With 90% of consumers searching for local businesses online, local SEO is an essential marketing tool for businesses looking to attract potential customers.
Whether you have a physical location or an online business that serves a specific location, you need a strategy for targeting localized searches and users in your area. This is how you rank higher in Google search, outshine your competitors, and attract even more customers.
In this guide, you’ll learn how to create a local SEO strategy for any business to generate more traffic from local search.
First off, not all businesses need local SEO. Only businesses that serve a specific geographic location (or several) need to rank in local search for the key terms potential customers are searching for in their area.
Google considers many different local search ranking signals when determining how to rank a website in the MapPack.
This is why it’s important to be strategic about your local SEO – being sure to cover all your bases and give your business a competitive edge.
There are several undeniable benefits of having a local SEO strategy. The first benefit that comes to mind for most people is increased traffic, but there are many more perks that can drive your business growth.
Some of the benefits of local SEO include:
Once you’ve determined that your website needs local SEO, it’s time to create a strategy for increasing your local rankings and website traffic.
You can follow these 10 steps to establish a winning local SEO plan.
Determine what terms you want your business to rank for. This will be based primarily on the services and/or products you offer.
For example, if you have a local digital marketing agency, chances are your services include “social media marketing,” “Facebook marketing,” “paid advertising,” and the like.
Or, if you are a restaurant owner, you might put your “services” under the umbrella of “Mexican food,” “Mexican restaurant,” “taco place,” etc.
Your goal here is to take stock of what your business offers and determine some key terms customers might be searching for to find a business like yours. Make a list of these terms to establish a starting off point for your keyword research.
Later, you will use local SEO tools to search for these terms, identify geo-specific keywords, assess search volume, and ultimately decide which keywords to target on your website.
Before jumping into optimizing your site, you need to determine what (if anything) is broken and whether your site has a solid foundation.
An SEO audit can help you identify any technical or on-page SEO issues that could hinder the success of your website. These issues should be addressed before you worry about creating new SEO content, building backlinks, etc.
SEO tools like Semrush offer comprehensive site audit tools you can use to generate a report of all your site’s issues.
Or, you might decide to hire an SEO specialist who can thoroughly audit your site and come back with a list of items that need to be addressed.
Here are some SEO issues to look out for:
Read How to Do an SEO Audit: The Ultimate Checklist to learn more.
One of the goals of local SEO is to not only rank in local search but to outrank your local competitors. In order to do this, you need to know what keywords they are ranking for and how.
SEO tools like Semrush or Ahrefs can help you conduct a competitive analysis to see what terms your competitors are ranking for, where their backlinks are coming from, and more. You can also see what keywords your site is already ranking for.
Simply do a search of a competitor’s domain and your chosen SEO tool will generate a list of keywords they are ranking for organically.
Then, you can see search volume and competition metrics to determine whether these keywords are a good fit for your own site.
Remember, you only want to target keywords that fit the service or products you offer, what your business is about as a whole, what your potential customers are searching for, and the location(s) you are targeting.
You want to generate localized, relevant traffic to your site.
Using a previous example, let’s say you own a Mexican food restaurant in Seattle, Washington.
In step 1, you identified some terms that summarize what your business offers. In step 2, you researched your competitors to see what keywords they were targeting.
Combining these two lists, you can use SEO tools to research these terms to examine search volume and competition level. You can also look for geo-specific keywords by adding your location to the keywords you are searching for.
For example, a Semrush search for “Mexican food Seattle” generated a longer list of keyword variations, including:
Next, we can search for [seattle mexican restaurant] and see what other keyword variations come up.
Here we have a list that includes:
Continue conducting keyword searches like this until you have an exhaustive list of as many relevant, localized keywords as you can find.
Be sure to search for different variations of the services or products you offer and the different areas you serve.
On-page SEO is all about optimizing your website for the localized keywords you identified in steps 2-4.
Here, you will be following on-page SEO best practices to ensure your site is optimized for local search.
Localized landing pages are webpages created specifically for ranking in organic local search. These pages should be optimized with the geo-specific keywords you’ve identified and include informative content that draws in your target audience.
Best practices for creating landing pages include having optimized H1, H2, and H3 headings, writing keyword-optimized body content, including internal links, adding images, and optimizing for mobile search.
When done correctly, you can also run paid ads to these landing pages to not only drive organic traffic but paid traffic, as well. Just be sure to include compelling calls-to-action to entice users to contact you.
Google My Business is a free platform all local businesses can use to drive more traffic, generate customer reviews, and more. It’s essential for your business to have a fully optimized listing to increase your chances of ranking in search.
Simply create an account and claim your business, or create a new listing. Then, you can include your business address, phone number, website URL, images, hours, and more so users can learn more about you.
There’s a reason why GMB is considered the most valuable local marketing service. Be sure to use GMB to your advantage by fully optimizing your listing to improve your local SEO over time.
Beyond GMB, there are other online directories where you can submit your business information. The most reputable directories include Yelp, YellowPages, Bing Places, and BBB, but there are countless others online.
Your goal here should be to submit your information to authoritative and (ideally) localized directories in order to drive traffic, earn links, and improve your local SEO. Here, it’s important that your business name, address, phone number, and website URL (NAPW) are consistent across all directories.
If possible, try to find industry-related directories you can add your business to. At the same time, avoid spammy sites or paying for directory listings just to earn a link; not all directories are created equal.
Link building is an important part of SEO in general, but localized link building can look a bit different from link building for other sites. Here, the physical location of the sites linking to your site is also important.
Try to attract links from other businesses in your geographic area. Also, create localized content to drive local links, requesting localized anchor text to generate the best results.
The number of positive reviews your website has on GMB is a significant ranking factor for local SEO. Therefore, one of your top goals as a local business owner is to generate as many positive reviews as possible – ideally, across all your directory platforms.
Conducting client exit interviews is a great way to ask clients for reviews after your engagement. You can also send follow-up emails to customers asking them to review you on GMB, Yelp, Facebook, etc.
Responding to negative reviews is also important. A professional, kind response can go a long way. No one likes getting a negative review, but how you respond to it can speak volumes.
Search Engine Journal recently released a complete guide to local SEO for businesses. This guide covers everything from what local SEO is to how to find link opportunities to how to use social media to improve your SEO.
If you’re ready to create your own local SEO strategy, start with these resources. You can audit your site and establish a data-driven SEO plan to improve your rankings, drive traffic, and dominate local search.
All screenshots taken by author, June 2021