Local SEO is very similar to regular SEO. The goal is to optimize your website and the content within so that it earns high search engine rankings when users search for relevant keywords. The primary difference is that with local SEO, there’s an additional goal. That is to optimize so that people in a specific geographic area are more likely to see your webpages in their results.
Local SEO can be divided into two somewhat broad categories. The first could be considered hometown marketing. In this case local SEO means local businesses making efforts to improve search rankings for users in their local geographic area. For example, a diner in Springfield IL would want to show up in search results for people in the local area searching for dining options. They’d also want to optimize their content for long tail search keywords combining words such as diners, cheeseburgers, late night, etc. with ‘in Springfield IL’ or ‘near Springfield IL’.
The second version of local SEO is actually much further reaching, yet still focused on local audiences. This is when a brand doing business in multiple locations seeks to optimize for local audiences. However, in this case they may be focused on multiple locations. Consider a clothing retailer with brick and mortar stores in different regions of the United States as well as in other countries. They want to ensure that local audiences in all of those locations are able to find them easily in search engine results.
Fortunately, many of the methods used for local seo works for both hometown marketing and global efforts. The following guide will help beginners get started with SEO and provide tips on tracking the results.
Understanding The Goals of Local SEO
Because Google has created what is now the gold standard of optimization, and is the most widely used search engine, this guide will focus on achieving the best local SEO results for that platform.
The ultimate goal of local SEO is to appear in Google’s top 3 spots when people Google relevant keywords for your business and location. These are the three top search listing that are listed along with their locations on Google maps. These are sometimes known as the local pack or map pack. A webpage that has been successfully optimized for local SEO will ideally appear here as well as in the other page one search listings (organic not paid).
Why is this so important? First, the click thru rates of pages appearing on page one of Google’s search engine results and those in the map pack are significantly higher than those on other pages. In addition to this, more than half of mobile searches are done with the intent of obtaining local information. Keep in mind that these are people who are out and about, and often ready to spend money.
Creating a List of Long Tail Keywords
Before you can improve your local search engine rankings, you have to create a list of relevant search terms for which you want your site to rank. Let’s say you own a vegan, pet-friendly bakery in portland Main. You serve sweet and savory baked goods for breakfast and lunch as well as a limited variety of soups, sandwiches, and salads. You’re most known for your cinnamon rolls. A partial list of your long tail keywords may look something like this:
- Vegan bakeries near me
- Vegan bakeries in Portland
- Dog friendly breakfast places
- Dog friendly lunch places
- Vegan bread and muffins Portland
- Homemade cinnamon rolls near Portland
- Vegetarian lunch to go in Portland area
Once you have your list of keywords, the next step is easy, albeit tedious. Simply go to Google and start entering those search terms. Then record your search engine ranking for each result by entering the page number as well as the position on the page. Don’t forget to expand the map pack results so you can see where or if you rank there.
Doing this creates a baseline so that you can track your results later. It also helps you to identify your strongest and weakest search terms.
Improving Local Keyword Search Results
It used to be that if you wanted to improve your rankings for certain keywords, you simply used those keywords in your web content, the more often the better. That’s no longer the case. Yes, you do need to include these keywords, however other factors matter just as much. For example, time spent on page is very important. It indicates that not only did someone click into your web page from Google search results, but also that they found the content relevant enough to stick around and read.
Think quality over quantity. Audit your web pages. Find places where you can add keywords in ways that make sense and contribute to the overall quality of your web content. If you haven’t started a blog, consider doing so. It’s a great way to reach out to your audience with interesting content, and use those keywords in organic ways. By publishing new content to your website you also cause Google’s search engine spiders to crawl and reindex your website improving your search engine rankings.
A final note on keywords. Don’t overthink them. Instead, focus on providing visitors to your website with useful, relevant, informative content about your business, your products, and services. Once you’ve done that, you can work on tweaking your keyword usage.
Google my Business
Google my business is a free tool that business owners can use to control the information that is displayed when people conduct local searches. It gives you control over how your business appears on Google maps as well. This is also where you can verify that you are the owner of your business. According to Google, users are 2X as likely to think a business is trustworthy if it has been verified.
It can be extremely beneficial to local SEO to keep this information accurate and up to date. By using Google my business, you can inform searchers of:
- Your company website
- Your phone number and other contact information
- Hours of operation
- Street address
You can also share photographs of your business, products, and services. Google allows customers to leave reviews of your business as well. You can interact with customers by responding to these reviews. Customers can also share pictures of your business as well.
It’s very important for local SEO that you keep your Google my business information accurate and up to date. In fact, you should check back frequently to respond to reviews and ensure that none of your information has been changed without your approval.
International Companies And Local SEO
Companies with an international presence follow many of the same local search optimization protocols. However, they must do these things in multiple locations. They must also customize their efforts for local audiences. For example, the keywords that are relevant in one country or region may not be in others. This requires customizing blog posts and web content so that it is meaningful to target audiences in each location.
This process is known as localization. Of course, if there are language differences, translation is also necessary for getting good local SEO results. Fortunately, a translation services guide can provide insights into companies that can provide these services. Many of these companies have professionals who understand the specific requirements of optimizing for local SEO on a global scale.
Other Website Tweaks For Local SEO
Keep in mind that local searches are often done by people who are looking to make contact with businesses that can meet their needs in the moment. When people visit your website they should be able to quickly discern your hours of operation, find your contact information, and get directions to your location. Menus, service listings, and product pages should also be just a click away from your home page.
If it helps, picture someone phone in hand in your neighborhood. They’re interested in whatever it is that you sell. Have you made it easy for them to text you to see if you have an item in stock? Would they be able to easily navigate to your front door? If not, you’ve got changes to make.
Don’t forget your social media pages as well. These may also come up in local search results. Because of this, you should also ensure that these pages are also optimized for local search. Fill out profile information thoroughly. Include your physical location information and hours of operation.
Conclusion: Testing The Results
The changes you make to improve local SEO will take time to work. It’s not something that you can test after a day or two. Once you’ve made changes, wait a couple of weeks. Then go back to your list of long tail keywords. See if your rankings have improved. Then, use those results to make further adjustments. Remember that it’s an ongoing, iterative process. It’s also important to stay up to date with Google’s changes to search algorithms and technologies. Voice search and other factors will likely have an impact on local SEO.