What is Local SEO?
Local SEO refers to the specific set of SEO tasks that aim to help increase your local web presence and drive more traffic into your storefront (or from your city and the neighboring cities).
Local SEO helps bring more customers to you by improving your visibility in search results that are designed to satisfy local search queries (like “dentist near me” or “dentist in los angeles, ca” and in the map listings.
Local SEO is all about improving search engine visibility for businesses that serve their customers in person, or within a certain distance from their business location. This includes businesses with physical locations (like a dentist or chiropractor) or service-area businesses that operate in a geographic area (like a plumber, electrician, or carpet cleaner).
There are different “rules” and different search results for “local search queries”, so knowing how to optimize for Local SEO should be a huge part of a local type business’s SEO strategy.
Why is Local SEO Important?
According to a study by Forbes, 95% of smartphone users have used their phone to perform local searches. 61% of those people ended up calling the business and 59% actually visited it.
And here are some jaw-dropping stats from @ThinkWithGoogle:
Tweet that. So you never forget it:
76% of people who search for something nearby on their smartphone visit a related business within a day, and 28% of those searches result in a purchase. #localseoTweet
What is a Local Search?
A “local search” or “local search query” is a search query that produces a search engine results page (SERP) that caters to a locality, or geographic area.
A local search can either be a search query with a “local modifier” on it, for example, adding a city name, or zip code, or “near me” to the end of your search query.
Examples of local modifiers:
- dentist office near me
- plumber los angeles, ca
- chiropractor 91107
I have put the local modifiers above in bold so you can see them more easily.
A local search will produce a Local SERP.
What is a Local SERP?
For example, if I search “plastic surgeon pasadena, ca” I, the searcher, am clearly looking for a local business to provide me with some kind of product or service. Google knows this and wants to satisfy my search intent, so they produce a SERP that has local results on it.
In this SERP we see maps (business listings in the location being searched).
We also see Yelp (a directory that gives users lists of businesses near them).
We also see an actual local business on the organic results – pasadenacosmeticsurgery.com.
Non local SERP
Just for the sake of distinction, so you can really see the difference, let’s quickly look at a non-local SERP.
To do this we will need to do a “non-local search query” – something that is not location dependent.
How about “how to learn to snowboard”
Above is a screenshot of the first part of the SERP. We see informational content (not local-based content) about learning how to snowboard – because this is something Google has determined people are not looking for a local business to help them with.
We see Videos. Why? Because Google knows that the best way to learn how to snowboard (other than going to the mountain) is through video. It would be much harder to learn from a book.
If we scroll down, we will see Organic Results:
Lots of great information & websites all about helping the searcher learn how to snowboard.
Maybe if I had performed this search in a ski town (like Mammoth, or Vail, etc.) I would actually have a mixed SERP – where we see local & non-local information.
What is a “Snack Pack” (Map Pack)?
The Google Map Pack (aka “Snack Pack” or “Local Pack”) is the area of the SERP that displays 3 local business results when you enter a local search query. The Map Pack includes easy-to-access information about the business such as: Name, Address, Phone Number, Reviews, etc.
The Map Pack is a huge driver of traffic, leads & sales for local businesses who can get their listing up there in the top 3.
For example, if you search for an seo company in Whittier, California, you will see a map pack show up with our listing at the top. And yes, it has brought us clients 🙂
What Are The Main Local SEO Ranking Factors?
- Google Business Profile
- Searcher’s location
- Relevance of the search query
- Business Prominence
- Authority of the page
- Authority of the Domain
Most of the factors that will contribute to your Local SEO success fall into one of 3 buckets:
- Proximity: How close the searcher is to the business.
- Relevance: How relevant the search query is to the business looking to show up.
- Prominence: How prominent is your brand in consumers’ eyes.
Google My Business Profile
Your Google My Business (GMB) profile has a big effect on your local SEO ranking. We cover this more in an article dedicated to Google My Business optimization, and also with an entire course dedicated to it in SERP University.
However, the fundamental thing to know here is that you want to give your GMB as much love as possible.
Fill out all the fields with good descriptions of your business, and work in SERVICE + LOCATION based keywords when possible.
You also want to make sure you get as much rich media (photos, videos, etc.) uploaded to your profile as possible.
The easiest way to think about this is to fill in as much information as you can.
Google always wants more information on you, so give it to them. They will even prompt you like this:
Finally, you will want to keep all your business information consistent across your website, GMB and other business directories.
The location of the searcher has a huge impact on the local results that show up.
Google knows that we humans like our convenience and all things being equal we would prefer to travel less distance to get to a service provider – so they take that into account.
Using a handy little tool called LocalFalcon we can see where one of our dental clients is ranking in the maps from different areas around their location.
The spots on the map show the position in the Local Map Pack where they are ranking when searched from that exact spot. Notice how the further away you get from the business location, their rankings go down? That’s normal.
Relevance of the search query
Another huge part of Google delivering you (the searcher) a relevant result that will keep you happy and continuing to use them instead of Yahoo, is making sure that the results they provide you are relevant to what you are searching.
Just like we (searchers) want local results in close proximity to where we are, we also want results that are highly relevant.
For example, if I need an attorney to help me with a car accident I want to make sure that when I search I get a list of attorneys who specialize in car accidents and not an attorney who specializes in family law.
So, when I search for “motorcycle accident lawyer new york” I see results that Google has deemed to be hyper-relevant for that. Not just Personal Injury lawyers (which is the “category” of law that deals with this sort of thing) but Personal Injury lawyers who specifically specialize in this sub-category, motorcycle injuries.
We see it in the maps and in the Organic listings below the maps.
This is a tough one, but it makes a lot of sense.
Google wants to show (aka recommend) business to consumers that do good work. If a business screws over a customer, who found the business on the top of the first page using Google Search, that consumer might begin to not trust Google so much.
So, Google feels more comfortable putting a business at the top of their list if they can rest easy knowing that business does good work. How does it know this? Well, there are a lot of factors.
The main things you can do to help your business prominence is trying to improve things like:
- Quantity of reviews
- Quality of reviews
- Mentions of your business on other relevant websites
- Links to your business from other relevant websites
- Brand name searches (do people type your brand name into Google?)
Authority of the page
The authority of the actual local lander you are trying to rank plays a huge part in if you will show up.
This means that if you are trying to rank your homepage for a keyword then you want links to your homepage.
But, if you are trying to rank an inner page then you will want to build the authority of that page using backlinks.
For example, if you have multiple locations (or services) you will want to create dedicated inner pages called “local landers” for them and build links to those URLs.
Here is an example where we did that to rank for “seo company whittier ca”
Authority of the Domain
In addition to Page Level authority, your chances of ranking for local terms (or any terms for that matter) increase as the entire authority of your domain increases.
Why do you think Yelp ranks for pretty much every local term? Because their entire website is about local businesses and they have a huge level of domain authority.
As you can see here from this screenshot of Ahrefs, they have a Domain Rating (DR) of 94:
What Are Directories & Citations?
Business directories are independent websites on the internet that catalog & organize business contact information.
Some of these websites you may recognize include: Yelp, Yellowpages, Dexknows, Manta, Foursquare, etc.
Getting your business listed on these trusted business directories helps establish your brand prominence, will create backlinks to your website, and will give your business a brand mention accompanied by your contact information, called a NAP (Name, Address & Phone Number).
Any mention of your business NAP is called a citation.
Citations help Google understand that your business is a legitimate business that has taken the time to get listed on relevant, trusted directories.
Local SEO Services
- Google My Business
- Directories (Citations)
- Website Improvements
- Off Page SEO Link Building
- On Page Local SEO Optimization
- Local Schema
- Local Blog
This is where the rubber meets the road. Creating & implementing a local seo strategy can be very technical & time-consuming, but stick with us and we will walk you through it.
However, if you would rather spend money than time, reach out to us and we can handle it for you.
Google My Business
Google My Business is a free business profile that helps you reach & engage with potential customers across Google Search and Maps.
We have entire articles & even mini-courses dedicated to Google My Business in SERP University, because done right it can be the primary driver of new leads, sales & revenue for a local business.
Google My Business Optimization
Let’s briefly discuss the things you will want to optimize to improve the presence of your GMB.
- NAP – Name, Address, Phone Number. This is your business name with its contact information. The key to this is keeping it up to date and consistent across all mentions/citations around the internet.
- URL – The URL that leads people to your website. The key to this is making your URL point to the local lander that is dedicated to ranking for the specific local search term you are targeting.
- Description – Your business description tells consumers about your business. The key here is to include service & location related keywords within the description to improve your relevance.
- Services – A list of the services your business provides. The key here is to fill it out completely, and use synonyms when possible.
- Rich Media – Rich media is images, videos, etc. Google loves it and so do customers. It builds trust & helps you stand out from your competitors. It also is great for SEO. The key here is to create & publish as much rich media as possible!
- Reviews – Reviews are a huge trust factor, both to potential customers and to Google. The key here is to get as many reviews as you can. Ideally, they will be good reviews (so make sure you take care of your customers!) Also, you want to get service & location keywords inside the reviews. And finally, you want to respond to all reviews!
Google My Business Optimization for Ranking in Maps
After you have optimized your Google My Business using the strategies detailed above, you will want to start on the other ranking factors that will help improve your visibility.
As mentioned earlier, business directories allow you to promote the contact information of your company.
Create a list of these categories of business directories, and then get listed:
- General Directories – Start with the primary trusted directories. These would include places like Yelp, Yellowpages, Dexknows, Manta, Foursquare, etc.
- Industry Directories – After you secure a listed on the main directories, look for industry-specific directories to get listed on. These could be things like: 1800dentist.com, HomeAdvisor, Thumbtack, Zillow, Realtor.com, Avvo, etc.
- Location Directories – After you secure listings on your industry-specific directories, look for ones that are specific to your city or geography.
A citation audit is a process you can use to help improve your local rankings.
It should include:
- Cleaning up citations
- Improving existing citations
- Identifying new citation opportunities
Website Improvements – Local Lander Optimization
By this point, you should have a well-optimized GMB, and a solid presence on business directories around the web – you’re off to a great start!
This next part is what separates the winners from the losers, and it’s website optimization.
What is a “Local Lander”?
A local lander is a page on your website dedicated to a specific geographically modified search term.
That’s a mouthful, but basically it is a way that we can create a hyper-relevant page around a specific search term that we know would be valuable for your business to rank for.
Say for example you want to rank for “seo company whittier ca”, (yes we’re gonna beat this example to death)
If someone is searching a term that specific you can bet your bananas they are about ready to spend some money.
A marketing agency in Los Angeles would probably love that lead – but without a page optimized for, and dedicated to, the search term they will never show up for that.
Why? Because Google is always trying to give the searcher the most relevant result.
So, the solution is to create a local lander! Like we did.
To create a local lander optimized for a term, you will want to include the following elements:
- Optimized URL, Title Tags, Headers, Meta Description, and Content
- Google Map Embed
- Driving Directions
- Internal links
Schema, also called “structured data”, is a way to further define what your business is, who it serves & what you provide to search engines in a way that is standardized and easy for them to understand.
Implement local business schema on your homepage to improve its relevance.
On your local lander, we recommend using service or location schema.
Create a blog on your website & write about things that are happening locally. Reach out to other websites talking about these events and people talking about them on social media to plug your article. Always try to be getting links.
Some ideas for local blog content:
- Content about a local charity or cause that your business supports.
- Local news, activities or events.
- Sponsor local meetups.
Off-Page SEO Link Building
The last part of your Local SEO strategy should be link building.
This is arguably the most powerful part, so why save it for last?
Well, because it’s also the most expensive part – and very often if you get everything else right first, you won’t even need to do this part.
So, think of link building for local SEO as your trump card that you keep in your hand until totally necessary.
You already have a good foundation of links from the Citations you have built. So now, the next obvious step is to start acquiring links from industry-relevant associations.
Join & participate in local associations – especially ones that you can get a backlink from.
Some examples of local associations:
- Chamber of Commerce
- Better Business Bureau
- Your alma mater
- A local study club
Competitor link building is a process where you make a list of the people ranking on Page 1 for the terms you want to be ranking for, analyze their backlinks, and then try to go get them yourself.
For this example, we will use a Dentist in Sacramento.
Step 1 – Start by Googling your search term:
Step 2 – Create a spreadsheet with a list of everyone who is ranking on Page 1 & 2:
Step 3 – Use ahrefs to find who is linking to each website, and make a list of those URLs (these are your “potential linkers”)
Repeat for each website on your Competitor Spreadsheet
Step 4 – Look at the links your competitors have, and try to acquire them yourself by reaching out to the websites
Local forums are a great place to get some brand exposure for your business in front of consumers who are interested in the products & services you provide – and also an opportunity to potentially acquire a NAP listing and/or backlink.
Use Google to search for forums in your industry or geography.
Here are some helpful “search operators” you can use to do this easily:
- [INDUSRTY] forum
- [INDUSRTY] forums
- [CITY] forum
- [CITY] forums
New outlets are great for brand awareness and potential links. Make a list of the news websites in your area and contact them for a feature.
Local blogs are another great place to get some exposure. The people who run these are always looking for interesting people, places & things in their community to write about – so make their job easier and contact them first!
How To Track Your Map Rankings?
Now that you have put in all this work to improve your local seo presence, you will want to measure & track your visibility, rankings, traffic, leads, new customers & sales value from all your effort.
We recommend implementing a variety of tracking to accomplish this.
First, you will want to track your map rankings, for this we recommend using a rank tracker, like SERP App.
Next, make sure you have properly set up your Google Analytics to be able to understand where visitors are coming from, and which ones are completing goals on your website (for example: filling out a contact form or calling the phone number in your menu bar).
- To track phone calls, use a call tracking tool like CallRail.
Local SEO is the way you get your business ranked in Local SERPs, Maps & Organic SERPs. This is the primary driver of new business for many local/service-based companies and can drive an insane amount of new business to you if done right.
If you implement the tools & strategies discussed in this article you will be in a fantastic position for scooping up a ton of super relevant traffic that is very ready to make a purchase.