What is Local SEO?
Every entrepreneur wants to be visible to local customers. Local SEO is a set of tactics that allow your digital properties to show up first within Google search results. Let’s take a look at different variations of google search results.
Question: What makes Google Local search results different from regular searches?
Answer: Google uses a different set of ranking criteria to fetch local results.
Here we have General SEO Rules to rank high (real estate focused but works well for all other industries)
Google my business (GMB) local results
In the example above I searched for “barbershop union station”. You don’t necessarily need to type your location manually for local search results because Google identifies your location automatically and shows you the most relevant local results. In the case above Google identified my search location – Toronto Downtown therefore it showed the most relevant barbershops in my neighbourhood.
In the picture above we have the same search query on google maps. People may go directly on google maps and search for services/products. All results that a shown on the map are GMBs (Google My Business), google ranks them based on criteria we are going to discuss below.
Google my business (GMB) local results on mobile
Don’t forget about the local results on mobile phones. In some industries, mobile local traffic accounts for up to 80% of search queries. In the example above I’ve made the same search but on my mobile device using Google Map.
The results shown above are Google My Business. Through optimizing your Google My Business listing you can achieve high rankings on Google search and receive free traffic and customers.
Local video search
Don’t forget about videos, they also can be part of local searches. For instance, video reviews of restaurants and bars can be and should be localized for your target area. In the example above I searched for “toronto restaurants”. It can be “best toronto restaurant” or people might search directly for your restaurant or event venue to see how it looks like inside and what people say about it.
Local content search
As you can see in the example above websites can also be optimized for local searches. I searched for “plumbing services toronto” and Google showed the highest-ranking businesses in this area. You can imagine how much more traffic these websites receive in comparison to their competitors.
In the example above you can see the example of local image search. Let’s say I want to find the best place for steak tartar in Toronto. I go on google image search and then click on the best-looking image. Google will show us these images base on Local Ranking.
Don’t forget about the growing trend on home assistant devices. Let’s assume you want to order pizza and ask Google Home or Amazon Alexa for the best pizza in your area. The results will be based on local search ranking factors.
What businesses need Local SEO?
From the examples above you can see the value of different local search results. Obviously, every business that focuses on local customers has to rank for local searches on Google because a lot of people want to buy products/services from someone within their area.
Businesses such as bars, restaurants, lawyers, grocery stores, beauty salons, plumbers, health & wellness that rely mostly on local clients should pay A LOT of attention to local SEO tactics. Everyone else can also benefit from some additional local traffic.
Question: Do I need a brick and mortar location to be able to appear on Google search results?
Answer: Not necessary, you can be a digital expert that prefers to work with local clients and want to somehow differentiate his business from all others. A masseuse is a great example of a local business that not necessarily need a physical location.
Google local SEO ranking factors
I’ve mentioned above that local SEO is different from regular SEO tactics. According to the official Google statement about Google Local Ranking factors, we have to focus on Relevance, Distance, Prominence.
- Relevance – how well some content of your is matching a google search query. That’s where we apply the right keywords when we create content.
- Distance – if a user doesn’t specify a location in a search Google calculates it based on data that is available. That’s why we have to provide local details across all our digital properties. It becomes more complicated when your business has multiple locations. (Something to consider when you have multiple locations)
- Prominence – How well established your business is. Google gives priority to, famous museums, landmark hotels, or well-known store brands that are also likely to be prominent in local search results. That’s is a multidimensional factor where Google tries to gather as much information as possible. It takes into consideration content, links, directories, offline business knowledge. There are a lot of tactics on how you can make your business more “prominent”.
Local SEO Tactics
Now let’s discuss what exactly we should do to appear high within local search results to receive tons of traffic to the website.
- Google My Business Optimization
- Local keywords
- Local backlinks
- Get reviews
- Optimize for voice search
- Mobile optimization
- City pages
Google My Business Optimization
You don’t have a Google My Business account? Then it’s time to create it right now. Here’s the link to create it.
For those who already have one here’s the list of things you should do to RANK HIGH:
Ensure your information is full and accurate
- Phone Number
- Attributes (here’s a detailed article on the great number of different attributes that exist out there)
- Add great pictures
- Ask your customers to leave a review – respond to them
Name, Address, Phone Number, Website, Hours are pretty much self-explanatory you have to fill out all these fields and be as accurate as possible. Make sure you add any changes to your listing. Keep your Google My Business phone number and website up-to-date. Update any changes in operation hours.
Don’t try to stuff it with keywords it isn’t going to help you. Focus on the unique characteristics of your business, something that sets you apart.
- Your company history/company story
- Chose conversational tone of voice, imagine you talk to your customer
- Mention your unique characteristics
One of the most important characteristics of Google My Business listing because it is a direct indication for Google on what type of services or products you offer. Choose your category carefully, try to be as specific as possible. Google constantly updates its database of business categories, you should be able to find a close one that matches your business.
Here’s a detailed list of Google My Business Categories you can choose from.
Try to add applicable attributes to your business, more complete listings rank higher on Google.
Recent updates to Google My Business:
- Posts – You can post on Google My Business to give customers updates or offers, works very well to drive action right from Google without redirecting users to a website
- Questions & Answers
It’s a time-consuming but very important tactic of your Local SEO efforts. Think of your customers, what sort of questions they might be asking. Do you have anything specific to focus on in your area?
For example, a lawyer in Ontario can answer Ontario or Toronto related questions in blog posts.
A FAQ page is a great way to add location-specific content and answer most common customer questions all at once.
Collaborate and review local events, try to get mentions in these events.
Try to use long-tail keywords and differentiate yourself from international players by being hyper-targeted in your content. The simplest way to find relevant search topics and the content idea is Google questions.
Let’s assume I’m trying to find topics for a greek restaurant in New York.
Then I scroll down to the “People also ask” section:
Sometimes this section can give you great ideas for articles.
- Also, you can scroll down to the bottom of the search page and find the “Related searches” section:
- More advanced users can use tools such as SEMRush to research for content ideas and long-tail search keywords.
Don’t focus on just high authority backlinks. Exchange links with local businesses and bloggers. Don’t exclude “no-follow” relevant local backlinks, they can bring high-quality traffic to your website.
Leverage local aggregators such as Yelp. Create a Facebook business page and leave a link there.
What are the most valuable link sources for boosting search rankings for local businesses?
As you can see from the chart above local community sites are amongst the most valuable link sources for local ranking. The advantage of local community sites/social media pages is that they are easy to acquire since you do not compete with bigger brands. Local news is a great source too but can be slightly harder to acquire in comparison to local community websites.
- The most important reviews are the reviews from Google My Business. Ask your customers to leave reviews for your business. A listing with a bigger number of reviews ranks higher on Google local search. You can share a URL with your customers to leave a review. Here’s a Google Guide on how to create a review link.
- Yelp reviews can be a great source of traffic and source as a local indication for Google
- Don’t forget about industry-specific catalogues and directories.
Optimize for voice search
From the statistics above you can see the exponential growth of voice search technology, local searches are a huge part of this market. People ask for restaurants, barbershops and plumbers near them – home speakers are a great way to make these searches conveniently.
From the chart above you can see people’s behaviour at a glance, most people make searches from common areas – now we have to think about what type of questions people can ask to find a solution that your business provides.
For example, you would type “pizza new york” but you would ask google home “hey google where can I order the best pizza in new york”.
- Try to include conversational keywords in the content that you produce.
- Use the keyword research approach that is described above.
- Answer simple questions in a short and concise format.
- Use researched keywords as headings for your articles in the blog section.
Recently Google switched to mobile-first search ranking which means mobile optimization has to be one of the highest priorities for your business.
- First of all, check how mobile-friendly you are right now. Here’s the mobile-friendliness test. If there are no major issues with the website you can move to the next step.
- Check your website speed – this test will give you suggestions on how to speed up your website. (you may need a developer help) None wants to wait long to load pages on mobile devices.
- Be very careful with pop-ups, check how they perform on mobile devices.
Mobile content optimization for local SEO
- Research for mobile keywords, what people search on mobile devices. Lately, people have been increasingly searching for “near me”, “open now”, “where can I buy” terms. Something like “real Italian pizza in new york” would be a perfect example of a mobile-friendly local search query.
Google likes perfect alignment between a page and a search query. That’s why it is recommended to create city-specific pages.
Example: you own a tax company and you have branches in several cities. In this case you don’t need to create several different websites you can simply create pages like:
City Pages can be simple “contact us”, “about us” pages or blog articles (make sure you have something different to say for each location). Double-check you have enough resources when you start creating city pages. Don’t just duplicate your content pages for sake of creating city pages. Contact and about us pages are “never miss” tactics.
Local SEO conclusion
It may seem overwhelming at first to implement all these tactics at once. Don’t stress too much because I’ve never seen any perfect business that has all these tactics covered. You don’t need to be perfect to rank high, you simply have to be a little better than your competitors. Any SEO efforts take a lot of time to see the results. You will start seeing the first results in a few months.