SEO, or search engine optimization, has long been a crucial pillar in every business’s online and social media strategy. With consumers heavily relying on the internet to provide information that directly impacts purchasing decisions, businesses must ensure they are searchable. But for businesses with brick-and-mortar spaces, it's also important for customers to know exactly where to find you, how to get to you, and how to connect with you. This is where local SEO comes in.
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO involves optimization methods that are specifically geared towards improving a business’s ranking in local search results, particularly those with physical stores or offices. This includes searches with terms like “___ near me” and “___ in [city, district, street]”.
Google’s algorithms for local SEO factor in a person’s location when you search using local keywords or phrases with local intent, even if you don’t use phrases like “near me” or “in [city, district, street]”. For example, you may find that searching for “best Chinese takeout” at home will produce different results from searching “best Chinese takeout” while at work or in a different city.
Local SEO is nothing new. You’ve likely seen buttons on Google Maps to show you "Restaurants," "Coffee," "Groceries," "Shopping," and other key places near a certain location. But the need for it has certainly skyrocketed through the years as people became more mobile.
Why is Local Search Engine Optimization Important?
Ensuring your business is visible in local search results helps both loyal patrons and potential new customers. For example, a returning customer may be interested in visiting an alternate location closer to them or look up your operating hours without having to call. On the other hand, visitors or new residents may explore what key businesses or landmarks are in the area.
Researching a business before visiting its physical location is deeply embedded in consumers’ behavior, as backed by statistics:
83% of shoppers in the U.S. who visited a physical store in the last seven days state that they first conducted an online search before going to the store.
According to a global survey, 74% of in-store shoppers who did online research before visiting the location to shop stated that they looked up in-store related queries like "closest store near me," "in stock near me," store hours, directions to the store location, potential wait times, and contact information.
88% of customers who locally search on their phones visit a related store within seven days.
In 2021, 78% of customers turned to the internet more than once a week to research information about local businesses. This was a 9% increase from 2020.
How Can You Improve Your Business’s Local SEO?
Google’s local SEO algorithm takes its cue from several factors to identify businesses in an area. Keep in mind that, as with most things involving online marketing, there is no exact formula to follow to the letter to reap guaranteed standardized results. However, these key factors are identified based on historical best practices. As the internet and all the platforms on it are constantly evolving, including Google, local SEO optimization will require tweaking and updating to find what works best for your business.
Here are some ways you can optimize your local SEO to boost your business’s visibility in search results:
Create and Complete Your "Google My Business" Account
It’s a free and intuitive platform that enables businesses to input their details — such as location, contact details, and operating hours — into the greater Google network, including Google Maps. Search algorithms leverage information from Google My Business (GMB) to show businesses and key locations within a person’s proximity. Once Google verifies your business, you may even get sidebar space when people specifically search for your business.
Encourage Customers to Leave Online Reviews
Once you have your GMB set up, encourage your customers to leave reviews on Google. As proven by the statistics above, consumers research relevant information online before visiting the physical location. Reviews will help both Google and fellow customers verify a business’s authenticity and quality. These can also influence others’ overall purchasing decisions. Make sure to respond to the reviews, both good and bad, to further validate your credibility. You can also cross-post from your other social media pages.
Optimize Your Website’s Location Signals
As with general SEO, search algorithms will crawl your website for highly relevant and strategically placed keywords to determine what topics and search terms to associate your website with. Ensure your website pages contain crucial details, such as your company name, correct address, and contact details, in crawlable HTML text. For businesses with multiple locations, consider developing a designated “Locations” or “Contact Us” page that includes pertinent information about all your sites.
Backlinks are links from other websites that direct back to your website. Every quality link supports the validity of your website and business to Google, consequently impacting your local SEO. Start by partnering with credible local and industry publications, community websites, local bloggers, and event pages. The local SEO algorithm will consider both the quality and quantity of the backlinks, so consider the relevance of the links, the authority of the website, and the text used to link back to your website.
Increase Your Online Citations
Back in the day, people used the Yellow Pages to locate addresses and contact details. But these days, there is a myriad of online directories and citations to find a business’s details. Ensure that your full business name, address, and contact information are correct and consistent across your website and online citations to avoid misdirecting potential consumers and Google’s algorithm.
Produce Relevant Website Content
Developing and publishing original website content boosts local SEO, just as it helps with your overall search engine rankings. Establish your credibility as an authoritative local resource for the industry with blogs, research articles, news updates, videos, infographics, and event posts. By posting about a variety of useful and locally relevant topics, users are more likely to turn to you for information, thereby boosting your website stats and credibility.
Ensure each piece of content is optimized with the appropriate keywords in the URL, title, description, and content body. Once you have a few blogs, internally link to relevant pieces of content to help visitors navigate the website and encourage them to stick around for longer.