- Posted by: Morten Skaaningsrud
- Category: SEO
Having success in local SEO can be a difference-maker for any business with a local audience. People tend to research products, services, and companies before they purchase, which is why local SEO is so important.
To do basic local SEO, you need to understand SEO, own a laptop, and have an internet connection. It’s not difficult to get started, but it takes years to truly master. If you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself or you want to spend more time doing what you are best at, you can subscribe to one of our local SEO packages here at Onmark.
If you are curious about what local SEO is and what can be done to increase your visibility in a local area, this expert guide on local SEO is for you.
If you feel like something is missing or would like to give us some feedback on the article, we welcome you to comment below. But first, here’s everything you will find in this complete SEO guide for ranking local business websites from Onmark.
- What is local SEO?
- Why Local SEO is Essential for Local Businesses
- What influences local SEO?
- Link Building as a Local SEO Ranking Factor
- Google Business Profile – What It is And Why You Need It
- The Use of Citations In Local SEO
- The Effect of Positive Reviews
- The 2022 Local SEO Checklist
- Local SEO FAQ
What is local SEO?
SEO is an abbreviation for search engine optimization and is the act of optimizing websites to increase their visibility in search engines. Depending on the search query you use, search engines such as Google can show you both different results and different search results pages.
The image above shows a search with local intent. This person is looking for a coffee shop, so Google shows the user a local map and a list of local coffee shops.
On the other hand, the image below is an example of a search with informational intent. The person is looking for information on finding the best coffee shop. The search results page is very different from the above example, showing a mix of guides and frequently asked questions around the same subject.
There are numerous reasons it can be suitable for a local coffee shop to increase its visibility on both of these searches; the first example is likely to generate more leads and customers for a local business.
While SEO, in general, is the act of optimizing websites to increase their visibility in search engines, local SEO is the act of optimizing websites to increase their visibility in search engines when the search query has local intent.
Why Local SEO is Essential for Local Businesses
Now that you know what local SEO is, you already have an idea of why it’s important. That’s not going to stop us from going a little bit further into detail about why local SEO is important and why your business is missing out on a lot of potential customers.
In 2021, 46% of all desktop and mobile searches on Google had local intent. 76% of those searches resulted in a store visit that day. There are 5.3 million searches in the US with commercial intent for variations of “coffee shop” every month. This creates a clear picture of why it’s vital to local SEO when you run a business.
Here’s an example of the number of searches for “coffee shops” in some large countries worldwide.
What influences local SEO?
There are many theories on what works and what doesn’t work in SEO. If you are looking for a ranking hack, this is not it. This section of our guide on local SEO will discuss a few fundamental and influential factors in local SEO.
If you are in the SEO community, you will likely know Mike Friedman. Besides being a SEMRUSH ambassador, he is also the owner of Clicked Marketing and the man behind The SEO Pub. We asked him the following questions:
What are some indisputable ranking factors in local SEO?
To which he responded,
— In my opinion, right now, the two most significant factors in local SEO are proximity and the account name for your Google Business Profile. The closer your location is to the searcher, the more likely you will show up. That’s why businesses on the outskirts of cities have difficulty ranking for people searching in the city.Mike Friedman, The SEO Pub
The name of the account, why is that important?
— I don’t know why Google has decided to put so much emphasis on the account’s name, but they have. It reminds me of the days when EMDs got a big boost. If your Google Business Profile is named “Austin Eye Doctor,” that will provide a massive boost for anyone searching for eye doctors in Austin.Mike Friedman, The SEO Pub
Link Building as a Local SEO Ranking Factor
The quality of the links leading to your website is a significant ranking factor in SEO. This is why so many website owners invest in link-building services every day. But is it essential to do link-building when you run a local shop? It depends.
Whether it makes sense to build links depends entirely on the kind of business you run and what you want to achieve. In some industries, people want to find where they can purchase a product. A good example of this is a coffee shop (A).
In other industries, people need more information before purchasing a product or a service. A good example of this is a law firm (B).
In example A, potential customers could benefit from reviews, location, and opening hours. This is all covered by your Google Business Profile and does not call for link-building as a strategy.
In example B, however, the potential client could benefit from knowing what kind of law you practice, the track record of your law firm, and lots of other information. This will call for content on your page, and because of the competition, your content will need backlinks to get visibility in search engines.
Google Business Profile – What It is And Why You Need It
If you are running a brick-and-mortar business, you need to use the free tool Google Business Profile. Google Business Profile is a free way to create a listing for your business.
It allows the owner of an establishment (a restaurant, a butcher, etc.) or other location (perhaps an office or branch) to create a page about their business online for free. There are certain advantages to having your own Google Business Profile.
You will find it easier to get visibility in local searches because you now have a verified location. The importance of this cannot be overstated; it gives credibility to your company’s physical location and makes it easy for potential customers to find the products or services you offer through Google Maps.
The other advantage is it gives you the ability to connect with your customers, which is extremely important for all businesses. These two factors are indisputable benefits of a Google Business Profile.
The Use of Citations In Local SEO
A local citation is any online mention of a local business’s name, address, and phone number. The most common places these occur are in local business directories, newspapers, and social networks.
There was a time when local citations would work wonders to gain visibility in local search results. Nowadays, having a Google Business Profile has taken over. Google has emphasized the profile’s name and location so much that it is practically unthinkable not to have one.
Does Google Business Profile make local citations redundant? No, it doesn’t, and we will explain why.
Whether or not you gain an SEO advantage from mentions in local newspapers or listings in local business directories is disputed. Here at Onmark, we have no evidence to back up such a claim.
Understanding the value of local citation is about keeping your eyes on the goal. Your goal is to attract more customers. People use local business directories; they use them to search for local businesses and to find out where they can purchase certain products and services.
This expands the term “SEO” from Google and Bing to include local business directories. As long as people keep using directories, they will be essential for your local SEO efforts.
The Effect of Positive Reviews
When you’re running a business, you want to have happy customers. It increases the chances of people returning to buy more, and it can have a positive marketing effect. The only thing better than a happy customer is a happy customer willing to share a positive review online. The more positive reviews you get, the more likely you will convince others your product or service is superior to your competitor.
When potential customers see the local search results page and are still researching, positive reviews play an essential role. Whether they are looking for a cup of coffee or an attorney, a 5-star rating can be the difference for your business.
That is why it makes sense that this also contributes to your rankings. You can ask yourself, when was the last time you saw Google recommend a 1-star company with lots of negative reviews?
To back up this claim, we asked the Semrush community their opinion. This is a community consisting of some of the best digital marketers worldwide. We asked them the following question:
“Leaving the obvious positive business effects of getting good reviews aside, are reviews a ranking factor in local SEO?”
The answer was unanimous; 100% of the 19 respondents clicked “yes” in the poll.
The 2022 Local SEO Checklist
Now that we know more about local SEO, some of you might be tempted to give it a go. Others might consider hiring Onmark to do it for you. Regardless of which category you belong in, the 2022 local SEO checklist from Onmark will bring you value.
The checklist is straightforward, and it gives you a brief overview of how we do local SEO at Onmark. This is a bulletproof plan to gain local visibility and attract more customers.
1. Create A Google Business Profile
Creating a Google Business Profile is the first step to gaining local visibility. This will allow you to appear on local maps, showcase your location, business hours, phone number, website, and the reviews you have received.
Try to be smart and follow Mike Friedman’s advice when setting up your account. Create an account name that reflects the query people will use when looking for a product or service you provide. If you run a coffee shop in lower Manhattan, you try to name your account as close to that as possible.
Make sure you provide the correct business address. Once that is done, you’ll receive a PIN you will use to verify your address.
Depending on the competition in your area, you might get lucky and find yourself occupying the top spot already after a couple of weeks.
If you run a larger company with several branches, offices, or shops, you should make sure to register all of those addresses in your profile.
2. Optimize Your Website For Business Related Searches
Although some have their service included in their business name, that is not the case for everyone. That is why you have to give customers and potential customers a good description of what your business offers on your website.
The more information you can give the potential customer, the more likely it is to convert. Good businesses have nothing to hide, so there’s no reason to hold back.
If you have a website, and you want to give customers information about your product, you must look at search queries and variations to figure out what people are looking for and so that you can include them in your text.
This will help the search engine bots identify what your website is about, what services you provide, and then compare the relevancy of your website to the search terms. If it determines that your website is relevant and has enough authority within the industry, you will appear somewhere in the search results.
Optimizing your website for business-related search queries will help both visitors and search engines understand your business better, which will lead to more sales over time.
3. Reference Your Location
If you are a plumber in Jacksonville, you don’t need calls from people with broken pipes in Washington. That is why it’s essential both for potential customers and the search engines that you reference your market location on your website. Make sure you mention your business address and how to contact you so that people can quickly locate it.
When you create articles and service pages, you should add the name of the town, city, county, or state you are targeting. An example is to use “Plumbing Service Jacksonville, Florida” instead of “The Best Plumbing Service.”
Ensure that you mention it a few times in your text, as this will help search engines better understand that you are relevant when people search for plumbing services in your area.
This is local SEO best practice but should not be over-done. If you mention a keyword or your location too much, it will come across as bad content for the reader and manipulative for a search engine bot. We recommend including it in your title, once more in a heading further down and a 1-3 times in your text.
Remember, you are trying to help customers and search engine bots, not manipulate them. If it makes sense to mention a keyword or your location more, don’t hesitate; as long as it’s natural, you’ll be fine.
4. Leverage High-Quality Local Directories
Google and Bing are not the only search engines people in your market use. They also use business directories when they search for a product or service. Listing a company in these directories will not affect your Google rankings, but it will provide citations and a new way for potential customers to convert.
When you submit your website and/or company to these directories, you must check out the link profile of the directory. Some of these use harmful links to appear great. You don’t have to find excellent links pointing to the directory; make sure they are not from an industry you don’t want to be related to.
The most important thing you should look for is whether or not the directory has traffic coming in. The primary value of a directory is the potential to convert, and that is why the traffic they get is important to you. Listing your company with a directory not having traffic has no value.
5. Collect Positive Reviews From Happy Customers
If your business is making money, the chances are that you have happy customers. Regardless of whether you run a service, sell a product or have a shop, you should actively collect positive reviews.
Not only are positive reviews a ranking factor, but they also increase your chances of converting. You can use “Google Place IDs” to give your satisfied customers a direct link to a page where they can leave a review.
6. Use Schema on Your Website
We’re not going to lie, schema markup is both boring and tedious, and it can sometimes be challenging to see the potential return of investment in the hours it takes.
Schema.org is a collaboration between Bing, Google, Yandex, and Yahoo! that lets you provide the information their search engines need to understand your content better — and provide the most relevant search results.
The value it provides is that you can showcase more information about your business on the search engine results page. Examples of this are star ratings or the price of a product you offer.
7. Build The Right Backlinks
Here at Onmark, we believe every website requires its own link-building strategy. This is especially important when you build links for a local company. Although a link from a national newspaper always brings value to your website, the efforts of obtaining one might not be worth it.
Besides, when you build links, it’s not only about getting an SEO value; it’s also about branding and the traffic you can receive through the link. That’s why we recommend smaller businesses trying to obtain links from local websites with traffic or more significant websites with traffic coming from your area.
If you run a law firm, accounting business, real estate agency, or something that you know is very competitive by nature, you should also try to build links from big, relevant websites with lots of traffic. Otherwise, you might end up falling short on local SEO.