If your business has a physical or “brick and mortar” location, it’s crucial that potential customers can find you through local search results.
In this post, we’ll explain how to boost local SEO by focusing on a few key areas that can increase traffic—online and off.
What We’ll Cover:
- What is Local SEO & Why is it Important?
- Ranking Factors
- Who Needs Local SEO?
- How to Get Started and Optimize Your Listings
- What is Google’s Maps Pack?
- Optimize Your Local Google Listings
What is Local SEO & Why Is It Important?
These days, 46% of Google searches come from users searching for information and “near me” searches have grown by 900% over the last decade.
Given that 92% of searchers choose to do business with companies on the first page of the search results, a local search marketing strategy can make or break your sales and growth.
Think about ranking factors as checklist items that Google uses to find and rank local businesses.
You can always improve your search performance by understanding which ranking factors are most important and how you can rise to meet them.
When it comes to local SEO, today’s ranking factors might include:
- Local proximity to a user or new query
- Google My Business profile and results
- Behavioral data (including click-through rate)
- Personalized search history
Since the Google algorithm regularly updates ranking factors and responds to user queries, always keep tabs on the latest updates. These could have powerful implications for your business.
Who Needs Local SEO?
Any business with a physical location.
Whether you’re a clothing store, coffee shop, or chiropractor, a local SEO strategy is a secret to getting more customers in the door. Ultimately, this means you’ll see an increased sales and word-of-mouth referrals.
This rule of thumb applies to single locations and to multi-location businesses that operate in more than one zip code. Helping customers discover where and how to get service means staying competitive.
Your website needs to have unique location factors to drive search engines and website visitors to your physical business location. Optimize your site just as you would for your national SEO strategy, but place a stronger emphasis on your business’s contact information, business hours, city, and state.
Google My Business – How to Get Started and Optimize Your Listings
Google My Business is an essential marketing tool for any local business. Claiming your listing increases your chances of showing up in Google’s Local Pack, Google Maps listings, Local Finder, and in the organic results for those high-intent, near-me searches.
It’s so useful, in fact, Google’s been floating the idea of making GMB a paid service. But staking your claim on Google isn’t enough—you’ll need to optimize your GMB profile by adding images, keywords, and descriptions that deliver more context to searchers.
Fill Out Your Entire Profile
Once you’ve claimed your GMB profile, you’ll need to spend some time filling out your entire profile with complete accuracy.
Write an optimized 750-character description that includes your business’s name, contact information, physical address, and relevant keywords.
- Use hyperlinks to connect your description to relevant content pages, including a location-specific URL on your website.
- If you have multiple locations, provide a unique description for each one.
- List at least 5 categories to properly index your profile.
- Don’t forget to link to top services in your “About” section with keywords as the anchor text.
- Double-check your map marker to ensure that it lines up with your exact location.
Remember to remove any duplicate listings and optimize your images and videos.
GMB Photos, Videos, and Posts
Per Google guidelines, local businesses should add an awful lot of photos and recommend adding the following images to your profile:
- A minimum of three high-quality exterior shots
- At least three interior photos that show off your ambiance and offerings
- Three photos of your team providing the type of service you offer
- Photos of common areas and restrooms
- Product photos
- Food and drink photos
- Team photos
- Rooms (hospitality)
Businesses can now upload videos to their GMB profile, allowing them to showcase products, services, and ambiance to customers during the search and discovery phase.
Additionally, Google now offers Google My Business posts, which allow users to promote blog content, articles, and offers from the SERPs, so searchers can see this information immediately.
We all know reviews play a crucial role in swaying purchasing decisions across the board—from Amazon purchases to enterprise software.
But for local businesses, reviews are everything—and can be the source of your success or the cause of your demise.
72% of consumers say positive reviews make them trust businesses more, while 70% of consumers say that four or more negative reviews will prevent them from visiting a local business.
Work to generate as many reviews as possible, especially on your Google My Business Page and local directories.
Studies have found that customers require a business to have at least 40 reviews before they’ll believe the star rating to be accurate. However, don’t buy or post fake reviews because you’ll lose customer trust if they discover your secret.
Google My Business Keywords
While you may be aware of using SEO keywords on your website, there’s good news when it comes to local search. You can also add strategic words to different parts of your GMB profile to help your business rise to the top of search results.
If you have a targeted list of keywords for your business, try to incorporate them into your GMB profile description. Although this is the primary place for keyword mapping, you can also implement keywords into your business updates and announcements, and even into your customer reviews (when possible).
What is Google’s Maps Pack?
In basic everyday searches, many of us encounter Google’s “maps pack.” This term simply refers to the location-based results that users see upon entering new search criteria. The map pack includes geographic markers, icons, and other visual cues to let users know that they are close to a local business.
How Does it Work?
The Google Maps Pack relies on SEO data to suggest high-ranking businesses that are also in proximity to a local user.
Why is it Important?
This feature is critical for businesses that want to be found by local patrons. And what business doesn’t want that? Ranking highly with Maps Pack provides better positioning than if users were to receive search results in a detached way, such as alphabetically.
In addition to convenience, businesses that rank highly with Maps Pack can influence buying decisions better than other results. If the suggestions are accurate and helpful, users will engage with local businesses through in-person visits and spending.
How Do You Rank For It?
Ranking in Google Maps Pack is like ranking well in your Google My Business profile. You should always make sure that your GMB profile is current and optimized, and then you’ll need to verify your location’s physical address.
Besides checking the Google boxes, make sure that everything on your website is up to snuff. This includes having working links to your homepage, being mobile-responsive, and optimizing your content for search.
Optimize Your Local Business Listings
The secret to ranking well locally relies on your use of NAP (name, address, and phone number) in as many appropriate places as possible. With 92 percent of searchers selecting a business with page-one results, you need a solid strategy in place to reach your customers.
Local directories are one of the more common ways that people find out about the businesses in their area, so you’ll want to make sure that your business is listed on every popular directory in your niche—and that your NAP information is exactly the same across these directories.
According to a recent Bright Local study, 64% of searchers have used Google My Business simply to find a business’ contact information, proving that a typo or an incomplete profile can mean missing out on sales.
While it might seem surprising, directories often rank high in the Google search results for relevant queries, so optimizing your listings can help you appear in more places, allowing you to bring in even more qualified leads.
In case you’re wondering, top local directories include GMB, as well as sites like Yelp, Yellow Pages, and Bing. Carefully fill out the information on third-party sites to direct local customers to your business.
If possible, publish quality content on these sites to direct the customer to your business. Bigger, more credible sites will offer more visibility, which will both drive more traffic to your site and encourage customers to review their experience with your brand; thus, raising your profile on organic search.
Incorporate Location-Based Keywords in Your Local SEO Strategy
Besides keywords that are relevant to your business, you also need location-based keywords, which promote Google’s ability to index your site locally.
Research and compile a list of 10-15 keywords and place them in order of relevance to build keyword-focused web pages and content. Focus on keywords and variations that apply to your business and will drive conversions and promote your local ranking.
Use the location-based keywords within your content, title tags, meta descriptions, Google My Business Page, images, header, and social media profiles. With the right keywords, you’ll generate higher conversions, whether online, physical store visits, or phone calls.
Create Local-Specific Content
Create content that’s specific to your location and your niche to attract customers with quality information by adding a blog.
Use your keywords within your content to further boost your local ranking with valuable indexable content.
Not only will you attract new customers and maintain existing ones, but each post you publish with local keywords will give your site another local page for Google to index.
However, remember to create content that brings value to your users first and makes use of keywords second.
Use Schema Markup in Your Local SEO Strategy
According to Google, structured data offers “a standardized format for providing information about a page and classifying the page content.” Adding Local Business Schema allows you to provide the search engine with more information about your website.
Google offers several options for making your website, content, and location information available for search results, Google Maps listings, and Knowledge Graph Cards. Before you can start marking up the page, make sure that your Google My Business and Google Search Console accounts are set up and verified.
From there, you’ll want to add in the “basics” including:
- Business Contact Markup
- Site Logo
- Social Profiles
You can go through a complete list of local business markups on Schema.org, but here are a few notable options that can help you put your best face forward:
Site navigation allows you to highlight different sections of your site—and takes up more real estate in the SERPs than your average listing.
For multi-location businesses, site navigation is a great way to ensure searchers find the right location without having to explore the entire sitemap.
Adding the breadcrumb markup to your site gives Google bots a clearer picture of your site’s hierarchy and displays your categorization structure in the search results.
While this markup isn’t specific to local SEO, it adds value for mobile users, which of course, make up the majority share of local search.
Events: If your business hosts concerts, lectures, festivals, or fairs, you can add tags that allow details to show up in the SERPs—along with photos that help you sell tickets.
Booking: Businesses that have an account with one of Google’s supported scheduling providers, have the option to add a “book now” button to their GMB page, making it easy to get new clients on the books.
Geo-coordinates: Businesses can show their local service area, allowing multi-location brands to ensure searchers get information for the nearest location.
Google recently updated the rules regarding review schema, stating that businesses using customer reviews in a “self-serving” capacity won’t have reviews displayed in the search results, as they don’t add value to the user.
On-Page SEO For Local Businesses
On-page SEO refers to the strategy of improving unique web pages for maximum performance. This strategy is helpful when you want your website content to rank high in Google Search results.
In addition to local SEO, on-page is another way to help users find and experience your content. On-page strategies can include:
- Keyword optimization
- Internal linking
- Title tags
- Meta descriptions
- Alt text
- Quality content EAT
- URL structure
- Schema markup
- Mobile responsiveness
Off-Page SEO For Local Business
Off-page SEO refers to non-traditional methods that are not directly linked to SEO for individual web pages. While this is true, it doesn’t mean that your efforts here are any less important. In fact, off-page SEO can strengthen the credibility of your business, extend your reach (well beyond local), and help you achieve even more success.
- Domain authority
- Pay Per Click (PPC)
- Public Relations (PR)
- Social Media
Optimize Your Local SEO Strategy for Mobile AND Voice
It’s a well-known fact that mobile searches now exceed those of desktop, which is why a properly configured, responsive design is critical to reaching mobile visitors, as over 70% of mobile users contact a business after viewing their local information, and 50% of searchers visited a business the same day they searched.
In addition to a mobile-friendly website, you must also optimize your mobile site to promote local searches.
This includes featuring your city and state in the title tag, H1 heading, URL (if possible), content, alt tags, meta description, and an embedded Google map.
You’ll want to target long-tail keyword terms that help you rank for voice search, as more and more users take advantage of Google Assistant and Siri to find local businesses.
Link-Building for Local SEO
When you’re running a business that’s 100% online, link-building is par for the course—you might do some guest blogging, and outreach, and spend some time looking for opportunities to steal links from low-quality pages.
However, link-building for local SEO also comes with unique challenges. Using the appropriate on-site and off-site methods, you’ll strengthen the quality and authority of your link profile, which is used as a local ranking factor.
To earn links from major websites, you’ll need to make other local websites want to link to you. This means you’ll need great content and a positive reputation.
- Comment and guest post on local blogs, and offer testimonials to other local businesses, and be an active member of local social media pages, as well as sites like NextDoor which focuses on connecting with your community.
- Work to target local-friendly websites, like TripAdvisor or Yelp to earn a trusted backlink, as well as local publications that might mention you in a review or a “things to do” post.
- Finally, don’t forget to share your website’s links on social media to help draw visitors back to your website.
Engage on Social Media
Over 72% of SMBs use social media to promote their local business, with 70 percent of customers choosing businesses with a social media presence over those that skip out on socials.
Besides customer engagement, social signals play a role in page rank, which will help you gain more local recognition, through organic posts and paid ads.
Use social media platforms to engage with your customers by offering discounts, promotions, and giveaways. Plus, it’s the perfect place to advertise local events and special offers that help you get more community members in the door.
Wrapping Up How to Craft a Local SEO Strategy
Local SEO is huge for any brick-and-mortar location—be it a restaurant, a salon, or a local grocery chain—and so much of your success depends on leveraging your Google My Business profile and optimizing for mobile search.
Here are a few parting tips for improving your local SEO strategy:
- Include a local optimized image to show your readers where your store is and to appear in Google Image search.
- If you have multiple locations, create a separate landing page for each location.
- Create a local keyword assignment to use throughout your strategy to build more local authority.
- Incorporate your keywords with your city and state in relevant blog posts and web copy.
- Although your primary goal is to boost your local ranking, maintain a tight focus on your keywords while creating quality content that’s informative and relevant to your customers.
- Make sure your readers know exactly where to find your business by referencing local landmarks and intersections.
- Include an embedded Google map. Make sure the listing coordinates with the map code and the flag shown on your site.