Do you provide products or services on a mainly local basis? A hairdresser, butcher or restaurant, for example. If so, local SEO is vitally important in helping more people find you.
If you’re already “doing” SEO, you might be wondering: what is local SEO, and do I need it? With a growing number of mobile searches and people shopping locally with COVID-19, the answer is likely to be yes. In fact, by ignoring local SEO, you could be missing out on a large pool of potential customers.
We’re here to explain where to focus your local SEO efforts, and what you need to know about local search.
What is local SEO?
Local SEO is the process of optimising your website and Google my Business (GMB) listing in order to capture an audience in the same geographical area as your business. This is done in various ways: some of which are similar to regular SEO, while other methods are unique to local.
Local SEO is all about helping local customers find you, and targets location-based search queries to promote your business, product or service to users with matching IP addresses (for desktop) or geolocation (for mobile). Based on a search query, search engines are able to tell whether the user requires a solution in close proximity to their location. This determines the results they see.
What’s the difference between SEO and local SEO?
Local SEO is a subset of SEO, and draws from broader SEO best practices. Like SEO, its goal is to improve your rankings—specifically in local search results. Local searches are almost always conducted by locals in the area. SEO, on the other hand, is not limited to any one location. For this reason, a local SEO strategy is more focused and localised.
If you are interested in finding out more about SEO in general, we wrote a handy guide here.
Who benefits from local SEO?
Whether you’ve got one or multiple service areas or physical locations, SMEs who interact with customers in-person stand to benefit from local SEO the most.
- 30% of all mobile searches are related to location.
- 76% of people who search on their smartphones for something nearby visit a business within a day.
- 28% of searches for something nearby result in a purchase.
- 54% of smartphone users search for business hours and 53% search for directions to a local store.
- About 45% of global shoppers buy online and then pick up in-store.
- “Where to buy” and “near me” mobile queries have grown by over 200% between 2017–2019.
- Mobile searches for “store open near me” (e.g. “supermarket open near me”) have grown by over 250% from 2017–2019.
- Mobile searches for “on-sale” and “near me” (e.g., “tires on sale near me”) have grown by over 250% YOY from 2017–2019.
You’ll find two types of businesses in local search: businesses with a physical location (local businesses) and service area businesses. For local businesses, your address is visible. For service area businesses, your address is hidden and you select the postcodes that you service.
How does local SEO work?
Local SEO is key for any local business looking to grow their online presence. So how does local SEO work?
Local search results are the pack or block of business listings that are shown after a local based search. These results are pretty different from your standard search results, and contain unique information like opening times, phone number, user reviews and photos. Google’s algorithms are smart enough to pull this information from your website, but in fact this information comes from a business’ Google My Business profile.
Well, let’s say you’re searching for a plumber. Before providing search results, the search engine takes your location into account. After all, there’s no point in suggesting a plumber in a different city; Google’s goal is to deliver the most useful and relevant results. A search engine understands that certain types of businesses serve their surrounding area, and this is why you’ll often see location-based results even if your search didn’t explicitly include “near me” or a place name.
With that said, users are able to search for businesses outside of their area by adding what’s known as a location qualifier. For example, searching “hotels ireland” or “hotels new zealand” would return results based on businesses in those locations, regardless of where you were searching from.
Types of local search results
Local search results offer many opportunities for local businesses. These results are displayed differently depending on the user’s search, and what type of local business they’re looking for. Local search results can take the form of:
Paid Google Ads. Appears above the local pack, and is done through PPC advertising—where local keywords are bid on through Google, with the winner securing the top spot in search result pages for that keyword.
Organic local search rankings. Appears below the local pack as non-paid results. These are site pages which have been SEO optimised, to rank for certain keywords.
The local pack. These results come from Google My Business, so to appear here, you need to claim or create a Google My Business page with as many details added as possible.
OneBox. This is when Google feels that it can satisfy the user’s query with just one business. This appears as a knowledge panel (below) to the right of all other results. To appear here, ensure you’ve claimed or created your Google My Business listing, with all fields filled out.
Why is local SEO important?
If you’re deciding whether local SEO is worthwhile for your business, consider this:
- Do you operate from a physical location, or serve a geographic area of any size?
- If you conduct a search for keywords relevant to your business, does the local pack (a list of nearby competitors) appear? If it does, local SEO could benefit you.
Google’s local algorithm and organic algorithm operate separately, which means you’ve got the opportunity to appear in local search results and organic results. Local SEO could also be the difference between a customer choosing you over a competitor—simply because you’ve checked that your local search signals are consistent and up-to-date.
How to implement local SEO
You can approach local SEO in a few different ways, and it’s important to consider what’s right for your business. In some cases, paid advertising can help you succeed, but first, there are some organic (free) measures you can take.
On-page local SEO
On-page local SEO focuses on your website. It’s all about making sure that search engines know where your business is located, as well as important details like opening hours and contact information. By optimising your metadata and creating content with this information, you can ensure the success of any local SEO efforts. We explain how to do it in the sections below.
Optimise your metadata
When you optimise your page titles and meta descriptions, you can entice searchers to choose your website over your competitors’. It’s best to include your target location, service, and any relevant keywords in your metadata. For example:
- Page titles are what users see in local search results, and on the browser tab. It’s best to keep this under 60 characters.
- Meta descriptions are the website descriptions shown in Google. It’s best to keep this under 160 characters.
Create local content
By creating localised pages on your site, you can target local audiences and indicate to search engines that your content is relevant to local searches. Website localisation: This means including your city, county or region name naturally throughout your website. For businesses with several locations, this could mean creating separate pages or Content Hubs for individual locations. Here are a few local content ideas you can start with.
- Build local landing pages for every location you service. On these pages, include your site’s address and phone number, and optimise page titles and meta descriptions.
- Optimise headers (A.K.A <H1> HTML tags). These are the on-page titles. This helps with local SEO and improves your site’s overall user experience. For example, your header on a location page could look like: “#1 Plumber in Sydney, Australia.”
- Add or make use of your blog. Here, you can create a content marketing strategy based on specific locations. For example, write local case studies or an FAQ page where you mention the areas you service.
- Create a store locator feature to help users find you in different locations. Many CMS’ offer this as an additional feature, so it can be added to your website with minimal fuss.
Off-page local SEO
Off-page local SEO refers to efforts conducted in places other than your website. In the below sections, we take you through or main recommendations for off-page local SEO.
Claim or create your Google My Business listing
Google My Business is a free platform that allows you to manage your business(es) profile(s) on Google. According to Google, “with a Google My Business account, you get more than a business listing. Your free business profile lets you easily connect with customers across Google Search and Maps.”
Claiming or creating your Google My Business listing should be the first thing you do. You can check whether you have a Google My Business listing either by searching for your business name, or with the help of this tool.
When you fill out your Google My Business listing, you’re immediately giving your company free business branding in local search results. You are also helping potential customers book appointments, request quotes, and contact you, all from the search engines’ result pages.
Local business listings and citations
While the incredibly important first step in local SEO is claiming your business listing, Google uses other sources, known as “citations”, to verify that the information you have provided is correct and consistent. An example of a citation would be our listing on Business Search NZ:
Local citations appear on other business listing sites, which collectively help search engines confirm your business’ name, address and phone number (NAP). There are a few different places you can secure mentions for your local business:
- Industry-specific directories and lists
- Trade associations
- Local chambers of commerce
- Your local distributors, suppliers, and buying groups
- Other local businesses
- Charities or sponsorships you’ve supported
- Any local press coverage your local business receives
Make sure any listings are correct and consistent with your Google My Business Profile.
Your NAP (name, address, phone number) and opening hours should be available across your site in the footer. This emphasises your location, and makes it easy for customers to contact you regardless of where they are on your site. You can also link to your social media and Google My Business listing here.
Once you have the above information displayed sitewide, you can use schema to tell Google that you own a local business, and where you serve your customers. For more information on schema and how it works, read our user’s guide here.
General local SEO tips
- Check out the competition! What can you copy from your competitors appearing in local search, and what can you improve for your own local business?
- When updating your Google My Business listing, make sure you fill out every field and make use of Google Posts. This will maximise the accurate information the search engine has on your business, and Google will reward you with rankings as a result.
- Encourage customers to review you on Google, and respond to reviews—good or bad. It’s also a good idea to respond to any questions on Google My Business.
Grow your business with Vine Digital’s local SEO
Due to COVID-19, local searches are more important than ever, and they’re only going to grow even more significant—especially considering how keen Google is, to keep the local search experience off your website.
All local businesses, from plumbers and builders to florists and accountants, can take advantage of local SEO to boost your sales before competitors start doing so as well.
Organic results are the webpages that appear in search results as a result of SEO.
A HTML element which shows the title of your webpage in search results, and in the browser tab.
Meta descriptions describe the content on a particular page of your website. These are HTML elements, and often appear in search result pages.
<H1> HTML tags
HTML tags are part of a HTML document: code which specifies the layout of text, images and hyperlinks on a webpage.
Local citations are mentions of your business on other sites, and generally include details such as name, address and phone number. For a search engine like Google, local citations help verify that you have provided the correct information about your business.
Google Posts operate through Google My Business, and appear as part of the knowledge panel where all your business’ information is listed in search results. Google Posts gives you the opportunity to provide users with regular updates about your local business.
Local search signals
Local search signals are a collection of different factors, which Google and other search engines use to determine your ranking in search results.
A CMS stands for Content Management System – a software solution for managing your website. There are a number of Content Management Systems you can choose from depending on your needs.