The Ultimate Guide to Local SEO

The Ultimate Guide to Local SEO.JPG

Here are some important statistics: 46% of all Google searches are local. A whopping 78% of local-mobile searches result in offline purchases, meaning, they go into the store. And 76% of these local searches result in a phone call.

That means that even though you may currently be running an international business, you’re really missing valuable opportunities if you’re not focused on people walking down your street right now.

Enter Google My Business.

By claiming your business, and listing it, you’re already doing something toward your local SEO. It guarantees that when people search for whatever it is you sell, in your area, that you will pop up as a search result for them to consider.

It essentially puts you on the map.

But if you think that’s all it takes to take control of your local SEO, then you’re in for a pleasant surprise: this is a comprehensive guide designed to be your one-stop research resource on all things local SEO.

If you’ve been looking for a way to give back to the community, get involved, grow your business, or become a must-see hotspot for visitors, then you’ve come to the right place.

Defining Local SEO

Cutting right to it, local SEO is the act of optimizing your online presence with the goal of attracting business from local searches.

If you’re running your own burger joint, and you optimize your online presence enough, then local searches for burgers will showcase you as a top result. Maybe even a highly recommended one, suggested by many customers.

And we’re not just talking about Google. Although most searches are conducted on the search engine, there’s also Bing, Yelp, Apple Maps, Google Maps, and more.

That being said Google has the bulk of the American market share when it comes to search engines, and that’s because it’s meticulously optimized.

For instance, whenever you search for anything, like pie in your general area, you’re presented with more than just results.

Whether you’re aware of it or not, you see what’s called a Snack Pack first. These are 3-5 places that are highly recommended, all listed before a “More Places” option on the bottom left corner.

Any results after that are organic results that may still be worth looking into, although may not be as relevant.

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Ideally, you want to rank high on both fronts here. The Snack Pack hyper focuses on relevancy, which means you’re visible to the vast majority of people searching for something like what you’re offering. But the organic search gets 40% of clicks, while the Snack Pack only gets 33%.

Of course, these results look different on every search engine. This is just Google, but you want to optimize results on every search engine. Luckily, this guide will show you how to tackle all results, on all platforms, in one fell swoop.

Keywords

There are certain words you’d automatically come up for as a result, just based on what type of business you run. For instance, if you’re a small restaurant owner of a place called Lucky, you’d likely pop up in results for terms like “food near me” and “what time does Lucky close?”

Whenever someone makes this type of search online, the relevant information they’re looking for gets taken from your Google My Business listing.

And the same goes for more traditional keywords, which are entirely based on more mundane and obvious questions. For instance…

  • “Food in Los Angeles”

  • “Highly rated food in Los Angeles”

  • “Classic Italian food in Los Angeles”

But in order to really be visible, obvious keywords or not, you have to do more than just have a business. Not only do you need to list it (more on that later), you also need to incorporate some tactical keywords into your blog posts, videos, headers, landing pages, you name it.

By doing so, you’re giving search engines more to pull from. Suddenly they are made more aware of what your business is all about, so when someone searches for a business like yours, you’re presented as one of the results.

If you’re having issues finding keywords, try Keyword Planner. Although it’s predominantly all about advertising, you can use the planner for free, and determine the popularity of the terms you’re considering.

Getting Ideas

Still unsure?

You have every right to be, this could make the difference between visibility and traffic, or business failure.

That’s why you should pull from what you know: social media, internet search results, and classified ads. A lot of platforms are ideal for finding keywords, especially those with services sections, like Craigslist. When you enter your location and a single keyword, like “food,” you’ll get everything related to food in your area.

Notice each result will have its own selection of keywords within their headline. And seeing several of them in list form… Well, there’s going to be quite a few that get repeated.

Another way to easily get ideas is Google Autocomplete. Simply type in something related to your business, like “Italian restaurant Los Angeles” and you should get a list of suggested searches. At least the top three of those will be worth considering.

Business Listings 101

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Not listing your business in Google My Business is like getting a free dessert at a restaurant, and not eating any of it, even though it’s delicious and probably really necessary after a long, stressful work week. It would have cheered you up, but for some reason, you said “No, thanks.”

But claiming and optimizing this listing, along with all the others, like Bing Places and Apple Maps listings, is a surefire way to become more visible online, obtain more traffic, and become more of a local staple.

Google My Business

If you only claim one listing for whatever reason, let it be this one. It’s the best possible tool in terms of business listings, purely because of Google’s dominant popularity and market share.

Here’s how to set it all up:

  • Enter your business name, which means you can create a new business, or claim an existing business. You’ll know once you type it in, whether they even have a listing for your business already or not.

  • If you have a physical location, add an address. Now, some people have different situations, so if you work from home, have a business partner who also works from home, or have a virtual office with no real physical location, you may be confused. For these situations, list the address of the person closest to the business area you serve, whether it’s a home office or not. And if you only have a virtual office, add in your home address.

  • Click the “I deliver goods and services to my customers” option, if applicable.

  • Also click on “Hide my address (it’s not a shop)” if that’s applicable, like a home address.

  • When it’s time to enter your exact location, you’ll drag and drop a pin on the map. Most of the time, you won’t need to move it, because Google will automatically add one based on the information you entered.

  • Select your category, which means what it is you’re really all about. For example, if you’re still running Lucky, the Italian restaurant, you’ll type in “Italian restaurant” or just “restaurant.” Google will offer suggestions based on what you type, so don’t worry about getting it right the first time.

  • Enter your phone number and website.

  • Verify your listing via phone or postcard.

  • Then optimize your listing over time. This means adding photos, even if it’s photos of your neighborhood, or other local areas, because that will have metadata attached. List business hours, services offered, additional phone numbers, relevant amenities, etc.

Apple Maps

There are a lot of smartphone users, and that’s an understatement. You know what else is an understatement? The fact that Apple is popular.

You can imagine how important your listing is on Apple Maps. Most everyone has an iPhone these days, and Apple Maps is the go-to app to search for local businesses. Ask Siri for directions anywhere, and Apple Maps opens up.

Here’s how to set it up:

  • Visit this link and log in with your Apple ID and password.

  • Then select your relationship to your business (owner, or authorized by the owner).

  • Enter basic details, like business name, address, phone number, etc.

  • And then verify your phone number. You’ll be given a pin # to enter, which you should hold onto.

  • Confirm your business location and category.

  • Confirm your hours of business.

  • Add your company website and social media accounts.

  • Then review your business information to ensure everything is accurate. Note, everything should exactly match both your Bing listing, and your Google listing. In fact, make sure you’re copying and pasting your address exactly, down to the last letter.

Bing Places

Let it known, Bing’s market share is low. Really low in America, so you may think to pass it up, but every little bit counts in business. Especially since it only takes a few minutes to do.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Check that you’re not already listed. Go to Bing Maps, type in your business name, and if you’re already there, you should appear in the live search results. View the full listing, and click on the question “Is this your business?” It’s super tiny, all the way on the bottom, so pull out your magnifying glass.

  • Once you do that, you’ll be redirected to your listing, which will be partially filled. You can select your business type. Note, online businesses don’t qualify for a Bing business listing, but if you’re not running a local business, this guide isn’t helpful anyway, right?

  • Assuming you’re still able to claim your listing, because you do run a local business, you’ll get the option to import data from Google My Business, which makes your job 100% easier.

  • Again, select “Do not display this address in search results” if you work from home.

  • Select a category once again. Only this time, you can choose up to ten, which is nice if you’re diverse and sell many goods and services.

  • Add your phone number, website, social media links, etc.

  • Add up to ten images relating to your business. Original content only, please.

Local Citations

These are online mentions of your business. They display your business name, address, and phone number, hence the name NAP.

And there are two types of citations:

  1. Structured: NAP information is presented in a structured way, and they typically show up in business directories and social profiles.

  2. Unstructured: Show up in a “messier” format, such as tucked away in blog posts, on newspaper websites, etc.

Why should you care about any of this, you ask?

Because citations make you rank high enough for Google’s Snack Pack, which we went over earlier in the guide. Consistent NAP information helps websites verify your business each and every time, making you a stable, reputable listing that Google can suggest to users with relevant searches.

And not only that, but having accurate NAP information means you have more traffic, higher conversion rates, and even more revenue. And who doesn’t want that?

So, here’s how you can double-check that things are accurate and relevant.

Audit

  1. Use Moz to check your listings. It uncovers incomplete, inconsistent, and even duplicate listings.

  2. To fix information, click through, claim the listing, and update the details.

  3. Don’t forget to check smaller directories, like Factual, Neustar Localeze, or Thomson Local.

Building More Citations

The idea that you can comb through the entire internet and find all the incorrect NAP listings for your business, and course correct them, is basically impossible. But you can do the best you can with the editing, and then build more accurate citations to help bury inaccurate information further.

To do just that, look for any online publications related to your industry. Also look for community hubs, or even Whitespark’s Citation Finder Tool.

Or if you’re not up for all that, and just want an easy list to go off of, here are fifty you can use. You’re welcome.

SEO

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You already know the basics. Things like adding your keyword in H1 headers, title tags, and URLs. But there’s so much more you could be doing to build up your SEO.

For instance, displaying NAP information and adding schema markup.

If you have no clue what that means, keep reading.

Setting Up Site Structure

This means that your website would look something like this, assuming you serve multiple cities:

  1. yourwebsitehere.com/area-1/

  2. yourwebsitehere.com/area-2/

And so on.

Now, obviously you want to stick to areas that are larger, and more recognizable. For instance, everyone knows about Los Angeles, but not as many have heard of Oxnard.

Keep in mind, however, that this is ideal for businesses with physical locations. It’s enough to provide goods and services to these areas, but it’s not as impactful without a brick and mortar.

Once you’re done, double-check that your changes will rank accurately. Using Ahrefs Site Explorer, or other free tool, check how well your keywords rank.

Homepage Alterations

You should ideally optimize your homepage around your primary location, assuming you work in 1-2 cities. If you conduct business in more than that, like say all over the world, you may want to skip this, but you should resist the urge. The reason being that Google already knows your location. You filled out the business listing information, remember?

That means all of your searches will be localized anyway. So, you might as well optimize for it, and make the best of the situation.

But there’s more you can do to your homepage to make it more rank-worthy:

  • Embed a Google Map showing your location, with the pin and everything. Platforms like Weebly allow you to do this as a footer.

  • Display testimonials and reviews, which you can get on business listing websites, Google reviews, Amazon reviews, if you sell some items there, or even Etsy reviews, if you sell on that platform too.

  • Show NAP information in the footer.

  • And add schema markup, which is additional code that gives Google info about your business. Google’s Structured Markup Helper does the bulk of the work, so you basically just need to tick “local businesses” and “start tagging.”

  • Your page will show up in their visual editor, so you’ll just add in NAP information, matching your Google My Business listing down to the last letter.

  • Once you’re done, hit “create HTML” and select JSON-LD.

  • Test it using the Google Structured Data Testing Tool, edit it as necessary, then paste the code into the header section of your website.

Link Building

When it comes to ranking for the Snack Pack, proximity, categories, and keywords in business titles matter most. But also link signals. For organic ranking, as in every result that shows up right after the Snack Pack, it’s the reverse. Link signals reign king.

Since you should be striving to rank for both, as previously mentioned in this guide, you should have all these details lined up as well as you can for the sake of link building.

Content Creation

But you can go beyond details to do this. After all, remember, link building means you’re directing several links to you. And the more content you have to share, the more you can link build.

That means you should be churning out relevant content that is both high quality (to reflect your brand), and helpful to your audience, so it entices them to keep coming back.

Think of “best of” guides, or “best practices.” Any actionable information really goes a long way. Things like “how to” articles where your audience can follow along and solve their issues with your help.

Once you’re done creating posts, always promote them. In fact, promote these post long before they go up. Let people know on social media that you’re working on a helpful guide, and ask if they have any specific questions regarding the topic. Things they’d love to know.

As soon as it goes live, let everyone know, and make sure to post your direct link. Change your website link on Instagram to reflect the post, and do the same on Twitter. If it’s on Facebook, post a mini paragraph just introducing your post to people, and make sure the image associated with the link is clear and high quality.

Guest Posting

Of course, it’s not just your content, on your website, that allows you to link build. Guest posting on someone else’s website is a great resource. It shows that you’re knowledgeable in your field, that you’re reputable enough that others want to work with you and even let you post on their website, and that you have a website/business of your own that’s worth looking into.

To start guest posting, remember to search for local blogs and publications, since you’re looking to build up your local business and all, hence the point of this guide. Keep the blogs niche, very industry specific.

If you’re still at a loss, try using this format and its variations:

[location] “write for us”

For instance, if you’re in LA, your search would read…

Los Angeles “write for us”

Substituting “write for us” with “guest post” also works, and should be used when searching for potential partnerships as well.

If you’re looking for industry specific, simply swap the location for your industry, so it reads”graphic design” instead of “Los Angeles,” for instance.

Link Intersect

This may seem wrong, but stay with us for a second: you can steal competitor links with link intersect.

It’s useful for building citations, but it’s also a neat way to find out what your competitors are doing, which is crucial in business. Knowing what others in your industry are up to allows you to stay up to date, find out what’s working for others without having to gamble on it yourself, and keeps you from being outdated in terms of keywords, relevancy, and even tactics.

It will also uncover things like forum links and guest posts, so you can see who’s willing to share their platform with other, relevant businesses.

And technically, you’re not doing anything wrong. You’re simply researching what your competition is doing, and then using some of the same tactics. Plus, it’s likely they are already doing it to you. This is a common business practice, after all.

Check out Moz Link Explorer for this. With a free account, you get up to 10 free queries per month, which is actually plenty considering you’re not going to be doing this much more than that anyway.

If you don’t mind a paid option that’s just a bit more advanced, try out Ahrefs Link Intersect.

Ongoing Activities

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Finally, let’s wrap this guide up by stating something that although makes sense, isn’t as obvious as it should be: all of the information is this guide should never fall under “once and done” law.

You cannot simply set all of these listings up, guest post once or twice, and alter your homepage with some code, and never do anything toward your local SEO ever again.

On the contrary, you have some an ongoing to do list to tend to.

Google My Business

For this listing to thrive all the time, you should respond to customer/client reviews (thank them for the kind words, or ask for clarification or ways to improve if the reviews are negative―always be professional). Stay on the lookout for any incorrect edits as well, stay on top of that NAP information.

And also, feel free to use Google Posts to keep your customers informed. If it seems like too much work, remember you’re already keeping your business Facebook up to date, right? Consider just copying and pasting some sentences, or changing things up slightly, and then posting it on Google Posts. Saves time, and uses what you already have to share the message with more people.

Speaking of Google Posts…

Google Post

This micro-blogging platform is synced with Google My Business which means that everything updates onto your Knowledge Panel, the little box of information right below your business listing, which pops up when people search for you on Google.

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For instance, here we have Alfred Coffee Melrose Place in LA. If their Google Posts were synced with Google My Business, they would have a direct link to their latest post right below, or even before, the “Reviews From the Web” section on the right.

This makes it easy for people to not only see what you’re all about, it also increases the chances of them reading what you have to say. Or even clicking through your other posts, and eventually your website.

You can even create a post from within Google My Business. All posts are up to 300 words, which is short and sweet, and you can upload an image to go along with it. Don’t forget to add a call-to-action button such as “learn more” or even “get offer.”

Consistency Is Key

Posting content regularly is super important when it comes to local SEO, link building, business representation, brand building, and more. Many times, in fact more often than not, people get hung up on the business go-to’s. The sales, the metric tracking, the product launching…

And they sweep the writing aside, thinking it’s just “not important.”

But your posts are your #1 way of communicating with your audience. These posts convey what you’re about, what you have to offer, and they help to build relationships with your fans. Without writing, you essentially are just another poorly branded business asking for a lot (for people to purchase your products), without giving much in return.

So, don’t let the writing slide. Consistency is key. Your posts need to be of at least decent quality, and regularly posted.

You don’t need to be amazing, you don’t need to be perfect, but you do need to be good enough to:

  • Convey a message/point clearly

  • Know your target audience well enough to use the correct tone when speaking to them (or in this case, writing for them)

  • Educate your audience of something using actionable information

If you don’t think you can pull this off, feel free to outsource your content. Many solo entrepreneurs do this so they can continue to work on their products and services, while a freelancer tackles their content. Everything from graphic design, to blog posts, videos, and more can be outsourced these days.

And if you’re just not sure what the best course of action is, there’s always marketing consultants. They are specialized industry professionals who actively work with different brands, building them up, setting up email marketing strategy plans, and essentially auditing their business branding tactics.

In Conclusion

I won’t sugarcoat it: if it feels like a lot to take in, that’s because it is. Local SEO may be something you place on the backburner, thinking “I’m already part of the neighborhood, they’ll see me, so there’s no need to invest that much effort into marketing myself around here.”

But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. At the end of the day, your neighborhood is zone zero, and as such, should be your main fanbase. People should not only know about your business, they should be shopping there regularly. They should be telling others to check it out, or suggesting it to visitors from out of town.

And if they’re not, then you haven’t done your job of getting the momentum going. But it’s not too late. Follow the advice listed in this guide, and you’ll be doing better than the bulk of your competitors.

Just make sure to always keep an eye on your metrics, as with any other business experiments you have going on. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself wasting valuable time, money, and effort on tactics that aren’t necessary for scaling.

So, what was the most impactful lesson you learned while reading this guide? Is it something you would implement in your business, why or why not?

Don’t be a stranger! I love hearing from you all, and your feedback is greatly appreciated.