By Slater Smith
When most marketing experts use the term SEO in daily conversation, they are referring to optimizing and improving rankings within organic search. However, not all businesses benefit in the same way from ranking within the organic search results. In fact, many companies see the most improvement in traffic and sales as a result of significant jumps in local search results. If your business thrives off in-person visits, like a restaurant, coffee shop or brick-and-mortar store, it may be an ideal candidate for local search engine optimization. In this detailed guide we discuss local SEO, how it works, and its key components.
How Does Local SEO Work?
After analyzing the behavior and statistics of billions of search queries every day, the Google algorithm determines that some of these searches are made by users looking for local products. With this data in mind, Google utilizes its proximity factor, which helps the search engine produce results of physical locations that are only in your immediate vicinity. If you work in downtown Austin, Texas, for example, and want to find a pizza restaurant for lunch, Google’s proximity factor will ensure you only see pizza restaurants in Austin rather than those in Boston or Denver.
Local search engines and search results have existed since the early days of Google, but became significantly more influential when smartphones gained popularity at the beginning of the 2010s. As mobile internet use has exploded over the past few years, optimizing your site and articles for local SEO has become increasingly important.
What Is The Local Pack?
When discussing and reading about local SEO, you may hear writers refer to ranking on Google’s local pack. Simply put, the local pack is a group of local business listings that appear toward the top of search results when users type in search queries that Google deems to have local intent.
Why Is Local SEO Important?
Businesses that capitalize on local SEO opportunities are more likely to see organic traffic to their website. Of all the benefits that local SEO brings, a significant increase in leads and sales falls at the top of the list. Local customers also often visit sites with a higher purchase intent than general users.
Local Keywords Can Rank Higher
Many customers are more likely to search for, click on, and trust local businesses over larger, generic companies. As a result, Google often prioritizes local sites that generate high amounts of clicks in search engine result pages. In fact, studies show that more than 75% of users who search for a nearby business on Google visit that business within a week.
Local SEO Can Increase Website Traffic From Nearby Users
Driving local website and foot traffic is one of the most prominent benefits of local SEO. This can be especially helpful for brick and mortar stores that require customers to physically visit the store to make purchases. Rather than getting large amounts of traffic from users that have no way of actually buying anything, local businesses can optimize their Google presence to attract only local customers.
Local SEO Can Help Generate Customer Reviews
Many local businesses rely on online and word of mouth reputation to boost brand awareness and business. Improving your company website’s visibility within local search results can help influence users to review your products and pages. User reviews appear right next to local search results within Google, meaning they are often one of the first impressions your business makes on potential customers.
Local SEO Generates Clicks
A higher ranking in local search results is directly correlated to a significant jump in website traffic. Websites that show up in the first position on local search experience a click through rate (CTR) greater than 30%. By the time a listing drops to the fifth slot, its CTR decreases to less than 10%.
Target Leads From Mobile Users
According to online studies, more than 80% of mobile and tablet users regularly conduct local searches on their devices. Targeting users who conduct searches primarily on mobile can help businesses capitalize on the thousands of users in their nearby vicinity who are looking for local search results.
What Matters For Local SEO?
As with the overall Google search algorithm, algorithms used to separate, determine and organize results for local SEO are also consistently updated by Google. This ongoing fluctuation requires the best SEO firms to stay up-to-date on local SEO best practices and trends. If you own a local business and are looking to improve rankings on local SEO, consider paying attention to the following local SEO tips and best practices.
Google My Business (GMB)
Google My Business (sometimes referred to as GMB) is a Google service that allows businesses to create business listings to appear in search results. Many business owners create a Google business account, but without Google My Business, they actually have no control over managing and editing their account.
To create a GMB profile, Google requires that a business provide a name, location, and category. The business profile is then open for customers to leave reviews, ask questions. GMB profile managers can upload photos to their profile, respond to customers, and enhance their profile with products, pricing, and other attributes.
GMB users can also use the platform to find data on audience intent and local search. The analytics tab of Google My Business allows users to discover the search queries customers use to find their business, where users found their business (Google Maps or Google Search) and how their profile compares to those of other companies.
Local SEO strongly favors businesses who have a set location close to the search engine user’s location. Without a physical address attached to your business, you run the risk of users finding your ad or page, becoming interested, but then finding themselves unable to locate your business in relation to their current location.
Google understands that convenience plays a major role in a user’s decision, especially if the user is looking for an immediate service like food or gasoline. Including a physical address, working phone number, and other contact information can increase your company’s chances of ranking high on search engine results pages for local search.
As Google reviews have become increasingly popular, generating high quality reviews has grown into a significant ranking factor for local SEO. Studies show that over 90% of customers are deterred from visiting a business if it has received too many negative reviews online. Some customers are also wary of businesses with very few reviews, as they believe a lack of feedback can indicate shady marketing tactics or underlying distrust. Working to create marketing and user relations strategies that produce a plethora of positive reviews can help your business shoot up the local SEO rankings.
Links and backlinks are key ranking factors for both local SEO, on page SEO, and technical SEO. In regards to local SEO, links help. Some backlinks can even come from local publications which can enhance your business’ reputation amongst people in your immediate vicinity. Having inbound links from websites with geographical proximity and importance can help a webpage improve its performance in local search.
A NAP (Name, Address, Phone) citation is a local SEO citation that includes a business’ name, address, and phone number. These citations appear in Google’s online business directory, a company’s social media, and under organic search results on Google. They can help your business rank on Google and also offer the following benefits:
- Including a NAP citation can help your business appear more on external sites.
- A NAP citation can be optimized to include only the information most pertinent to your business and services.
Local SEO Keyword Research
Keyword research for local SEO requires a slightly different process than the one required for finding keywords for more general SEO. Most local searches are centered around services, restaurants, and immediately accessible locations. This means local keywords are often much more specific. For example, if you run an electrical business in Sacramento, California and primarily serve local clients, the best keywords for your business might include:
- Electrical installation
- Sacramento electrical
- Sacramento electrical service
- Electrical company in Sacramento
What Is Local Intent?
Keywords with local intent indicate that search engines users are looking to purchase something from a location near them. To check to see if a specific keyword has local intent, you can Google it and check the results.
Local SEO is a marketing technique that involves optimizing content in an effort to improve performance among local search results. Some of these local search results appear within the local pack, a group of local business listings that appear near the top of the results page.
When optimizing for local SEO, it is recommend to include the following elements:
- Google My Business
- Customer reviews
- Your business' physical address