Local SEO Guide: How to Optimize Your Local Business Website
Getting new visitors to your business website is important, but it's not just traffic that matters. It's essential to attract consumers in your local area who are already interested in your products or services. Using local SEO (search engine optimization) strategies is one of the best ways to ensure that customers who could walk into your shop tomorrow find you online today.
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO is a set of strategies to land high rankings on search engines and on Google Maps. Like standard SEO, local SEO focuses on building a website that provides rich, structured information to boost search rankings. It goes beyond these basic strategies to earn high rankings in 3 pack results, or the first three businesses that are listed on searches that include phrases like “near me” or “near [place].”
Local SEO can include a wide variety of strategies such as
- making your website mobile friendly,
- using localized content,
- maintaining online business listings,
- building in locally relevant backlinks and
- using structured data.
Why is Local SEO Important?
All forms of SEO are important because they help drive traffic to your business website. However, local SEO has special importance because it helps you connect to local customers who want to find products and services fast. An incredible 95% of people never go beyond the first page of search results for local businesses. Simply put, ranking in the top results on local searches is essential for small-to-mid-size enterprises (SMEs) that rely on local business.
Imagine that you run a watch repair shop in Rochester, New York. You thrive on local business, and you need to get as many customers as possible in your shop right now. General SEO strategies can get consumers who are interested in watch repair to your business site. If you haven’t spent time on local SEO efforts, though, you likely won’t reach online customers in Rochester. Getting 20 people in your neighborhood to visit your shop’s website in a week is generally better than getting 300 people from around the world to visit your website in that same time.
Small businesses benefit from localized content marketing to reach business-to-business (B2B) clients too. Imagine that another businessperson in your local area is looking for someone who provides your products or services. Like any other consumer, they’re going to conduct a search online to get an idea of what’s out there. Making sure that you’re on that list can drive up your B2B revenue.
What Are the Top Local Search Ranking Factors?
A variety of factors affect your website’s ranking for local searches. These factors can be broken down into two categories:
- Strategies that impact rankings on Google Maps and in your local SEO 3 pack.
- Strategies that impact your general search engine rankings.
Addressing factors from both categories is essential for results.
NAP consistency sounds fancy, but it’s actually one of the most basic local SEO strategies. NAP stands for
- Phone number
Imagine that your business has outgrown its original building and moved to another space. An interested customer looks you up online but finds two different addresses for your shop. The customer looks up your competitor and finds only one address. In an on-demand world, you’ve just lost business to your competitor because your online addresses didn’t match up.
Use a local listing scan tool to see if your business information matches across websites. If there are discrepancies, correct them. Address any NAP consistency issues before launching a local SEO campaign.
Google My Business
Google My Business is used to generate the listings shown to consumers who search for businesses in their local areas. An accurate listing can help you land in the local 3 pack and ensures customers can contact you. Updating your business info on Google also ensures that you’ll show up on Google Maps results for both mobile and desktop users.
Of course, it’s important to make sure your business shows up for iPhone Maps users too. Download the Maps Connect app from Apple to update your business listing. Though Apple Maps is used by only about 11% of consumers, updating business info is important because it contributes to NAP consistency.
Listings & Reviews
The idea of reading online reviews of your business might make you nervous. However, earning a strong base of reviews on Google and social sites is important to your local SEO strategy. Research suggests that 91% of 18-34 year old consumers believe that online reviews of businesses are trustworthy. That means getting reviews is important.
To attract reviews, you’ll need to ensure that your business is listed in both local and national directories. Get listed with your chamber of commerce and local merchant’s association. Make sure to claim your business listing on Yelp too. Remember that accurate listings are a part of NAP consistency. They also ensure that customers who want to leave reviews don’t confuse your business with another shop.
Encourage customers to leave reviews by asking them face to face or including a request for reviews at the end of an email marketing campaign. Engage with customer reviews. Thank customers for their reviews, and address negative reviews professionally.
Social Media Profiles
Social networks are a great place to connect with your business’s local audience. There are dozens of social networks to choose from, but you should target the ones that your customers already use. Encourage your current customers to join your online community by running regular contests or promotions via your social media profiles.
Social media is one of the first places local customers will look for information about your business. Make sure that your location, business hours and contact info are easy to find. Social networks are a great place to share localized content such as blog posts and how-to guides too.
You probably know that mobile responsiveness is important for your SEO success as a whole, but it’s particularly important for local SEO. Remember that almost 64% of consumers prefer to use their mobile devices to conduct online searches. If your site isn’t optimized for mobile use, you’re missing out on a significant chunk of your local market.
Structured data makes it easier for Google to find essential information about your business. To use structured data for local SEO, you’ll need to clearly identify NAP attributes and operating hours on your business’s website. Use city, neighborhood or state markers throughout your website. Incorporate geographic cues in both your written content and in page names and meta titles.
Locally Relevant Backlinks
Link signals are one of the most important factors that Google considers when displaying the local 3 pack. You need to get other reputable websites in your area to link to your website. One of the easiest ways to do this is by getting a listing in every local business directory you can find. Other strategies for getting local links include
- creating a valuable local resource that no one else has,
- writing guest posts on other local sites,
- joining professional organizations in your area,
- partnering with local charities or community organizations,
- hosting community events, and
- sending press releases or pitches to local news organizations.
Building long-term success with local SEO means sending fresh geographic cues to search engines on a regular basis. Utilizing localized content is one of the best ways to get consumers in your area who are searching for businesses like yours interesting in your brand. This type of content has city, state or region information that helps Google find your business.
Using localized content also helps you tailor your website to user intent. Matching content to user needs strengthens the relevancy of your content for your geographic area. Imagine that you run a landscaping business in an area with harsh winters. Posting blogs that address cold-weather maintenance allows you to incorporate plenty of local geographic information. Such blogs can also boost your brand reputation by meeting consumer needs.
Content Types that Push Local SEO
Relevant, localized content is likely to become the backbone of your local SEO strategy as time passes. While you can localize anything, some types of content fair better than others for attracting local consumers. Consider using some or all of these five types of content to push local SEO efforts.
City, State and Regional Landing Pages
Landing pages tell the story of your business. They’re the place where you highlight your products and services as well as your brand story. They also represent an elementary opportunity to build local content into your website. Imagine that you own a plumbing business that serves clients in a tri-county region. Creating a specific landing page for each of those counties is a local SEO must.
Why is this important? If a potential customer searches for “plumbers in [county],” she won’t find you if your website communicates that you’re a plumber in the tri-county region. Creating a landing page for each county you serve ensures that customers throughout your service region can find you online. Using specific landing pages for cities within a geographic region serves the same purpose.
FAQ pages offer a great opportunity to get a featured snippet, but they can be powerful for local SEO too. An FAQ page is a place where you can answer the most common questions that your local community has about your products and services. In some cases, the answers will be geographically specific and will contain location signals.
In other cases, your FAQ answers won’t be location-specific. You should still pay close attention to how you answer these questions. Earning a featured snippet or a high search engine ranking for an excellent answer will help boost your business’s profile in local search results too. A great FAQ page can even earn you backlinks from other local websites.
“Best Of” Guides
Creating a “best of” guide for your local area is a fun and smart way to engage with potential customers. These guides highlight something great about your local area. They can be either serious or just for fun. No matter the angle of the “best of” guide, you should provide unique and useful content that your readers can’t find elsewhere. A ranking list that just regurgitates information found elsewhere won’t cut it.
When it comes to creating a “best of” guide, remember that you don’t have to stick to your industry. The important thing is that you’re sending location cues. Imagine that you run a successful medical office in Los Angeles. You might publish a guide called “The Best Spots to Grab a Healthy Snack in L.A.” The guide immediately signals search engines that you’re in the Los Angeles area. It also provides useful information to current and potential patients.
Blog content likely represents the bulk of your website content. Publishing new blogs is an important way to connect with customers and build brand reputation. Of course, it’s also one of the easiest ways to get localized content onto your site. Source the content on your own, or ask business people you know to write guest posts for your blog.
Localized blog content can take many forms. It might be a blog about your newest products that includes a call to action with your physical location. It could be a recap of a local event that you attended. Remember that providing high-quality information to your audience should be your first priority. Of course, it’s fine if some of your blog posts have no direct relationship to your local area.
Specials & Locals Pages
Running specials and giving incentives to local customers is a business strategy that you’ve probably tried at some time in the past. It’s also a smart approach to local SEO. Let’s say you run a spa in a tourist city. You might offer discounts for locals who patronize your business year-round. Creating a dedicated webpage to promote those discounts is a great way to get more local traffic to your website.
Specials pages drive local SEO by building more geo-specific content into your website. Promote specials for local or regional groups by creating individual webpages built around them. This is a strategy that works well for broader marketing projects too. For example, you can target affinity groups such as teachers, doctors or lawyers by creating pages based around special offers for professionals in those groups.
Local SEO Tools
Improving your local SEO efforts might seem intimidating, but you don’t have to do it alone. You can use a variety of local SEO tools to make improvements across online channels. Some popular tools for local SEO include
- Moz Local:
This service manages your business’s presence in online listings. It ensures NAP consistency and checks for errors on an ongoing basis. Moz Local can manage profiles for all of your locations so that your customers can find you everywhere you do business.
This service displays metrics about your rankings, links, reviews, citations and more. BrightLocal helps you manage your location listings whether you have one or 100 storefronts. You can also complete local SEO audits with the service.
- Whitespark Local Citation Finder:
Earning citations is essential for local SEO, but you can’t earn citations if you don’t know where to find opportunities. That’s where Whitespark can help. This service provides in-depth information about your website’s current citations. It also alerts you to opportunities to snag new citations.
- Places Scout:
This service offers rank tracking, review monitoring, link analysis, business listing audits and more. Places Scout also provides automated location listing support for NAP consistency.
This is a great tool to use if you need to find influencers or identify opportunities to get more backlinks. It helps you find and manage potential contacts without fuss.
Local SEO goes beyond your basic optimization efforts to truly reach your local audience. Incorporating local SEO strategies is a smart way to boost your business’s profile and ensure that you’re interacting with customers online who could walk through your doors tomorrow. Get started with high-quality, localized content that sends all the right signals to search engines.