Local search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving your website’s visibility using tactics like encouraging reviews or adding listings on directories to rank higher in search results. Local SEO is a great long-term strategy to increase web traffic and in-person sales, and it’s largely free. When 30% percent of clicks go to the first result in a Google search, landing in the top search results can make a huge difference to your bottom line.
So, how do you know if local SEO is right for your business and, if so, how do you do it? Keep reading to find out.
Who Local SEO Is Right For
Any local business that wants to leverage the power of the internet should use local SEO. These days, people are discovering local businesses online. Even if you’re looking to drive foot traffic, as opposed to website traffic, local SEO is still your ticket. So, whether you’re a local plumbing business, salon, or restaurant, you can acquire a lot more business through free local SEO, helping your business rank higher in local search results.
Here’s who local SEO is right for:
- Restaurants and bars
- Real estate services
- Home improvement/maintenance services like electricians and landscapers
- Medical services and providers
- Spas and salons
- Pet services
- Local retailers
- Any business that serves a specific area
If you’re still unsure if local SEO is right for your business, it comes down to whether you have a local business with a local address. Even local service providers, such as property watch businesses or caterers who don’t work out of one location but go to client’s locations, are good candidates for local SEO. In short, if your business serves a certain area, then chances are that local SEO is right for you.
Benefits of Local SEO
The benefits of improving your local SEO are abundant. The more discoverable you are, the more likely you are to gain a new customer. If that person has a good experience with your business and searches again, your business is more likely to rise in the ranks. More clicks to your profile or site tell search engines that you’re relevant for a particular search. In many ways, local SEO and organic traffic is a free alternative to advertising.
To put it plainly, here are the benefits of using local SEO:
- Rank higher in local results
- Rank higher in organic search results
- Reduce ad budget
- Get discovered by locals
- Earn more return customers
- Increase revenue
Local SEO presents a tremendous opportunity to achieve the same results as advertising without the advertising budget. While paid ads are a good short-term strategy to generate traffic, SEO is the long-term strategy to bring in traffic consistently.
Top Local SEO Factors (and Ways to Improve Local SEO)
Improving your local SEO isn’t all luck. There are several methods you can use to show up higher in search engine results. One thing to note is that this does take a bit of work on your part, and it takes time. Organic traffic and local SEO are linked to relevancy, so the more people find your business, click on your links, and review your business or service, the more search engine results “points” you earn.
Here are the primary local SEO ranking factors and ways to improve your local SEO.
1. Online Listings
There are hundreds of online directories, many of which have millions of visitors every month. By adding your business to relevant directories, your business can increase its online visibility and get found online. These large directories, such as Google, Yelp, and TripAdvisor, have very high domain authority. So, when they link to your website, your site appears more credible in the eyes of search engines.
Next step: Create a business profile on all relevant online directions. If you haven’t done so already, claim and complete your Google My Business profile. Once you’ve added or updated your business’ name, address, phone number, hours of operation, and website, you can then focus on optimization.
Pro tip: To rank higher on Google as a local business, you want to use relevant keywords for your business, choose the right category for your business, and add photos. You should also apply these same ideas to your small business website—it all works toward proving to Google that you’re a relevant local result in your category.
2. Name, Address & Phone (NAP)
Consistency is key in local SEO. You need to make sure that your business’s information is consistent across the web. So, your website, social profiles, and online directory listings all display the same, accurate information—from your business NAP to hours of operation, menus, and services, if applicable.
Keep in mind that this also includes local citations, so if a local blog or news outlet has reviewed your business, double-check to make sure they get your information right.
Having a different NAP across multiple sites or platforms can damage your site’s ability to rank. In the above screenshot, you can see an example of a business with a few misses with its local SEO. Although Interstate 35, I-35, and IH 35 Frontage Road are essentially the same, Google may not know that. It just knows it’s inconsistent. In return, the salon doesn’t show up on local search results.
Next step: Perform an online audit of your business. You may find your business has a listing on a directory you don’t even know about. Take note of all the mentions, and then take a bit of time to correct all discrepancies. This would be a good time to add your business to more directories, affecting your local ranking directly in search engines.
A positive review on Google is worth its proverbial weight in gold. The more reviews you can get on Google, the better. Businesses with a high number of positive online reviews land at the top of search results. This is because Google aims to provide its users with the best experience, and it does so by leading with the businesses that people deem the best.
This also holds true across other online directory sites—from Yelp and Grubhub to Yellow Pages and Bing. Keep in mind that if you do get a poor review, it’s important to respond to it. This helps show that your business is proactively trying to provide a good experience for its customers, instilling more confidence in your business in the public’s eyes.
Next step: Start increasing your number of reviews by checking out these proven ways to get reviews on Google.
4. Website Architecture
Website architecture sounds technical, but what it comes down to is how the contents of your website are organized. It’s not enough to have a good-looking site to help with local SEO. Your site also needs to work well for your visitors.
Site navigation is a leading aspect of website architecture, and it’s easier than you think to create good navigation. To start, ask yourself what visitors will be looking for when coming to your site and provide just that.
For example, people visiting a restaurant’s website likely want to see its menus as well as hours, locations, and potentially make a reservation, place an online order, buy merchandise or gift cards, or view upcoming events. So, a restaurant should have these main things that a visitor is looking for within the main navigation bar or nestled under a logical one. For example, menus could be found in the navigation with “Lunch,” “Dinner,” and “Drinks.”
Next step: If you don’t already have a website, start by choosing one of the best website builders for SEO. If you already have a website, check out the leading user experience (UX) principles to learn how to improve your website’s overall UX and improve local SEO easily.
5. Social Media
Social media can be an excellent way to connect with your customers—even for local businesses. Focus on social networks that include tools for location-based businesses, such as Facebook with local check-ins and Instagram with geotagging.
Social itself is not necessarily a direct factor in local SEO. However, it does help add authority and trust to your business, as well as traffic to your site, which helps in terms of general SEO.
For new businesses, it’s a common practice to combine organic and paid social to give your business an initial leg up. Granted, this can be time-consuming, and if you’re not experienced with social media marketing, it can be a waste of your time. Instead, leverage social by leaving it to the experts at one of the best social media marketing agencies.
Next step: Take the time to determine which social networks best suit your business. Consider which platforms your target audience uses the most and which would be the best medium for you, as a business, to interact with your audience. Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily want to create a profile across every social network. Instead, it’s better to limit the networks you’re on so that you can be active on them, rather than having a bunch of ghost accounts.
6. Have Relevant Local Content
You’ve probably heard the phrase “content is king,” and the adage rings true for local businesses. Content includes everything—from social media posts to blogs. You can create events or specials for locals and post them on Facebook. Thanks to Facebook algorithms, your event should show up for locals searching for something to do. It can be an event attached to a holiday, or regular events, such as brunch or happy hours.
Blogs are a great way to use local keywords, so you have a chance to rank in organic search results. In the example above, if someone searched for “Easter celebration in Minneapolis” around the time the article was posted, it likely showed high in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Next step: Start creating content, and if you don’t have the time to do this yourself, consider leaving it to a freelance writer. Busy business owners typically rely on freelancers to create content for them. To find the most affordable freelancers for as little as $5, try Fiverr.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What’s the difference between SEO and SEM?
While there is a difference between SEO and SEM, they are related. SEO is part of search engine marketing (SEM). Using organic methods to rank your site is SEO—it’s a form of SEM. SEM includes paid ads to boost your site’s visibility.
Which SEO tool is best?
You should be using a keyword tool to start, but there are several other apps that are helpful. Some website builders include built-in SEO tools. You can optimize your site yourself, outsource it to an SEO specialist, or you can get the help of apps. If you’re using WordPress for your website, consider using these SEO plugins.
How do you know if you need local SEO?
If you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner who relies on local customers, then you need local SEO. Whether you take clients from all over the state you live in or around the world, local SEO can help potential customers find you. The first step to being discoverable is to have a solid website. Get online quickly and affordably with the best website builders.
Optimizing your business for local SEO is too important to ignore. Most of the local SEO tips we included in this list are easy to do and are free options, but they do take time. If your time is better spent on other tasks for your business, you can outsource many of your local SEO efforts to a freelancer. One of the most affordable freelancer marketplaces is Fiverr, which offers local SEO services from experts for as little as $5.