What Is Local SEO & How Does It Work?
Estimated reading time: 11 minutes
These days, having a website is essential if you’re running a small business and having a healthy dose of search engine optimisation (SEO) keywords sprinkled over each page will do wonders for getting your site seen all over the country, or the world.
However, you’ll also benefit from focusing on your local SEO too. But, what is local SEO, how does it work and how can it help your business? This article will explain what local SEO is, how it works, and how it can increase your search visibility so people searching for your products or services nearby can find you.
What Is Local SEO?
Local SEO is the process of optimising your website so you can improve your rankings and site traffic by showing up in the local results when potential customers search in your local area. The goal of SEO for local businesses is to make it easier for people in a specific geographic area to find you and visit your website or premises.
While users will use a variety of search engines, like Bing or Yahoo!, to find what they’re looking for, most searches happen using the Google search engine. This is not surprising as Google holds over 80% of the search market share and grabs around 95% of all mobile searches. This is crucial for you, as local SEO focuses on optimising for those same Google searchers.
The Importance Of Local SEO
Local search engine optimisation is vital for businesses that want to increase their visibility to people searching for products or services in their area. Optimising for local search can increase the chances of your website appearing at the top of search engine results for geographically-related searches, leading to more website traffic, phone calls and sales from potential customers.
Local search engine optimisation is also essential for smaller local businesses, as it helps you compete with larger companies and national brands. It’s because search engines, especially Google, prioritise local businesses in search results when users include local intent keywords in their search queries.
The importance of local SEO shouldn’t be underestimated, as it helps improve your business’s overall online presence. By adding listings in local business directories, creating and optimising a Google Business Profile (GBP), and building local backlinks, your business can improve its credibility and online reputation, generating more trust, engagement and conversions.
Here are a few stats to emphasise just how important a local SEO process is for businesses. And, while they’re US-based, they still give you an idea of the type of numbers and percentages involved:
- 1/3 of online consumers search for local businesses daily (Statista)
- 99% of all online consumers searched to find a local business in 2021 (BrightLocal)
- 21% of online consumers searched to find a local business every day in 2021 (BrightLocal)
- 61% of shoppers prefer a local business with both a physical store and a website (Google)
How Google Determines Local Rankings
Google is the very definition of a digital behemoth, and it plays its cards close to its chest when it comes to its algorithms and how they work. But, we know they use three main ranking factors to deliver the best or most specific results in any local search. These are:
- Relevance – how well a local listing or business profile matches someone’s search
- Distance – how far from the location used a search result might be
- Prominence – how well-known or established Google thinks that business is
It’s these factors combined that help Google decide what the best matches for any local search query are. So, if someone searches for ‘independent record shops oxford’, Google will show results in that location that are the most relevant based on these factors. However, this is where Google can deliver slightly different results.
Google might decide that a record shop further away from the specified location is displayed above a closer shop. This and other anomalies can be down to a series of ranking factors that potentially make that record shop a more attractive proposition for the searcher, including if the shop:
- Has specific keywords on its website
- Is a more established website – and business
- Has quality backlinks pointing to its website
But a major deciding factor on this ranking is because this particular shop might have a stronger Google Business Profile (GBP) helping it to rank higher than other shops in local results. A healthy GBP will include:
- A complete listing with detailed information
- Relevant keywords added to the listing title
- Primary and additional categories added
- A high star rating (out of 5)
- Plenty of positive (and high star-rate) reviews
Best Practices For Local SEO
Before starting your local SEO process, you should know some best practices. While you might feel confident in tackling some of these yourself, it might be worth speaking with a local SEO specialist like Improve Position to help navigate any complex or specialist tasks. Let’s have a look at what these best practices are, why they’re essential and what role they play in your local SEO.
Claim Or Add Your Google Business Profile
We go into how to optimise your GBP further down this article. But, your first step should be to claim or add your business name and create a GBP. You can do this, for free, through Google Maps in one of two ways:
- Add your business
i. Enter your address in the search bar on the left and click Add your business
- ii. Right-click anywhere on the map. Then click Add your business
- iii. In the top left, click Menu (three horizontal lines), then click Add your business
- Claim your business
i. Enter your business name in the search bar
- ii. Click your business in the results
- iii. Click Claim this business > Manage now
- iv. Select your chosen verification method and follow the instructions
Read our article on how to add your business to Google Maps for more information.
Developing the reputation of your business is crucial to building trust and authority online, and as such, it’s vital to your local SEO strategy. The best way to do this is to start gaining positive reviews for your product or service and building your brand personality and online presence through social media.
Website optimisation involves using specialist tools, strategies, research and testing to improve your website’s performance for local and general SEO. Optimisation is where things can get tricky for a non-technical user – and where a local SEO specialist can step in and help you.
Creating local citations involves ensuring your business name, address, phone, email and web address are listed consistently and accurately on third-party sites, including review sites and business directories. These listings help search engines and customers know how to find and contact you.
Adapting To Google Search Changes
Google regularly updates its search algorithms, so potential changes in how searches operate could affect how and if your business information appears in any results. Check your on-site (website content, schema markup and GBP) and off-site (review sites and business directories) sources regularly and keep them up to date to stay visible.
Local Link Building
Local link building is getting backlinks from other relevant businesses in and around your local area pointing back to your website. These can boost your visibility and help you rank higher in local organic searches – another crucial factor in ranking your site higher in the search results.
Some businesses use spammy tactics for their GBP to artificially boost local search visibility, like keyword stuffing in their business name, adding incorrect location information, or even setting up fake accounts. These profiles may outrank you even though you know they’re dodgy, but you can report them if you think they breach Google’s guidelines.
Local SEO Tips
So, now you know the best practices behind local SEO, we’ll look into the local SEO tips you need to increase your leads and conversions and improve your position in the local search rankings. Again, you might feel you can do some of these yourself, but working with a local SEO specialist will help you complete some trickier tasks if you’re unsure.
Optimise Your Google Business Profile
Once you’ve added or claimed your GBP (as detailed above), you’ll need to optimise it by completing it in full. This process includes adding your actual business name (no keyword stuffing), listing your local phone number, adding your opening days and hours, writing an engaging business description and adding optimised photos. And, when you have reviews, always respond to them.
Get Active On Social Media & Your Google Business Profile
With almost everything online to do with your business being linked, sharing posts on your social channels is crucial to being ranked and found in local searches. So, share your GBP on social media and add regular posts to it.
Keep Your Details Consistent
An essential part of local SEO is ensuring your business name, address, and phone number (NAP) are consistent with whichever platform or business directory you use. If your business name is ‘Smith And Jones Carpets’, avoid changing it to something like ‘Smith And Jones’ or ‘S&J Carpets’.
Optimise Citations In Online Directories
Again, consistency is key for every business directory you use, so every citation needs to be correct and match. If you have conflicting information (like typos, different phone numbers or business names) Google might not know which is right, so your business might not show up.
Perform A Local SEO Audit
A local SEO audit is where you might need some help from a local SEO specialist. An audit might typically include: checking all your citations, completing an on-page website SEO audit to ensure each page includes the necessary elements to help it rank and undertaking competitor analysis to see how your site performs against others in your sector.
Improve Your Internal Linking Structure
External links (backlinks) are excellent, but having internal links on your site (linking from one page to another) is just as important for your SEO rankings. A good linking structure helps support site navigation and allows you to emphasise significant (or power) pages to help Google understand your site better and rank it higher.
Optimise Your Site’s Content
Every time a piece of content goes live on your site, it’s another opportunity for people to find you in a local search. So, every blog or page you publish should include a relevant geographic search phrase or keyword in its URL, title, meta description, and the blog or page itself.
Add Website Location Pages
If your business operates from multiple sites in different locations, adding location-specific pages will help improve your site’s visibility in search results. Location pages should supply all the relevant info for each premises, including address, contact details, directions, parking info and even testimonials or reviews.
Create Local Content
Google are big on helpful content. Whether that’s blogs, service pages or FAQ pages, helpful content can attract a wider search reach. But, focus on local content too, so include industry or business news about you and your area, even if it isn’t directly linked to your business.
Have A Mobile Friendly Website
With more than 60% of all searches being done on a mobile, having a mobile-friendly site is essential. And, location-based searches that include the phrase ‘near me’ are almost always carried out on mobile devices. So, having a mobile-friendly site makes it easy for customers to find out more.
Get Relevant Inbound Links That Have Authority
Inbound links are vital to raising your local SEO visibility and boosting your domain authority. The key here is to get high-quality websites to link to you. So, start with business or trade organisations you belong to, writing a guest blog, or paid advertising or sponsorship, all of which can create links back to your site.
Be Part Of Your Local Community
Being active in your local community can help your business get attention. Alongside regular business networking, why not sponsor an event or advertise in local magazines? Also, speaking at events can boost your online and offline profile too.
Local SEO Tools You Can Use
Optimising your business for SEO doesn’t need to be expensive. While you can pay for expert help and advice from a company like Improve Position to get a local SEO process set up and implemented for you, there are still plenty of tools for local SEO that are freely available to you. Here are some of the most commonly used examples:
Google Business Profile – £ Free
In this article, we’ve already discussed having a GBP, its importance and how you can create one and optimise it efficiently. This essential tool should be your starting point, and of course, it’s free.
Google Search Console – £ Free
Another Google freebie, Google Search Console is regarded as one of the best platforms to monitor and optimise your website, measure site traffic and help you rise up the search rankings. Read our blog on how to add Google Search Console to your website to find out more.
The Yellow Pages may be gone, but as one of the UK’s leading online business directories, Yell provides free listings to get you started and labels itself as “a leading marketplace for local services”.
Offering free and premium listings, Freeindex has over 1.5 million registered members and allows users to search, view profiles and read reviews of almost any business and service in the UK.
While Bing Places is optimised for Bing searches (much like GBP is optimised for Google), this free listing service is worth adding. You can even sync it with your GBP profile to ensure correct citations.
Improve Your Search Rank With Improve Position
If you’ve ever asked yourself, ‘what is local SEO?’, this article should have answered all your questions. Local SEO can seem daunting, but with the right help and advice, you could reap the rewards of improved search rankings and online visibility sooner rather than later.
Improve Position is a results-driven SEO agency, and we can help improve your local SEO in every area, so potential customers can see you first when they search online. We can help you understand the local SEO fundamentals and develop a local SEO process strategy.
For more information, contact us today to get started and help your business rank higher now.