You may have heard or read the term “local SEO.” But do you know exactly what it means and how and when to use it? In general, SEO (search engine optimization) refers to the optimization of websites and other digital content so that they can be found by people worldwide searching for relevant topics. Local SEO, on the other hand, is the process of optimizing a business, product or service so that it is found in local search results by a local audience.
Why is local SEO important? The job of search engines is to provide relevant results based on the user’s intent, and local SEO helps the search engine narrow those results to a certain location. The goal is to help users find the facility, business or service closest to where they are or where they want to go. Local SEO can make your business more competitive by increasing its exposure on the web to a desired subset of users.
All SEO — when done successfully — leads to more clicks, more visitors and more sales. What more could you want?
Why Should You Use Local SEO?
If you have a business in a single location or want to increase market share in a specific area, then integrating local SEO strategies into your campaigns is important so the search engines — and ultimately potential customers — find your business in response to relevant search queries.
Users generally, but not always, want to find a location near them. For example, users looking for a new dentist or a local repair shop do not want to wade through hundreds or even thousands of locations that may be miles, cities or even several states away. Google and other search engines assume that unless the user types in a specific location, he or she wishes to see results for nearby businesses.
If a user is looking for a service or facility in a location other than the one he or she is in currently, then the search engine results must be relevant to that particular search. For example, a user traveling out of state may wish to find hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues in the planned destination, even as he or she searches from home. Search engines can find pertinent results for those “local” searches, too.
Types of Local Search Results
Since Google has the lion’s share of the search engine market (92% in 2020), we will limit this discussion to Google. Local searches are a combination of local pack and standard organic search results. Local SEO involves optimizing your website for local search queries as well as optimizing your Google Business Profile.
Organic Search Results. These are the unpaid results that appear following a search query. They are based on SEO factors such as relevance, backlinks and domain authority. Strategies to improve organic search rankings include the use of relevant keywords, good content, and good title tags and meta descriptions.
Local Pack. The listing of what Google deems the most relevant local businesses. These businesses show up on the top section of the search engine results page (SERP), under the paid ads, in response to a query with local intent. These listings come from the Google Business Profile platform.
Approximately 33% of all clicks go to the local pack results while 40% go to organic results.
Optimizing for Local Results
Here is a brief overview of some of the most important ways to utilize local SEO.
Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business). This free tool helps you get noticed on Google. While work is involved in setting up your business profile, it is definitely worth doing. Your address, business hours, phone number, business category, website address, appointment page and other key information will be made available on the SERP page, so customers can easily find what they need without going to the website. The results are more interactions with your business, and ultimately, more sales.
Local pack ranking factors are relevance, distance and prominence. Relevance refers to how well customer searches match with your business. Distance is determined by how far your business is from users’ locations or search criteria. Prominence means that the more well-known a business or facility is, the more likely that its listing will be seen in local search results.
Local NAP Citations. Check that your NAP (name, address, phone number) citations are accurate and consistent on your website, various directories and other sites. Search engines cross-reference NAP information across websites to validate the legitimacy of your business. You can increase your visibility by building more citations and local links via listings in local chambers of commerce, community hubs, industry and trade association directories, and more.
Relevant Keywords. Be sure to add the location name to your keywords. You want to check your competitors’ listings, too; doing this may reveal additional relevant keywords for your business. Local keywords should be used on your website’s homepage, local landing pages, other relevant internal pages, and within headlines, title tags and meta descriptions.
Local Landing Pages. Does your business provide services in more than one location? Do you have several physical locations? If so, be sure to create local website landing pages and optimize these pages around keywords containing individual location names. Each page should include the hours of operation, exact location and appropriate keywords — as well as relevant localized content.
Reputation and Reviews Strategy. Letting customers know that your business will help them and has helped people like them in the community is vital. This can be accomplished through excellent in-person customer service, a useful website with good content and evidence of credibility, management of organic SERPS to ensure the accuracy of basic information, responsiveness via email, outbound and inbound links, and professional responses to positive and negative reviews.
90% of marketers consider reviews important influences in local pack rankings. Do not neglect user content posted about your company. Google account holders can leave ratings in various formats, including photos and videos, and business owners can respond. Google publishes overall ratings and review counts. Be sure to manage all customer reviews carefully, including those on Yelp, Facebook and other sites, as a majority of consumers read and make purchase decisions based on reviews.
A local business that aspires to achieve high rankings on Google, Bing and other search engines should pursue local SEO strategies. Successful implementation increases your company’s visibility in local search results, which leads to increased sales, revenue and growth over time. Every business with one or more physical locations or one that aims to serve a specific geographical area can benefit from pursuing local SEO.