Local SEO is what allows people to find your website when they are searching for businesses near them. If your company relies heavily on local customers, ranking for local SEO is key to long term success.
Search engine optimization refers to the practice of optimizing your website and content so people can find your business through search engines like Google.
Local search engine optimization is precisely this, just done on the local level. While the general principles remain the same, there is a different strategy you must pursue to rank for local SEO.
In this post, we’ll break down exactly what that strategy looks like and give you a few actionable next steps to get you going in the right direction.
Why Rank for Local SEO?
Getting your website to rank for local SEO will put you at the top of Google’s search results when people search for local businesses. Google uses a person’s location to display nearby companies that relate to that search term.
Getting to the top of Google’s local search results is a significant competitive advantage. People will find you before your competitors, and if your website can convert them into a lead, you can potentially bypass your competitors. Also, when people search for local businesses, they are generally ready to make a purchase.
So, ranking for local SEO will allow you to potentially bypass your competitors and capitalize on the fact that when people perform a search for a local business, they’re generally looking to make a purchase soon.
To us, that seems like a pretty good reason to invest severe efforts into an effective local SEO strategy.
How to do that is the subject of the rest of this article.
Set Up Google My Business
If you haven’t already, setting up Google My Business is the first thing you should do to jumpstart your local SEO efforts.
Google My Business is free and allows your business info to show up on the right-hand side of Google and on Google Maps.
Your Google My Business profile gives consumers a quick overview of your business. They can view your hours, address, and even a menu or prices if that makes sense for your business. Further, they can quickly give you a call or visit your website right from your profile.
How does this help your local SEO efforts?
Because Google uses the information on your GMB profile to determine your business’s location. Then, when a user performs a search related to your business in that area, your profile will pop up.
List Your Business Website on Directories
One of the major signals Google looks for when ranking a website is how many backlinks a website has that link to it. Backlinks are simply links from other sites that link back to your website.
Google uses this to determine the quality of your website. To Google, these links signify trust and high-quality content. Otherwise, other websites wouldn’t be linking back to your website.
However, when you’re first starting these can be incredibly hard to get. Fortunately, there is a quick workaround that can give your website more visibility on the local level and help you start building these backlinks.
By adding your business website to online business directories, you can increase your chances of showing up top on local search results.
Listing your business info on these websites gives you a backlink, and increases your SEO authority.
Here are a few directories that make for a good start for most businesses:
- Local Chamber of Commerce
- Industry Associations
One thing to note when doing this is to ensure your NAP (Name, Address, Phone) information is correct and that they are consistent across platforms. Otherwise, Google may penalize you in the search results.
Setting up your Google My Business profile and adding your business information to the above directories are the first two steps all businesses should take to starting ranking for Local SEO.
However, that alone isn’t going to get your rank for local SEO. Once you’ve taken care of those basics, it’s time to start turning your attention to content creation.
Create Valuable Content for Your Local Audience
The way you begin to rank on Google is to create high quality, SEO optimized content. This is true whether you are trying to rank for local SEO or general SEO. Content could mean anything –blogs, ebooks, podcasts, videos, webinars are all fair game and can be used to bring in new business.
However, to rank for local SEO, written content will be your best bet. When Google analyzes your website, it is looking to see what topics you are an authority on. This way, when people search for a topic, they can display websites that have high-quality content to provide a satisfying experience to whoever is searching.
If you are new to SEO in general, we highlight recommend the beginners guide to SEO from MOZ.
Brainstorming Content Ideas for Local SEO
Knowing all this, how do you go about creating content so that you can rank for Local SEO?
It starts with brainstorming content ideas. Make sure it relates to your industry and would be a topic someone interested in your business’s products/services would potentially Google if they were looking businesses like yours.
That way, when they do, your content will show up. When brainstorming, ask yourself: What will your target audience find helpful? How does this benefit them? What business goals will this drive for me?
Asking yourselves these questions will help to ensure your content is found helpful by potential customers. If you can provide a little value upfront, you will establish your authority on the subject and gain their trust. From there, they are much more likely to become a customer in the future.
So, what does this look like in practice? Let’s use a landscaping business as an example.
A landscaper would want to rank for any search term related to landscaping. That way, when someone searches “landscaper near me” or “landscaping services NJ” your website will show up.
The best way to do this would be to create a page or post on your website dedicated to landscaping. Then, write blogs related to landscaping, such as how to care for your grass or the differences between different types of mulch.
Then, link it back to that main page. This is called creating cluster topics.
Over time, you will have covered a broad array of topics related to landscaping. Then, whenever someone searches for anything landscaping related, your business website will show up.
Going about SEO this way ensures you stay on topic, quickly develop authority, and create internal links for your content, which is another significant factor Google uses to rank websites.
Perform Keyword Research So You Don’t Waste Your Time
The way you can ensure people are searching for the topics you're writing about is to perform keyword research.
With keyword research, you can view the search volume of a specific term and how difficult it would be to rank for it. When performing keyword research for local SEO, look for phrases with high volume and low difficulty.
That’s the sweet spot.
Once you’ve got keywords for the brainstormed content ideas, you want to ensure that it is featured throughout the blog post you write. Don’t go overboard – keyword stuffing is a black hat SEO tactic and will get you penalized by Google.
As a general rule of thumb, try to include your keyword one time for every 100 – 200 words in your post. So a blog post with 1000 words should have the keyword between 5 –10 times in it.
We recommend the following tools to help you perform keyword research:
For a complete guide on performing keyword research, we recommend checking out this guide from Yoast SEO.
Ensure On-Page SEO is Done Right
On-Page SEO refers to crafting your blog content in a way that makes it clear to Google what it’s about so that you can rank for the terms your targeting.
Getting this right is key to making sure you maximize the ROI of your local SEO efforts.
You can spend all your time creating great content, but if Google can’t find it because your On-Page SEO isn’t done correctly, no one will be able to see it, and your efforts will take you nowhere.
Here are some tips to make sure your on-page SEO is perfect:
- Break blog posts up into sections using H2 and H3 headings. This allows Google to quickly scan your post so it knows what it’s about and can match it to the right search queries. It also helps readers skim your post.
- Ensure your chosen keyword is in each post 5 – 10 times.
- Put the keyword in the URL.
- Add in images for better presentation and use alt-image tags so Google can know what your image is about.
- Include a solid mix of inbound and outbound links.
- Compress images, so they load quickly.
- Optimize meta title and description for search engines.
These on-page SEO tips are a good starting point when posting your first blogs. For a full rundown on On-page SEO factors that affect your content, check out this SEO guide from Moz.
Local SEO is vital for showing up in local search results and Maps. By following the strategies outlined in this post, you can be found amongst your most likely customer base and be shown ahead of your competitors on the search engines.