The Ultimate Guide to Local SEO: 20 Tips From Basic to Advanced

Local search experts share their top tips on how to opti­mize brands’ local vis­i­bil­i­ty.

Lisa Lacy By Lisa Lacy. Join the discussion » 38 comments

Local SEO has had a resur­gence of inter­est as of late, thanks in large part to Poke­mon GO and our friends at Niantic.

It’s cer­tain­ly a heady top­ic – and one worth close dis­cus­sion. As a result, we reached out to SEOs around the globe for their best local search tips — and they deliv­ered. Below you’ll find a com­pre­hen­sive guide to all things local SEO, from all the basics you want/need to nail to more advanced tech­niques.

Hap­py opti­miz­ing.

Local SEO Basics

NAP Citations

It’s Local SEO 101: the name, address and phone num­ber, or NAP, of a busi­ness should be iden­ti­cal across all local busi­ness direc­to­ries, said Joe Flana­gan, own­er of Rank Eas­i­ly, a dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing agency for SMBs. And that’s because Google will poten­tial­ly penal­ize rank­ings if the NAP is not the same across the Inter­net.

You should have iden­ti­cal for­mat­ting for your com­pa­ny name, address and phone num­ber on your web­site, local list­ings and social chan­nels,” said Brock Mur­ray, COO of dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing agency seo­plus+. “Any con­flicts could penal­ize your rank­ings, espe­cial­ly in the maps. While Google bots can iden­ti­fy the dif­fer­ence between minor for­mat vari­a­tions [like “&” vs. “and”], it’s in your best inter­est to be con­sis­tent. NAP is one of the few things that’s com­plete­ly with­in your con­trol, so get it right.”

April Jimenez, direc­tor of dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing at inter­ac­tive agency Hue­mor, agreed.

Hav­ing incon­sis­tent list­ings across Google and oth­er search engines can nose­dive your local list­ings. Beyond being a bad user expe­ri­ence — Suite 2B vs. Floor 2B can have a poten­tial client wan­der­ing the wrong hall­way or the wrong build­ing for that mat­ter [and] incor­rect phone num­bers or address­es are just bad busi­ness all around, espe­cial­ly when a major­i­ty of search­es are now mobile — it shows Google that you’re not pay­ing atten­tion to your local pres­ence and can be inter­pret­ed that you are not rep­utable or trust­wor­thy as a busi­ness.”

Mur­ray also rec­om­mend­ed keep­ing a record of all log-in cre­den­tials for cita­tion sites and social net­works.

If you do change address­es or phone num­bers in the future, it is incred­i­bly time-con­sum­ing to update this infor­ma­tion across the web and out­sourc­ing to a cita­tion ser­vice costs a pret­ty pen­ny,” he said. “Stay­ing orga­nized will help you keep NAP infor­ma­tion 100 per­cent accu­rate at all times and avoid any poten­tial penal­ties or de-index­ing due to con­flicts. After all, that Poke­Stop can’t be found if it’s list­ed at the wrong address.”

Maps

Beyond that, Justin Mose­bach, direc­tor of local search at Inter­net mar­ket­ing agency YDOP, sug­gest­ed includ­ing a map and detailed loca­tion infor­ma­tion on a busi­ness web­site itself.

Tell your vis­i­tor where park­ing is, how to find the main door and what land­marks your loca­tion is near,” he said. “If there is pub­lic trans­porta­tion, list what routes and stops are near­by, and include a link to Google Map’s direc­tions.”

Google My Business

Chelsey Mot­er, dig­i­tal ana­lyst for SEO agency seoWorks, said her #1 local SEO tip is to cre­ate a Google My Busi­ness page.

Users final­ly have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to view the most impor­tant infor­ma­tion about a busi­ness almost effort­less­ly. A [Google My Busi­ness] page is very easy to see and will show up in the top right of the SERPs,” she said. “Busi­ness­es can dis­play infor­ma­tion such as a descrip­tion, busi­ness hours, direc­tions and even a Call Now but­ton if searched on a mobile phone. By hav­ing a [Google My Busi­ness] page, cus­tomers can find you more eas­i­ly through search and Google Maps.”

Fur­ther, Mur­ray said brands with ver­i­fied Google My Busi­ness pages can eas­i­ly match for­mat­ting every­where else to mim­ic that list­ing.

Other Platforms

In addi­tion to Google My Busi­ness, Andrew Choco, vice pres­i­dent of mar­ket­ing at dig­i­tal agency Direc­tive Con­sult­ing, rec­om­mend­ed direc­to­ries like Foursquare, Tri­pAd­vi­sor, Super­pages, Infogroup and Yahoo.

Randy Mitchel­son, vice pres­i­dent at cre­ative agency iPart­ner­Me­dia, agreed the best course of action after cre­at­ing a list­ing in the Google direc­to­ry and claim­ing the pin drop on Google Maps is to repli­cate behav­ior on oth­er high-val­ue busi­ness direc­to­ry plat­forms.

Face­book, LinkedIn and Twit­ter all offer free busi­ness pages and these pages get great search results and are often­times found on page one of Google,” he said. “Yelp and [YP] list­ings also earn supe­ri­or search results.”

And don’t for­get the red­head­ed stepchild that is Bing.

Per Ian Keir, SEO asso­ciate for dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing firm Drag­on­Search, brands should also make sure their Bing Busi­ness Places pro­files are set up.

Before the organ­ic results load, there’s the ‘local 3 or 4 pack,’” he said. “You want to make sure vis­i­tors are see­ing your infor­ma­tion there first. Vis­i­tors will be more like­ly to click on a busi­ness in that local pack than con­tin­u­ing fur­ther down the page.”

Implicit Search

Eric Brant­ner, founder of blog guid­ance site Scribblrs.com, said local busi­ness­es stand to gain the most from implic­it search as search­es for top­ics like “cof­fee” yield local busi­ness­es when Google knows it is implied the searcher is look­ing for some­place near­by to get a cup of cof­fee. At the same time, many small busi­ness fail to take advan­tage of implic­it search, he said. A Google My Busi­ness list­ing, how­ev­er, helps busi­ness­es pop up in a list of local busi­ness­es that appear in the results of an implic­it search, Brant­ner said.

It’s also use­ful to make sure your site tar­gets your local key­words,” Brant­ner added. “Not stuff­ing key­words like ‘cof­fee shop Hous­ton’ all through­out your copy. How­ev­er, using key­words which are rel­e­vant and nat­ur­al can be help­ful.”

Customer Reviews

It’s almost over­ly sim­ple: Reviews help local SEO, so busi­ness­es should find the right way to ask cus­tomers for them because reviews give a brand cred­i­bil­i­ty and Google favors busi­ness­es with pos­i­tive reviews, said Tasha May­ber­ry, pres­i­dent of web design and PR firm Social Media 22.

So if you are a restau­rant, pass a post card in the bill­fold offer­ing a free drink or oth­er deal for leav­ing a review on Google and/or Yelp. If you are a brick and mor­tar store, col­lect cus­tomer emails – offer a coupon online and ask them to sub­scribe to your email list to unlock the deal or do a big give­away around the hol­i­days or anoth­er time of year and to enter they must give name and email,” she said. “Set up an auto­mat­ed email that is sent when some­one sub­scribes — MailChimp is a great tool – and in this email thank them for sub­scrib­ing and offer some­thing of val­ue in exchange for them leav­ing a review on Google or Yelp.”

Adam O’Leary, pres­i­dent of bou­tique ad agency Encite Mar­ket­ing, agreed even busi­ness­es not inter­est­ed in full-on SEO cam­paigns can focus on encour­ag­ing reviews.

There is no one sil­ver bul­let to SEO, but this could help them in oth­er aspects of their busi­ness. There isn’t any­thing as valu­able as a refer­ral and Google reviews are the dig­i­tal equiv­a­lent of that,” O’Leary said. “They just need to be care­ful not to incen­tivize peo­ple to write reviews or cre­ate inau­then­tic ones…their audi­ence will see through it.”

Chelsey Mot­er also not­ed that hav­ing a Google My Busi­ness page makes it easy for cus­tomers to leave a review with­out hav­ing to vis­it any addi­tion­al web­sites or social media sites.

It’s a great way to inter­act with your cus­tomers and opens anoth­er door for com­mu­ni­ca­tion,” she said. “Last­ly, it ver­i­fies your busi­ness, which allows you to build trust with your cus­tomers.”

Fur­ther, Lach­lan Wells, search mar­ket­ing con­sul­tant for spe­cial­ist SEO agency Opti­mis­ing, rec­om­mend­ed find­ing the right moment to ask for a review.

Many busi­ness own­ers will place a link on their web­site to review plat­forms, or add a sign to their counter or a stick­er on their win­dow, but these tend to reach peo­ple at the wrong time. If your cus­tomer is still fig­ur­ing out their order, they’re not think­ing about leav­ing a review lat­er, they’re too busy mak­ing a deci­sion,” Wells said. “If you’re an online retail­er, add your review links to a deliv­ery con­fir­ma­tion email on the day the order is due to arrive. Restau­rants can add small cards to their take­out bags remind­ing cus­tomers that they read every review. A tour guide client at our agency emails pho­tos to his tour par­tic­i­pants at the end of each trip. Reliv­ing the mem­o­ries of their tour is the per­fect time to invite his cus­tomers to review, so he adds links to this email.”

Audits

When plan­ning a local opti­miza­tion strat­e­gy, busi­ness­es should first assess their web­sites, said Damon Bur­ton, pres­i­dent of SEO firm SEO Nation­al.

Your web­site should act as a sol­id foun­da­tion for the rest of your efforts to be built upon,” he said. “Opti­miz­ing local list­ings, [blogs], press releas­es, etc. are only as effec­tive as the web­site they link to.”

In addi­tion, he rec­om­mend­ed using a free tool like GTmetrix to ana­lyze site speed and deter­mine if some­thing as sim­ple as a bet­ter host or using a con­tent deliv­ery net­work can improve the site with­out hav­ing to over­haul its design.

Local Links

Per Jimenez, the more engage­ment a local pres­ence has – like claim­ing local list­ings, ensur­ing infor­ma­tion is cor­rect, encour­ag­ing reviews, respond­ing to clients and engag­ing the local com­mu­ni­ty – the more sig­nals a busi­ness has that it is valu­able to its com­mu­ni­ty.

Once your foun­da­tion is estab­lished, earn­ing reviews on Google My Busi­ness is key, but earn­ing links and men­tions from oth­er local sites such as blogs and news sites can real­ly move the nee­dle in Google’s local search results,” added Austin Lund, res­i­dent local search guru at dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing agency Big Leap.

Dan More­head, SEO man­ag­er at dig­i­tal agency CTI Dig­i­tal, agreed busi­ness­es should not for­get to expand their link pro­files.

Lots of SEOs wor­ry about a link’s rel­e­van­cy to a par­tic­u­lar site, but for local SEO it’s this net­work of local busi­ness­es that can real­ly ben­e­fit vis­i­bil­i­ty and estab­lish the site as an authen­tic and high­ly rel­e­vant search result,” More­head said. “Mak­ing use of already exist­ing con­nec­tions is the ide­al place to start in secur­ing local links. Sup­pli­ers or [retail­ers]? Get in touch for a tes­ti­mo­ni­al. Do they con­tribute to com­mu­ni­ty events at a local church? Get a link. These are authen­tic, local web­sites and secur­ing links from these are often key to suc­cess­ful local SEO cam­paigns.”

Mose­bach con­curred local com­mu­ni­ty groups like non­prof­its or school sports teams a busi­ness donates to, char­i­ties its staff vol­un­teers for or local schol­ar­ships they have start­ed are great to link to and to get links from.

Indeed, Jim Lastinger, CEO of dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing firm Deep Field, called links from local web­sites one of the best-kept secrets in local SEO.

Hav­ing a web­site in the same city as your busi­ness link to you is a strong sig­nal to search engines that you are legit­i­mate­ly locat­ed in the area and more than like­ly a qual­i­ty busi­ness,” Lastinger added.

In addi­tion to local sources, Alexan­der Gro­su, dig­i­tal mar­keter at dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing agency inSeg­ment, not­ed busi­ness­es should pur­sue links from author­i­ty sources and links spe­cif­ic to their indus­tries.

Also remem­ber that some­times no links are need­ed,” he said. “In cer­tain cas­es, such as hyper-local busi­ness­es, the Google My Busi­ness pro­file, the on-page opti­miza­tion and the cita­tions will be more than enough. These fac­tors make for more than 50 per­cent of a local SEO campaign’s suc­cess – so it is of the utmost impor­tance that you keep them in mind and apply them to the par­tic­u­lar­i­ties of your own local busi­ness.”

Editorial Links

Adam Thomp­son, direc­tor of dig­i­tal at mar­ket­ing agency 10X Dig­i­tal, not­ed link author­i­ty met­rics play a sig­nif­i­cant role in local rank­ings, but cau­tioned brands under­stand Google’s link schemes guide­lines before embark­ing upon a back­link build­ing cam­paign.

The safest, most reli­able approach to build a back­link pro­file is to take a 100 per­cent edi­to­r­i­al approach where each link you gain is an endorse­ment of your web­site by a human edi­tor,” he said. “Prac­ti­cal­ly speak­ing, this usu­al­ly means cre­at­ing link-wor­thy con­tent and doing pub­lish­er out­reach to gain edi­to­r­i­al links.”

Local/Relevant Content

In addi­tion, Choco advised not to neglect local con­tent.

Cre­at­ing an awe­some piece of con­tent that is rel­e­vant to your local area and then pro­mot­ing it local­ly is a great way to dri­ve traf­fic to that page,” he said. “This helps build brand aware­ness, which grows not only your organ­ic and social traf­fic, but also your direct traf­fic as well. Pro­mot­ing local con­tent on Face­book is a great way to cheap­ly dri­ve high amounts of traf­fic to your page, which in turn can boost your organ­ic rank­ings.”

For her part, Feuza Reis, SEO and mar­ket­ing strate­gist for cre­ative entre­pre­neurs, not­ed blog­gers some­times miss a big oppor­tu­ni­ty in being found local­ly by not blog­ging about their loca­tion.

The most impor­tant thing is to be a resource for your audi­ence — what do they need help with? Write about that and get found,” she added.

And be sure to update con­tent reg­u­lar­ly, added Jason Hall, pres­i­dent and CEO of Inter­net mar­ket­ing com­pa­ny My Local SEOs.

Noth­ing makes Google bots hap­pi­er than plen­ty of fresh, rel­e­vant con­tent on your web­site. When you con­sid­er that every search engine’s aim is to fur­nish the most rel­e­vant online mate­r­i­al from the user’s search, it log­i­cal­ly fol­lows that the more you can write about your busi­ness and what it pro­vides, where, how and who by, the high­er up the SERPs you will climb,” he said. “Yes, prod­uct infor­ma­tion — includ­ing cost, ben­e­fits and avail­abil­i­ty — is para­mount, but this kind of text tends to be sta­t­ic. You want to turn your web­site into a vibrant, breath­ing beast of busi­ness.”

That includes com­pa­ny news, blogs, press releas­es and prod­uct launch­es, which keep a web­site fresh to reg­u­lar cus­tomers and when Google’s bots reg­u­lar­ly uncov­er new con­tent, its algo­rithm dic­tates that the web­site must be more rel­e­vant to the searcher and it upgrades the rank­ing, boost­ing it favor­ably up the SERPs.

Just be sure to include more about how your prod­uct can solve the visitor’s prob­lem or oth­er­wise ben­e­fit them than how you intend to build your brand,” Hall added.

Abhi­lash Patel, pres­i­dent of Recov­ery Brands, which offers dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing tools to treat­ment providers focused on addic­tion, agreed com­pet­i­tive SEO is becom­ing less about mak­ing tech­ni­cal markup changes and more about how rel­e­vant con­tent is to an individual’s search.

This makes it piv­otal for small busi­ness­es to make orga­ni­za­tion­al com­mit­ments to make con­tent top­i­cal and author­i­ta­tive across the con­sumer spec­trum,” Patel said. “SEO rank­ing sig­nals of even greater impor­tance include social per­va­sive­ness, engage­ment veloc­i­ty, app pen­e­tra­tion, qual­i­ty clicks, expe­ri­ences and user intent. These sig­nals have noth­ing to do with key­words, could have a lot to do with rank­ings and have every­thing to do with rel­e­van­cy.”

Video

Patel also not­ed video in par­tic­u­lar is an area of oppor­tu­ni­ty for small local busi­ness­es to pro­duce rel­e­vant, engag­ing con­tent.

Video ads are tak­ing off and fly­ing at us in all shapes, sizes and lengths across the spec­trum of social plat­forms,” he said. “What’s great is that video can be extreme­ly cus­tomized, hyper-tar­get­ed and hyper-local. It can work for the local plumber as well as for Mas­ter­Card.”

Grayson De Ritis, cre­ative lead at web design and social media brand­ing firm De Ritis Media, too, advo­cat­ed for key­word-rich con­tent relat­ed to the local­i­ty a busi­ness oper­ates in.

Quite often, a business’s social media accounts will be chock full of tremen­dous con­tent about their inter­ac­tions with the com­mu­ni­ty but their offi­cial web­site is the polar oppo­site,” he said. “Take the vibran­cy and engage­ment of the social con­tent and inject some of that into a brochure site for a boost in local, organ­ic traf­fic. Let’s get spe­cif­ic. A down­town cup­cake shop may be shar­ing all of their smil­ing cus­tomers bit­ing into their delec­table cre­ations on Insta­gram but the .com pres­ence has been sta­t­ic for months — maybe even years.”

And busi­ness­es can eas­i­ly tack­le this by adding a blog and expand­ing on some of the most mem­o­rable social posts that have a back­sto­ry.

Once a week, sit down for an hour or two and tell the world about how you’re part of the fab­ric of the com­mu­ni­ty, what you bring to the busi­ness and how the pho­to came to be,” De Ritis said. “For an extra kick, share the post on social chan­nels while tag­ging the cus­tomers fea­tured, which usu­al­ly results in instant traf­fic and over time can strength­en page rank.”

Google+

Fur­ther, Max Robin­son of web design firm Aims Media Glas­gow, said to ignore the Google+ naysay­ers as Google+ activ­i­ty still impacts local SEO like rank­ing on the map pack.

I recent­ly worked with a busi­ness own­er who’d been advised by count­less dig­i­tal mar­keters to avoid Google+ as it was a waste of time, but since start­ing to use it reg­u­lar­ly as the busi­ness page, I’ve not only helped the busi­ness page reap­pear on the map pack, I’ve actu­al­ly helped it to climb con­sid­er­ably for search­es relat­ed to the ser­vices that the busi­ness pro­vides,” Robin­son said. “And rather than post­ing sole­ly to your own Google+ page, inter­act with com­mu­ni­ties on the plat­form. Engage­ment def­i­nite­ly seems to be an impor­tant fac­tor and there are plen­ty of Google+ com­mu­ni­ties where you can eas­i­ly pick up +1s on your con­tent.”

Social

May­ber­ry not­ed busi­ness­es with lots of likes and shares do bet­ter in SEO than busi­ness with­out a strong social media pres­ence.

Fur­ther, Mitchel­son rec­om­mend­ed that “visu­al­ly engag­ing” busi­ness­es like tat­too and body pierc­ing shops in par­tic­u­lar main­tain active Pin­ter­est pages.

Pin­ter­est is the sec­ond most pop­u­lar social media plat­form among Amer­i­cans and has the high­est rate of [users with] intent to buy,” he said.

Feuza also rec­om­mend­ed using geolo­ca­tion tags on social, such as loca­tion hash­tags on Insta­gram, which can help busi­ness­es be found with­in their local mar­kets.

Voice Search

Voice search­es often have local intent, which makes them vital­ly impor­tant for local SEO.

Accord­ing to Mary Meeker’s Inter­net Trends, 22 per­cent of voice search­es have local intent. It is pro­ject­ed that by 2020, 50 per­cent of search­es will be by voice. Local busi­ness­es can get ahead and take advan­tage of this by research­ing what types of ques­tions peo­ple are ask­ing about their busi­ness and includ­ing that infor­ma­tion in the copy on their web­site,” Keir said. “An exam­ple might be if a local restau­rant exam­ined [its] Google Search Con­sole keywords…and [opti­mized] their key­words by answer­ing the ques­tions around those key­words, such as ‘When does [name of restau­rant] open?’ or for a local bak­ery, ‘Does [name] take cred­it cards?’ Ide­al­ly, aim to answer the who, what, where, when, why [and] how ques­tions about your busi­ness.”

Ongoing Maintenance

And in order to main­tain rank­ings, Ryan Scol­lon, local SEO and PPC con­sul­tant at dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing com­pa­ny Bowler Hat, said busi­ness­es need to con­duct ongo­ing main­te­nance.

I see so many com­pa­nies request­ing to stop work­ing with us because they are hap­py with their rank­ings. With­in three to six months, we usu­al­ly get an email ask­ing for some help as they have noticed a drop in rank­ings,” he said. “Local SEO is an ongo­ing process, it’s not as sim­ple as fol­low­ing a check­list and then mov­ing onto some­thing else.”

Cita­tions, for exam­ple, can be a big cul­prit.

Try­ing to clean up incor­rect cita­tions can be a huge pain and a super-long process,” Scol­lon said. “We now have a three-step process that last over three months to get cor­rect­ed. But even after the third month, we still have to do a quick check each month to make sure no oth­er incor­rect list­ings have popped up.”

More Advanced Local SEO Tips

Citations

While Ross Dempsey, head of dig­i­tal at dig­i­tal agency Dig­i­tal Impact, con­ced­ed there’s still a lot of debate about whether search engines care about cita­tions — some say they still influ­ence algo­rithms while oth­ers dis­card them as worth­less relics, he not­ed what’s most telling is that the vast major­i­ty of dig­i­tal mar­keters still use them.

In Moz’s most recent Local Search Rank­ing Fac­tors sur­vey, numer­ous cita­tion-relat­ed sig­nals appeared towards the top of the rank­ing fac­tor list for both local­ized organ­ic and local stack results,” Dempsey said. “We rec­om­mend you sign up for a free tri­al with a cita­tion check­er like Bright­Lo­cal and check that your busi­ness is rep­re­sent­ed across all major direc­to­ries.”

Long-Tail Keywords

May­ber­ry not­ed long-tail key­words will boost SEO faster than broad key­words.

For exam­ple, a piz­za place should use key­words relat­ed to its busi­ness and loca­tion, as well as longer phras­es like, “best brick oven piz­za in X.”

By being more descrip­tive, more peo­ple look­ing exact­ly for what you offer will find you in Google, plus you won’t be com­pet­ing with so many oth­er piz­za places try­ing to rank for broad key­words,” May­ber­ry said.

Fur­ther, she not­ed, busi­ness­es should make sure to add long-tail key­words in:

  • Title of page
  • First sen­tence on web­page
  • Hyper­links, or “anchor text”
  • Bold­ed words
  • Last sen­tence on web­page
  • In meta tags (title, descrip­tion and key­words)
  • ALT and title tags for images
  • Image file name

Gro­su said it all boils down to rel­e­vance.

Make sure your on-page SEO is rel­e­vant for your busi­ness’ activ­i­ty and for your loca­tion, so that users know they have found what they are look­ing for — e.g., a lock­smith in Boston, for exam­ple,” he said.

This means busi­ness­es must pay atten­tion to: title tags, page con­tent, meta descrip­tions, head­er tags, maps, images and con­tact details.

A big mis­take I see a lot is link­ing words like ‘click here’ as this does noth­ing to help your SEO,” May­ber­ry said. “Instead say, ‘Click to see why we are the best brick oven piz­za in Mil­ford, Con­necti­cut.’ And link only the long-tail key­word phrase ‘best brick oven piz­za in Mil­ford, Con­necti­cut.’”

Indeed, Sam Binks, dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing man­ag­er at sports man­age­ment soft­ware firm Team­Snap, not­ed con­sumers no longer just search, “best burg­ers in X city,” but rather “best burg­ers on X street in Y city,” or, even bet­ter, “best burg­ers near me.”

What this means is that there are a num­ber of cool strate­gies that can be used – cre­ate high­ly tai­lored web­site pages with unique con­tent and geo-tar­get­ed URLs down to the zip code lev­el, make use of rel­e­vant schema markup where possible…think about voice search­es — if some­one is say­ing, ‘find me burg­er places now,’ and expect­ing a two-to-three minute jour­ney, how are you going to deal with that? – and make sure every­thing is 100 per­cent respon­sive for a kick-ass mobile expe­ri­ence,” Binks added.

Hyper-Local Search Terms

In addi­tion, Dou­glas Small, a mar­keter for jew­el­ry brand Relios, said local­ized key­word research can turn up dras­ti­cal­ly dif­fer­ent results for a busi­ness than nation­al aver­ages yield.

Includ­ing long-tail key­words that have a large local search vol­ume can help one bet­ter iden­ti­fy rel­e­vant cus­tomer seg­ments,” he said. “This has the added ben­e­fit of cre­at­ing bet­ter on-site con­tent, whether it’s copy- or design-focused. Know­ing what local peo­ple are look­ing for in rela­tion to your busi­ness helps opti­mize your site for them.”

Luca Alessan­dri­ni, dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing spe­cial­ist at dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing firm Online Opti­mism, agreed it is becom­ing increas­ing­ly impor­tant for small busi­ness­es to under­stand the hyper-local search terms used to find their busi­ness or ser­vices.

With tools avail­able online, such as Google’s Key­word Plan­ner via AdWords, you can iden­ti­fy the most pop­u­lar search­es in your geo­graph­ic area that are relat­ed to your busi­ness,” he said. “For exam­ple, the way some­one search­es for a den­tal prac­tice can change from one neigh­bor­hood to anoth­er. One town may search for ‘pedi­atric den­tist,’ where­as only a few miles away peo­ple are search­ing for ‘den­tist for kids.’ Under­stand­ing the ver­nac­u­lar used in search­es local­ly will allow you to rank high­er for niche terms that often have low­er com­pe­ti­tion.”

Reis also sug­gest­ed not ignor­ing your own small town.

Ser­vice providers who trav­el and want to work more in big­ger cities or even busi­ness­es sur­round­ing big cities tend to think that they should use the big city name only for their local SEO,” she said. “Google knows how to fil­ter results based on loca­tion and IP [address] and knows how far and close places are. So instead of try­ing to rank for the big city, which will be very com­pet­i­tive, don’t ignore your small town when it comes to SEO. You may be pleas­ant­ly sur­prised.”

Extensions

Laris­sa Muril­lo, mar­ket­ing man­ag­er at SEO and web mar­ket­ing firm Mar­ket­Goo, advised using loca­tion exten­sions in AdWords to set up more than one radius around a busi­ness so when poten­tial cus­tomers search while they are phys­i­cal­ly with­in that radius or search for a loca­tion that is with­in that radius, ads will appear.

Try not to tar­get a too-small radius because the result may be that your ads appear inter­mit­tent­ly or prac­ti­cal­ly not at all,” Muril­lo said.

In addi­tion, Muril­lo said Loca­tion Groups are a good way to tar­get con­sumers who fre­quent a cer­tain loca­tion.

For instance, your local busi­ness may want to tar­get peo­ple who fre­quent a near­by col­lege cam­pus,” she added. “Take note of cer­tain times or days when your account does not per­form well [and] adjust your sched­ul­ing to total­ly stop ads dur­ing those times.”

In addi­tion, brands should exper­i­ment with exten­sions like call exten­sions, review exten­sions and sell­er rat­ings to see what addi­tion­al infor­ma­tion res­onates with local con­sumers, Muril­lo said.

IFTTT

Adam Vowles, head of dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing at design and dig­i­tal agency TWDG, said he has had great suc­cess with using IFTTT recipes to find local influ­encers via social chan­nels.

IFTTT will then pull all this data to a Google Dri­ve doc, which I can then go though and after a lit­tle man­u­al sort­ing, start out­reach­ing to them,” he said. “It is essen­tial­ly prospect­ing on autopi­lot.”

Schema

Keir rec­om­mend­ed tak­ing advan­tage of schema and social schema.

Schema, or struc­tured data, is a markup lan­guage that helps a search engine under­stand what con­tent is on a web­page,” he said. “Schema is what cre­ates images, address­es, phone num­bers, reviews, etc. in the SERPs. You can cre­ate schema for your web­site either through a plu­g­in, like Raven, or with Google’s Struc­tured Data Markup Helper.”

In addi­tion, Keir said to make sure social schema is con­fig­ured.

Social schema con­trols how con­tent from your web­site is shared on web­sites such as Face­book, Twit­ter and LinkedIn,” he added. “Prop­er­ly cod­ed social schema will result in a pic­ture of your choos­ing, a title and a con­cise descrip­tion being used when peo­ple share con­tent from your web­site. For Face­book, LinkedIn and Google+, there’s Open Graph, and, for Twit­ter cards, there’s the Twit­ter Cards Val­ida­tor.”

Tracking

Per Matt LawlerSEO ana­lyst and local lead at dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing agency Zog Dig­i­tal, one of the biggest pieces of advice he would give col­leagues is to make sure that every­thing is tracked.

I like to build out links with UTM para­me­ters spe­cif­ic to each of my client’s Google My Busi­ness list­ings. This track­ing allows me to see which loca­tions are get­ting the most (and least) traf­fic from Google My Busi­ness, as well as what the vis­i­tor does once they get to the site,” he said. “Addi­tion­al­ly, track­ing key­word rank­ings for loca­tion-spe­cif­ic queries gives brands an idea of their vis­i­bil­i­ty with­in each mar­ket. It’s impor­tant to track both the local pack rank­ings for the site and the tra­di­tion­al rank­ing for each key­word. Test dif­fer­ent strate­gies with the con­tent on the pages and see how each trans­lates to rank­ings both inside the snack pack and in the tra­di­tion­al results. These insights, cou­pled with Google Ana­lyt­ics report­ing on vis­i­tors who land­ed on loca­tion pages, can pro­vide a great deal of action­able infor­ma­tion to improve your local search cam­paign.”


If you have local SEO tips you’d love to share, get in touch or leave a com­ment below.

Lisa Lacy

Written by Lisa Lacy

Lisa is a senior features writer for Inked. She also previously covered digital marketing for Incisive Media. Her background includes editorial positions at Dow Jones, the Financial Times, the Huffington Post, AOL, Amazon, Hearst, Martha Stewart Living and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.


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