businesses with a local presence, typically a brick-and-mortar location. With local SEO best practices, local businesses can improve organic traffic and appear in searches from customers within the geographic region.
For local businesses, search engines like Google use indicators like the service area, city, state, and zip code, as well as social media profile pages, local content, and links to offer the most relevant local results to the user. Local SEO allows businesses to improve their visibility with prospects and customers in their physical business area.
Google aims to provide the most relevant and prominent search results to each search user. With a business that has a global or national presence, relevance and prominence are enough to appear in front of users.
For local SEO, relevance and prominence are just part of the equation – location plays a role. If a user is conducting local search queries, Google uses the user’s location to provide the most relevant and prominent results for their geolocation.
Some examples of these searches include:
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For example, if you’re an HVAC contractor in the Bronx, NY, and you want to appear in the search results when searchers in your area look for HVAC contractors or information about central heating and air, how to repair a furnace, or HVAC maintenance. You’d have to rank organically for the keywords related to these topics.
If you try to rank for all of New York City, you will have a lot of competition to get to the top of the search results pages. A lot of people may be searching for relevant keywords, but it’s likely that they’re all over the city and will choose local contractors.
Basically, this keyword is ideal for your content, but it doesn’t connect with your ideal audience in your proximity. With many local products and services, customers are taking the location into consideration.
Now, with a keyword like “HVAC contractors in the Bronx, NY,” you have a better chance of getting your business information in front of the right audience.
It’s not just about keywords, though. Search engines like Google and Bing use other local SEO ranking factors to provide relevant local search results to users. These may include:
Consistency in the Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP) citations
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The Google “Snack Pack,” or local pack, is the box that appears at the top of the local search results. If you’ve ever performed a “near me” search or another local search, you’ve seen the snack pack.
Getting your business in the Snack Pack is crucial, but it only has space for the three most relevant companies to the search query and their description and contact information. Google likes to share relevant information, so these businesses are as close to ideal as possible for the user.
About 80% of Google searches are related to local businesses and services. The search engine created the Snack Pack to ensure they find relevant information, both in terms of the proximity and the keywords. Putting three companies in the Snack Pack is easy to skim for users.
The Snack Pack is the number-one place you want your business to appear in the search results. Often, ads or sponsored results show above the Snack Pack, but they have little effect on your position in those coveted boxes. Organic searches get more clicks than paid searches, overall.
The Snack Pack results show after the ads, with the top three businesses visible on the page. Other businesses will be part of the local results, but users have to click on the arrow to expand the options.
These results are always between the organic search results and the Google Map listings, ensuring that your business gets plenty of visibility. Also, not all local searches have ads or sponsored results, which means your business will likely get more clicks.
There are many reasons to improve your local SEO, including:
Based on research from Backlinko.com, the first three organic search results get over 75% of all user clicks. This is different from the Snack Pack – these are the first three results after that.
If your local business website ranks for the Snack Pack and the organic results, that will only boost your traffic more. But best of all, these clicks are coming from users with intent to purchase, since the majority of local search queries have high commercial intent.
For example, a user searching for “Thai restaurants near me” is probably planning on dining out that evening and looking for local restaurants to visit. The same is true of similar searches, such as “doctor’s office near me.” It’s unlikely someone is conducting these search queries just for information.
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One of the best ways to convince a customer that you have the best products or services is with reviews. Local SEO puts these reviews directly in front of any prospects in the local area, eliminating some of the common rejections before they even learn about your business or what you have to offer.
Unless your business is truly one of a kind, you’ll probably find a few other businesses that offer similar products or services. These businesses are also competing for the top spot on the search results – and for the same reason.
Local SEO strategy helps you gain relevance and compete, but it also reveals content marketing ideas to build backlinks. During keyword research, you will find local terms that your prospects are searching for the most and determine the right terms for your market, which puts your business in front of more search users.
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If your business focuses on pay-per-click ads, local SEO reduces your overall cost per click and generates more free traffic. The gains from local SEO are permanent, rather than requiring constant spend with rising costs. And the more traffic you can drive to your site for free, the less you’ll have to spend on paid advertising.
Now that you know the importance of local SEO, here are some local SEO tips for how you can put it to action.
Google My Business has become the ultimate in local search. Google supports, verifies, and shares its own content regularly, making the Google My Business page an ideal tool to help a business tailor itself to the search engine’s requirements.
Here are the steps to optimize your Google My Business page:
1. Create and verify your Google My Business page, including the name, address, and hours of operation.
2. Use Google Posts in your account, which is a free tool for verified Google Business Profile accounts to display custom content, images, or a CTA.
3. Encourage customers to write reviews online.
4. Respond to reviews and include location information by mentioning the product or service with the city and state.
Once Google verifies your business as an authentic business, the search engine will be more likely to include it in the coveted sidebar space.
The benefits of your Google My Business page aren’t limited to local SEO, however. Keeping up with reviews and responses offer more information for customers and improve the experience. Something as simple as incorrect hours could be enough to put off a potential customer.
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Verify and Update the Name, Address, and Phone Number Across Accounts
Few things are more important than being consistent with your business information online. You have to make it easy for people to find you, and that means the information has to be accurate.
In local SEO, this information is condensed into NAP for your name, address, and phone number with the area code. Your NAP should be crawlable HTML text on your site for Google to display it for location-based search results.
One mistake many businesses make is to provide this information for customers with an image that has the name, address, and phone number listed. While this is great for customers, a search engine can’t crawl an image like it can HTML text.
The NAP needs to be accurate not only on Google My Business, but all online directories and maps. Verify that your NAP citations are consistent and complete across all relevant directories, including Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Foursquare.
Any discrepancies, including common mistakes like misspelled words, an incorrect phone number, or abbreviations in place of full names and addresses can create issues. Even a small issue like a missing suite number could impact the results, because Google can no longer verify the information and ensure that it’s correct for users.
If you find duplicate listings in online directories, be sure to remove them. This could create problems with Google verification as well.
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Updating and verifying your Google My Business page and online directories is a big undertaking, but the work isn’t over yet. SEO is an ongoing process, so you have to put more work into it to see results.
The best way to learn where you are and where you need to be is with a comprehensive local SEO audit. This may include:
External links are important for SEO and boost your organic traffic, but you shouldn’t neglect internal links. Your internal link building supports your website navigation, distributes page authority across multiple pages, and assists with website hierarchy.
Your internal links are links that direct from one page on your website to another. Both users and search engines use these links to navigate your website and find the information they want, but with search engines, they won’t see a page if there are no links to it.
There are several types of internal links. Aside from the links on your homepage, menu, or post feed, you can add links within your content – contextual links – that point your users to interesting and related content. These links also allow search engines to determine what content is related and how valuable it is.
Setting up an internal linking strategy depends on your goals and the specifics of your site, but establishing a hierarchy by adding contextual links and related posts is a good start.
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Every time you post new content, it becomes a new indexed page for your site and a new opportunity to target a geographic search phrase and local keywords to improve your visibility in the search engine results pages.
It’s important to optimize your content for search engines using high-volume local keywords in the URL, headers, title tags, meta description, and body. Ideally, use geo-targeted content like case studies or customer success stories to maximize your local SEO.
Google keeps improving its algorithm to provide more relevant results to users, which means that you can focus on providing value to readers instead of jumping through a bunch of hoops to satisfy the requirements of search engines.
General topics attract a wide audience, but it’s important to offer some focused content that will appeal to different segments. Along with your broad informational content, include some targeted topics like local updates and industry news. Cover topics like local industry events, employee success stories, and recent news.
For example, if you’re working on real estate SEO to attract clients in the area, creating resources for home buyers in the area that cover local points of interest, cost of living, job options, and schools would provide value to your clients and contain local signals for Google.
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Mobile optimization and local SEO are influenced by each other. Many people perform local search queries on mobile devices, especially to find directions or search for contact information. Making your site mobile friendly ensures that these users have a positive experience.
Google Search Console offers a helpful Mobile-Friendly Test that assesses if a website meets Google’s standards for mobile usability. If there are issues with your site, Google will alert you to them, so you know where to begin to optimize it.
If you have multiple brick-and-mortar locations, you should have location pages that include a name, address, phone number, and hours. It’s good to make each location’s page distinctive with unique descriptions, local parking information and directions, and reviews or testimonials from customers.
That said, it’s crucial that you don’t duplicate content across multiple location pages. If you only have one physical location, create a descriptive About Us page that includes some local information.
Related: Guide to Real Estate SEO
Local SEO is key to any SEO strategy for a local business. Boosting your online visibility for local searches helps customers in your vicinity find you when they search for local products and services. There’s a lot of work involved, but it’s essential to work on your local SEO to get your business in the Google Snack Pack and boost your ranking.
If you don’t claim your Google My Business listing, you could leave your business vulnerable to negative reviews that are either accidental or intentional. Customers may leave negative reviews if they confuse your business with another, or a competitor can claim your listing and deliberately ruin your reputation by encouraging bad reviews.
If you have multiple physical locations, it’s smart to have a Google My Business listing for each one. It’s important to keep the information consistent, however.
No, Google doesn’t allow businesses to remove positive reviews or negative reviews. You can flag them if they are spam, however, which may lead to them being removed. But instead of being concerned about negative reviews, look at them as an opportunity. How you respond to reviews shows that you care about your customers and want to do what you can to correct a problem, which is a positive sign to prospects. You may never please the disgruntled reviewer, but you could leave a good impression on everyone else by showing good customer service.
It depends. If a lot of your competitors have similar products or services, Google will rank them above your business because it doesn’t have a website. But even if you can rank in the Google Snack Pack without a website, it’s better to have one to boost your online presence.