Many of our clients serve a geographic market, which is why our agency has adopted a “local first” mindset when it comes to generating website traffic. 

Unlike paid search, organic search is free and based on relevance to the user’s search query, links and domain authority, and other organic ranking factors.

But what is local SEO? Let us explain why it matters, and how it differs from “regular” SEO.

What is Local SEO?

Local SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is an SEO strategy that enhances your business’ visibility in local search results, primarily on Google. Most businesses can benefit from local SEO, regardless of whether your business is brick and mortar or serves a geographic area. 

However, local SEO tactics that work in one city or metro area won’t necessarily work in another city or metro area. The strategy to optimize a car dealer in a crowded market like Detroit, Michigan is completely different from the strategy for a car dealer in the middle of nowhere in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. 

Why is Local SEO Important?

As you can probably figure, local SEO is important because many people use search engines to find local businesses.

In fact, according to Google:

  • 30% of all mobile searches are related to location.
  • 78% of people who search for something nearby on their phones visit the business within a day.
  • 28% of searches for something nearby result in a purchase.

In short, customers are always searching for your business. If you’re not there, you’re leaving easy money on the table.

But before you undertake local SEO, you need to understand the main factors Google uses to rank websites for regionally-based businesses.

Local Links

In-bound links have always been the highest  weighted ranking factor in Google’s traditional algorithm. However, they’re incredibly powerful in Google’s local algorithm, too.

In Google’s world, links are looked at like popularity votes. Simply put, the best sites will have the most inbound links pointing towards them; since logically, other sites will link to valuable content. 

However, most local business websites operate on a much smaller scale. The majority of these sites only have a few hundred linking domains—sometimes not even breaking 100! 

Therefore, the important factor is that the link comes from a local business or website in your target geographic area. While industry-relevant links still carry value, local links move the needle more than anything else.

Some easy ways to build local links include:

  • Local meetups
  • Event sponsorships
  • Local bloggers writing a post about your business
  • Local-based keywords

Content

You may have heard the phrase, “content is king”, which was coined by Bill Gates in 1996. Website content has always been one of the main factors in SEO, and you can’t rank for a keyword phrase if you don’t have related information on your website.

Google has evolved from simple keyword-to-keyword matching to entity-based search; thankfully, local SEO has always been entity-based. The simplest way to prove a business exists in a certain location is to look at the physical address.

Your NAP (name, address, and phone) information should be clearly displayed on every page of your website. This isn’t just an SEO tactic—it’s important for your user experience, too. 

There are several factors that go into content ranking. However, the most important is that your content truly needs to be local. While anyone can write unique content, it doesn’t mean it will be relevant or useful for your target market. 

If you’re writing content that’s useful AND localized for your audience, your content will be unique without really trying. 

Citations

We talked about your business’ NAP info above; citations are mentions of this information on other websites. Think of this as third-party backups of your business’ information that proves you’re a local business at your actual address.

However, there are two kinds of citations:

  • Structured citations are directory listings, with your NAP info listed in a structured format.
  • Unstructured citations are when your business is mentioned in long-form content, such as a blog post or news article. While your NAP info is mentioned throughout the article, it isn’t in a strict line-by-line format.

Structured listings were an incredibly weighted element in Google’s local algorithm, but have become less important in recent years. Today, the NAP info on your website serves as a foundational SEO element. 

However, it’s important to understand that, while critical to local search, this isn’t an element of SEO that you can improve upon to influence your rankings.

Reviews

Think about how you decide on a local business—you’re going to read their reviews.

And studies support this! In fact, 84% of people now trust online reviews just as much as a review from a friend or family member.

Google’s algorithm uses reviews the same way you do—if a business has bad reviews, it’s less likely to show up higher in search results.

Google considers the following when using reviews to rank your business:

  • Total review score
  • Number of reviews
  • Review velocity -. whether the cadence of your posted reviews is natural, or “spammy”

However, the most important step goes without saying; you must care about customer service. If you’re providing an awesome customer experience, you’re going to get good reviews. 

Similarly, if you’re not putting customer service at the forefront of your business’ interactions, your reviews will be less than savory. This is why it’s important to occasionally ask your most valued customers for their public feedback; if the relationship is solid, they’ll most likely be more than happy to provide it!

Google My Business

Here at RED66, we emphasize the importance of Google My Business to each and every client. Your Google My Business – or GMB – profile is your business listing on Google. This is how you tell Google specific information about your business, which is then displayed to users when they search for you, or the products or services you provide, especially in your geographic location.

Think of your GMB profile as your new website homepage. A correctly optimized GMB profile will include the following all in one place:

  • Your business’ phone number
  • Address/directions
  • Hours of operation
  • Photos of your business
  • Reviews

Your GMB profile is the first impression you make with potential customers, and, for many local businesses, the only impression you’ll make.

Therefore, you’ve got to have a clean, optimized profile to attract more customers. Additionally, a profile like this will help boost your local online presence.

Google Posts & Google Q&A

These powerful features are included in your Google My Business profile. Since most businesses/marketers don’t use them at all, they deserve their own section on how they influence local SEO. 

Google Posts

Google Posts consist of an image or video paired with a short text description of up to 1,500 characters. Posts should always be promotional; therefore, social fluff doesn’t work here. 

Remember, your GMB profile is your new home page. Furthermore, you should use Posts to “wow!” prospects and convince them to click over to your site.

Google Q&A

The Questions and Answers (Q&A) section shows just below your address and phone number in your GMB profile. Unlike the FAQ on your website, the Google Q & A section is a community feature, where anyone can ask a question about your business, and anyone can answer.

Most businesses have no idea it’s there, or don’t pay attention to the questions asked, which results in random people in the community answering questions about their business.

However, businesses are allowed to add their own questions and then answer them. Try repurposing the FAQs on your website into the Google Q&A section; it’s a quick and easy boost to your local search presence. 

It’s Time to Implement a Local SEO Strategy for your Business

Hopefully, you have a better understanding of how local SEO works. It’s a lot to take in and can feel like information overload—especially staying on top of the ever-changing SEO trends.

While we’re a full service marketing agency, our mantra has always been that the website is your main hub of information. If you need help understanding or undertaking local SEO for your business, the team at RED66 is here to guide you. 

Reach out to us today for a conversation; we’re here to help!

Information sourced from the Local SEO Course from SEMRush’s SEO veteran, Greg Gifford.