What is Local SEO?
Local search engine optimization (SEO) is SEO that focuses on improving the ranking of a business in local search results. Half of all Google searches are for local information, so it is essential that your business is optimized for local search.
Local search results usually include searches with qualifiers such as “near me” or “in Pittsburgh”. Google is also smart enough to determine if there are geographic restraints to a search query. For example, if someone is searching for “pizza shops”, Google infers that the searcher is looking for pizza shops near them.
Local SEO is becoming more and more important as searchers are changing the way they use search engines. There has been a steady increase in searches that include “near me” and are done on mobile since the early 2010s and this trend doesn’t look to be slowing any time soon. With more searches occurring on mobile devices, users are often not looking to have to click through to a website to find basic information. With local SEO they are able to see a business name, contact information, hours, reviews, and more right on the results page.
So where do these local businesses show in the search results? The local pack, Google My Business and organic results. The local pack and Google My Business are prominent featured listings that are on the top and right side of the search results page. Local SEO also impacts your ranking in the main search results below the local pack.
What is the Difference Between Local SEO and SEO?
SEO supports your website’s ability to rank in a national or global search. Local SEO supports your website’s ability to rank within the local search territory. There is often a difference in the audiences between the two. Local SEO often impacts searchers looking for a product or service in their immediate geographic area. Non-local SEO will impact searchers doing research.
Many of the strategies overlap and can support both local and non-local organic rankings.
Who Needs Local SEO?
Simply put, if your business serves a set geographic area then you need to be present in local search and will need to work on your local SEO.
Why Local SEO is Important
High Intent and Ready to Buy
Local search has much higher intent to convert than non-localized searches. Local searchers are also pre-qualified by geography. So it is not surprising that local searches are 80% more likely to convert than non-local searches. When someone is searching for “pizza near me” they are almost certainly looking for a pizza shop to eat at in the near future. The goal is to be present in the SERPs for local searches.
Local SEO is a cost-effective way to increase the presence of your business in local searches. Most local business listings are free – Google, Facebook, Yelp, etc. – and are relatively easy to maintain. Many local businesses have found success investing their time into local SEO vs. paid campaigns.
Optimizing for local search simply makes your business more competitive. There is a good chance that your competition is already investing time and money into their local SEO strategy. To test this, you can make a simple search for your type of business and city. For example “pizza shop Pittsburgh”. Who comes up first in the results? Do others rank higher than your business? Odds are those competitors are investing in their local SEO.
How to Improve Local SEO
Optimizing for local search is a relatively easy process that any business can do either on their own or with the support of an agency.
Google My Business
Google My Business is a free business listing with Google. The listing shows in the right side of search result pages and will show mostly for branded searches. The listings include basic business information such as business name, website URL, address, phone number, and products or services. The listing also allows the owner to upload photos, update hours of operation, post upcoming promotions or news, and collect and respond to reviews. When trying to decide which business to serve in the local pack, your Google My Business profile is 25% of the ranking factor in Google’s local algorithm.
The Google My Business listing essentially provides a single location for searchers to find basic information on your business without having to visit your website. Given that the user may not visit your site, it is important to have the information on your listing not only be accurate but valuable and eye-catching.
Bing also has a similar business listing called Bing Places for Business. Luckily, you are able to connect your Google My Business profile to your Bing profile to pull the data across. This saves you from having to build and optimize two listings.
A local citation is any online mention of the name, address and/or phone number of your local business. These citations have the potential to positively or negatively impact your search rankings and how potential customers find your business. Local citations represent 8% to 10% of Google’s ranking factors for local SEO.
It is important that all citations are accurate and consistent to signal to Google that your site is trustworthy. Oftentimes businesses are not even aware of all of the local citations that are out there for their businesses and those citations are inaccurate. Inaccurate citations need to be corrected to protect search rankings, reputation, and customer experience.
The process of citation clean-up can be a time-consuming manual process depending on how many and what citations are out there. This is where working with an agency is helpful because we have the tools to manage citations that save you time and helps to improve your local rankings.
Local Directories and Backlinks
One of the core principles of SEO is the number of quality sites that link back to your site. In the case of local SEO, these referring sites can be locally focused websites and directories to support local search rankings. Beyond rankings, improving your presence on these directories means your business can be found by a wide audience of local searchers.
Every city has business directories that your business can list itself. And often these directories are free and localized. Some well-known directories include Facebook, LinkedIn, Yelp, Local.com, Yellow Pages, and Angie’s List. Similar to the local citations, it is important that your business information is correct and accurate across all directory listings and referring sites.
Many of the directory sites allow users to leave reviews. Google takes these reviews, especially on their Google My Business platform, into consideration when selecting which business to show in the local pack and organic rankings.
Not all backlinks and referring domains are good. Google is starting to pay more and more attention to what it is calling “toxic backlinks”. If the websites pointing back to your site have a high toxicity score it will negatively impact your rankings.
Local Keyword Research
Keywords can vary greatly between geographies and local audiences. It is important to perform keyword research for each geographic region to determine what keywords will support local rankings for each area. For example, an insurance agency in Oklahoma will have a very different set of keywords around storm damage coverage than an agency in Florida. This keyword research will help to optimize website and landing page content for local search rankings.
Website Content, On-Page Optimizations
Does your website have location-specific content? For example, if you build custom homes in the Pittsburgh area, is it clear in the content of your website that you only service the greater Pittsburgh area? Something as simple as optimizing your website and making sure your content includes your geography can go a long way in local search rankings. On-page elements can also be optimized for local search. Including the geography in the page title and meta description can go a long way in supporting local SEO.
If your business has multiple locations, each location can be optimized for its own local search results. In this instance, many businesses will create local landing pages that have location-specific language, service offerings, etc. to be served in the local rankings.
How to Measure Local SEO
While the rankings depend heavily on each individual searcher’s location at the time, local SEO efforts can be measured across several platforms. Below are some metrics to consider.
- Local search rankings
- Organic traffic by location
- Conversions from organic search
- Local referral traffic
- Customer reviews
- Phone clicks
As with any marketing efforts, it is important to set a baseline of local SEO. This will give your team something to compare their efforts against and help to determine future optimization opportunities.
Recap: Local SEO Matters
As more and more searches are being done on mobile devices on the go, local search is going to become even more important for businesses. Luckily, local SEO is manageable and measurable. The key is to find a digital marketing agency that understands the importance of SEO and how to use it to achieve your business goals.
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