Local SEO Strategies to Grow Your Business

How to Boost a Local Business in Local Search in 2022

The data is irrefutable — local SEO is an absolute must-have for a business serving its community. For example: 

  • Google reported a staggering 900%+ growth in mobile searches for “[business or service] near me” between 2016-18.
  • A year later, the search engine also reported that 60% of smartphone users had contacted a business directly using the search results and the “click to call” option (same source).
  • According to Google as well, 76% of people who have searched for a business on a smartphone will visit it within one day. 

Unfortunately, as the local SEO opportunity continues to grow, so does the competition for the local search traffic and local search visibility.

That’s the reason for this guide – to help you identify local ranking factors that will help position your business in all locations in which it operates in an effort to reach potential customers.  

In this Local SEO Guide, you can expect to learn the following: 

Let’s start with some basics about how local SEO works in 2022.

 

What is Local SEO?

Local SEO refers to a whole range of practices aiming to position a business in different elements of local search – Maps, local pack, and localized search results – to attract customers from relevant local searches. 

When thinking of local SEO, it's critical to remember that the practice goes beyond just Google. Customers search for local businesses from a wide range of search engines and platforms – Google Maps, Google Search, Bing Local, Bing Maps, Apple Maps, and more. 

Having said that, Google continues to dominate the market. For that reason, in this guide, we will for the most part focus on attracting local traffic through the search engine.

Recommended Reading: 8 Challenges of Local SEO (and How to Solve Them)

 

Who Needs Local SEO?

Anyone who operates a brick-and-mortar store can benefit from local SEO and earning more visibility through search.

Whether you're a small business owner or an SEO at a large enterprise company with hundreds of store locations, local SEO is a great way to generate more foot traffic to your place of business. 

Recommended Reading: Win at Multi-Location SEO with these 5 Strategies 

 

Local Pack vs. Organic Search Results: How Local Search Works

The easiest way to explain how local search works vs. organic results is by an example. So, let’s imagine that you need to find a place to take a client for a lunch meeting. 

The simplest way to do so is to fire up a search engine and ask for recommendations. Here, we’ve searched the query “places for business lunch near me”.

LocalTips

Notice the two distinct sections in the search engine results page (SERP) above? One is a local pack, the other includes organic results.  

Both results are localized and deliver information that matches my search criteria. Each of them does it in its unique way, though. 

The local pack shows the top businesses that rank in Google Maps for the target phrase. It also includes some additional information about each company to help me decide which option is the best for my needs. 

The other section contains the regular content you’d see in any SERP. Although, in this case, as you can see in the GIF above, it is targeting local information as well. 

Here’s an incredibly vital thing you must remember about local SEO:

Appearing in the local pack or in Google Maps (where pack results come from) has nothing to do with your website, its content, or domain authority. 


Local SEO Ranking Factors

Since local rankings are unrelated to the website, what affects where your business shows up?

Google, for example, lists three key attributes that help determine the local ranking:

  • Relevance, which defines how well a local listing matches what a user is looking for. 
  • Distance, which, as you can imagine, refers to how far each result is from the location term used in a query (e.g. the search engine will prioritize businesses located close to Chicago’s Millennium Park for queries relating to the location).
  • Prominence. This factor is all about how well-known a business is. Think of it as a business’s authority (similar to the domain authority that affects regular organic rankings).

Here’s how they work in practice.


The Two Aspects of Ranking in Local Search Results

There are two separate aspects of local SEO:

  • Being found, which is all about working with the local algorithm to improve how well you rank in Google Maps and the local pack, and
  • Being selected, which focuses on convincing users to choose your listing over the others. 

And here are the factors that determine your success in each. 

#1. Being Found

Being found focuses on one thing only – ensuring that your business shows up prominently in Google Maps and the local results. 

And whether you do is affected by several factors:

Local Attributes 

The easiest way to understand Local Attributes is to think of them as Schema. Both serve the same purpose – they help define the content to Google better. 

In the case of Schema, the goal is to make various sections of a page clearer to the search engine. 

Attributes, on the other hand, help distinguish the business and its various qualities so that the search engine could display it for relevant searches. 

These attributes define almost every aspect of service delivery or business operations. 

This restaurant that appeared in the SERP for business lunch earlier, for example, decided to list the following attributes:

image-Jul-16-2020-05-49-48-83-PM


Here's another example:
 

 

Having adequately defined attributes within the Google My Business account will result in Google understanding your business better, and be able to rank it for relevant local searches. 

Reviews

Reviews are the other major factor contributing to your local rankings. Overall, three specific review-related factors affect your local search positions: 

  • The Number of Reviews
    The number of reviews your business or location has will also affect its Prominence, a local ranking factor we’ve discussed above. The idea behind this is simple — businesses with more reviews (in their respective categories) tend to be more popular than others. 
  • Review Score
    Another factor affecting the Prominence is your overall review score, that is, the number of positive reviews! Naturally, Google will be less likely to rank businesses with low review scores. On the other hand, companies whose customers openly admit to being satisfied with their service or products are likely to enjoy higher search positions. 
  • Responsiveness to Reviews
    Finally, how quickly you respond to reviews (and whether you even respond to all reviews) will affect your rankings as well. 

Businesses responding to reviews (and doing so fast) come across as more customer-oriented and caring. Naturally, the search engine will want to promote them over companies that do not make such an impression. 

Recommended Reading: LocalClarity Guide on Best Practices and Instructions for Google My Business Posts

#2. Being Selected

Factors above help you work with the local algorithm to ensure rankings and local visibility. 

Unfortunately, in local SEO, that’s only half of the battle. The other part is being selected from all the options a user has in Google Maps. 

And those options can be plenty. Here’s a quick maps search result for the phrase “coffee shops near me”. Mind you; it represents only above-the-fold results. Yet, if I were looking for a coffee shop, I’d have a tough time deciding! 

In a crowded market or area, it can be difficult to pick out your business's name from the group, which means it's even harder for users.


(Local search results for "coffee shops near me".)

So, what factor affects whether your business is being selected? 

Quality of Reviews

Remember the role reviews play in being found? The number of reviews, your overall score, and your responsiveness affects how your business shows up in local search results. 

But what customers say in those reviews is what makes them pick you … or skip you. 

This also means that any negative reviews might not influence the ranking algorithm that much. However, they will be damaging to a person’s selection process.

 

Best Practices for Improving Local Search Visibility

A few simple tweaks can go a long way in earning more search visibility. Here's a quick list of local SEO strategies. To learn more about these strategies, head over to Local SEO Tips: 12 Best Practices to Improve Local Search Visibility

#1. Optimize your Google Business Profile Listing

Optimizing your Google Business Profile is a must for local SEO. This opens the door to additional discovery. 

You can enhance your listing by responding to reviews, having updated store hours and correct contact information, and plenty more.

#2. Act on Local SEO Buying Intent

Your customers won't always have the same intent. For example, some may be looking to find directions or contact information. In that case, you'd want to have easily findable contact information like a phone number. 

Again, this is a great time to optimize your Google Business Profile with that information!

Other customers may be interested in looking up product availability. That's another intent to match. This time, likely in the form of schema.  

#3. Monitor Online Reviews

Online reviews can be great resources to understand customer feedback. You'll be able to see what's going right, but perhaps more importantly, you can see if your customers have feedback that can be addressed. 

Maybe some store locations have more complaints than others. Monitoring online reviews is a great way to find that out. 

#4. Set Up Local Rank Tracking for All Your Locations

You can't know what's going right if you can't measure progress. Just like you would monitor your other rankings, this is important for local SEO efforts as well. 

Recommended Reading: A Strategic Approach to Geo Reporting in SEO 

#5. Create Localized Content

Each business location has unique attributes. Maybe a coffee shop has an outside patio, for example, or offers free Wi-Fi. 

You can promote these attributes on location-specific landing pages

#6. Make Pages Easy to Crawl

A common mistake with local SEO is to hide local landing pages deep into the site's architecture. Some are so buries that it's nearly impossible for Googlebot to find them with the available crawl budget. (Google won't explore your site forever.) 

Recommended Reading: 4 Steps to Create an XML Sitemap with Hreflang Tags for Multi-Location Sites

#7. Ensure NAP Consistency

Today, NAP (name, address, phone number) consistency does not hold the same strength as a factor in local search or map rankings, but it's still important to get it right.   

#8. Mention the Location in the Meta Tags

Including location names and specific identifying features within landing pages’ meta titles will increase their chances of appearing higher in local search. 

Plus, searchers may be enticed to click if they can see from the SERP that your listing is the location they're looking for. 

#9. Optimize the Site for Voice Search

Voice search may have lost momentum, but it's still a common way that people search for information. 

Searchers may ask about store hours, directions, etc. 

#10. Optimize for Mobile 

The importance of mobile, especially for local SEO, can't be overstated. Make sure your site is mobile-friendly so as to not turn away people who are searching on the go. 

#11. Improve Local Keyword Targeting

Don't be afraid to get specific with your keyword targeting. You can even go as granular as the zip code level. For example, the keyword "car rental chicago illinois 60602."

#12. Add Relevant Schema to the Site

Schema allow you to offer more information about your site. Then, some of that information can present itself on the SERP — things like reviews, star ratings, etc.

Key Takeaways

  • Local SEO is critical for any business operating in a specific location
  • Ranking in Google Maps or Local results has nothing to do with the company’s website
  • Factors that affect being found in local search include the information in the company’s Google My Business account, local attributes it specified, the number of reviews, review score, and the business’ responsiveness to reviews. Keep in mind those external directories like Yelp!
  • The content of reviews influences whether customers select your listing from the SERPs over the others. 

 

Looking for an SEO platform to manage your multi-location business? Book a demo and see the incredible capabilities of seoClarity.