Local SEO is key to making your business thrive. Now more than ever, your online presence can make or break your success as a local business. Search engines today pay attention to so many elements online that it can be hard to know how to make them work for you. Keep reading to learn the basics of local SEO and get some actionable steps to get started on local SEO today!
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO is Search Engine Optimization for the local scale. By taking steps to improve your standing with Google, you can improve your visibility in locally-oriented search terms (i.e. “Thai food near me” or “best bars in Oklahoma City”). Showing up for local results is important, especially if you’re a small or local business looking to get more online traffic and people in your door.
46% of searches have local intent, meaning nearly HALF of all searches are people looking for something in their area. Showing up for these is imperative. If someone wants to find your type of business near them, you want to be one of the first to show up! People are far more likely to pick a result from the first page of results they see, 90% of respondents to this survey to be exact. First-page visibility is crucial to your success.
How does Local SEO Work?
Google is in charge, and Google knows all. They have their own complex systems that scan websites, weigh all kinds of metrics, and ultimately use an algorithm to determine what results best suit someone’s search. The good news is that because Google is reading data from across the web, we can find out what they like to see and modify our online presence to make the Google gods happy.
Google takes 3 things into account when it’s looking for the best search results:
- Relevance: How closely related a search result is to the words someone searches
- Distance: How far away the searcher is from the results they’re looking for
- Prominence: How important Google thinks a business is in comparison to its competitors
Relevance is the first step in Google’s result-generation process. It simply takes the search terms someone has input, then scans the web for websites with wording that matches the search. You’ll hear SEO people talk a lot about keywords, and this is why. We’ll get more into keywords later on.
Distance isn’t something you can necessarily control. Google takes into account how far away the searcher is from the results around them. This plays a role in what will appear first, as the searcher is most likely looking for something in their area. This is how Google can give you search results for the Taco Bell by your house instead of one across town, even if you don’t type in “near me” at the end of your search input.
Prominence is a little more tricky, as it’s filled with variables that Google uses to determine if a search result is actually good. These variables, however, are where you come into play.
A few things Google looks at that we’ll get into further are your Google My Business profile, the functionality of your actual website, your website's presence on other websites, how much content is on your website, how long people spend using your website, and more. What’s great is nearly all of these factors can be optimized to get better local rankings in Google, and it isn’t hard to optimize your online presence once you get some practice.
Optimizing for Local SEO: The Basics
Here are some basic things you should know to start working on your local SEO rankings:
Optimize Google My Business
Your Google My Business profile (GMB) is super important to increasing your rankings. This is Google’s primary source of baseline information for your business, so it's important that your GMB is informational and accurate.
Here are some things you can do to optimize your GMB profile:
- Fill out as much information as you can with as much detail as possible.
- Make sure your hours, phone number, and address are always up to date. Don’t forget to update your hours for the holidays.
- Keep attributes, services, and descriptors detailed and updated.
- Don’t include anything that isn’t true, accuracy is the most important thing here.
- Upload photos and posts to your page. This activity doesn’t always benefit people looking at your Google Maps listing, but it does make Google happy.
- Upload photos that are helpful, such as your storefront, employees, products, etc.
- Always respond to customer reviews.
- Fill out every. Single. Field.
Name, Address, and Phone Citations (NAPs)
Name, Address, and Phone citations are exactly what they sound like. Having your NAP listed on a variety of websites helps Google know that your NAP information is accurate and reputable. This means it’s important to ensure every listing you have stays accurate. If you change something on GMB, you need to change all of your listings as well.
Online tools like Yext allow you to input your information in one place, then publish that to some of Google’s favorite listing websites. Fun fact, websites like Yellow Pages and MapQuest are still up and running, and Google still uses them to double-check the accuracy of your listings. Online listing tools are great for ensuring you get all those listings Google likes.
Aside from building up your business’s legitimacy, reviews are another major thing Google looks to for more information about your website. Not only do reviews help consumers build trust with your business, offer social proof, and validate your expertise, they tell Google that your business is actively making an impression on customers and making them feel inclined to review. Reviews are an online form of engagement that Google can use to see if people actually go to and like your business.
It’s important to remind your customers to leave reviews. You can set up a sign with a QR code in your store, send an email post-purchase, or just ask them directly. You should also respond to every review you receive. This is also good engagement that Google looks for, and it makes you look like a nice person when other people go looking through your reviews.
But, don’t pay for reviews! This is against Google’s terms of service. You could risk losing your online listings and even getting in trouble with the FTC. If you get in trouble and your business doesn’t exist on Google, you’re doomed. It’s crazy how much power they have.
Local SEO For Your Website
Now that you’ve got your online presence outside of your website sorted, it’s time to turn inwards. Google is constantly crawling millions of websites, pulling all kinds of information from what's actually on the page all the way to how usable the website is. Your website is no exception. If you have the experience and ability to edit your own website, keep reading for some quick changes you can make to improve your website for local SEO. Don’t worry, though, these are simple changes you can make without web developer experience.
Quick Website Fixes for SEO
When you’re going through your website and assessing how easy it is to use, There are a couple of things you can do to improve your SEO on your website.
1. Include detailed location and contact information.
Just like everywhere else online, your listings need to be perfect, consistent, and updated. On your own website, however, you have room to include a little more information.
Including a Google Maps embed in your site is a great way to improve SEO. Including things like the names of districts, neighborhoods, suburbs, etc. is also beneficial. You can also include language like, “[business] is located at the corner of [street] and [road]” or “[business] is located one block from [some local landmark, i.e. a university or important building].” These give your location a new, unique context for its location that Google can use. When someone searches “Boba shop near the University of Central Oklahoma,” you could be the first option to come up if you’ve put that language in your website.
2. More, more, more content.
When we say more, we mean it. Everyone in the SEO world talks about blogs, and there’s a reason for it. When you Google a random question you have about something, what’s the first thing to come up? That’s right, someone’s blog post. Blogs are not often sought out by searchers, but they are happened upon. Blogs allow your website to answer questions for searchers and give them information they may be looking for, which is great for SEO value. By doing keyword research into what people are searching for, you can find those questions and answer them yourself online. You can also include an elaborate services page with images, details, and pricing. This can serve as a large index of information for Google to look at and for your customers to reference.
With that being said, it’s important that you aren’t asking your blogs to do too much for you. Don’t stuff your blogs with junky keywords or try to game the system. Google recognizes quality over quantity, so you’ll be far better off doing this organically.
3. Find those good keywords
Keywords. Keywords are king. When you’re a smaller company working to build up your SEO presence, you can’t overlook this.
Every word on your website needs to be intentional, which is why keyword research is important. Here are a few tips and strategies for finding and using good keywords.
Search your competitors’ websites for keywords
There are multiple ways you can do this, inside and outside of expensive software. If you have a tool like Spyfu or Semrush, you can use these programs to scan competitors' websites for keywords that use to rank on Google. From there, you can see how intense the competition for those keywords is. You can include these keywords on your website, and you can even go a step further and make high-quality versions of the content they already have, more on that later.
Find seed keywords
Seed keywords are keywords with high search volume that are easier to rank for. Essentially, these are quality keywords that your competitors haven’t found yet. You can use online software to find these keywords, or you can use Google autofill in the search bar to see how people are wording their search terms. You can also see common search terms at the bottom of any Google search page in the “related searches” section. Another great resource for finding questions to answer is Quora or even Reddit. You can find obscure questions that may only exist on these forums and answer them yourself in a blog. Once you find these seed keywords, you can focus them on your website and rank for them before your competitors do.
Make your competitors' content better
If you find a blog post, master list, or another form of content on a competitor's website and can find ways to do it better, do it! Google doesn’t just look for quantity, it boosts content that’s high quality. You may be able to make better, more useful content than your competitor and out-rank them for it!
Update your old content
Search trends come and go, and things you’ve made in the past could become irrelevant or less useful over time. You can save yourself the pain of trying to come up with new content ideas all the time by setting aside time to revamp your existing content. You make use of what you already have and make sure your entire website is serving an SEO purpose, all the time!
Gather Good Backlinks
Backlinks happen when other websites link to your own. These can come in the form of local news features, other websites citing your own, or any place online where someone links to your website.
When you get a good, high-quality backlink, it lets Google know that that piece of content is high quality, reputable, and can be referenced by other people. You can get more backlinks by reaching out to news outlets for features, asking people to reference your work on their website in exchange for a backlink to theirs, and more. It’s like making business connections across the web, and it’s great for your SEO value.
Local SEO Don’ts
Now that we’ve covered the basics of how to master your Local SEO strategy, here are a few no-nos when it comes to Local SEO.
1. Keyword stuffing
Keyword stuffing is the act of putting any keyword you can find everywhere. This includes Google review responses, your GMB description, or on your website. Remember, Google cares more about quality than quantity, and it recognizes when you’re just trying to include as many keywords as possible. It’s better to focus on 2-3 keywords per piece of content on your website, and putting keywords in your Google review responses or GMB profile won’t benefit your SEO standing much at all.
2. Poor Backlinks
A common practice by SEO agencies these days is to use backlink farming websites to gather a ton of backlinks at once. While this doesn’t hurt your SEO value, these websites that bank backlinks for people aren’t super beneficial for your website. A true, authentic backlink will do much more for your website regarding SEO value, so try to avoid shady solutions.
3. Bad Content
As a good rule of thumb, anything you put on your website should be intentional and serve a purpose. After you finish a blog, update, or otherwise, ask yourself if the content is useful. If it feels like you’re just adding meaningless content that wouldn’t really benefit anyone looking at it, see if you can find ways to improve it. You’ll benefit far more from content that actually serves the purpose people are searching for online.
Local SEO: Summary
We hope you found this blog post helpful. We know it’s a lot to digest in one sitting, but as you learn and practice, you can be an SEO master in no time.
If you found this blog to be long, boring, or overwhelming, good news! We’re the experts, and we can take care of local SEO for you so you never have to read a beginner’s guide like this ever again. So, sit back, relax, and head over to our contact page to work with us on building your business’ local SEO value.