Local SEO is a vital tool for all businesses.  Did you know that 80% of users use search to find local details and information?  That means that if your website and online presence isn’t locally optimized, you’re losing up to 80% of your client base.  Not a good strategy if you want local business.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a solopreneur or a large business with over 200 employees, if you want to attract more business locally, this article is for you. How do you do it? Through a solid local SEO campaign.

This article will explain what local SEO is, what ranking factors matter most to Google, and strategies you can implement for better local SEO results.

What is local SEO?

Local SEO is the science of optimizing your website and web presence to rank better for local audiences. To gather information for rankings, search engines look to local signals such as: local content on your website, citations, social profiles, and citations.

According to Yoast.com:

If you have a local business, like a shop, or have people visiting your office frequently, optimizing your website is also about making sure people are able to find you in real life. But even if you’re not actively getting visitors in your building, but are targeting an audience that is located in the same geographical area as you are, you need to optimize for that area. This is what we call “local SEO.”

 

Does local SEO matter if I don’t have a brick and mortar (physical location)?

Yes! Local SEO still matters if you don’t have a physical location. 

It makes sense that if you have a store location and want local business you locally optimize to serve the geographical location of your area.  But, what if you don’t have a brick and mortar location?  You still need to optimize locally.

Let us explain…

 

The role of your mobile device in local SEO

Using a mobile device to get your intel is only becoming more popular.  Google recognizes this, so you should too.

When a user does a search on their phone while driving through a specific area, Google will show the user the most reliable and useful results, so if you want to be one of those results, you need to optimize for it.

Almost every device out there has location availability enabled in order to find places, things, needs, etc., close to where they are, so location matters.

 

Legitimacy reigns in local SEO

Obvious statement, we know.  But optimizing for a location gives you some true street cred with the search engines and with the users.  It’s one of the easiest ways to prove you’re a real company.  So GMB up, kids.  (That’s Google My Business and if you don’t know about it, read on…)

Local SEO Search data

Local SEO Infographic from SocialMediaToday.com 

Local SEO statistics

Did you know…

  • 46% of all Google searches are looking for local information. (Source: GoGulf)
  • 72% of consumers that did a local search visited a store within five miles. (Source: HubSpot Marketing Statistics)
  • 88% of searches  for local businesses on a mobile device either call or visit the business within 24 hours. (Source: Nectafy)
  • 18% of local smartphone searches led to a purchase within a day, whereas only 7% of non-local searches led to a sale. (Source: Think with Google)
  • 78% of location-based mobile searches result in an offline purchase. (Source: SEO Tribunal)
  • 4 in 5 consumers use search engines to find local information. (Source: Think with Google)

 

>> Bonus Material: Google My Business Ultimate Guide & Checklist

 

Great, so now you know just what local SEO and how important it can be, now let’s look at local ranking factors.

Local ranking factors

What factors into local rankings?

Local SEO consists of a number of factors that help you address your local audience by better rankings in search engines.

Google itself states that local ranking factors include relevance, distance, and prominence.

A report presented by moz.com found the following local search ranking factors.

It looked at ranking factors for the Local Pack/ Finder Section (this includes listings like Google My Business) and the localized organic ranking factors. You can take a look at the top 50 ranking factors for each here. In this post, we’re just going to highlight the top eight in each category.

SEO ranking factors

Local pack/ finder ranking factors

  1. My Business Signals (Proximity, categories, keyword in business title, etc.) 19%
  2. Link Signals (Inbound anchor text, linking domain authority, linking domain quantity, etc.) 17%
  3. On-Page Signals (Presence of NAP, keywords in titles, domain authority, etc.) 14%
  4. Citation Signals (IYP/aggregator NAP consistency, citation volume, etc.) 13%
  5. Review Signals (Review quantity, review velocity, review diversity, etc.) 13%
  6. Behavioral Signals (Click-through rate, mobile clicks to call, check-ins, etc.) 10%
  7. Personalization 10%
  8. Social Signals (Google engagement, Facebook engagement, Twitter engagement, etc.) 4%

 

Localized organic ranking factors

  1. Link Signals (Inbound anchor text, linking domain authority, linking domain quantity, etc.) 29%
  2. On-Page Signals (Presence of NAP, keywords in titles, domain authority, etc.) 24%
  3. Behavioral Signals (Click-through rate, mobile clicks to call, check-ins, etc.) 11%
  4. Personalization 9%
  5. Citation Signals (IYP/aggregator NAP consistency, citation volume, etc.) 8%
  6. My Business Signals (Proximity, categories, keyword in business title, etc.) 7%
  7. Review Signals (Review quantity, review velocity, review diversity, etc.) 7%
  8. Social Signals (Google engagement, Facebook engagement, Twitter engagement, etc.) 4%

 

Now, it’s time for strategy!

Let’s look at some simple strategies you can use to improve your local SEO rankings.

Best practices for local SEO in 2020

If you own a local business, never has having an online presence been more important. It’s kind of like online dating. If you’re not doing it, you’re missing out on a ton of opportunity, because so many people are looking online.

So, you want to be sure that your business is popping up as an option for all those potential dates… I mean customers.

Below are a few ways to help you succeed at local SEO.

 

How to achieve local SEO success

Don’t think that just jumping on your computer and creating your GMB profile will bada-boom-bada-bing you into global local SEO awesomeness that all will hope to aspire to.

It’s gonna take some work.  Both on your web pages and behind the scenes of your web pages (on-page SEO) and off your web pages altogether (off-page SEO).

Here’s how…

 

Off-page local SEO strategies

These strategies consist of actions your business takes off of your website in order to gain a higher ranking with the search engines.

Let’s talk about some of the best.

Google My Business and local SEO

A critical step for any business trying to rank locally is to include Google’s free tool, Google My Business (GMB) in your local SEO strategy.

Listings on Google My Business can only be created for businesses that either have a physical location that customers can visit or that travel to visit customers where they are.

 

Google My Business

You can read the full guidelines here.

A verified GMB account lets you manage how your business shows up on Google Search and Maps.

Including:

  • Business name
  • Location
  • Hours of operation
  • Monitoring and replying to customer reviews
  • Adding photos
  • Learning where and how people are searching for your company
  • And more

Google My Business is a super easy way to get you noticed locally.

 

Correct citations – Get your NAP (name, address, phone) out there

It’s imperative that you get your NAP out on the street so all are aware of who you are, where you are, and how to get in touch with you.  Just as important: all your NAPs match exactly.

Handing out brochures?  Business cards?  References?  Great!  Make your NAP easy to see on all of your business documents.  This will help you kill it at brand awareness, too.

Go online and add your matching NAP to relevant directories, GMB, Yelp, Yellow Pages, and jump over to Quora and answer some questions (again, relevant to your biz and be sure your answers are top-notch) and leave your NAP there, too.

All of this will help support your off-page local SEO campaign.

Download your GMB checklist

Bonus Material

Take Your GMB Listing to the Next Level!

Grab the Ultimate Google My Business Checklist.

 

Local SEO: How to gain more positive online reviews

Reviews for local SEO

Local SEO consists of a number of factors that help you address your local audience by better rankings in search engines.

A website’s reputation on Google My Business, Yelp.com, and other review sites play an important role in Google’s algorithm.

Reviews that mention products and services lend to optimization and can help your business show up for specific local product or service searches, according to Search Engine Watch.

Whitespark released the findings from its annual Google Local Rankings Survey. The results of the survey found that reviews accounted for 15.44% of how Google ranks a local business.

Not to mention that having great online reviews will give you a solid reputation in your industry, while providing customer traction and loyalty.

We’ve got 2 awesome resources for you on reviews:

How to gain more positive online reviews

The Dreaded Bad Online Review (and how to handle it)

links back to website

Link building for Local SEO

Link building is a big win on all levels, and it can profoundly affect your local biz, getting it the attention it deserves.  Inbound links (links from other websites to your website) are going to get you some awesome relevancy points from the search engines if the source referencing you is reliable and trustworthy.

Below are just a few examples of what you can do to make sure your link building is working for you on a local SEO level.

 

Host a community event

Everyone loves to give love to their community.

By hosting an event, you’ll not only let those in your area get to know the person behind the business, but you’ll also get to add your link to the community/town/county website.

And if you’re hosting at your place of business, you’re whole NAP (name, address, phone) is there for all to see!

Contact your town officials and tell them what kind of event you’d like to have and let them help provide the advertising.

Getting the local new stations on board will contribute to the event’s success- and your link building!

 

Take it offline

Go old-school with your marketing tactics.

Hand out business cards, network at the bar, the school, the grocery store.

Talk to people – it’s a tried and true form of marketing that will lead to more business and likely more link shares.

 

Local businesses unite

A great way to link build is to partner up with other companies that go hand-in-hand with yours.

If you’re an interior designer, reach out to local builders and architects. Realtors can connect with mortgage companies.

Are there local businesses that provide the same type of service you do with varying offers?

In these ways, you can create a mutually beneficial link building campaign reaching thousands more potential customers.

 

Questions and answers

Sites devoted to asking and answering questions are a way to get you some attention.

Although you’ll be building nofollow links, they can lead to traffic.

Check out Reddit, Quora, or Yahoo! Answers, ask a question that you answer and add your website as a source for the answer.

Remember to stay concise and trustworthy.

 

Link building is a fundamental resource for getting the most out of your local SEO campaign.

get link building strategies

Submit your website to directories

Quality citations and links from online directories are likely to improve your search ranks and increase company / brand awareness.  (Don’t forget NAP details from three seconds ago.)

There are a number of online directories out there – paid, free, niche, etc. that you can use as a start for list building.

Not all are created equal.

Not all are right for all businesses.

The best place to start is to outline your target audience, so you know where they are, and where they search.

Confirm that your NAP is correct and the same across all site directories and that there are no duplicate or incorrect listings.  This means to be sure if you abbreviate “street” with one directory, you abbreviate “street” with all, if you have a suite number, be sure you show it everywhere.  And proof your NAP after you fill it in to avoid any spelling errors, etc.

Consider getting listed in online directories like YellowPages, Yelp, Google My Business, Chamber of Commerce, and industry specific sites.

 

Publish press releases

While Google has determined that press releases are now “rank agnostic” in terms of actually increasing SERP rankings through their backlinks, there are still many advantages to a press release as part of an SEO strategy.

While most media outlets that publish releases usually include a nofollow link, but not all, it can still prove to be a good form of link building.

 

Additional indirect SEO benefits include:

  • Your information / news reaching more customers
  • Increase in visibility and trust
  • Position your company as an industry leader

Sending out a press release is a great way to generate buzz about your brand and increase traffic to your website and give you a good SEO boost.

Make sure that your message is on point and relative.

Press releases often offer that quick win for SEO when you use a wire service and put together a great release. How?

Even if your website doesn’t gain a top spot, your release will on the day it comes out, along with news outlets that pick it up.

Think of it like playing the game of Monopoly, you want to spread out the information about your company to vast outlets.

 

When putting together a press release make sure you:

  • Keep content relevant, readable, and newsworthy
  • Do keyword research
  • Use shareable headlines
  • Use your keyword in the headline, first paragraph, and throughout the release (without stuffing)
  • Add anchor text backlinks to your website
  • Include a call-to-action
  • Include multimedia
  • Maximize distribution by using a reputable wire service like Cison PRWeb 

 

Which social media sites are right for your business?Get social on social media

Don’t fight it, social media is a big deal and deserves your utmost attention, especially with your local crowd.

Not only do the natives enjoy seeing your local flare pop up on their feed, but Google really likes it too.  Know your audience and appeal to them where they are.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to always be “selling”.  Give them local insights, talk about upcoming events in your town, tell them about your favorite local cupcake baker.

Being social with your audience is easier than ever now and you should definitely be taking advantage of that.  And, hey, when someone tells us about good cupcakes, you become our friend for life.  You never know who you’ll impact.

Your website doesn’t provide a good UX (user experience)

On-page local SEO strategies

These strategies consist of actions your business takes on your website (both front- and back-end) in order to gain a higher ranking with the search engines.  Let’s talk about some of the best.

Optimize your website for best on-page SEO practices, making sure it’s also mobile friendly

This strategy is the most “technical”.

The first place to start is with a good SEO foundation on your website. Make sure you’re following best overall traditional SEO on page practices:

  • Confirm your website is mobile friendly.
  • Do keyword research
  • Use geographical long-tail keywords – Include location-specific words in your website content
  • Include title tags – include city and state in title tags when it’s appropriate
  • Use meta descriptions
  • Don’t forget header tags that include keywords
  • Include your physical address – type out the state name, don’t abbreviate it (if you have one)
  • Work on getting quality inbound links to your website from locally relevant domains
  • Include a sitemap
  • Have a clear navigation structure on your website
  • Use anchor links – internal links and external links
  • Fix any broken links
  • Make sure your website loads at a relatively quick rate
  • Use alt description tags with your images

You can reference Step 3 & Step 4 of the 9 Steps to a Successful Website Campaign for more details on SEO best practices. Or click here to download the printable version.

 

Content marketing and local SEO

You know when you’re buying a house they say: location, location, location? Well, when you’re putting together your local SEO campaign they say: content, content, content.

It’s so important.

Let’s go over a few must-have content recipes for your local SEO success:

 

Landing pages for your city

If you don’t have a landing page for your specific city, you’re really missing out on some traffic and devaluing your local SEO strategy.

Adding this small feature will contribute to users finding you locally, while ensuring your credibility on the search engines.

If you have more than one location, create one landing page for each city/state/region you’re in and make that page truly devoted to the unique area your page is defining.  Cater to the locals through your content.

Check out How To Rank For Surrounding Cities Near You to see how we recommend putting together specific location-based pages.

 

Locals only promotions 

Providing a locals only deal is a great way to pull the natives in. We all love feeling special and giving local customers a discount or a freebie is a smart move for getting your business noticed in your community.

This will also contribute to your very sought-after word-of-mouth advertising.

According to WordStream, using location-based coupons on mobile can lead to a 9916% increase in incremental mobile revenue.

 

Be a host

Invite the masses over for an event and you’ll be the talk of the town. You can easily get free press through community websites and local news stations.

You can also rent your space out to others for hosting, allowing people who may not have seen your space or known your business previously, the opportunity to gain an understanding of what you do and who you are.

 

Blog about it

You’re a local business looking for local customers so you’re undoubtedly blogging. And if you’re not, please do.

You’ll move up on the search engines, a win, but you’ll also take advantage of content opportunities only a local business can relate to. And that’s the goal, relating to your customer.

Once you have a relationship with your customer, they’ll not only remain loyal, but bring in more customers.

So, now you’re well on your way to being a huge local celebrity. Local SEO doesn’t have to be intimidating, afterall, you’re appealing to your people and you’re one of them.

Get out there- let them get to know you.

 

Add your address details to your website (the right way)

Add your address to your website.

The right way to do this is using schema.org, either by adding LocalBusiness schema.org tags around your address details or via JSON-LD.

Especially when using JSON-LD, you are serving your address details to a search engine in the most convenient way.

It’s imperative that your NAP (the same one discussed in off-page local SEO strategies) is correct and matching on every piece of content you have available to the public.  If it’s not matching across the board, the search engines don’t like it- it’s confusing and they don’t know what’s correct, and they are big into being correct.

Let us get a little specific here so you understand the importance of this: if your address is on Main Street and you call it “Main St.” on your GMB profile, but you call it “Main Street” on your Yelp profile- bad.  Be spot-on with your NAP.

Schema markup is your local buddy

Schema.org provides a section dedicated to local SEO- use it to markup your NAP on your website.  While there, markup what you can to create a rich snippet so you really stand out on the SERPs.

If you’re using WordPress there are a number of free Schema plugins.

 

Title tags that offer some mystery

You’ve been taught to stay within the 50 – 60 character limit with your title tags, but if you generate a little mystery, ohhhh… you’ve got a thriller on your hands.

Start off with a statement that provides some help and benefits your audience, then let it go over the 50 character limit, so there’s a trail (and sets a “what’s to come” precedent).  This will inspire more clicks.

 

Optimize for “near me” search queries

Search queries that contain a location qualifier such as “nearby” or “near me” have doubled in the past year, according to Google Trends data from March.

Eighty percent of those searches come from mobile devices. The guys over at Local SEO Guide did a study of “near me” local SEO ranking factors.

Understand that the “me” part of “near me” is a specific place, not just another keyword to target.

John Mueller addressed this and whether sites need to optimize for “near me” specifically, or how Google is determining this.

So as far as I know, we mostly look at this with regards to location, so doing things like adding “pizzeria near me” as a title of your pages on your website probably doesn’t make that much sense because we would try to figure out like what is actually near the user.

So in order for us to be able to figure that out properly, now there are two things you can do. One is obviously put your address on your website and to mark that up appropriately with structured data so that we understand where your location is. The other is to set up a Google My Business local listing so that we know where your business is located and can connect that to your website as well.

Tools to help your local SEO campaign

  • Whitespark Local Citation Finder will help you find all of your online citations (NAP, etc.) and make sure they’re all correct and in perfect matching order.
  • Ahrefs will help you with backlinks and getting some serious domain authority, as well as providing insight into keywords and your competition, among other pretty great SEO strategies.
  • BuzzStream will help get you earn the connection with local influencers who will scream your name from the rooftops.
  • BrightLocal will help with all things local SEO (hence the name), from getting local reviews to knowing how you’re performing locally to looking into how your competition is doing.

What’s next?

Check out our latest SEO Guide for more strategies!

If you want to tackle your own SEO with some easy to implement strategies (along with some hand-holding), check out Ready. Set. Rank!

Ready Set Rank