If you run a local business, you’ve most likely heard of local SEO and of how important it is. However, you probably haven’t taken the time to really dive in and understand what you need to do to succeed and differentiate yourself from your competitors. Heck, that’s probably why you are reading this right now!
As someone who focuses on local SEO full-time, I’m here to help clear up the mystery surrounding local SEO. In this article, I will take a look at what local SEO is, why it is relevant to you, and how you can use it for your business. Let’s begin!
What is local SEO, anyway?
Simply put, local SEO is a branch of your standard SEO that specifically aims to generate local traffic.
If you run a local coffee shop in Orange County, CA you are probably not too interested in whether people from New York find your business or not. What you do want are people in Orange County who are searching for things like “coffee shop near me” or “coffee shop in Irvine” to find you.
Local SEO is the art and science of helping your business to be found in local search results.
To put it another way, local SEO allows your business to be made visible when someone nearby does a location-based search.
We have all seen Google results like this before. This is what comes up when I search on Google for “coffee shops near me.” The map with listings below it is known as Google’s Local Pack and it is the “holy grail” as far as local SEO is concerned. If you can get your business in the Local Pack, you are going to be a very happy business owner.
Why is local SEO important?
If you have a brick-and-mortar establishment or service-based business that serves a specific geographic area, local SEO can make a world of difference for your walk-in traffic and customer leads.
According to studies, 92% of searchers will pick businesses on the first page of local search results and 78% of location-based mobile searches result in an offline purchase. These are significant numbers.
Back in the day, if I needed to find a lawyer, I would pull out the Yellow Pages or some other directory. Today, if I need to find a lawyer, I’m going to go on Google, type in “lawyer near me” or “best personal injury lawyer” and then more likely than not, I will end up calling one of the top results.
And guess what, if your business is not showing up as one of the top results, you won’t be getting called, your competitors will, and that’s not great for business.
Very basically, if you are ranking highly in local search results, you will get more business (and beat your competitors, which is also nice).
What are the basics of Local SEO?
Now that you know what local SEO is and why it’s important, here are three tips that you can use to enhance your business’s local SEO.
1 – Reviews
This shouldn’t come as a big surprise, but reviews are very important for local SEO. Having more reviews and a higher rating than your competitors can help to influence your ranking. Even the content within the reviews (what your customers are writing) can influence your ranking in local search results.
And, on top of all of that, potential customers are actually reading the reviews and are influenced by them. If one business has a ton of reviews that are raving about it and another business, everything else being equal, has average to below-average reviews, who do you think is going to get more customers?
Takeaway: Your business should have a review generating and management process.
2 – Consistent, Quality Website Content
Your website also factors into your local SEO results. You will want to make sure your site is mobile-friendly, has accurate information regarding your business, and that you are creating and posting unique and engaging content for your target audience consistently.
At a minimum, you should be posting monthly, but ideally, you can be posting weekly or even multiple times per week. A quick word of caution though, quality matters. I would rather you put out one great piece of content every month, then one sub-par piece of content every week.
If you run an SEO Agency that targets local businesses, you will want to create content that provides value to local businesses (see what I did there?). Or, if you are a personal injury attorney, you may want to create content that educates your potential clients on what to do if you get into a car accident.
Takeaway: Be active on your website by creating content that will bring value to your target audience.
3 – Citations
A citation is any place your business’s contact information is listed online. This generally includes your:
- Business Name
These three are referred to as your NAP (Name, Address, Phone) and you want these to be consistent across the web.
Let’s say your address is 123 Sesame Street, Suite D.
If in one location your address is listed as “123 Sesame Street“
And in another location it is listed as “123 Sesame Street, Suite D“
Google will see this as a discrepancy and won’t necessarily know which is the correct address. If there is a competitor who doesn’t have a discrepancy, everything else being equal, they will likely be listed ahead of you because Google can have more confidence in their result.
This is an overly simplified example, but I trust you get the idea.
Citations can be on directory sites or pages like your Google My Business account, Yelp Profile, and Facebook Profile (along with many others across the internet), but they can also be when someone else lists your business as a reference. This could be when a food blog has your restaurant in its list of good local places to eat.
With proper citations comes a higher chance of being included in Google’s local 3-pack.
Your goal is to make sure that your information is accurate and consistent everywhere your NAP is listed.
To assist with this, sign up for online tools like BrightLocal, Synup, Whitespark to help manage your online listings. This takes the hassle of ensuring consistency off your shoulders (I use BrightLocal for my clients #notasponsor).
Takeaway: Use a tool like BrightLocal to update your citations around the internet.
Bonus: Make sure you have claimed your Google My Business profile, updated the information on it, and verify it. Without this, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to rank in Google Maps results.
4 – Backlinks
The last piece of the puzzle for local SEO success is getting backlinks to your website.
A backlink is when another website links to yours. I’ve included a few backlinks in this post to different sites (BrightLocal, Synup, and Whitespark in the last section as an example).
Essentially, if an established site (say Forbes.com) that Google trusts and knows is a real, legit business and site, links to your website, Google will see that and basically say, “Forbes.com trusts them so we can now trust them a little more too.”
For good local SEO, you want your links to be relevant and local.
A relevant link would be a link from a website in a similar or related niche.
A local link would be from a website that is from your same city, county, region.
And all of the links should be from reputable websites. There are many ways to game the system for short term results but in the long run, you will be better off getting real links from real sites.
Google has a number of guidelines (<– this is a backlink) on what types of links you should and should not go after. According to Google, the purest way of attaining backlinks is by creating “unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community.”
Takeaway: Focus on creating high-quality, unique content and creative ways to promote it to gain backlinks to your website.
Wrapping Things Up
There you have it. It really isn’t magic, but it does take hard work.
If you can be better than your competitors in these four areas than you should outrank them in local search results.
If see the value from ranking well in local search results, but you don’t have the time to do what is needed to rank well, well, I happen to know a local SEO company in Orange County that can help you out.
I’d be happy to chat and walk you through our very reasonably priced options.
(or just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org)