No matter what kind of business you run, it’s crucial for your potential customers to be able to find you on the internet. For this, you need so-called general SEO, that is, the work of optimising your website for global or national searches. In other words, if you want to target a particular audience regardless of their geographical location, then general SEO is a must as it will help you improve your Google rankings.
Now, imagine you find yourself in an unfamiliar city where you don’t know anybody and your car breaks down.
It’s an unpleasant situation, but with the help of Google, you can easily find a trustworthy garage that will repair your car. All you have to do is type something along the lines of “car repairs near me,” and you’ll get contact information and customer reviews based on which you’ll be able to pick the best and most affordable garage in the area.
Pretty useful, right?
And this means you can use this approach in order to make your brick-and-mortar business discoverable so that local customers and those who happen to be in your area can easily find it.
So, What Is Local SEO?
In a nutshell, local SEO refers to the branch of SEO marketing focused on helping businesses rank higher in Google in their local area and establish a strong local online presence. This means that your business website will show up in relevant local search results only if it’s properly optimized.
88% of consumers who perform a local search on their smartphone, visit, or contact a store within just a day. It’s obvious that implementing a local SEO strategy will drive more foot traffic to your business. Even though not a lot of potential customers physically visit your store or shop at the moment, due to the current situation, it’s still important to stay on their radar and target those situated in your geographical area.
Apart from making it easier for people looking for the products or services you offer to find your business when doing an online search, local SEO will also boost your credibility and trust.
Some of the businesses that can greatly benefit from this strategic process include law firms, plumbers, restaurants, accountancy firms, and medical practitioners, to name just a few.
For example, it’s very unlikely that people will be ready to travel a couple of hours for a medical checkup – they need someone with a nearby practice whom they can see on a regular basis.
Similarly, plumbing frequently involves emergency repairs, so it’s only logical that people will look for a plumber who can come quickly.
How Does Local SEO Work?
After analyzing huge amounts of data referring to users’ search behaviour, Google concluded that people looking for particular types of businesses actually need results referring to nearby areas. That’s the reason why a proximity factor plays an important part in the search engine giant’s local search algorithm.
In layman’s terms, this means that Google takes the location of a person performing a search for a local keyword, even when the search doesn’t contain a city name or the “near me” phrase.
Let’s say that you’re at work and want to order a burger for lunch. By Googling “burger delivery,” you’ll get a list of restaurants in the vicinity of your office. On the other hand, if you’re at home and perform the same search, your results will be entirely different because the idea is to help you get your burger as soon as possible.
Either way, you’ll notice that your results page is structured so that it displays a box with the top 3 local results most relevant to your search. The box also features a map of the area with dropped pins, showing the exact location of these 3 businesses. This feature, known as the Google 3-pack, is considered the holy grail of local SEO, as it can put your business right in front of your customers’ eyes.
Unlike regular organic results, a local pack shows additional information such as opening times, review ratings, contact information, photos, and distance from you.
Although local SEO isn’t a new concept, its widespread use and popularity started growing together with mobile search. A couple of years ago, when people predominantly used their desktop computers to search the internet, local SEO couldn’t reach its full potential. However, now that mobile searches make up more than 50% of global web traffic, optimizing your website properly is crucial to the success of your business.
Now that we’ve established what local SEO is, how it works, and what its importance is, let’s discuss how to do it right and find your way into the Google local 3-pack.
Local SEO Keyword Research
As keywords are one of the building blocks of successful SEO, the first thing you should do is identify what key search terms you want to rank for.
Besides figuring out the best and most relevant keywords for targeting your local communities, this research will also help you to:
- Understand your potential customers’ search behaviours better,
- and find related, complementary markets to tap and expand into.
- Uncover new ways of attracting potential customers.
- Use Google, just like your customers do. One of the best ways to build your list of core keywords is by searching for the terms that relate to your business. Pay attention to what your competitors use in their title tags, as that’s a great source of relevant keyword ideas.
- Add modifiers to your core keywords. In order to make your keywords more descriptive and rich, expand them with relevant modifiers. Specific, exact-match keywords are tremendously competitive, meaning that big companies already rank for them. By opting for long-tail keywords, you will not only diversify your keyword strategy but also make the most of less competitive organic search opportunities. For example, if your core keyword is “trainers,” you can expand it with modifiers like “men’s running” or “women’s hiking.”
- Use keyword research tools such as Ahrefs, Moz, or SemRush, as they will also show you a number of other important parameters such as keyword difficulty and search volume.
- Don’t neglect question keywords. Make sure to include what, how, where, why, and when in your keyword phrases.
- Use long-tail keywords so that you can create complete questions your audience search for
- Include filler words, too. Although seemingly irrelevant, words such as the, of, on, to, and for will make the query more conversational and spontaneous, which crucial for voice searches
- Provide your full and correct business name
- Enter your physical business address, but in case you don’t engage in face-to-face interactions with your customers, mention that you only deliver your products or services online.
- Pin your exact location on the map
- Chose your business category
- Provide your phone number and a URL of your website
- Verify your listing.
Come up with a list of search phrases that best describe your products or services and find out which one of those are being searched for by your target audience. This isn’t a straightforward process because even though you might run a restaurant serving healthy meals, your potential customers might search for “vegetarian restaurants,” “raw food restaurants,” or even “plant-based restaurants.” It’s obvious that you have to take search trends into consideration if you don’t want to miss the mark and fail to attract your audience’s attention.
As this might be easier said than done, here are a couple of tips explaining how to get started with your keyword research and where to draw inspiration from:
Optimize for Voice
Mobile devices aren’t the only factor that shapes the way people search the internet. Recently, virtual assistants such as Google Assistant, Siri, and Alexa have become widely available. Being voice-activated, these devices have introduced a new avenue for executing local searches.
In other words, Google started favouring conversational keywords and searches, meaning that you have to optimize your local search for voice.
Since many people find it easier to say “Google, find a plumber near me” than to type the entire sentence, it’s obvious that you won’t use the same tactic for voice and text-based searches. Using a conversational tone is the key.
Instead of fragmented phrases and strings of keywords and modifiers, you’ll need to think in terms of entire sentences. “Hey, Alexa, what’s the best pizza place near me?” would be an example of how people use voice search.
Based on this query, we can conclude that you should do the following in order to properly optimize your content for voice search:
Claim Your Google Business Profile
Setting up your Google My Business page is essential for the success of your entire local SEO strategy.
We’ve already mentioned that the top 3 results box features a lot of information about your business, and if you’re wondering how Google generates it, the answer is from your GMB page. As a matter of fact, this step is one of the most important factors the search engine takes into consideration when ranking businesses in local organic search as well as 3-pack.
Once you set up your GMB page, you’ll have an opportunity to start building a strong online presence on Google Maps and other Google services.
Take the following steps to do this right:
Once you have successfully verified your GMB, provide additional information such as photos of your business, business hours, relevant additional business categories, and additional phone numbers and other channels of communication.
Stats say that 60% of mobile users have contacted a business directly from search results, so adding a direct click-to-call button to your website and GMB listing can bring you a lot of new customers. Once you have claimed your GMB listing, you can start leveraging Google Posts for Local SEO.
Build NAP Citations and Ensure Their Consistency
NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone Number, and its consistency throughout the web is one of the most important ranking factors.
What does this mean in practice?
All your business information across major citation websites such as Google, Bing Maps, Yelp, Facebook, and a number of online directories and publications should be accurate and consistent. There’s no room for typos, misspellings, and discrepancies in phone numbers, addresses, and business hours. By getting this right, you’ll ensure that your business comes off as trustworthy and help your customers find everything they need to know about it.
Citations are mentions of your business on different websites and online platforms, and the same goes for them.
A NAP audit will tell you whether there’s information that has to be corrected. However, doing this manually is an overwhelming task, which is why you should automate it using a tool that will check your business information on the internet and generate a report.
Finally, every time there’s a change in your business information, it’s important to update it in a timely manner. See our local citation submission packages.
Leverage Local Link Building
Your ranking in local searches can greatly benefit from local link building.
In order to boost your local SEO, you should obtain links to your website in high-profile, authority websites and web portals in your target area. We’re talking about some respectable local online magazines, trade associations, Chamber of Commerce, and similar sources.
Another way to get your website featured in local online media outlets is through hosting webinars, forging partnerships, offering scholarships, and guest posting. All these tactics will have your business name pop up in local searches and help you build a good reputation in your local community.
Reach out to authority websites in your area of interest, and offer them valuable content that their readership will find useful. That way, you’ll avoid an overtly promotional approach and make your efforts more organic.
Basically, this tactic is similar to general SEO link building, the only difference being the focus on focusing on a target location.
These tips can come in handy if you want to make the most of your local SEO and improve your rankings in local search results. It’s worth mentioning that your local SEO efforts can span across multiple locations, meaning that you can target more than one area.
I am the founder and manager of BeFound SEO and the main consultant. I started offering SEO services back in 2007 when I had to explain SEO, as most people had no idea what it was and how much it could help their business online. I still love seeing the results from SEO.
When I’m not creating great strategy, I am usually out hiking up a mountain.
Connect with me on the links below.