Become #1 in Your City: The Complete Guide to Local SEO.

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VIEWS: 17112 Views CATEGORY: SEO READING TIME: 14 Min To Read UPLOADED ON: 31 Aug 2018

What do you do when looking for a local business to fix your home gadgets or deliver your next order?

You pull up your device and perform a quick search online.

It's no different with your customers!

When they're looking for a product or service in their locale, they turn to search engines to find it. Location-based search is getting bigger, and by extension, local SEO is becoming more critical. A study has found that 46 per cent of all searches on Google have local intent. Suppose your business is set up to target local customers, and you need to take local SEO. In that case, seriously, you're losing lots of opportunities and leaving money on the table when people search for your type of product or service.
And many people are searching for? HubSpot published a report which shows that 89 per cent of consumers search for a local business on their smartphone at least once a week, with 58 per cent searching every day.
And out of that number, 72 per cent will visit a store within five miles, and 50 per cent will stay within a day…same with 34 per cent who search on a computer or tablet. These searchers are unlikely to find you if your business is not optimized for local search. A solid regional SEO strategy is critical to driving more people to your business locally. In this comprehensive guide, you'll learn everything you need to know to optimize your business to dominate the local search for your city and industry.

But first, what exactly is local SEO?

What is Local SEO?

Local SEO involves optimising your online properties (website, online profiles, social media pages, etc.) to show up on localized searches. It is SEO with an added geographical element. When optimizing for local searches, you're targeting a location-specific audience, and the search results usually show up in a place called the "Local 3-Pack."
Google Local 3-Pack

What is the "3-Pack?"

The Google "Local 3-Pack" is a triad of search results containing three listings of local businesses based on the search query. To understand this better, let's examine a typical Google local search result page. Typically, the area above the fold in a specific search result page would contain just ads. After the ads come the part referred to as the "Local 3-Pack" or "Map Pack."

As you can see in the screenshot above, that section of a result page has a map pack with three listings, hence the name "Local 3-Pack." After the group, what follows is the usual organic-type results you're used to. The local group used to be 7-pack (made up of seven local listings), but it was syncopated by Google engineers to favour mobile searches.
Different from what many people think, the pack is one of many places where local SEO affects search. There are three other places where local SEO also influences search — Google Maps, Knowledge Graph, and mobile results. For an effective regional SEO strategy, you'd want your business to sit on top of all these places, including the 3-Pack.

How do you do that?

It starts with understanding Google's ranking signals FOR local search (yes, it's different from the ranking signals for standard SEO) and then optimizing accordingly.

Let's discuss those next: Google Ranking Signals for Local SEO.

In examining local search ranking factors, we often look at it from two angles:

  1. Factors that influence the maps and local pack rankings

  2. Factors that influence localized organic rankings

A 2017 Moz study on local search ranking factors gives a clear idea of what factors matter in local SEO for each of these two angles.

"My Business Signals" is considered the #1 ranking factor for local pack rankings.

Have a look at the below screenshot for the complete list:

You'd have to optimize your Google My Business listing to maximize your chances (see below for more on Google My Business).
On the other hand, link signals are the most influential factor for localized organic results (the organic results refer to the section below the maps). This means local link building is an essential factor in local SEO, we'll also look at that later.

Have a look at the complete list:

Now that you know the ranking factors for local SEO, it's time to optimize your business for local traffic.

How to Optimize for Local Search

1. Start by optimizing your website

The best place to start is always your website because if it is well-optimized, it will be easy for you to feature in the SERPs.

As you can see in the Moz study, On-Page Signals (Presence of NAP, keywords in titles, domain authority, etc.) make up a whopping 24 per cent of local ranking signals.

Since this concerns your website, you first have to ensure that you follow standard SEO best practices. And then, do the following:

  • Add a map

Local search is location-specific. And given that about 86 per cent of people look up the location of a business on Google Maps, it's imperative to not only add a map to your website but also ensure that your information on Google Maps is correct.

  • Make it mobile-friendly

In 2016, the mobile became the primary device for accessing the Internet. And in 2017, the combo of traffic from mobile and tablet devices reached 56.74 per cent, while that of desktops stood at 43.26 per cent in the same year. By now, over 30 per cent of mobile searches are location-related. In short, 88% of "near me" searches are performed on mobile.

You'll want to use our mobile-friendly test tool to be sure your website displays correctly on mobile devices.

Also, create click-to-call buttons (that is, your phone number or Skype ID should be clickable) 76 per cent of local searches result in a phone call.

  • Add your NAP

Local searchers always look for contact information because they intend to visit or get in touch with the business. So on your contact page, ensure you clearly show your NAP (more on this later).

  • Add Schema markup

Schema markup by Schema.org gives search engines information about the data on your website for proper indexing.
By adding the appropriate Schema markup to your website, you can point Google to your correct NAP and let it identify you as a small business and not some big brand.

  • Add testimonials and reviews.

Testimonials and reviews displayed on a website have some added advantages. Not only do they build trust with customers, but they also boost local SEO. Specifically, when locals perform searches, Google does show testimonials and reviews alongside your NAP details.

2. Claim your online profiles

When it comes to local SEO, your website is one of many properties to optimize. Online profiles play significant roles in how well you do on local SERPs. Below are the most critical profiles to optimize:

  • Google My Business

A while ago, you saw the Moz study we cited. It states My Business Signals as the top-ranking signal for the pack. This means your Google My Business listing is ground zero for how your business data is displayed on Google.

Whether or not your Google My Business profile is correct and filled out can be the difference between sitting on top of local results and staying in oblivion. But it isn't just Google local search that is affected by your Google My Business profile; Google Maps and Knowledge Graph will also show searchers your Google My Business if it is optimized. This is huge, especially when you remember that 86% of people look up the location of a business on Google Maps.

If you haven't already, you need to claim your Google My Business page. And then, you'll have to optimize it by doing the following:

  • Fill it out with CORRECT and COMPLETE information about your business.

  • Add your NAP.

  • Choose the appropriate categories.

  • Add images, including images of your products or even team members.

  • When signing up, use your professional email instead of @gmail, @yahoo or the like.

  • Enter a detailed description of your business, and use some keywords your target searchers are likely to use when searching for you.

  • And do remember to verify.

When you do this, your Google My Business profile will be optimized for local searches.

  • Review sites

Beyond claiming your Google My Business profile, you'd also want to take your place on review platforms.

Why review sites?

Because when it comes to local searches, Google 3-Pack is often followed by review sites. Put differently; review sites make up the majority of localized organic rankings.

You can target local review sites and the heavyweights like TripAdvisor and Yelp. Hubspot published a list of 22 consumer review sites, which includes Google My Business reviews, TripAdvisor, Yelp, Better Business Bureau, Amazon, and more. But before you get on with these guys, prioritize which sites will bring you the most return on your time investment.

To start with, find the review sites that are best for your industry. If you're in real estate, for instance, Zillow makes the perfect sense for you. If you're in the restaurant business, TripAdvisor would be an appropriate place to start.

Yelp, with its more than 100 million users, would also do well for almost all locally targeted businesses that want to show up on the map.

You'll also want to set up profiles on the social media channels relevant to your target demographic, as Google bots pick up those profiles, too.

Whatever you do, ensure your information is identical and consistent on each platform. This is very important as the opposite can mar your rankings.


3. Provide localized content

Content is the bedrock of SEO. If you want to show up on local searches, you should create locally-focused content. This will be displayed on organic search after the map pack. And the best way to provide regular, relevant content is through blogging.

If you haven't already, create a blog on your website. Then localize your content for maximum local search benefits.

How can you localize your content?

Here are some helpful ideas:

  • First things first, know whom you're targeting. If you don't know whom you're writing for, it'll be tough to create valuable content for that market.

  • Incorporate the name of your local city into your content wherever possible.

  • Not everyone will use your city name when searching, so also try to include neighbouring towns and cities, neighbourhoods, and unofficial terms that locals may use.

  • Include relevant local news and happenings that can boost your SEO and provide helpful information to your audience.

  • Capitalize on the popularity of an upcoming community event, election, fair, etc. For example, you can write a blog post teaching locals the best way to take advantage of an upcoming festival in your city, either by participating or how to make money off it.

  • Partner with charities, non-profit organizations, or schools. Offer services, sponsorships, scholarships, or even an office space to host their events and write about them.

  • Participate in or spearhead community events. Or, sponsor local events, teams, or organizations, and write about them, too.

  • You can also interview local experts within or outside your company.

  • Optimize your content for "Near Me" searches.

In addition to creating local content, you'd want to build links to augment the content authority.

To do this:

  • Network with local bloggers and other small businesses in your area. Choose the most relevant connections, and open up a link or promotion exchange.

  • Get featured by local publications and organizations. Getting featured by these local resources may yield some authoritative .edu, .org, and .gov links.


4. Generate online reviews
 

While reviews may seem like a small part of the bigger picture that forms your online presence, many shoppers depend on online reviews when deciding which company to buy from.

The 2017 State of Online Reviews survey by Podium states that 93 per cent of customers say online reviews primarily influence their buying decisions.

And according to a recent local consumer reviews survey, around 84 per cent of buyers trust online reviews as much as friends. What's more, a Harvard Business School study found that even bumping up your score by one star can boost revenue by almost 10 per cent.

And per local SEO, the Moz study reveals that review signals constitute about 13 per cent of local pack ranking factors. If you're not getting the hang of it yet, these numbers mean that when you improve your online reputation, you hit not one but three birds with one stone — increased customer trust, better conversion + more revenue, and, yes, higher local rankings.

So if your business' review is zero or negative, improve it. It's easier than you may think.

Just ask!

The Podium survey found that 77 per cent of buyers would be willing to leave a review if asked.


5. Get more citations
 

Along with link signals and reviews, citations are a primary factor that Google uses for local search rankings.

What exactly are citations?

Citations are any online mention of your business NAP, even if there is no link to your website.

NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone number.

Recently, a few terms have been emerging online, like NAPW (Name, Address, Phone Number, Website) and NAPU (Name, Address, Phone Number URL). How do citations work for local rankings? To Google, it is logical that a business mentioned more on the Internet gets ranked higher than one discussed less.

That's why you would want to get more citations. But how?

Citations can occur on local business directories, websites, apps, and social platforms. Here are the places to target:

  • Local blogs. These blogs are well-indexed by search engines and are highly associated with a particular city, region, or neighbourhood.

  • Locally-focused directories. Go for manuals admired by humans. This is because they're less susceptible to spam, so they tend to be more trusted by search engines.

  • Industry-focused directories or blogs. These websites focus on the topics and keywords related to your products and services. And are, thus, well-indexed by search engines.

  • Local search engines. Think about sites like Google My Business, Yelp, Hotfrog, and Foursquare.

Now, beyond citation signals accounting for 13 per cent of pack ranking factors, many people use directories to search for businesses (not just on Google). The more citations you have, the better your chances of getting found by opposite customers.

But remember that having accurate and consistent NAP can positively affect your local SEO. Ensure your business name, address, phone number, and website URL are correct and consistent on each citation you build. Mismatched NAP citations account for 41 per cent of the total local ranking issues, making it the number one issue affecting local SEO ranking.


Wrapping up…

Local SEO is essential to the success of your overall marketing strategy and your general bottom line. Even more, local SEO can significantly augment your standard SEO practices as the benefits are compounded, which means it is not just local businesses that should implement local SEO but everyone else, too. With the stratagems laid out in this guide, you should be able to optimize your online properties to climb the local SERPs. Just remember to keep them consistent, as that constitutes the most significant SEO issue.

And if you need help with any SEO tools for local search optimization, check out our gang of hyper-useful freemium SEO tools
You can like SmallSeoTool's Facebook page and read our tweets on our smallseotools Twitter page. And can see our video tutorials on our youtube channel

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