Now that you’re ready to start publishing, it’s a good idea to optimize your content specifically for users.
For a positive experience, content should be easy to understand and catered to the needs of your audience. Focusing on your user’s site experience is important because it can make your users happy and increase conversions, while also improving your search engine rankings. Let’s take a look at some aspects of your website, which can impact the experience of users.
Other topics in this guide are still relevant, but if you’re looking for extra tips and tricks to target specific cities, regions or areas, then you’ve come to the right place.
An Introduction to Local SEO
If someone types the phrase ‘nail salon’ into Google, what do you think they’re looking for?
They probably know what nail salon means, so they aren’t looking for a definition. They probably aren’t looking for a ‘how to’ either.
The chances are this person is looking for a nail salon nearby, where they can drop in and get a manicure. Google knows this, so it presents users with the most relevant local results, highlighting useful information like location, opening hours, contact details and star ratings.
Many people even add “near me” to their search terms so Google has no doubt they’re in need of local results. These searches have been on the rise for a long time and, luckily for businesses, they often show clear intent to make a purchase. Looking at Google data for the US, searches which include both “can I buy” and “near me” are also increasing.
Google automatically uses location to determine rankings, whether or not they add “near me” to their query. For example, when someone based in Portland searches ‘nail salon’, Google will display a SERP similar to the one below. In total, you can see there’s a staggering 1.5 billion results for this keyword but Google has prioritized them based on location.
If you were based in Portland and a list of New York businesses appeared, you’d probably get frustrated. Google understands what searchers want and caters content to them. You can take advantage of this by optimizing your website for local SEO. This is particularly important for local businesses who want to attract business from people within a specific geographic area. If you have physical location or serve a specific town, local SEO is for you.
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO is about optimizing your website to show up in search results for a local audience. It involves setting up a Google My Business profile, as well as including location-based keywords, such as “nail salon portland”, on your website.
Local SEO is also about appearing on Bing, Apple Maps, Bing Places and business directories like Yelp. Your customers search for local businesses in a number of ways, so you need to cater to their expectations and meet their needs across platforms.
Why is Local SEO Important?
With mobile usage on the rise, more and more customers are searching for local businesses while they’re out and about. In fact, it is believed as much as 46% of all Google searches have local intent. This means local SEO can be very beneficial for businesses.
As with normal SEO, Google tries to provide the best results to its users. But local SEO has a different algorithm to decide which web pages rank first. Location, an up-to-date Google My Business profile and keywords used in online reviews are all ranking factors.
This may seem like a lot to stay on top of, but for small businesses it offers a great opportunity to compete with bigger brands and show up at the top of Google results.
Local searches don’t always have huge search volumes. (For example, ‘nail salon portland’ is only searched 1,900 times each month.) But the people who conduct them are based nearby and are more likely to convert. Besides, many local SEO activities don’t cost anything so they offer a good return on investment too.
Types of Local Search Results?
Regular Google search results can feature rich snippets, such as knowledge panels or image carousels. Local results come in a few different forms too.
Local Map Packs
Often appearing at the top of Google results, local map packs display a set of three local businesses relevant to a search query alongside a Google Map pinpointing their location.
The search results we showed you earlier featured a map pack – see them again below.
According to a study carried out by Moz, when local map pack results are displayed, they receive 33% of clicks.
Regular Organic Results
Below these map packs, you’ll find other organic results. According to Moz’s research, they attract 40% of clicks on a local results page. So it’s worth trying to rank in both sections.
To appear here, you need to optimize your site for location-based keywords by including them in title tags and URLs, like you would with traditional on-page SEO. We delve deeper into doing local SEO further down the page.
Google Maps
Many people make use of Google Maps to search while on-the-go. Similar to the local pack, Google Maps displays a list of local businesses relevant to a search.
What is Google My Business?
Google My Business is a business listing which helps you appear in local search results. In fact, it is by far the biggest ranking factor determining what businesses appear in local packs.
You may have noticed the results in local packs and Google maps feature different information to standard search results, including opening times, ratings and locations. This is pulled from Google My Business profiles. So setting one up strongly impacts your chance of appearing here.
How Do I Claim My Business Listing?
It’s free and fairly simple to set up. Yet, less than half of local businesses have claimed their Google My Business listing. This is key to your local SEO strategy and should be one of the first things you tackle.
You may already feature on Google My Business without even realizing it. To check, simply search your business name. If you already have a profile, you’ll see Google’s current info on your business to the right of your browser on a desktop device – or at the very top of a mobile device.
If a listing appears, click ‘Own this business?’ To update the entry, you’ll then be prompted to sign into gmail or create a new login. Otherwise, if your business doesn’t appear, you can go here to set up a brand new listing.
Setting up your profile is fairly straightforward. You need to enter basic details – just make sure you enter them exactly as they appear on your website.
Fill out as much of your profile as possible, because many search results are based on much more than just your address. According to Google, searches are becoming more and more specific. For example, Google searches which include phrases likes “near me now”, “near me open now” and “near me today” have been consistently on the rise, so it is essential you include accurate opening hours within your profile.
Before going live, Google will confirm that you represent the business by providing a verification code via phone, text or postcard.
Updating your presence in directories like Bing Places and Apple Maps isn’t as important, but it’s a good way to broaden your reach. For Bing Places, you’ll find step-by-step instructions here. To optimize for iPhone searchers, find step-by-step directions for setting up on Apple Maps here.
Updating Your Google My Business
Once your listing is set up that doesn’t mean you’re finished. You should actively update your details to reflect any changes to your opening hours or other information. From time to time, it’s also a good idea to double check everything is still accurate. Anyone can suggest an edit to your listing and you won’t always be notified of the changes.
You should also consider adding posts to your Google My Business profile. This will give your map pack listing more impact. Some say it can improve local pack rankings, as well as conversions.
Posts are short so they won’t take too much time to write. You can publish photos and written content up to 1,500 characters long – that’s around 250 words. Use it to share updates about your business every month or so.
How to Do Local SEO
Once you’ve set up your business listings, you can now look at ways to increase your local search ranking in Google’s local map pack, as well as further down the page.
List Terms That Are Used in Local Searches
Local keyword research for your website is quite simple to do and, unlike with blogs, you won’t have to constantly update your list of target keywords. A lot of them are easy to figure out. Include terms featuring your town’s name, as well as the phrase ‘near me’.
If you ran a nail salon called ‘Nailed It’, you’d want to appear for local searches like:
nail salon near me
nail salon portland
nailed it
nailed it phone number
nailed it opening hours
nailed it contact
Google will pull this information from Google My Business and display it on cards, so make sure your profile is complete.
Next, think about what locals might type into Google to search for your services.
If you ran a veterinary surgery based in Brooklyn, for example, your target audience will be searching thing like:
vet in brooklyn
veterinary surgery brooklyn
emergency vet in brooklyn
pet vaccinations brooklyn
microchip pet brooklyn
Simply put, you should name each service you offer alongside each of your locations. It’s also worth adding variations of these words like plurals, synonyms and alternative spellings.
For example, the vet’s surgery might add:
veterinarian brooklyn
vets brooklyn
animal hospital brooklyn
When writing your keyword list, keep in mind that voice search is growing. So brainstorm how you would search for your services while talking out loud. Voice searches tend to be informal, long-winded and more detailed.
Local keywords should feature your town, city, county or state. If you offer an extremely niche service or product, you could consider targeting people throughout a large area. But if you run a local cafe, you should be very specific. People aren’t going to travel too far for a cup of coffee.
Below, you’ll see two sets of results for a search conducted in Portland, Maine. The search looking for some rare Siamese fighting fish throws up results from around the state, whereas the search looking for coffee shows three shops along a single road.
Localize Your Website Content
As well as working on your Google My Business profile, you should also make adjustments to your website content to increase your chances of appearing in Google search results more often.
Mention Your Location Throughout Your Content
Once you’ve chosen the most beneficial keywords for your business, it’s time to start using them. Mention some of these terms, as well as your city or town naturally throughout your web copy. Don’t force them in, but be mindful so you can spot places where they fit.
Most local businesses will want to feature their primary location on their homepage. You may be tempted to try rank for a general keyword with a high search volume. But, as we showed above, Google’s top results are usually based on a searcher’s location. So you may as well feature local keywords.
Add Your NAP Information
NAP stands for Name, Address and Phone Number and is used to refer to an organization’s basic contact details.
List these details on your website and make sure they appear exactly the same way as they do on your Google My Business Profile. Why? Well, because when Google sees your details listed exactly the same way in a number of places, it becomes confident in this information’s accuracy. Then, it is more likely to display your business in the local map pack results.
If you only have one location, make sure to feature this in the footer of every web page, as well as the contact page. Including a map on your contact page will also help users find you.
What if I Have Multiple Locations?
If you have multiple locations, you should provide users with information on each branch or service area. This helps them find exactly what they’re looking for and improves the user experience.
Read More about SEO for Multiple Locations
Structured Data for Local SEO
 Schema is code which tags your content so all major search engines can understand exactly what it is. You can use it to tell Google which bits of text are your name, address, phone number and opening hours.
Read more about optimizing content with structured data
When you’ve finished, Google generates some code to add to the head section of your page’s HTML.
Citation Building
Google My Business isn’t the only external content which can boost your website’s local search rankings. Mentions and links from any relevant website can help. Citations are mentions of your business around the internet. They usually display your NAP information.
Why you Should Increase Citations
Increasing the number of citations related to your local business is important for two reasons:
It ensures people looking for your business can find it, whether they check a search engine, social media or an online directory.
It is also one of the top ranking influencers for your local SEO, both in terms of map pack results and organic results further down the page.
Check Your Current Citations
To start off, check that all the citations already out there feature consistent information. Many business directories can be edited by anyone, so you’ll want to verify their information.
Moz has a handy local tool for checking your online presence. It highlights inconsistent, duplicate and unfinished listings across some of the internet’s biggest directories.
You can also add or check listings on sites like Infogroup and Neustar Localeze. Smaller, local directories source their information for these big data sources, so ensuring your NAP is correct here can help with consistency across other sites too.
You should also manually search Google for any old locations or contact information associated with your business. If there are any outdated listings you’ll be able to find and update them quickly. However, if these details are mentioned on a local blog post or website, you’ll have to get in touch with the website owner directly to request an update.
If this all sounds like a lot of hassle, it’s worth noting that you can use a paid tool like BrightLocal, Yext, Moz Local or BrightSpark to manage your citations more quickly.
Getting Local Sites to Link to You
As well as targeting business directories, you should consider what local websites would feature your NAP information or link to your website. This can benefit your local rankings and also expose your business to an extremely relevant audience.
Check out this handy list of citation sources for inspiration. But using your local knowledge, you should also come up with your own ideas. Ask yourself:
Is there a local business association or Chamber of Commerce, which would list your site?
Is there a relevant business nearby, which might accept a guest post for its blog?
Could you sponsor a local event or give a keynote speech to increase local links?
Manage Reviews
Nothing screams bad customer experience like a negative review – and Google knows this too. Bad ratings in your Google My Business profile, and possibly from other sources too, can hurt your local SEO.
For this reason, you should frequently monitor reviews on your profile and across other popular review sites like Yelp. Responding to each review, positive and negative, is strongly recommended. This helps you control your reputation and shows customers that you care.
You should also request reviews wherever possible by sending out a Google My Business link to customers. Though, please note, you should never offer rewards or ask for bulk reviews.
Tracking Your Efforts
If you’re curious about how your local SEO efforts are going, you can check search engine results for target keywords in your local area with AccuRanker’s free SERP checker. You can also monitor your local rankings with paid options like Local RankFlux and Local Falcon.
Google often prioritizes search results based on location and there is plenty you can do to improve your website’s chances of appearing for users in your local area. Whether you have one location or several, local SEO is key to connecting with a relevant audience and making it easier for people to find your business.
In This Article
An Introduction to Local SEO
What is Local SEO?
Why is Local SEO Important?
Types of Local Search Results?
Local Map Packs
Regular Organic Results
Google Maps
What is Google My Business?
How to Do Local SEO
List Terms That Are Used in Local Searches
Localize Your Website Content
Add Your NAP Information
Citation Building
Tracking Your Efforts