Neil Patel

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Local SEO: All-in-One Guide to Improve Your Local Rankings

Tips on improving local SEO rankings.

Are you a small business that wants to get more customers from your local area? Then local SEO is one of the most powerful marketing strategies you can adopt.

It is incredibly cost-effective, and local and organic searches make up 69% of website traffic. In other words, you’re missing out if you aren’t optimizing for local searches. 

But what is local SEO, and how does local SEO work?

In this in-depth guide, I’ll answer those questions and many more. You’ll learn what makes local SEO unique and the six steps you can take to rank higher in local searches.

Local SEO Essential Facts

  • Local SEO is the practice of improving the online visibility of your businesses in local searches on Google and other search engines.
  • Local SEO is unique because you are ranking for Google’s Local Pack as well as its organic search results.
  • Both the organic search results and the Local Pack have different ranking factors.
  • Important ranking factors for organic results are on-page SEO and links.
  • Important ranking factors for the Local Pack are your Google Business Profile, on-page SEO, and reviews.

What Makes Local SEO Unique?

Let’s start with the question people ask me most on this topic: What is local SEO optimization?

Local SEO is the practice of improving the online visibility of local businesses in Google and other search engines. It’s similar to organic SEO in some ways, but in others, it’s completely different.

Specifically, the aim of local SEO is to appear high in search engine result pages (SERPs) for localized searches — that’s any search mentioning a geographic area or using the phrase “near me.”

But there’s another element of local SEO that you don’t have to worry about with regular SEO: Google’s Map Pack. The Google Map Pack is present in almost every localized search and ranks a business’ Google Business Profile.

local SEO example of three pack

This makes local SEO unique. You’re not just optimizing for Google’s organic search results; you’re also optimizing for Google’s Local Pack.

Moreover, Google uses a different algorithm to rank Google Business Profiles. Take a look at this list of top-ranking factors by BrightLocal

Top local seo ranking factors in 2023.

As you can see, the Local Pack’s ranking factors differ from those for local organic search. That’s right, there are even more balls to juggle when optimizing for local SEO.

Why Is Local SEO Important For Some Businesses?  

Okay, now you know what local SEO marketing is, let’s cover the second most important thing: why local SEO matters.

The first thing to point out is that despite the acceleration of e-commerce, brick-and-mortar retail is still where it’s at. Physical stores account for around 70 percent of total retail sales. 

The second is that 98 percent of people use the internet to find information about these local businesses — up from 90% in 2019, according to research by Brightlocal. 

Google is the most trusted source of information, too. The same report shows that 87 percent of consumers use Google to evaluate businesses and trust its reviews more than any other site. 

White sites or apps have you used to evaluate local businesses in the last 12 months table.

It’s pretty apparent why local SEO is so important. Consumers want to buy from your local business and turn to Google to find stores like yours.

That means you could miss out on thousands of customers if you’re a local business that doesn’t have its local SEO sorted.

How to Do Local SEO

Want to learn how to improve local SEO for your site? I’m here to help. Follow my six-step process below to nail your local SEO.

1. Find Local Keywords

The very first thing you’ll want to do is find high-volume local keywords to rank for. These are keywords that people in your area will use to find your business. If you are a florist in New York, for example, that could be:

  • NYC florist
  • Florist in Manhattan
  • Flower delivery NYC
  • Wedding flowers New York

As you can see, users may search for your type of business (a florist, in this case) or a service you provide (like wedding flowers).

local organic keywords for local seo for small businesses

You can use my SEO tool, Ubersuggest, to find the most relevant keywords for your local business. Head over to the Keywords Idea tool under the Keyword Research tab and enter a few seed keywords. 

I’ve used “Florist NYC” and “Wedding florist New York” in this example.

Hit Search, and the tool will then spit out thousands of relevant keywords along with their search volume and difficulty.

Ubersuggest keyword ideas.

Make a note of every relevant keyword. In the next section, we will use them to optimize your site.

2. Optimize Your Website for Local SEO

Now that you know which keywords to rank for, you can optimize your website for local SEO. As well as location-specific keywords, you should include several local SEO-specific elements on your website that you wouldn’t think about when optimizing for regular SEO.

Nevertheless, start by using the SEO Analyzer to understand your website’s current on-page SEO score and discover areas for improvement.

seo analyzer tool local rankings.

For example, you can see that this website needs to improve the word count on some pages, change several meta descriptions, and add an H1 heading to one page.

Once you’ve taken care of those issues, follow the steps below to optimize your website for local search:

  • Create pages for your local keywords. I recommend creating dedicated pages for every relevant keyword in this list. Obviously, some pages will cover multiple keywords (like “florist New YC” and “flower shop NYC”). But you should have localized pages for all of your services.
  • Create a contact page. You’ll want to ensure you have a dedicated contact page on your website. It’s not just a web design best practice, but it will also help you list your business’s name, address, and phone number (also known as NAP).
  • Include every business address. If you have multiple stores, make sure they are all listed on your website. Better still, create a dedicated locations page showcasing all your stores or a dedicated page for each location.
  • Ensure your site is mobile-optimized. There’s a good chance local searchers use their smartphone when they are out and about, so make sure your website works great on every device
  • Add local schema. Schema markup is the common language search engines use to understand what your website is about. Adding the appropriate schema markup for local businesses to your website makes it easy for Google to understand exactly what kind of local business you are. 

3. Claim and Optimize Your Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business)

Your Google Business Profile is the most important ranking factor for Google’s Local Pack results. According to the research by BrightLocal I mentioned at the start of the article, it’s not even close.

That means one of the first things you should do is claim and optimize your Google Business Profile

local SEO google my business

Thankfully, Google makes it easy to create a new Google Business Profile. Just follow the step-by-step instructions, entering as much information as you can. Seriously, don’t skip a box unless you absolutely have to.

Also, please be careful that whatever you fill in on your Google Business Profile matches what’s on your website and anywhere else you write your business details down online.

Building a google my business profile.

One field I see businesses routinely underestimate or gloss over is “Business category.” The categories you choose here significantly impact the type of searches your business will appear for, so select as many relevant ones as possible.

Here’s an example of a car body repair shop that does a great job of picking relevant business categories:

Picking relevant categories google my business.

You can tell if you’ve done a good job because Google provides a profile strength score. You can see it in the search results for your business when signed into Google:

Google my business profile strength.

While at it, you’ll also want to claim several other local profiles, including your Bing Places for Business profile, review websites like Yelp, and any social media accounts you’ve yet to create. 

4. Build NAP Citations for Local SEO

A NAP citation is any mention of your business’s name, address, and phone number. The term can also be extended to NAPW to include your website.

Here’s an example of a couple of NAP citations for Seattle plumbers on the Better Business Bureau website

NAP citations local seo.

According to experts, citations are an essential local SEO factor and account for 7% of the algorithm in the local pack and local organic results. 

NAP citations are not quite as important as they used to be for local SEO, but they are still a helpful way for both search engines and users to find your local business — and, as such, are well worth creating.

Here are some of my favorite ways to build NAP citations:

  • Big data aggregators. For U.S. companies, these are Data Axle, Localeze, and Foursquare.
  • Local web directories. Your town or city probably has at least a few local directories listing businesses.
  • Industry web directories. Almost every industry has a relevant directory website you can add your business to.
  • National web directories. These are big-name directories you’ve probably heard of like Yellow Pages and EZLocal.
  • Local websites. Getting your business listed on local websites, whether they are blogs or news sites, can be a great source of NAP citations.

Make sure that you keep your NAP consistent everywhere. Use the exact same spelling of your business name and address. That includes things like shortening Avenue to Ave or including LLC in your business name.

If you get bored of creating these citations manually, you can use a service like Yext or BrightLocal to streamline the process. 

Brightlocal local seo tool.

Yext Listings, for example, lets you automatically publish your NAP citation to over 200 third-party publishers. These tools also make it easy to manage and update existing citations.

5. Get as Many Customer Reviews as Possible

Reviews are one of the most important trust signals your brands can have. Virtually everyone (99.9 percent) checks reviews when shopping online. Over half (57 percent) of consumers specifically read reviews for brick-and-mortar stores when considering a purchase.

That alone should be enough to convince you to get more reviews for your business. But reviews are also an important local SEO ranking factor—and the third most important factor for Google’s Map Pack results.

As a result, you need to encourage as many positive and detailed reviews on Google as possible. Reviews on other websites like Yelp and TripAdvisor can help, but they are less powerful than Google reviews.

Just look at how prominently these reviews are displayed in the screenshot below:

Google results for electricians in Seattle.

Acquiring reviews is an ongoing process and one you’ll be engaged in for the life of your business. So make sure to:

  • Remind customers to leave a review when they make a purchase
  • Place a sign at checkout asking customers to leave a review
  • Create a shareable Google review link to promote to your audience
  • Send an automated follow-up email requesting a review
  • Respond to the reviews you receive

Every business will receive negative reviews at some point along the way. Don’t ignore them, but respond professionally and personally. You never know; you may be able to turn a negative review into a positive one.

Oh, and one more thing. Before asking for reviews on any platform, ensure you know its guidelines and terms of service. For instance, Google doesn’t permit you to offer incentives in exchange for reviews, and Yelp forbids businesses to request customer reviews in any way.

6. Create Content and Get Backlinks 

Just like regular SEO, creating fresh content and getting backlinks is still important when optimizing for local SEO.

So first, create a blog if you haven’t already and then create a local content plan. There are plenty of things you can blog about, including:

  • New products and services
  • How-to guides about your industry and services
  • Local news and events
  • Interviews with other local experts

When writing the posts, include local city and neighborhood names wherever you can. Not everyone will use your city name when searching, so be sure you also include neighboring towns and cities, neighborhoods, and unofficial terms that locals may use.

Your blog can help you attract backlinks naturally, but I always recommend actively building them where possible. The good news is that all of the link-building tactics you’re familiar with work well for local SEO, too. 

You’ll also be able to build backlinks while creating NAP citations by adding your URL to directories and other business listings. These aren’t high-quality links, but they all count.

Finally, don’t forget to conduct a backlink audit of your top competitors and replicate their links where possible.

You can use Ubersuggest to do this. Here’s how.

Step #1: Enter your competitor’s URL and click “search.”

local seo use ubersuggest to come up with ideas

Step #2: Click “backlinks” in the left sidebar to conduct your audit.

local seo find content ideas

The final section of the results page lists every backlink, along with:

  • Domain score: Measures the overall strength of the website, from 1 (low) to 100 (high)
  • Page score: Measures the overall strength of the page, from 1 (low) to 100 (high)
  • Link type: Text or image
  • Anchor text: The clickable text that leads to your website
  • First seen: The first time Ubersuggest robots identified the backlink
  • Last seen: The last time Ubersuggest robots confirmed the backlink

So, if Monteverde Restaurant & Pastificio is one of your competitors, you should review every backlink they have with an eye toward two things:

  • Quality (measured by domain score)
  • Your ability to secure a link

Reach out to the same sites and tell them why they should link to your site, too. It’s hit or miss, but even if you only pick up a few backlinks, it’s a step in the right direction.

7. Invest in Google Ads With Local Keywords

Okay, this isn’t strictly a local SEO strategy, but it’s a great way to generate local traffic as quickly as possible.

Now, you may think that you could never compete against big businesses when it comes to Google Ads. But you can if you target local keywords that these brands don’t bid on.

For example, instead of targeting “flowers for sale,” target “flowers for sale in [your city or zip code].”

Luckily, you’ve already found relevant keywords to bid on in the first step of this process.

Better still, you can get Google to do most of the hard work for you when it comes to creating and managing these campaigns.

Choose a Performance Max campaign, and Google will automate your campaign’s creation, targeting, and delivery using the information you provide. 

Performance max campaign.

All you have to do is select your objective as “Local shop visits and promotions” and provide Google with a call to action, ad copy, and relevant images or videos. It takes care of everything else.

Bonus: Host and Participate in Local Business Events

Hosting local events helps put a face to your company’s name, lets you connect with customers on a personal level, and, crucially for local SEO, can increase your site’s citations and backlinks.

There’s no shortage of events you could host, including:

  • Charity events
  • Business seminars
  • Holiday parties
  • Product or service launches
  • Networking events

Connect with local blogs and directories to get the word out about your event (and earn yourself a backlink). Alternatively, you can use Google Ads to promote your event if you think enough people are searching for an event like yours in the local area.

Don’t just create local business events of your own. Participate in others, too!

Participating in local business events, especially those with a strong social media presence, can help grow your business in a few ways. They’re an opportunity to market your business and an easy way to get to know your audience and the community you serve.

FAQs

How do I dominate local SEO?

There are plenty of ways you can improve your local SEO and dominate the competition. I cover them in detail above, but tactics include:
Optimizing your Google Business Profile
Getting more 5* customer reviews
Optimizing your website for local SEO
Building NAP citations
Building local backlinks
Just like Google’s regular algorithm, there are loads of ranking factors that impact local SEO. Make sure you use all of the strategies above for success.

What is the most important aspect of local SEO?

There are plenty of important things to keep in mind for local SEO, but having a well-optimized Google Business Profile is arguably the most important. That means completing your profile in full, increasing the number of Google reviews your business has, and building NAP citations. Doing all of this will significantly increase your chances of getting listed in the Map Pack, which is often the first thing searchers do when looking for local businesses. 

How long does local SEO take to work?

Just like regular SEO, it can take months to see results from your local SEO optimization efforts. How fast you see results will depend on a number of factors, including the level of competition in your area, the demand for your services, and the amount of effort you put into improving your local SEO.

Consistently improving your local SEO is the best way to see results in the long term. Keep creating fresh content and always be on top of your online business profile to engage with new reviews.  

Is paying for local SEO optimization worth it?

Whether or not paying for local SEO is worth it will depend on you, your business, and your goals. 
There are some cases where it absolutely makes sense to have an SEO agency optimize your local presence. If you are a large company with hundreds of locations across the country, it’s probably worth outsourcing local SEO to professionals. The same is true if you are a profitable small business that doesn’t have time to do SEO yourself. 
If you don’t have a big marketing budget, however, there’s no reason you can’t optimize your business’s local SEO yourself. Just follow my guide above, and you should do better than most of your competitors. 

Conclusion

Hopefully, you now know what local SEO marketing is and why it’s so important. If not, let me recap.

Local SEO is one of the most cost-effective ways for small local businesses to increase traffic and leads. It can also have a big impact on national brands with hundreds of local chains. Follow my advice above to make sure you dominate local results in Google.

But don’t just rely on local SEO alone.

Even small local businesses should use social media marketing and standard SEO practices in combination with local SEO to improve results. That goes double for big national brands. 

What local SEO techniques have produced the best results for your business?

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