If you’re looking to attract more customers to your local business through organic search, then local SEO is the way to go. But what exactly is local SEO, how does it operate, and what ranking elements are important?
This guide will provide you with insights on how to optimize your business for local search, enabling you to gain more customers for your business.
Intro to Local SEO for Small Businesses.
What Is Local SEO?
Local SEO refers to the process of optimizing a business’ web presence to improve its visibility in local and localized organic search engine results.
The three fundamental pillars of local search are proximity, prominence, and relevance.
Local SEO uses both technical and creative methods to convince search engines that a business should be featured prominently in their search results as a relevant answer to the online searchers in the proximity of each business location.
Why Is Local SEO Important?
According to Search Engine Roundtable, 46% of all Google searches are related to local businesses, meaning that these searches have “local intent.”
Additionally, RankRanger found that 29% of Google SERPs contain a local pack in their results.
Furthermore, Google reported that 76% of consumers who conduct a local search on their phone will visit a store within the same day.
These numbers demonstrate the critical role of local searches in the SEO landscape.
If you can ensure that your local business appears in these search results, there’s a high likelihood that potential customers will walk through your door in a matter of minutes.
Local SEO Ranking Factors.
When someone does a search, Google scans through its index to provide the best results for that person’s query.
What makes local SEO unique is that Google uses a different set of ranking factors to rank the local search results.
Local SEO has a set of unique ranking signals, including:
- The location that the person is searching from.
- Presence of Google My Business listing.
- NAP citations.
- Keywords used in Google My Business Profile
- Google Maps star rating for that business.
- The sentiment of online reviews.
- Keywords used in online reviews.
- Number of “check-ins” at that location.
Local SEO can be divided into two categories, as Google displays two types of search results for local searches: map pack results and organic blue link results.
The good news is that it’s possible to rank for both types of results.
Map Pack Results.
The map pack, also known as the local pack, is a Google SERP feature that displays the top local business listings and a corresponding map. This feature typically appears at the very top of Google’s search results for local queries.
Organic Search Results.
The “regular” organic search results consist of the familiar “10 blue links” and typically appear beneath the map pack results.
Step-By-Step SEO Guide to Rank Your Website Locally.
Local search optimization is a time-consuming and complicated process.
It can take months before you see results and a hefty budget to optimize your website.
And you don’t want to spend all this time and money for nothing.
You will be competing with already established sites that already have invested thousands into their content and backlinks.
And the truth is, those sites can be way above your head and you may not have enough resources to outcompete them for their target keywords.
But the good news is that there are so many keywords it will be enough for everyone.
You just need to know how to find them and how to make your business appear in the search results for them.
That’s why you need a comprehensive SEO strategy in place.
1. Keyword Research.
The main objective of local SEO is to market your product or services to your target local audience.
To create an SEO strategy, you will need a list of keywords you want to target.
Write down all of the services and products you provide.
Using professional SEO tools (Ahrefs, Semrush, Moz, etc.), you can find exactly how people search for your product or services—what keywords do they use.
You might get a pretty long list of keywords, but it doesn’t mean you will have to optimize your site for all of them.
Sort the list to find one keyword for each product or service—those will be your target keywords.
To find the target keywords, you will need to cherry-pick the ones that:
- Have commercial intent (people aren’t just looking for the information related to your business).
- Have as few words as possible.
- Have a reasonable monthly search volume.
- Have a SERP that you can compete in.
To check the SERP, look up your target keyword and see what websites come up on the first page.
The good news is that If you properly optimize your page for the target keyword, you will win hundreds of secondary keywords.
2. Make Sure Your Website Is Mobile-Friendly.
The proportion of organic search visits originating from mobile devices has surpassed 60%.
And since 2019, Google has been predominantly using the mobile version of websites for indexing and ranking.
This means that when Google indexes and ranks your content, it gives priority to the mobile version of your site.
It’s important to note that there is only one index for both desktop and mobile versions of your site, and it prioritizes the mobile version.
So, before adding new content to your website, make sure that your website is mobile-friendly.
The best way to optimize your website for mobile devices is to use a responsive design.
Responsive design serves the same web page to mobile and desktop users by adjusting page rendering based on the device.
Its benefits for SEO include: sharing and linking with a single URL, reducing mobile site errors, being less time-consuming to maintain, not requiring redirection, and saving resources when crawled by Google.
Responsive design creates one page per content piece and adjusts the layout automatically, and it is a win-win for mobile SEO.
3. Create a Landing Page for Each of Your Services.
Once you have a list of your target keywords, it’s time to create landing pages.
The primary feature that sets a landing page apart is its form, strategically crafted to gather important visitor information.
To provide a seamless user experience, successful landing pages are straightforward and to the point.
Rather than overwhelming visitors with flashy distractions, they guide them toward a conversion event through a clear and concise process.
You should create a landing page for each of your products or services.
4. Optimize your landing pages.
A landing page aims to rank for specific keywords and incorporates a call-to-action (CTA) to encourage user engagement.
You need to optimize your landing pages both for search engines and for people.
To optimize your landing page for search engines, you need to put your target keyword and its variations in certain places on your page.
Keyword optimization can get complicated, so here are the four places where you need to put your target keyword:
- Title tag.
- H1 tag.
- Once in the paragraph.
The main point of a landing page is to drive conversions.
So, even if it will rank well in the search results but doesn’t bring any leads for your business, it’s useless.
After you have optimized your landing page for Google, it’s time to optimize the conversion rate of that page:
- Write a good and compelling copy.
- Let your visitors have different options to contact you.
- Prominently display your phone number and make it clickable.
- Create a web form as simple as possible to reduce any friction points.
- Add an online chat widget.
- Don’t link to other pages from your landing page (you don’t want your visitors to steer away from completing the conversion).
- Add reviews and testimonials.
5. Verify Your Google Business Profile.
In local SEO, Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business) should be at the forefront.
You can’t underestimate its importance.
Even if you don’t have a website, Google Business Profile can drive a huge amount of customers to your business.
First, you need to claim your business and verify it using a postcard (or your phone number, if that’s an option.)
Then you will need to fill in every data point you can with accurate information.
Research your competitors to choose your main category and secondary categories properly.
You’ll need to pay extra attention to your business name, address, and phone number because you will need this information to build citations later on in this guide.
Make sure you’re using a local phone number with the area code from the particular area where you want to rank.
6. Get more reviews.
You want to get as many positive reviews for your Google Business Profile as possible.
Send an email to all of your previous customers and ask them to leave you a review.
And always ask your existing customers to write a review for your business.
The main thing is to make it as simple as possible.
Go to your GBP management dashboard and create a shortcut—a link your clients can use to write a review for you in just one click.
You can also convert it into a QR code, print it, and put it in your office or on your business cards.
Another very important tip is to respond to every single review you get—whether it is positive or negative.
And put together an action plan for handling the disputes. You need to know exactly how you are going to respond to negative reviews to quickly resolve the issue and mitigate the consequences.
One important note: do not respond to reviews you think are fake. It will be much easier to remove them.
7. Find keywords for your supporting content.
Once the pages targeting commercial keywords are up, it’s time to create pages targeting informational keywords—they are often called supporting content.
Google is very good at understanding what the page is about, and it doesn’t like when all that a website has is pages selling products or services.
The good practice is to keep it 30/70 ratio, where 30% is commercial content (your landing pages), and 70% is informational content (your blog posts.)
You need blog posts not only to dilute your website with non-commercial content but also to power up your landing pages by interlinking.
Another great thing about information content is that it will boost your topical authority, which will impact your rankings for your commercial pages.
So, yes. Creating supporting content is very important for local SEO.
To find ideas for your supporting content, you will have to do your keyword research again—but this time, you will be looking for keywords with informational intent.
Informational keywords often have less competition, and if you do your keyword research right, you will be able to find keywords you can rank for in no time and bring new traffic to your website.
8. Power Up Your Landing Pages With Internal Links.
You may have heard that backlinks are very important when it comes to SEO.
But they can be very tricky to get, especially for your commercial pages—because why would someone link to a page that is selling something? And the worst part is that you don’t have any control over them.
But you may not even need them as much.
You can use links from your own website to pass link juice to your landing pages and rank them higher in the SERP.
Especially if you link from an article that is already ranking—which, as we discussed above, won’t be a problem since informational content is way easier to rank.
To power up your landing page, pick articles that are the most relevant—in general, it’s a good practice to select 5-7, but you can do more, it all depends on the competition of your target keyword—and add a link to your target page with descriptive anchor text.
Then, interlink those articles together into a silo.
9. Build Local Citations.
Ensuring your business’ NAP data (Name, Address, and Phone number) is 100% consistent across all online platforms is crucial for its visibility and credibility.
This means making sure that your NAP is accurate and consistent on your website, GBP profile, business directories, local listing sites, and any other online platforms that mention your business.
To achieve this, there are several citation tools and services available, such as WhiteSpark or Loganix, that can help you manage your NAP data.
However, it’s important to have the most up-to-date and accurate information about your business before you start using any tool or service.
This includes your current NAP data as well as any historic NAP information that may help you identify and update outdated citations.
Run a report to find listings with incorrect information and fix them.
Then start building citations on new sites.
Once you have built citations on popular platforms such as Yelp, FourSquare, and Angie’s List, it’s important to focus on local sites to boost your Map Pack rankings with highly relevant citations.
The question then becomes, how do you find these local citation opportunities?
One effective method is to use the Link Intersect in Ahrefs or Backlink Gap feature in Semrush, which allows you to identify and analyze your competitors’ backlinks and find potential citation sources in your local area.
Find your biggest competitors in your area—they probably already have a lot of citations on all sorts of local directories—and run them through one of these tools.
10. Build Backlinks.
You may already have existing relationships with other businesses in your area.
Create a list of all the businesses you have a relationship with, such as contractors, distributors, wholesalers, suppliers, and local non-competitor businesses.
Then, reach out to those businesses to see if there’s any way you can negotiate a link from their website.
You can also sponsor local events to get your business’ name out there and potentially earn backlinks.
The good news is that traditional link-building strategies are also effective for local SEO.
As you already have an existing blog with tons of articles, you can try and connect with other website owners in your niche to find some backlink opportunities.
11. Optimize for E-E-A-T.
E-E-A-T is an acronym, and it stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.
It’s not necessarily going to boost your rankings. But it’s important to understand that when doing SEO, it’s important to cast a wide net to check as many boxes as possible.
It’s a vague ranking factor. So you don’t have to overthink it.
Here are the quick tips on how to optimize for EEAT:
- Add a local business schema on your homepage.
- Add your phone number and business address to the footer and put it on the Contact Us page.
- Add an author box to your blog posts.
- Create an author page for all your blog writers with social media links to their profiles.
- Add your team members to the About Us page.
- Add a copyright statement to the footer with the current year.
How to Track Your Local SEO Progress.
The most important aspect of any strategy is tracking progress.
Local SEO can take some time to show the first results, and you need to see if the strategy is working as early as possible to make necessary changes as soon as possible.
Otherwise, you can spend months implementing an SEO strategy that wasn’t going to work in the first place.
Local SEO Tools.
There’s a plethora of SEO tools you can use to keep track of your SEO progress.
Some of them are free, and some of them are not.
The free tools are from Google itself.
The paid ones are third-party software that can help you reverse-engineer your competitors’ SEO strategy, seamlessly track your website’s position in SERPs for your target keywords, and manage all your listings in one place.
Here are the local SEO tools you need to effectively execute your SEO strategy.
Google Business Manager.
With Google Business Manager, formerly known as Google My Business, you can keep track of how many times your business appeared in the local search results, how many people visited your website by clicking the link in your profile, how many people called you or got the driving direction to your business location.
Google Search Console.
While with Google Business Manager you can track your local map pack rankings, with GSC you can keep track of how your website performs in the organic search results.
In GSC, you can see the keywords your website’s ranking for, the number of impressions, average position, and Click-Through-Rate (CTR).
With Google Search Console, you can also troubleshoot any technical problems, like errors in your schema, slow website speed, 404 pages, redirect errors, etc.
In your GSC, you can also access your backlink report.
But keep in mind that Google doesn’t show all backlinks your website has—and don’t think that the ones Google is showing you are the most important backlinks, Google arbitrarily cherry-picks them—and to see the complete list you will need one of paid SEO software to access the backlink checker tool.
Accessing the list of backlinks a website has is very important, whether you’re reverse-engineering your competitors’ website SEO or analyzing your own site.
There are a variety of tools you can use.
The most popular ones that provide backlink reports are Ahrefs, Semrush, and Majestic.
Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager.
Once your website starts growing in traffic, it’s important to understand how visitors behave on your site.
In other words, do they convert into leads?
With Google Tag Manager, you can set conversion tracking and then, using Google Analytics, track how many website visitors contacted your business.
Organic Rank Tracker.
You need to track the positions your website is ranking at for your target keywords.
In Google Search Console, you can only filter the data by country.
And since you’re doing local SEO, you need to know how your website performs in a specific city or neighborhood, because the organic results vary from one city to another.
That’s why you need a tracking tool that can track your target keywords for a specific location.
Ahrefs and Semrush have a keyword tracking feature where you can narrow down your location to a zip code.
Local Map Rank Tracker.
Organic search results vary from one city to another.
But local map pack results can completely change even if you just walked across the street.
To track the local map pack results, you can use Local Viking or Local Falcon.
Those tools will show how your Google Business Profile ranks in tens or even hundreds of different places across your target local area.
You will have tens or even hundreds of citations on different directory sites.
So you need a tool to manage all of them in one place and keep your NAP information consistent.
For this, you can use BrightLocal or WhiteSpark.
Local SEO encompasses a large variety of different techniques, and it’s impossible to cover everything all at once.
But we have covered the most important aspects of local SEO.
By now, you should have a solid grasp of how it works.
If you’re interested in further expanding your knowledge and exploring the subject in greater depth, there are some additional resources you can read.
Consider taking a look at our other articles to continue your learning journey.