Local SEO is very different from national SEO.
Local SEO results are typically tied to and adjust based on:
Our local SEO guide is an extensive overview of the ins-and-outs of local search engine optimization for improving search results on a local level.
The menu at right (or below on mobile) will provide you with the specific areas that impact local SEO rankings.
We hope you enjoy!
When you perform a local search (and even a local voice search), Google produces a separate set of results at the top of the SERPs.
The algorithm that powers these results is not only very different than typical SEO, the code is managed by a completely separate team within Google
For local businesses, relying on customers in their own communities to thrive and grow, this distinguished set of ranks has been a boon—it means a shortcut to visibility for the audiences who matter most.
Local SEO is important for most businesses.
As a supplement to this extensive overview of local search, we also created the following PDF guide, available here or as a download from the link below.
A PDF version of this local SEO guide presentation is available here.
First, a quick recap of how local businesses can benefit from improved local rankings:
The ranking factors for local differ from national SEO. Moz gives us some hints for where to put your focus when it comes to local marketing:
But the data is somewhat conflicted when it comes the weight of local Google ranking factors:
Aside from these benefits (and opportunities), local search itself is changing. Be aware of what local search engine optimization is today versus what it will be in the future, could be very different.
Local results on desktop are starting to shift to a layout friendlier for mobile devices.
Google My Business (GMB) includes a local map pack overlayed on Google Maps, which pulls its information from your Google Business Profile and local listing information to display it in the local search results, including the Google local pack.
Website and directions are available with a click, meaning local entries are probably going to keep getting easier and more convenient to interact with.
Accordingly, you’ll stand to gain more click throughs, brand awareness and revenue from ranking in the local map pack from your optimizing your Google Business Profile in your Google My Business listing.
Local search optimization is getting even more local. Instead of just focusing on a city or region, new local searches could drill down further into neighborhoods or even based on proximity to the user. That means even less competition for even more specific niches.
It is also important to remember that local keywords typically hit lower on the search intent funnel for your most targeted local customers:
Users are starting to grow used to local results, and are using mobile devices (which almost always make queries local) more than ever before.
In 2016, local results will be more important to users than ever—which means they’re even more valuable to rank for.
What are the main ingredients of local search? What do you need in order to make your local optimization strategy work?
For starters, you need all of the things you would need when targeting national search engine ranking factors, only including local SEO ranking factors in with the mix:
Your local website needs to function perfectly, loading quickly and providing full content to all users, regardless of how they’re accessing your site. Technical onsite SEO gives you an opportunity to improve the site’s security, performance, usability and local search results pages.
There are numerous local SEO tools that can assist you with your local, technical SEO efforts.
The better your site works, the higher it’s going to rank.
You also need to think about optimizing for specific keywords. What are people going to be searching for when looking for a business like yours?
There’s a lot to keep in mind when researching new keywords and phrases, but you always need at least some direction to succeed.
You also need an archive of on site content, allowing you to build your authority, appeal to new visitors, and optimize for specific keywords simultaneously. Most websites need hundreds of blog posts (and writing a new blog post regularly) to support their SEO goals.
Google ranks sites preferentially, based on their perceived trustworthiness, or authority. The only reliable way to build this authority is to earn more links from high-profile sources. That’s why link building is a staple in the SEO world.
Local businesses also require the following:
Remember keyword optimization? When you start looking at and targeting local searchers in your overall strategy, you need to analyze more local keywords, including the names of cities, counties, and other locations where your business resides.
In short, targeting local keywords is the SEO equivalent of targeting the long tail of the search demand curve for those who may be searching for your products or services.
You also need to pay attention to local listings and directories, where you can establish local profiles on your business and local citations that point to your business’s website.
It’s a great way to build your local ranking signals including local domain authority, local credibility, and raise your relevance for local searches, especially in Google Maps.
More than with national SEO, local SEO depends on the quantity and quality of your online reviews.
The more reviews you have, and the better those reviews are, the higher you’re going to rank in local searches.
How do you get started with local search?
If you’re completely new to the world of SEO, you need to start with a strong foundation and learn the fundamentals of an effective SEO strategy. If you already have at least some components of that strategy in place, you can focus on the following:
What are you hoping to achieve with your local search campaign? Is your main goal dominating the local listings?
And if so, is that because you’re trying to generate as much traffic as possible, or because you’re more interested in brand visibility from search engines?
Which areas are you hoping to compete in? How soon do you want to see results?
As a local business owner you need to choose a partner in your local SEO efforts. It’s technically possible to do all the work for your campaign on your own, creating your own content, establishing your own local link building, and doing your own keyword research.
But it’s much easier to have an expert on your team to guide you.
What local SEO assets do you already have in place? Even if you haven’t pursued local search in the past, you may have existing listings in local business directories, plenty of online reviews, and content that you can use for this purpose.
At this point, you’ll be ready to start selecting local keywords.
What are the most relevant areas for your campaign? What are your target keywords and keyword variations
Are ranking local sites one of your top priorities?
If so, you need to focus on at least the following strategies:
Write high-quality content that users actually want to read. The more detailed it is, and the more helpful it is, the better. This content should be locally relevant as well, including local keyword terms and topics that are relevant to your target audience.
Consider covering local events, responding to local controversies, or addressing concerns of nearby residents and other local businesses.
If you want your content to attract links and stand on its own, you first need to support it yourself.
That means sharing and popularizing your best, most locally relevant content. Start by sharing your articles on social media, and consider expanding their visibility further with paid advertisements.
Look for any local citations you already have and validate them. If there are any mistakes or inaccuracies, now is the time to correct them. You’ll also want to spend some time expanding your profiles, if necessary, to make sure that all required information on your business is available.
From there, it will be time to secure new local link citations.
Look for different local business directories and listings where your business can be featured.
If you want an even bigger local presence to match local intent, consider partnering with local publishers. It’s a great opportunity to show off your content, build more links, and strengthen your local relevance even further.
You may not be able to ask for reviews directly, but you can find clever ways to make it more likely for your customers to leave reviews on your products and services.
Eventually, you may be interested in expanding your local business focus to multiple locations.
If your business has multiple physical locations, it only makes sense that you would pursue improving local search results in multiple areas simultaneously.
If you do this, you’ll be able to market to multiple target audiences at the same time, you’ll expand the visibility of your brand, and you’ll be able to relay different types of content and different types of information to audiences with different needs.
But, don’t forget to set your primary location in your favorite SEO plugin:
You may also pursue optimization for another location if you want to make your business seem bigger, or if you want to encompass a bigger area. For example, you could optimize for your local city, then optimize for your county, and then for your state. Each of these areas gets significantly more competitive than the last, requiring you to invest more time and resources into your expansion as you proceed.
Some brands intentionally market in new areas as a way of reaching out to new populations.
If there’s a target market you’re hoping to pursue, a brief foray into a new local SEO campaign could be the best way to target them.
If you’re locked into competition with one of your rivals, expanding your local search visibility could be a great way to get an edge on them. With more territory and a bigger audience, you might get the boost you need to cultivate more influence in your space with improved search results.
If this is the case, you have many options moving forward.
For example, you could stick with your existing domain and shift your local search visibility work to target a different location.
But you could also create an entirely new domain and build a strategy around that. It all depends on your goals and what you currently have in place.
If you plan on seeing great results from your local business strategy, it’s a good idea to avoid these most common and most destructive mistakes.
Google identifies the most important pieces of information related to a business as the name, address, and phone number of that business – or NAP for short. If this information is inaccurate, or if there are contradictory entries for your business NAP information online, it could interfere with your ability to raise your authority and climb search engine rankings.
Make sure all your information is accurate and consistent across different sources. This is critical for getting your listings to rise in Google Maps on the local pack.
It may not seem like a big deal, but it’s important to have complete profiles on all local directories and listings that you find. It’s true that your name, address, and phone number are the most important pieces of information, but you should also fill in things like your operating hours, specific rules and regulations you follow, and the industry in which you work. Complete profiles provide more information both to Google and to your users.
It’s easy to underestimate just how much content is required to optimize for local keywords and provide value to your users.
Let your local business structure and strategy drive your content strategy related to local search:
Generally speaking, as long as the quality of your content is on point, the more content you have, the better. Try to focus on content that’s relevant to your local audience.
Local SEO can be very powerful, but local strategies shouldn’t be your exclusive focal point.
If you’re going to be successful, you need to zoom out and make sure you also have a broad, national SEO strategy in place.
Without solid keyword optimization, technical onsite SEO, and link building, your local efforts are going to fall flat.
In short, the best local marketers know national marketing. Not the other way around.
Local SEO work isn’t something you do only once. It’s also not something you can afford to be complacent with. It’s true that filling out all your local profiles and building up your local citations are great first steps – but if you want to see better results, you’ll need a plan to scale. That means putting a plan into place that allows you to create more content, build more links, reach new local directories, and ultimately establish a bigger brand presence as it relates to search engines.
Local SEO, like any marketing strategy, will never be wholly “necessary.”
Your business won’t automatically fail because you haven’t adopted a local strategy.
However, if you’re without a local SEO strategy in 2016, you’re going to miss out on a ton of traffic, and your competitors will have an easier time accumulating that traffic for themselves.
For businesses reliant on community and neighborhood populations for revenue, local search is an absolute must if you do any local business marketing whatsoever.
For other businesses, it’s a little grayer; if you’re doing a national SEO strategy already, you might as well throw in some local optimization strategies to round out your local search engine visibility.
If you operate nationally, have never touched any kind of SEO, and are fine with the stream of leads you’re currently getting—you can stand to benefit from local SEO, but it’s probably not going to break you if you decide against it.
Use your best judgment and remember that local search, when implemented properly, almost always yields a positive ROI.
Optimizing your local business for local intent ensures that your business gets found by your target customers with ease.
By properly optimizing your site for the local search terms, getting listed on local directories, and claiming your profile on Google My Business (GMB), you can place your business in the best possible position to dominate the local market.