What is Local SEO?
Local SEO is the art and science of helping a local business to rank higher for searches from people in that area. For example, if someone in Denver, CO searches for “good date restaurant”, local SEO determines which websites rank for that search query.
The top three listing are what’s called the carousel; which can show the titles, customer reviews, location, thumbnail, and more for each business. As you can imagine, if you rank in the carousel for a term like, “pizza near me”, that can drive a lot of traffic and a lot of business.
Local SEO has evolved a lot over the past few years, as Google’s algorithm changed to deliver more targeted, relevant listings. Here’s how it has changed over the years:
February 2012: Google releases Venice, an algorithm update that helped show locally relevant webpages to users. So, for instance, if you searched for “great pizza” with your location set to Denver, it became less likely that you would see a pizza place in New York.
July 2014: Google releases Pigeon, which ties geographic results into traditional web search ranking signals and generally improved local search results.
September 2016: Google releases Possum, which helped businesses outside of city limits to rank higher for geo-specific queries. So, for instance, if you searched “Pizza near me” in Denver, after Possum, pizza restaurants in Lakewood or Littleton would be more likely to rank.
Why is Local SEO Important?
This tactic is important because, when users search for geo-modified keywords like, “Pizza denver” (or, even better, “pizza near me”), they’re in a buying mood. According to a study by TMP/comScore, 82% of people who search for a local term end up following up; whether with a phone call, a purchase, or a visit to your store. In fact, 61% of local search queries end in a purchase. Most of these searches are coming from mobile devices, and there’s a good chance the searcher of, “pizza near me,” is driving around at the moment looking for pizza.
If someone searches for, “Pizza near me” and you show up prominently for that search, there’s a good chance that you just made a new customer.
How do I Do Local SEO?
Local SEO is a complex, ever-expanding part of SEO, so there’s a lot that a good local SEO service can do to help you; but if you want to boost your traffic yourself, there are a few basic elements to focus on. These elements won’t get you to the top of Google on their own, but they can provide a foundation.
Citations are essentially references to your business in online directories, like Yelp or Yahoo’s Regional Directory. There are dozens, but some of the most important are Yelp, Yahoo, and Google My Business. It’s also important to get citations from niche directories, for instance a directory of doctors if you’re a medical practice. Citations are the local-SEO parallel to link-building.
To build a citation, simply go to the relevant website (ex. google.com/business for Google My Business) and add your business. It’s important to include your business’ Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP), and make sure that the NAP details you use are consistent across all platforms. Don’t say, “Suite 202” in one place and “STE 202” on another citation. Incomplete or contradictory citation data sends a poor signal to Google.
A good local SEO service can help you build high-quality citations that drive results, without the headache and steep learning curve of trying to do citation building on your own.
#2: On-Page Markup
If you run a local business like a restaurant, it’s important to include your full address, your city, and your state prominently on your website. To make sure Google gets the message, you should include schema markup, which tells Google that (for instance) “123 Main Street” is your address.
You can also use Schema markup to tell Google your hours of operation, phone number, price range, and more. Using Schema markup tells Google exactly what all of this information is, and helps make sure they’ll pull this information into your Carousel listing.
Notice the reviews, price range ($ or $$, it goes all the way up to $$$$), and description. Schema markup makes sure Google pulls this information.
You can find a full list of the schema markup you can use for local SEO here: https://schema.org/LocalBusiness
You can also add your city name into your title tag or H1 tag, like this:
Notice the “Lakewood, CO” in the title tag for these pizza places.
If you have a good webmaster, they should be able to help with this local SEO service. It’s fairly simple if you know how to implement the markup.
#3: Relevant Local Content
If you want to rank highly for terms like, “Pizza in Lakewood, CO”, it’s not enough to just have a location in Lakewood. To rank highly, you should be a fixture in the community. Since Google can’t track your offline presence, it looks at your online presence instead to see how involved you are in the community.
What does this mean? It means if you’re serious about local SEO, starting a blog focused around the community can be a good move. You could blog about local news and events that relate to your business, for instance. Creating local, relevant content tells Google that you’re an authority and should rank more highly.
As a business owner, building this kind of blog is doable but generally time-consuming. A good local SEO company can help you write high-quality, targeted blogs that grow your rankings for searches near you.
If you’re a local business, there’s no two ways about this–you need positive online reviews. People who search for local terms, like, “Pizza near me,” are in a buying mood–and buyers want to see positive reviews so they’re reassured that they’re not making a mistake. According to BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey, “88% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.”
Online reviews can show up in two places besides on your website. First, if you get positive reviews on Yelp for instance, every user who sees your business and then visits your Yelp listing is going to see those positive reviews.
Second, when you use a schema markup for reviews, your aggregate reviews get pulled into your carousel listing.
Notice Pizza Hut in the screenshot above? Those mediocre reviews are hurting them.
Should I Hire a Local SEO Company?
Local SEO is a complex and time-consuming marketing tactic. If you’re going to do it well on your own, you need to compile a list of local and niche directories, and then do the time-consuming and often frustrating work of building citations on each platform. You’ll also need to thoroughly audit your existing local presence to make sure you don’t end up hurting yourself.
A software provider like BrightLocal can help, but won’t eliminate the work you have to do.
You’ll also need to add schema markup to your site, and probably start a blog. You’ll need to cultivate positive reviews. And if you have multiple locations, things get even more complicated.
Or, you can hire a local SEO service that can take away the hassle. At Colorado SEO Pros, we have a proven track record of helping our local clients rank high for local searchers, and drive ready-to-buy traffic to their sites.
If you’re looking for a powerful, proven Local SEO service to boost your rankings and grow your traffic, ask us for a free audit today.