89% of online users search for local businesses via their smartphones and 58% of them do local searches almost every day.
That’s big, right?
So, if you aren’t optimizing your business for local SEO, you are missing out on a profitable opportunity every time someone performs a local search to find out about products and services like yours.
Now, let’s deep dive into what local SEO is, how it works, local SEO tips to boost your local visibility on search engines and so much more.
What is Local SEO?
Let’s start from scratch.
So, what is local SEO?
Local SEO is the practice of optimizing your website to drive more web traffic, boost your online visibility and increase brand awareness, all from local search.
In other words, local SEO helps you rank higher on SERPs for local searches.
With targeted local SEO strategies, you can get more qualified leads from specific locations and expand your business in the right direction.
Importance of Local SEO
The first step to attracting these leads is to be visible to your local customers. That’s exactly what local SEO helps you with.
Let’s say you run a bookstore in New York. That means your business has to show up when people in New York search for “bookstores near me” or any other local search term for bookstores.
According to Google, 76% of online users who conduct a local search via mobile phones visit a store within 24 hours and 28% of them end up buying the product or service.
The more your prospects get to know about your business via online search, the more likely they are to visit your store or trust your brand.
Local SEO comes in handy to improve your online visibility and turn people’s interest in favor of your business. So, it is crucial for businesses that intend to strengthen their local customer base to focus on local SEO.
If you know how to leverage local SEO the right way, it can do wonders for your business.
How Does Local SEO Work?
Simply put, local SEO works just like a usual Google search. When a user performs a search online, the search engine fetches the best results from its database related to the given query.
So, what makes local SEO different?
Search engines like Google leverage a unique set of ranking factors to rank results for local search.
These ranking signals include
The location from which the user performs a search
Google My Business listing availability
Keywords included in the GMB profile
The sentiment of online reviews
Keywords used in online reviews
Check-in rate at the location
Social Media Shares
Google Maps Rating
Focusing on these factors should help you rank in the Map Pack, also known as the Local Pack of Google.
But wait. What is this ‘Pack’?
The Local Pack is a set of top 3 results for a specific query with a virtual map of their locations extracted from Google Maps.
That’s exactly where you have to appear to drive more local organic traffic and achieve local SEO success.
How to do Local SEO Keyword Research?
As you see from the ranking signals for local SEO above, keywords play a vital role in influencing local search results.
That said, it is imperative to do streamlined keyword research to fuel the success rate of your local SEO.
The good news is that local SEO keyword research is a one-time process.
Alright. Going forward, let me tell you what you should leverage for focused keyword research for your local SEO.
Google Suggest is one of the best tools for keyword research.
While “ Your Keyword”+ near me is a good place to start, you can pull up many more local SEO keywords with the search engine giant.
Type a seed keyword along with a location you want to target. I’m choosing New York.
Those are your new opportunities to be visible for local searches and drive more people your way.
Enter a keyword from your industry that a user in a specific city or town will use to find businesses like yours. Let’s say, Find “Bookstore” Near “New York” and see the magic unfold.
This tool goes a step ahead and displays not just keywords that contain your search term but also the ones that don’t contain it but are still relevant to your industry.
That way, Yelp Suggest helps you tap new keyword opportunities you might otherwise miss out on.
Google Keyword Planner
Google Keyword Planner is another great tool to identify keyword search volume for specific locations.
This way, you can devise a keyword strategy that increases traction and thereby boosts your ROI.
If you already have a set of keywords you want to target, this tool comes in handy to pick the best ones out of them based on the search volume.
On the contrary, if you are just beginning your keyword research, use the tool’s “Start With a Website” feature.
Enter the URL of one of your competitor websites and Google Keyword Planner will generate a list of keywords based on the same.
You can also choose between using the entire site or a specific page URL for the tool to come up with new keywords.
Local Voice Searches
Voice search is a game-changer in the online market at the moment.
In fact, 58% of people use voice searches when they look for local businesses.
Unlike usual keyword searches, voice-based searches often rely on natural language. Targeting long-tail keywords can help your business appear for voice-based searches.
For example, if someone types “best restaurant Houston” for a Google search, they will probably use “best restaurant in Houston that’s open right now” when they perform a voice search. That’s the difference.
Local SEO Ranking Factors
As you know, local SEO ranking factors can make a big difference. That said, you need to get a bigger picture of these factors to do local SEO the right way and drive desired results.
Let’s delve into the major local SEO factors to consider right away.
Google My Business Profile
According to Moz, your Google My Business profile is the #1 local SEO ranking factor you need to take into account to appear on the Local Pack.
While your local business website, the content you feature in it and the backlinks you build are important, your GMB profile tops it all.
I’ll explain GMB optimization in detail later in this article. Let’s focus on the other local SEO ranking factors for now.
NAP citations (Name, Address and Phone Number) are yet another crucial aspect when it comes to local SEO.
Your NAP citations denote instances where your business name, address and phone number are mentioned online.
Google leverages these citations to validate the authenticity of your business information.
The more citations you earn, the more reliable your business is in the eyes of Google.
That’s why it is more than important to gain NAP citations in trusted sites and keep them consistent.
The online reviews you get are yet another essential parameter for local SEO ranking.
You need to get a majority of positive reviews because they help you climb to the top of the Local Pack. However, ensure you don’t purchase paid reviews in bulk to avoid facing Google’s wrath.
On the contrary, negative reviews can hurt the online reputation of your business and hold you back from ranking higher for local SEO.
While it is inevitable for any business to receive some negative reviews, make sure you respond to those reviews and take the necessary steps to fix what’s not right. This gesture helps a lot in building trust.
Usual SEO Practices
All other Google ranking factors, from content quality to backlinks, apply for local SEO as well.
In the words of Google, “Your position in web results is also a factor, so SEO best practices also apply to local search optimization.”
That means the higher you rank in organic search, the higher you will rank in the Local Pack.
So, ensure you optimize your content and web pages for SEO and strengthen your link profile with high-quality backlinks to secure a better ranking in web results and local SEO simultaneously.
As said earlier, I’ll walk you through GMB optimization in this section, one step at a time.
Consistency is paramount for GMB.
It’s good if the information in your GMB profile matches exactly with the details on your website. But that’s not the end.
The particulars furnished in your GMB profile should also match with your NAP citations on other websites.
When that’s done right, Google considers your business credible.
On the contrary, if there is a discrepancy in one or many places your business details are featured, that’s a red flag.
And the result?
It creates a negative impact on your local SEO.
So, make sure you maintain consistency everywhere. BEWARE. The smallest inconsistency in terms of your business information will affect your local SEO enormously.
Use All Possible Data Points
Google offers you a score based on how complete your GMB profile is.
Filling in the basic details regarding your business should help you reach a decent score. However, if you want to rank for high-volume keywords in your industry, stopping here isn’t a wise choice.
I’ll tell you what people majorly miss out on when filling in data points. That will help you avoid mistakes and be more precise about your business.
Let’s take category selection.
Google prompts you to select a primary category to describe your business. Unfortunately, you have to choose from limited options and you can’t create your own primary category.
However, once you select your primary category, Google allows you to add additional categories of your choice.
Hard luck. Many people fail to fill in these categories.
These additional categories are SUPER important.
These categories directly influence the keywords and search terms your business wants to rank for.
So, never forget to use additional categories to your local SEO advantage.
Also, fill in the “Products” and “Services” with precise information. Those sections tell Google and online users what you are selling.
Update Critical Business Data
Make sure your key business information in your GMB profile, like operating hours, holidays, etc., are up-to-date.
This factor doesn’t affect your local SEO, at least not directly.
So, why do you have to care about that?
I’ll give you a real-life example. Let’s say a customer visits your store after checking your operating hours on your GMB profile but finds your store closed.
One, you will lose the customer to one of your competitors. Two, if the customer is disappointed because you misled them with outdated information, they are likely to write a negative review about your business.
Now, that negative review can spoil your online reputation and bring down your local SEO ranking.
Respond to Reviews
As I said earlier, online reviews are one of the major ranking factors for local SEO.
Make sure you respond to every single review. That way, you tell your customers that you care about them.
While positive reviews are what you look forward to, you should also know how to react to negative reviews.
People don’t always take the time to write reviews on their own. That’s why you need to prompt your customers to write reviews.
And importantly, make the process really quick and easy for them. No customer wants to spend time looking for a space to write reviews.
Send your customers a review link via email or SMS. That should make it simple for them.
Okay. How do you create a review link?
I suggest two ways.
One, visit the Google Maps platform and choose Place ID Finder.
Once you enter your location, the platform generates a place ID for the specified location.
Two, log in to your Google My Business account and head to the “Get more reviews” section to generate a brief review link.
Share it with your customers and ask them to write reviews.
That’s easy peasy, right?
Local SEO Tips
Now that you know local SEO better, it’s time for some local SEO tips to help you achieve perfection when it comes to devising a strategy.
Share on Social Media
Social media certainly helps widen your business reach and increase its online presence.
That said, once you create a flawless Google My Business page, make sure you share the page on your social media handles to let your followers take a closer look at your business.
Run a NAP Audit
As I mentioned earlier, your NAP citations should be exactly the same everywhere, including your GMB profile, your website, business directories and local listings.
Use a good citation tool like WhiteSpark to find your current and historic (if any) NAP citations so that you can fix the incorrect ones and ensure 100% consistency.
Why are NAP Citations Important?
NAP citations make it easy for users and search engines alike to locate your business name, address and phone number online.
What if you feature two different addresses or phone numbers for your business in two different places? Which one will the user count on?
It’s misleading, right?
NAP citations are a crucial local SEO ranking factor and Google certainly doesn’t like a piece of information that confuses or misleads users.
So, that will make your business untrustworthy in the eyes of Google, which, in turn, will bring down your local SEO ranking.
I understand it’s a nightmare for any business owner. To stop that from dawning upon your business and increase your business credibility instead, ensuring your NAP citations are exact matches is important.
Optimize Online Directories and Citations
Any discrepancy, from misspellings to abbreviations, can create havoc for your local SEO.
Go ahead to verify for consistency and optimize your citations with trusted data aggregators like Express Update, Foursquare, Neustar Localeze and Factual.
Also, ensure you remove duplicate listings to avoid potential issues.
Perform a Local SEO Audit
SEO is an ongoing process. So, once you are done with the local SEO fundamentals, you may consider performing a local SEO audit.
A comprehensive local SEO audit covers everything, including GMB audit, citation audit, Google Search Control audit, on-page SEO audit, website audit and competitor analysis.
Your website plays a massive role in bolstering your local SEO efforts.
In this section, I’ll let you know what you have to optimize directly on your site to drive local organic traffic.
Optimize On-Page SEO Elements
On-page optimization includes optimizing your title tags, headers, meta descriptions and content for search engines.
Let’s take a new blog post, for example.
It is a newly indexed page within your site you can use to target specific geography by including location-based keywords.