Your Guide to Local Business SEO Success | Linkflow
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Your Guide to Local Business SEO Success

November 30, 2023

Even as a local business owner, figuring out how to get more customers online should be your top priority. Whether they live nearby or are just passing through, most people will search Google when they’re looking for products or services in the area.

The only way they’ll find you is if you appear in local search results.

In today’s article, I’ll give you the rundown on developing a local SEO strategy and tapping into your nearby customers.

What is local SEO?

Local SEO is a search engine optimization strategy focused on increasing organic traffic, online visibility, and brand awareness for a business in a specific geographical location. With a website optimized for local search results, your business will appear when nearby customers search for the products or services your business offers.

Common local SEO tasks include:

  • Optimizing your Google Business Profile listing
  • Targeting local keywords (e.g., “coffee shop near me“)
  • Creating name, address, and phone number (NAP) citations
  • Managing customer reviews
  • Creating content relevant to your local audience

The goal of local SEO is simple: make it easier for potential customers in your area to find and choose your business over competitors. Whether they’re out-of-towners or part of the local community, local SEO (done right) brings you more foot traffic and online business.

Who needs local SEO?

Local SEO targets potential customers using search engines to find products and services near their current location. So, anyone running a business offering services to customers in a particular region needs a solid local SEO strategy.

Here are a few examples of businesses that would want to show up in local searches:

  • Restaurants and cafes
  • Retail stores
  • Professional service providers like lawyers, accountants, plumbers, and electricians
  • Doctors’ offices and healthcare practices
  • Home-based businesses
  • Marketing and creative agencies
  • Ecommerce businesses with local delivery/pickup options or that partner with local retailers (e.g., Walmart, Target, Amazon, Farfetch)
  • Blogs and websites with local guides (e.g., a travel blog)

For the most part, local SEO matters to local businesses with a physical location. What you might not realize is it also includes those serving (or targeting) a specific area virtually.

Let’s say you’re a therapist in the state of California. Licensure is controlled at the state level, so you can only practice within state borders. In this case, local SEO means ranking well for “therapy services in {City in California}” instead of “therapy services.”

You can also use local SEO to go after customers in a particular region, even if you don’t exclusively target that region.

Ecommerce businesses, for instance, could use local SEO to bring in customers from bigger cities nearby. People might come across your site while looking for products they can find locally but may be interested in purchasing online instead.

When I search for designer shopping in my area, a good chunk of the search results are ecommerce retailers. And the pages that rank are the homepages, not a store locator.

Even if the business itself isn’t located anywhere special, you still need to target your potential customers’ locations. Always think about where your customers are located and design a strategy to help them find you easily through local search results.

What makes local SEO different?

Local search engine optimization is just like regular SEO in the sense that it focuses on increasing website visibility and organic traffic on search engines. What differentiates local SEO is its geographical component.

Google’s main goal is to present the most relevant results to its users. Since geography comes into play, there are three additional local SEO ranking factors to consider:

  • Relevance — How relevant your business is to the user’s search query
  • Distance — How close your business location is to the user’s current location
  • Prominence — How well-known and authoritative your business is in the area

It’s also important to understand that people looking for a local business use Google differently.

They might type in “restaurants near me” or “best coffee shops in [city].” Or, they might head straight to Maps.

Local search engine results pages (SERPs) look quite different as a result.

Usually, a map shows up straight away. Let’s see what comes up when I look for Korean food in NYC…

Beside the map, there’s a list of businesses with their Google Business listings. These generally include:

  • A brief description of the business and what it does
  • Basic information like address, phone number, and business hours
  • Photos
  • Reviews
  • A link to the website or other important information (e.g., a menu for a restaurant)

When I click the first one, it opens up to show me all this info.

From there, I can contact the business directly, get directions, visit their website, or carry out a number of different activities right from this interface.

Therein lies a crucial distinction: Many users will never visit your website. They’ll use Google’s built-in functions instead.

The conversion funnel won’t always follow the traditional “land on website -> browse around -> make a purchase” trajectory. Local searchers might simply see your business, then call you or head straight there.

So, you need to optimize for Google’s UX. Not just your own.

Local keywords

Local keywords are phrases that include a specific location. They’re an essential part of local SEO because they help search engines understand where your business operates and makes it easier for nearby customers to find you.

Some examples of local keywords include:

  • [City] + [service/product] (“New York pizza delivery)
  • [Service/product] + near me (“best coffee shop near me”)
  • [City] + [service/product] + near me (“Los Angeles shopping malls near me”)
  • Best [service/product] in [City] (“best electrician in Charlotte, NC”)

Local keywords won’t only return local results. You’ll see a map pack at the top and organic results below.

  • A map pack is a group of businesses that match your search query and show up on the map. These are the local businesses.
  • Organic results are the standard blue links that show up below the map pack. These results are relevant to your local search query but aren’t necessarily located nearby.

The key here is search intent. Whether you’re a local business or an online source of information, Google will put you at the top of local rankings if you provide valuable context to the user’s local query.

When you’re conducting keyword research for local SEO, consider adding these types of phrases to your list:

  • City and state names
  • Neighborhoods or districts within the city
  • Zip codes or postal codes
  • Nearby landmarks, attractions, and popular spots

From there, look for long-tail keywords related to your business (like the ones above) using:

  • A keyword research tool like Ahrefs or Semrush
  • Google autocomplete
  • Google Keyword Planner

As always, shoot for ones with a low KD (if you’re starting out) that match your search intent (i.e., commercial vs. informational).

Google My Business

Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business) is a free tool that helps local business owners like you manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Google Maps.

For local SEO, it’s an essential piece of the puzzle because it helps you rank in the map pack and relevant organic results.

You’ll make an account first. Then, you’ll need to add or claim your business listing depending on whether Google has identified and listed it.

Once verified, you can update important information, like hours of operation and service areas. The process couldn’t be easier.

  • Ensure your business has a physical address.
  • Visit the Google My Business home page.
  • Click on “Start Now.”
  • Enter your company’s contact details.
  • Google will verify your business (this takes around 7 days).
  • Add info to make it live and visible (at first, updated information will take an additional 2-3 weeks).
  • Optimize your Google listing by filling out all the information needed to help customers complete their journey with you. This includes business categories or tags, special offers, current photos of your business’s interior and exterior, booking and purchase funnels, and business-specific info like a menu.
  • Respond to customers’ comments using local SEO keywords (more on that later).

One super cool feature of Google Business Profile is the ability to post updates like upcoming local events, offers, and new products directly on your Business Profile.

This makes it easier for potential customers to discover what’s going on with your business and makes it easier to complete bookings/purchases.

Local citations

Local citations (also called NAP, or name, address, and phone number citations) are listings of your business information on other websites. They help search engines understand more about your business and verify its identity.

Some examples of local citations include:

  • Local business directories like Yelp, TripAdvisor, or Angie’s List
  • Industry-specific directories like for attorneys
  • Industry partnership pages, like Semrush’s Partner Directory or Farfetch’s local boutique partners
  • Social media profiles (Facebook Business Page)
  • Local business blogs and news articles that mention your company

NAP citations help with your local rankings because they provide valuable backlinks to your website. Google uses these to verify your business’s legitimacy and trustworthiness.

Besides the fact that potential customers will find you through these listings, search engines also use them to verify and validate your business’s existence, relevance to a particular search query, and prominence in your space.

You can use local SEO tools like the Semrush Listing Management tool to manage all your local business listings in one place.

Anytime you need to fix something, you’ll know where the issue is coming from and what you need to do.

Online reviews

Positive reviews build trust with your local customers. 93% of people use them before making an online purchase.

They also help search engines validate and rank your business in the local results.

But don’t try to cheat the system by buying or creating fake reviews. Google’s algorithm is smart enough to detect and remove them.

Instead, encourage satisfied customers to leave reviews on platforms like Google, Yelp, and Facebook. You can do this by:

  • Giving customers a QR code that links to your business’s review page
  • Sending a follow-up email asking for feedback and including links to leave reviews
  • Not offering money in exchange for reviews (it’s against Google’s terms)

Google also recommends responding to reviews (positive and negative). Doing so shows you value customer feedback and proactively address any concerns or issues.

Again, Semrush’s Listing Management tool can help you here (under Review Management).

All you have to do is click on a review. Then, you can reply within the Semrush interface.

Location landing pages

All these local SEO tips and best practices are in addition to traditional SEO fundamentals and best practices.

In addition to everything you’d do for local listings, remember the following:

  • Conduct keyword research to identify the best terms for your business
  • Create high-quality, engaging content that’s relevant and useful to your local audience
  • Don’t stuff your landing pages with unnecessary keywords
  • Optimize on-page elements like title tags, meta descriptions, and header tags
  • Make your site as user-friendly as possible (page speed, mobile compatibility, UI elements)
  • Build quality backlinks through partnerships and guest posting

Most importantly, focus on delivering great products and services. Local SEO should work in tandem with your personal efforts — it’s 100x more effective when you naturally build authority through satisfied customers and business growth initiatives.

On the surface, it looks like a third-grader could set up a business profile, verify their business listing, and write some content.

But that isn’t really how local SEO works.

Between keyword research, link building, listing management, and on-page optimization, you’ll have a lot on your plate. And that doesn’t even account for non-local searches and results.

Local businesses almost always outsource this to the experts.

Let us handle the boring technical stuff so you can focus on what you do best: running your business.

Brittney Fred, SEO Analyst
Brittney has been working in SEO and digital marketing for ten years and specializes in content strategy for the B2B SaaS industry. She is based in Denver, CO and absolutely fits the Denverite stereotype. You’re just as likely to find her hiking, snowboarding, or doing yoga as reading sci-fi or playing video games.