For businesses that serve local customers in their area, optimizing for local SEO should be a top priority. Ranking high in local search results can help drive foot traffic, increase awareness, and boost sales.
This comprehensive guide covers the basics of local SEO and why it’s critical for reaching nearby customers. We’ll walk through key local ranking factors, steps to optimize your local presence, and strategies to appear prominently in map packs, local searches, and voice search results.
Whether you run a restaurant, retail store, service company or any other local business, incorporating these local SEO best practices can help you stand out and be found by potential customers in your geo-targeted region.
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO refers to optimizing your online presence and content to rank high and appear prominently in search engine and map results for local searches.
For example, when someone searches for “pizza places in Los Angeles” or “plumber near me,” local SEO helps your business show up prominently in:
- The map pack at the top of search results
- The organic local search results below
- Voice search results from mobile phones and smart speakers
The goal is to be easily found and selected when users search for local products or services that you offer in your area.
Why Local SEO Matters
Here are some key reasons why local SEO is critical for driving new business:
Reach people looking for your products/services near you – Approximately 1 in 2 searches on Google have local intent. Local SEO helps you reach people specifically looking for businesses in your exact geographic region while they are primed to buy.
Build local brand awareness – Ranking in the map pack and local results increases visibility and awareness within your community. This also builds authority and trust.
Drive foot traffic – Being prominently visible helps drive phone calls, requests for directions, and physical store visits from nearby searchers.
Higher conversion rates – Local searches convert better because of intent and proximity. Someone searching “open now near me” is highly ready to buy.
Beat local competitors – Dominating local rankings means stealing business from competitors also targeting your area.
Adapt to mobile – More than 70% of local searches happen on mobile. Local SEO is key to being found on-the-go.
Voice search optimization – With the rise of voice assistants, local SEO also optimizes your presence in voice search results.
Key Local Search Ranking Factors
Here are some of the top criteria Google uses to determine local search rankings and map pack inclusion:
Physical proximity – Ranking is weighted heavily toward businesses located closest to the searcher or the search origin.
Relevance – How closely a business and its content aligns with the user’s query and intent.
Prominence – How well-known, reputable and visible a local business is overall, both online and offline.
Google My Business – Having a complete, optimized Google My Business listing is foundational.
Positive local signals – Review volume,frequency of mentions, links from local sites, and citations boost local authority.
On-page optimization – Keyword-optimized pages targeted at the region/city improve relevance for geo-searches.
Mobile friendliness – A mobile-friendly website and local pages helps surface content locally.
UI and UX – Easy contact forms, calls-to-action, directions and local customer experience signals.
GMB profiles, reviews, citations, links and content optimized around city and neighborhood names, zip codes and surrounding areas all help build strong local SEO authority.
Steps for Optimizing Local SEO
Here are the key steps local businesses should take to optimize for local search domination:
Set Up and Optimize Google My Business
Google My Business (GMB) is central for ranking locally. Setting up and verifying your complete GMB listing with accurate business info is the critical first step.
Thoroughly fill out all fields in Google My Business, including:
- Correct business name, phone number and address
- Accurate map pin placement
- Business hours marked open/closed
- Detailed business description
- Responsive to reviews
Upload photos, create posts, run GMB promotions and use all features fully.
Build Local Links and Citations
Earn links from local sites targeting your metro area. Get listed on directories, chamber sites, local business associations, newspapers and niche sites related to your business.
Ensure your NAP (name, address, phone) is consistently listed across key sites. This helps reinforce you as an authoritative local business.
Target Keyword-Optimized Landing Pages
Create location-specific landing pages optimized for your keywords and geo-intent. For example:
Craft pages targeting specific neighborhoods and sections of your city.
Create Location-Focused Content
Blog about your city, surrounding neighborhoods, nearby landmarks and competitors. Create content around your local expertise and community involvement.
Interview happy customers and link to local sites. Have authors list their neighborhood or city in bios.
Get Local Reviews
Reviews boost local SEO rankings substantially. Prompt satisfied customers to leave positive reviews on Google, Facebook, Yelp and other platforms.
Respond professionally to any negative reviews. Prioritize earning more 5-star local reviews over time.
List Business Info Locally
Ensure your NAP is on directories like Yelp, Yellow Pages, Foursquare, etc. List events on local event listing sites.
Claim and optimize profiles on any platform used locally, such as restaurant reservation or local delivery apps.
Optimize for Local Voice Search
Target voice search queries people may use to find you by voice. For example:
- “Find sushi places open now”
- “Where is the closest gas station?”
- “I need a good plumber asap”
Appearing prominently in voice search results can drive foot traffic from mobile users.
Optimizing for local SEO provides tremendous opportunity to be found and chosen by nearby customers looking for exactly the products and services you offer.
Use this guide to establish yourself as a prominent local authority site searchers can trust. Consistently executing these steps will help your business stand out from competitors.
Want more tips? Check out our complete Local SEO Playbook here.
Have any other local SEO questions? Let me know in the comments!