Local SEO focuses on businesses targeting a specific geographic region. This could be cities, states, and other local service areas. For example. as a Cincinnati based digital marketing agency, we may want to target the Cincinnati SEO keyword.
Many of the overall SEO principals apply to local search engine marketing with a few exceptions. Google’s goal for displaying local search information has a deep focus on relevancy and serving pertinent business information based on the search user’s proximity to a business. As a result, a search result will vary from user to user and same search queries will sometimes show different results based on the searchers location. Nonetheless, there are many strategies at our disposal to help a business have the best chance at being visible in the local search results.
What is Local SEO?
Local 3 Pack
The local 3 pack is usually visible at the top of the Google search page and shows local businesses. Getting the business to show up in the top 3 results is a big part of the local SEO strategy. This is valuable for obvious reasons. Customers searching for a business get to see reviews, directions, business hours, and can click to call directly from a phone. While it is possible to visit the company website after seeing the business information, many potential clients simply call the business or drive to the location during regular business hours.
Because there is a ton of value in getting the business to show in the 3 pack, it requires a strategy that is focused on the local search optimization. Moz highlighted the various local SEO factors that determine whether or not the business will get the top spot and details are discussed below.
Another important part of the local search marketing strategy is the organic search rankings. Usually, this is the area on the Google search page right below the 3 pack listing. Many customers searching for local businesses will scroll past the 3 pack in search of more detailed information. The organic results are the same as what a user would see in non-local search queries and is a very familiar page layout.
The goal of any local SEO campaign is to get the business to show up in the 3 pack and the organic listings on the same page. This increases the likelihood that the customer will see your business and visit the website or contact the business since the business information is displayed twice on the same page.
On-Page Optimization For Local SEO
Since the focus of local campaigns is a city, it is imperative to include the target city in the title and description tags for most pages on the site. An example would be something like “Great blank company in Blank City, State”.
Descriptions on the page should also mention the targeted city. Ideally this should happen several times on the page for variations fo the targeted keyword. Pertinent content should include written content as well as images with appropriate ALT tags, videos, and downloadable documents.
Determine the focus keywords for the website and create separate pages to target those keywords. The only difference between a national on-page SEO strategy and a local one is that the local individual landing pages will include the target city in all pieces of content on that page.
There are various types of Schema markup including, reviews, posts, events, authors, and more, but the most important Schema for local SEO purposes is the local business markup. It makes it easier for Google crawl spiders to determine the content of the page and index it appropriately. In this case, the local business markup confirms to Google that the information on the page pertains to a local company.
Google Maps Embed
While some suggest that a Google Maps embed should be placed in the footer of a website, our suggestion is to place it only on the “Contact Us’ or “location” page of a website. Google Maps embed is another way to signal to Google that the page is focused on a local business. The drawback of doing the embed in the footer is that it gets loaded on every page of the site and can have a negative impact on the page load speed, which can negatively impact site SEO.
A page click-through-rate is a metric that describes how often someone clicks on a website versus how often that website is seen in the search results (impressions). The better the CTR the more favorably Google sees the site compared to the competition. This also highlights the importance of a quality meta title and description tag since this is what the customer typically sees in the search results. Enticing and catchy titles typically generate better CTRs than boring informative ones.
Customer testimonials are a great way to boost site visitor confidence in the local business. It is also helps by including relevant content on a page, especially if the testimonial is from a local customer.
Google My Business Listing (GMB)
Name Address Phone number (NAP)
The GMB listing is responsible for the information that gets displayed in the 3 pack results. The most important part of the listing is the name, address, and phone number of the business. It has to be exactly the same as your website information and anywhere else on the internet.
There are several categories that can be assigned to the business when filling out the GMB profile. It is recommended that you choose all appropriate category variations and not limit it to one. This will help the business show up in the 3 pack and also help keep the company appearance consistent across other directories.
At a minimum, the business should include the brand identity images which are the company logo and cover image. Google suggests to completely fill out the listing, so images of team members, interior and exterior of the location, and other company photos are highly recommended.
This is one of the most important aspects of the GMB listing and will ultimately have the biggest impact when it comes to customers deciding to choose your business or a competitor. It is imperative that your business has a review generation strategy in place. This includes following up with every customer and letting them know about the value of their feedback. GMB dashboard specifically offers a shortcut link that can be shared with clients that takes them directly to the review page.
Keeping your GMB with the latest business information helps improve the customer experience with the page. This includes regularly updating company holiday hours, new offers, and posting latest company news.
There are numerous online directories that a business can and should be a part of. Pages like Yelp, Facebook, Yellow Pages, Foursqure, BBB, and others are a great way to get the business information in front of as many people as possible. Tools like Brightlocal and Moz local can help find and list business pages across a wide selection of directories.
The name, address, and phone number of the business has to be consistent across all citations. Not only is it important for customers, it is also a ranking factor for the GMB profile. Google confirms correct information for the listings across directory sites and determines if the GMB listing is accurate based on the data in the directories. More accurate information helps rank the site in the local 3 pack.
When signing up and filling out the business information in the numerous citation cites, it is also important to consistently select the most appropriate and similar business categories. This is another ranking factor that has an impact on the GMB listing ranking.
When filling out the directories, there is usually an opportunity to describe the nature of the business in more detail. This is a perfect time to include keywords related to the business location and the products or services being offered. Having this information consistently posted across all directories helps boost the local search rankings of the business.
Product & Service Photos
Although this is not always an option for all directories, when given the opportunity one should submit product and service photos when available. This is also another way to consistently represent the business across all sites and improve local rankings.
Online reputation management is more important than ever. Customers make majority of their online purchasing decisions after first checking business reviews. This makes it imperative that every customer interaction educates the customer on the importance of their feedback to the business. Regularly follow ups and feedback surveys are a great way to incentivize online reviews and make sure that the business reputation is positively reflected in the search results.
Once a business receives a review, it is extremely important to acknowledge and respond to the customer as soon as possible. This is especially true for negative reviews. Many times simply reaching out to a customer and addressing their concerns can help improve the feedback score and ensure that the business is meeting all client expectations.
Review platforms such as Google and Yelp have different guidelines when it comes to review generation and solicitation. Google encourages businesses to share a link with customers that takes them directly to the business GMB review page. Yelp, on the other hand, views this as a solicitation and it is against their terms of service. Oftentimes, reviews like this get flagged by Yelp and do not end up appearing on the business page.
Following the Law
We have to preface everything in this section with the obvious. We are not attorneys and advise you to consult an attorney for all questions regarding the law.
Falsifying information for financial gain is usually illegal and that includes generating fake positive reviews for your business or negative reviews for a competitor.
Guest Blog Posts
Backlinks remain one of the most important factors when it comes to ranking a website in search results. Although guest blogging has been abused by some and does not hold the same weight that it used to, it is still and important link acquisition strategy. There are numerous SEO tools on the market that help find guest blogging opportunities that are relevant to your business niche and this remains one of the best ways to build quality and relevant backlinks to the business site.
Joining a local chamber or meetup is another good way to get backlinks. Oftentimes, these groups have online posts that discuss the businesses that are part of the group. This is also a good networking strategy so there is no harm in participating.
Niche Local Directories
Although we already mentioned local directories, this is geared more towards smaller niche community sites. This can be sites for contractors, or attorneys, doctors, etc. Whitespark has a great resource that can be found here.
HARO stands for Help A Reporter Out and is a website that helps connect reporters to industry professionals. Sign up to this site for interview opportunities. If you get mentioned in an article then it will usually generate a great backlink to your business site. More information can be found here.
Maintain Social Profiles
Social signals are another important local SEO ranking factor. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube can generate buzz about a local business and keep customers updated. The social page stats such as content shares and page likes are also used to determine business popularity and local relevance which helps boost the business standings in the local search results.
Create Engaging Content
You may have heard the phrase “content is king”. This holds true for social media. Having a social media profile alone is not enough. It has to be backed by interesting and engaging content that keeps followers of the page coming back for more. It doesn’t always have to be original content. Sharing popular videos, photos, and other information that customers find useful helps to build a community of followers, which reflects on the popularity of the business page, and ultimately benefits the local SEO efforts.
Concluding Our Local SEO Guide
Keep in mind that every suggestion on this page has an impact on the overall success of the SEO campaign. Local search marketing is constantly changing just like any other part of SEO and we will continue to update this guide as we discover new strategies. Did we miss anything? Do you have a comment or suggestion? Let us know!