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Local SEO: A Definitive Guide

If you’re looking to rank your local business in Google, Bing, and other search engines, you’ve come to the right place. Today’s local search landscape has become a lot more complex than simply mentioning your area on your website. Our helpful guide will walk you through every aspect you need to know about when it comes to Local SEO, so let’s get started.

What is Local SEO?

Local SEO is the method of optimising your website and online presence to rank highly, and specifically to attract an increase in traffic from relevant local searches. In most cases, it will also increase foot traffic to your brick-and-mortar business (if you have one).

woman smiling with open sign

Why is Local SEO important?

There are several reasons why Local SEO has become essential for businesses. Here are a few of them:

  • 86% of users rely on the Internet to find a local business
  • 46% of all Google searches are looking for local information
  • When users search for products and services in their local area – also known as using ‘local intent’ -, this means they are getting ready to go to a physical store to buy the product or service. Brick and mortar businesses should use Local SEO to capitalise on this opportunity
  • Around 72% of users that perform local searchers visit a business within 5 miles of their own location
  • Users want to find a local business quickly and easily

It’s important to note that, whilst Local SEO is important for local companies, certain sectors such as international e-commerce and SaaS businesses don’t tend to rely on this method as much.

Needless to say, this strand of SEO has become hugely important for businesses offering local products or services. Investing in a solid Local SEO strategy could give you the edge over your competitors.

So, what is the difference between SEO and local SEO?

SEO, also referred to as “search engine optimisation” and “traditional SEO”, is the digital marketing practice of improving your website to make it more visible in organic Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Many SEO strategies like to include some Local SEO – often seen as a subsection of SEO – due to its importance to many businesses. 

Whereas “traditional SEO” is quite general in its approach to improving your website’s visibility on search engines, Local SEO really hones in on the geographical components of search. Smaller businesses can also see a bigger impact through local search as opposed to other SEO tactics as it’s a less competitive landscape. This is because with Local SEO, they are only competing with similar businesses in their area, rather than with all their competitors on the internet. 

Google is able to differentiate between the two and uses a different set of ranking factors to position the local search results.

How does Local SEO work?

Local SEO has separate ranking factors compared to “traditional” SEO. Some of the unique ranking signals include:

  • Location of user
  • Local SEO keywords
  • NAP citations
  • Google My Business listing
  • The Map Pack
  • Online reviews
  • Localised content
  • Social signals

These all play a part in the success of your Local SEO profile. Let’s go over these in more detail.

Location of User

To put it simply, if you were to type in ‘SEO agency’ into Google, you would get results from agencies near you. Geo-targeting is the main reason for this, but more recent (and complex) algorithm updates, such as neural matching, can also impact the way Google matches local businesses with search queries.

Tip: Creating a location landing page for your website can be a good way to target a specific location – whether or not you have other locations for your services or not.

man at food serving station

Local SEO Keywords

The difference between traditional keyword research and local keyword research is that the latter does not need as much intricate planning and rehashing every few months. Well-researched localised keywords are still vital, but it’s safe to say you can usually get by with a much shorter list.

Typical search queries with local intent are recognisable to most of us – since we have all used them at one point or other – and will include the following modifiers:

[search term] + city

[search term] + near me

Tip: Make a separate list of local keywords as you perform your keyword research. Separating your keywords into lists may help you when it comes to keyword mapping for your website’s content.

To read more about the basics of keywords, their impact on SEO, and how to perform keyword research, read our Beginner’s Guide To Keywords.

NAP Citations

Citations refer to the mentions your business gets across any online platform, including websites and social media. NAP – which stands for name, address, and phone number – citations are critical if you wish to rank well in local search engine results. Simply put, aim for relevancy with your local citations! 

Tip: NAP accuracy is essential to getting this one right, so ensure your business details are correct and consistent across your website and any citations you’ve created. It’s widely accepted that search engines cross-reference NAP information across websites to ensure you are a legitimate, working business.

Google My Business Listing

When we hear local search, our SEO-wired brains tend to go straight to Google My Business, also known as GMB. It’s a vital stage of any Local SEO campaign and should be the first thing you do. Your GMB listing is used as Google’s way to confirm, support, and share your business with its users. It is also your chance to provide your potential customers with valuable and up-to-date information, including your phone number, opening and closing times, and any business updates. There are also several other benefits of claiming and optimising your Google My Business listing;

  • Online customer reviews through your GMB listing act as a strong signal to search engines
  • Your GMB automatically provides you with a Google Maps listing – the perfect way to reach your target customers!
  • It’s free to use

Tip: Provide as much information as possible. Many business owners often neglect posts and regular business updates but they can have a really positive effect. Don’t forget to include eye-catching images, as these can really differentiate your listing from others! Not to mention, pictures will help give an impression of your business style to your customers.

The Map Pack

Results tend to come in all shapes and sizes, but the map pack, also referred to as Google’s local pack, is the most sought-after and prestigious position of all. When you’ve made it into the map pack, you’ve truly nailed your local ranking optimisation. Displayed as a set of three highlighted Google-Maps-based results, the local businesses shown in this section will be the most highly ranked in the searched area. It doesn’t play by the rules of our other ranking factors – the map pack is in an (algorithm) league of its own. So, what factors must you take under consideration when your desire is to reach the ultimate three? These are;

  • Your GMB listing is a top priority, thanks to Moz’s Local Search Ranking Factors report
  • You’re most likely fed upon hearing it, but if your NAP listings aren’t consistent, you won’t stand a chance
  • There’s a reason the map pack listings often have 100+ reviews, so don’t underestimate their power
  • Your overall SEO efforts and rankings are also taken into account, as confirmed by Google themselves: “Your position in web results is also a factor, so SEO best practices also apply to local search optimization”

Tip: The chances are, if you go through each section of this guide with a fine-toothed comb, you’ll stand a higher chance of appearing in Google’s Map Pack. Do everything in your power to solidify your overall SEO performances by creating content, optimising landing pages, and building brand awareness through backlinks. You’ll thank us later.

Online Reviews

Online reputation, reviews, and brand mentions are important aspects of how Google

evaluates the quality of a website. Google recommends and encourages businesses to manage and respond to reviews for local SEO benefits, as well as for their overall SEO strategy. Additionally, they place significant emphasis on reputation in the Search Quality Guidelines

Reviews go slightly above and beyond simply pleasing search engines though. They also have an important place when it comes to e-commerce SEO, improving both visibility and conversions. As briefly touched upon, reviews help to communicate the trustworthiness and authority of your business to both search engines and users alike. So, get using platforms such as Feefo, GMB, and TrustPilot by implementing these into your email marketing campaigns, as part of your subscription newsletter, or even on order confirmations to help garner further reviews. 

Don’t underestimate the power of a good review and your trust factor will go through the roof!

Tip: Be sure to publicly respond to reviews – the good, the bad, and the ugly. It shows potential customers that you care about the quality of your services and customer relationships. Google has also admitted that if they see your business is actively responding to customers, it can help with your overall search optimisation

 

 

 

Social Media

Although social signals aren’t necessarily direct ranking factors, they do serve a purpose when it comes to SEO. If quality information is shared on your social media, the chances are your followers will share this information across their own channels, including their websites.

There’s certainly no shortage when it comes to choosing social media platforms that will help benefit your business needs. Marketing through social media has never been more popular, whether that’s through the model-esque influencers on Instagram to the teen sensations making waves on TikTok. 

So, how does it affect your Local SEO? Well, as already discussed, we know the NAP accuracy will play a part in this. Certain social media platforms also allow you to geotag your posts and stories, helping you to expand your reach with local audiences.

Tip: Don’t skimp on quality content. Hire a professional photographer, write up witty captions, get those hashtags in – all of it counts! Keep in mind that user experience analysis has taught us that aesthetics will have a major impact on key metrics such as bounce rates and ROI. And, after all, social media is all about looks. If it doesn’t look good, chances are you won’t be converting.

Believe it or not, we’ve only covered the tip of the iceberg of the wonders that are Local SEO. As with SEO, Local SEO is a vast plain that can take years to fully understand. So, if you need help with building a sustainable and successful Local SEO campaign, our upUgo experts are here to help! 

Additionally, if you found this article useful, explore the rest of our SEO guide for more helpful tips on improving your organic search visibility.

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