Search engines have been focusing a lot on local SEO in the past decade. Google has introduced hundreds of updates to improve its functionality and usability. 78% of location-based searches via mobile end with an offline purchase. And according to Nectafy, 88% of users will either call or visit a nearby business after a local search. If the data is trying to tell us something important here, it should be this: Local SEO is the future of search.

In this article, we’ll share with you the basics of local SEO for small businesses with our step-by-step guide. You’ll learn about the importance of local SEO and how to implement it in your marketing strategy. Ready? Let’s get to it.
Local SEO

What is Local SEO?

Local SEO is a subset of global SEO, and it focuses on ranking in smaller local areas rather than globally. It takes into consideration the location of the search user and search intent. Local SEO is one of the most effective marketing techniques in 2020. It gives small businesses the chance to compete in smaller markets and rank higher for local search results. Most of the factors in global SEO still apply for Local SEO. But, some key aspects differ in local SEO – which allows businesses to dominate locally. That’s what we’ll cover in the rest of the article.

Why Should Your Business Focus on Local SEO?

Now that you’re aware of the difference between global and local SEO, you might be wondering: Why should I narrow my focus on local search? And wouldn’t global SEO be more effective since it focuses on larger audiences? There’s a reason why every small business is focusing on local. And even search engines are making changes to improve their local SEO functionality. Here’s why local SEO is important:

Lower Competition

When it comes to search, it’s better to be a big fish in a small pond rather than the opposite. Sure, a wider audience might bring more opportunity to get more customers. However, if you don’t rank on the first page on Google, you’ll never get a single visitor to your business website. That’s why dominating a local SEO proves to be more effective. Having the strongest profile against your competitors will allow you to generate more leads and land better clients.

Targeted Audience

The target for brick-and-mortar companies is local customers. And most small businesses have to meet up with their clients in real life before they do their work. That’s what local SEO allows you to get.
If every visitor coming to your website is a local customer, your chances to convert them into customers are a lot higher. All you have to do is prove the quality of your work.

High Quality Leads

According to Hubspot, 72% of local search customers end up visiting a store within five miles. Unlike global SEO, the intent for local searches is often buying a product or a service. The majority of potential customers reaching out to you after a search are ready to buy from you. They have a problem that they want to solve, and they’re ready to hire you for it.

Best Local SEO Practices for Small Businesses

Now that you understand what local SEO is and why local SEO is important, let’s dive a little deeper into the subject. Here is a step by step local SEO checklist along with best practices to follow when getting started which can be used in conjunction with our SEO audit checklist:

Step 1 – Google My Business Listing

Claiming your Google My Business (GMB) listing is the first step of this process.

You need to create a company profile and fill it with the right information to claim your listing. Once done, your business will start to appear to local customers when they look for your services.

Search users to see your business on:

  • Local map pack
  • Google Maps
  • Knowledge graph

That helps you gain more visibility and attract more local customers.

Local 3 Pack

Google Local 3 Pack

Google Maps

Google Map

How to Create a Google My Business Account

The full service and registration process are free. All you need to do is create an account and verify your business to claim your listing.

First, go to Google My Business. Then click on “Start Now”.

Free Google Business Profile

Type in your business name and click “Create a business with this name”.

Now, enter your business name and continue with the rest of the steps.

Enter business name.

In the rest of the steps, you’ll be asked to:

  • Pick a business category
  • Choose if you want to appear on Google Maps
  • Enter your physical location address
  • Locate your business on Google Maps using a PIN (as a verification)
  • Confirm if you’ll serve customers outside your location
  • Enter your contact details

Important: The information you enter here must be valid and will be verified in further steps. Also, it’s crucial that you use consistent business information across the web. For example, if you are a Philadelphia SEO company and have two phone numbers, you must only stick to one. Search engines will later use that to confirm the legitimacy of your business.

Finish Google Business Listing

Once you’re done, you’ll get to the last step. Click “Finish.” Your account has been successfully created.

Now, the second step of the process is to verify your business. Google wants to keep its customers safe by only showing them trustworthy companies. So, you must confirm ownership of your business and its location.

Verify Business Listing Google

You’ll get a postcard by mail in five days, and it will arrive at the location you chose. Once you receive it, you can use the code there to verify your business. And you’re done! Your company is officially listed on Google My Business.

Now, you have to complete your business profile for better rankings.

Tips to improve your GMB rankings:

  • Keep your business information and work hours updated
  • Add business images, company logo, opening/closing hours
  • Share Google posts regularly to let potential customers know that you’re an active business
  • Ask for customer reviews to add more social proof

Step 2 – Build Local Citations (NAP)

Local Citations are mentions of your business NAP (name, address, phone number) on the web. They are one of the top-ranking factors because they signal to Google the authenticity of your business. If your NAP information matches your GMB information, search engines will trust your company more.

Google Business Address Listing

That gives you higher rankings in the local SERPs and allows you to attract even more customers.

Consistent Business Name Address and Phone Number Across the Web

Do you notice how we use the same information on different web pages? That explains what we said earlier about your NAP information. Make sure it’s correct and consistent. Use the same phone number and address whenever you’re listed on.

Now you might be wondering– How do I build local citations for my business?

The answer is straightforward: local business directories and social platforms. There are dozens of local directories online that you can list your business on. Once you do that, it will boost both your local SEO and your overall online credibility. These directories might even help land more potential customers after they find you there. The most popular business directory listing sites are:

  • Yelp
  • TripAdvisor
  • Foursquare
  • Manta
  • Yellow Pages
  • Craigslist
  • Zomato(Restaurants and coffee shops)
  • MerchantCircle

You can also get your business listed on popular social media platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn.

Not only does this count as citation building, but some local customers also may not necessarily use Google to look for nearby businesses. Thus, getting listed on such platforms drives you more traffic.

Step 3 – Reviews and Social Proof

Online reviews and testimonials are super crucial for local businesses for two reasons:

1- Social proof has a heavy weight when it comes to ranking in the SERPs.

2- Testimonials are displayed under your GMB information. They’ll encourage customers to trust your business and choose to work with you.

Google Reviews

To get more reviews on your business online, you can simply ask for them. A happy customer is more than willing to share their experience after they work with you. Once someone leaves a review, take an extra step to respond to them and thank them in a professional way.

There isn’t only one place where you should ask for reviews. Any positive review that a satisfied customer leaves is a huge plus to your business.

Step 4 – Local Link Building

Just like with global SEO, link building has a significant effect on local SEO rankings. But, it differs a little bit from the strategies you follow when targeting a global audience. The quality of link signals isn’t evaluated the same way it is with global SEO. The difference lies in the location of the source that’s linking to your website. A backlink from a local website is much more likely to boost your local authority than a global link. Local links tell search engines that your website is local and might help local search users.

Building links is a long process, and it might be hard for lots of businesses. But we’ve brought you some solutions to help overcome that challenge. Here are some easy ways you can build links for your local business:

1 – Business Directories

For starters, getting listed on business directories is a form of link building. Once you get your business approved, you’ll get to add a link to your website. But, it might not be so useful if all your competitors are doing the same thing. They’ll eventually catch up with you and have an equal chance of ranking.

2 – Create Useful Content

Content creation, if done consistently, is the most effective SEO technique out there. Write valuable blog posts that help local audiences solve their problems. Start your own podcast and invite experts on different subjects in your industry.

You can also publish regular updates on your GMB profile. Share regular posts and news about your company with your audience.

3 – Local Guest Blogging

There’s no shortage of local websites in your area looking for fresh content for their blogs. So, this might be your opportunity to dominate locally. Reach out to nearby websites and ask to get featured in their blog. Most will be happy to have an expert share their experience with the local audience.

4 – Local Podcast Appearances

Too busy to start your own podcast? That’s okay – there’s always a solution! How about getting podcast appearances on local podcasts? This tip has proven somewhat effective for lots of business owners who know their craft. People love to hear professionals talk about how they do their work. If you know your industry inside out, local podcast appearances are the way to go. It’s a fantastic approach to build links and boost your local authority.

Wrapping Up Our Local SEO Checklist

Doing global SEO today is a hard process, especially with all the competition you have around you. Thankfully, local SEO presents the ultimate solution to that problem. With the right local SEO techniques, and by following our checklist, you can always grow and take your company to the next level.

Did you know that we have an outstanding local SEO service for your local business? Check out how we helped our clients with local SEO and how we can help dominate local search as well.

About the Author: Brad Fogel

Bradley Fogel is a professional web designer and SEO consultant. Bradley has been working in the digital marketing field for over 20 years and is the CEO of Operation Technology, a digital marketing agency based in Chicago, IL. Starting his own company was something he had always wanted to do. It has been very rewarding to him seeing the team at Operation Technology helping small local businesses to large national clients with their digital marketing needs. His passion is developing strong online strategies for clients while making new connections within the industry. Brad’s background also includes a PMP certification from the Project Management Institute. Learn more about Brad Fogel.