If you own a company that does business locally and want to increase the number of customers you attract, having a local SEO strategy is an invaluable asset that can have a massive impact.
The key is knowing the current best practices, strategies, and tools that you can use to improve your rankings and increase both traffic and conversions.
Even if you’ve found that the recent pandemic held your business back in 2020, you can use local SEO to your advantage to enable your business to thrive during and after these uncertain times.
The following is a guide to help you get the most out of your local SEO efforts in 2021 and beyond.
Why is Local SEO Important?
Local SEO is important for local businesses for a number of reasons.
For one, according to Google, 2017 alone saw a 150 percent increase in the rate of “near me” searches, and more people continue to perform local searches on a regular basis.
A report from Search Engine Roundtable also found that 46 percent of Google searches have “local intent” behind them. Also according to Google, around 74 percent of consumers who perform local searches on mobile devices wind up visiting a store on the same day.
Although the COVID-19 outbreak has changed the nature of local business in certain ways, people are still visiting and shopping at these locations when possible.
As more local businesses begin to open back up, you can also stay ahead of competitors in the long term by building a solid local SEO foundation, which will help not only give you a head start over other businesses, but it will also help keep your business afloat in the event of another resurgence of the pandemic.
In short, with solid local SEO behind your business, you’ll be able to flourish regardless of the state of the economy.
How Does Local SEO Work?
Local SEO works a lot like traditional SEO, in that people perform a search and the most relevant, high-quality resources appear toward the top of search results.
However, the factors that influence ranking for local SEO are somewhat different from the ones that Google uses for “normal” SEO.
While conventional SEO tends to rely more heavily on user behavior, authority signals, and other more technical details independent of location, some of the factors that can affect local SEO performance include:
- NAP (Name Address Phone Number) citations
- Google My Business listings and keywords present in their profiles
- The specific location of the searcher
- On-Page signals like keywords in headings and metadata
- Keywords in reviews
- The general opinion of online reviewers, including Google Maps star ratings
- User Behavior signals like Click-Through Rate (CTR) and Time on Page (Dwell Time)
- Social media shares
- The number of “check-ins” for a particular location
Appealing to any number of these factors can help increase your chances of appearing near the top of search results for a given relevant query.
Based on research done by Moz, here’s what holds the most weight:
Top Local SEO Strategies in 2021
To get the best possible results from local SEO in 2021, the following are some strategies you should implement.
1. Create and Optimize Your Google My Business Listing
One of the keys to a high-performing local SEO campaign is the presence of an optimized Google My Business listing and profile.
Google prefers businesses that it can more easily verify in its system, which is why Google My Business is such an important aspect of local SEO. With a listing on Google My Business that’s up-to-date and optimized, you can increase your chances of ranking well.
To make the most of your Google My Business listing, it’s important to encourage people to share reviews, which you can respond to with honest feedback that includes the location of the store along with other pertinent, naturally incorporated keywords.
2. Develop Well Optimized Location Pages
If your business has multiple locations, you should have pages developed for each location.
For example: yoursite.com/chicago-seo-company
Location pages can provide details that might be specific to that location, along with information such as the address, business hours, phone number, details about parking or accessibility, and customer testimonials. Make sure all the content you create for each page is unique and descriptive, which can help increase rankings.
For each page including your location pages and beyond, you should also make sure the URL, title tags, meta descriptions, headers, and subheaders are all optimized with relevant keywords.
However, avoid stuffing too many keywords in your content, which could hinder rather than help your local SEO performance.
3. Make Sure Your Website is Mobile Responsive
A majority of people who perform local searches on Google use a mobile device to do so, and a majority of mobile users use their devices to perform local searches.
If your website isn’t optimized for mobile accessibility, this could turn a lot of people away. People should be able to view mobile versions of your webpages and be able to easily find directions to your location, check out reviews, and locate contact details.
4. Keep All Information About Your Business Updated
If you change locations or any details pertaining to your business, including contact information or even your business name, make sure that it’s consistent across all platforms.
All listings, including Google My Business, Yelp, and others should all contain the same general information.
Inconsistencies could hurt your local SEO if Google isn’t sure which information is correct. It could also leave potential customers frustrated and confused when trying to find your business.
5. Use Proper Internal Linking
Having a good network of backlinks, or links from other websites going back to yours, is one of the biggest ranking signals for SEO.
At the same time, internal linking is also vital. Including links on your webpages that link to other relevant pages can also improve local SEO while making it easier to navigate your website, organizing the website’s hierarchy and architecture, and distributing optimization and page authority across multiple pages.
More Local SEO Strategies
- Acquire positive reviews on GMB, listings, and social media
- Respond to all reviews quickly on GMB
- Acquire testimonials and add them to your site
- Install and configure an SEO tool like Yoast or Smartcrawl Pro
- Install and configure a performance optimization plugin like Hummingbird Pro
- Optimize for voice search
- Optimize the on-page SEO of your location and about pages
- Add local business schema markup
- Sponsor a local event or get involved in the community to drive traffic and acquire backlinks
- Add an embedded map to your location pages
- Perform and implement local SEO keyword research
- Perform local competitor research and implement tactics to take market share.
- Build a comprehensive FAQ page
- Create and implement an organic social media strategy
- Implement social sharing widgets/plugins on blog content
- Produce and distribute comprehensive, authoritative blog content following blog SEO best practices
- Write a guest post for a local partner or organization
- Report competitor Google My Business spam and violations
- Make your phone number easily accessible and clickable
- Acquire high-quality backlinks from local organizations
- Create unique pages for each service offering
- Run local Google Ads campaigns to increase traffic and brand awareness
- Connect your site to Google Search Console and submit your sitemap
- Install Google Analytics to track data and optimize
- Set up keyword tracking to follow rankings
- Improve metadata and keyword targeting to increase CTR
Local SEO Keyword Research
Keyword research for local SEO is a question that often comes up when talking about ranking locally.
And for good reason – keywords are very important to local SEO. In fact, local SEO tends to rely somewhat more heavily on keywords than traditional SEO which is more user behavior and topic-oriented.
How Do I Find Local SEO Keywords?
The local SEO keyword research process follows many of the same steps to keyword research as non-local SEO.
We suggest you go here for a full breakdown: How to do Keyword Research for SEO.
Here are some ways you can source and find localized keywords:
- Think of how you would search for your service or product
- Use keyword tools like SEMRush and Keywords Everywhere
- Ask your customers, family, and friends how they search
- Analyze your competitor’s websites
- Install and analyze data from Google Search Console
Make sure you choose keywords that people are searching for – you can check by analyzing search volume using a keyword research tool like SEMRush.
Just because you think a word or phrase describes your business or services, doesn’t mean that’s how your target audience is searching.
How Do I Know if a Keyword is Good?
There are several ways to qualify a keyword and decide whether or not you want to use this keyword in your targeting efforts.
Here are some different variables you’ll want to look at:
- Keyword Volume – How many searches per month on average over the last 12 months a query has been searched. (More does not always mean better – understand your ranking strength before targeting high volume keywords)
- Keyword Difficulty – Measured on a scale of 0 to 100%, this number identifies how challenging it would be for a new website to rank on the first page of Google for the given keyword.
- SERP Features – These are visual attributes of the Google search results page like the Map Pack, Shopping results, and Knowledge Panel. Make sure your keyword populates (or doesn’t) features that make sense for your business.
- SERP Analysis – Beyond SERP Features, you’ll want to also take a look at the general results (positions 1-10). Check what kind of domains are ranking for the keyword and if it aligns with your domain. Audit how these domains are using metadata optimization to their benefit and how you can get ahead of them.
- Search Intent – Look at what types of results are returned for your keyword. Based on the results, determine what kind of content users are looking for with the given query.
- Related Keywords – Related keywords can give you a hint for additional keywords to use but it’s also a good way to audit how people are searching for any given topic and if it’s relevant to what you are trying to target.
- Competitor Strategy – Audit your competitor’s website pages and keywords, check how they are targeting keywords that drive traffic to their site.
- Brand & Audience Assessment – Make sure you understand your brand and target audience alignment with your target keyword. If they don’t, this could lead to lower CTR’s and/or rankings.
- Seasonality & Trends – If your product or service is seasonal or based on trends, make sure to check how those keywords are trending, and if you need to pivot your approach based on this data.
How Do I Use Local SEO Keywords?
There are several ways to use local SEO keywords to make sure your targeting is effective.
Here are some of the important places where you should be using them:
- Your home page & services pages Headings and paragraph text
- Your home page & services pages metadata
- Your Google My Business Categories, Description, and Tags
Make sure you are following keyword and SEO best practices to use keywords naturally. Remember that you are writing for humans, optimized for Google.
Quick tip: You do not need to use “near me” in your text when using localized keywords. This is simply a user search modifier that can trigger the Map Pack.
How Do Local Keywords Rank?
Local keywords will typically populate the Google Map Pack (Local Pack). Positioning for the Map Pack, however, is determined by several factors as outlined above.
It’s still important to have these localized keywords on your website and in your Google My Business listing.
Not all local search queries will generate a Map Pack and even with the Map Pack results, there are always the traditional SERP (localized organic results) layout (positions 1-10) which will be clicked by about 58% of users.
Local SEO 2020 Case Study
In 2019 we engaged in a local SEO campaign with a retailer that has both physical locations and an ecommerce store-front. Our objective was to increase organic traffic to their online shop and in-store traffic and revenue.
First, we performed a full Research & Discovery with the client to create a Digital Marketing Strategy. This included a local SEO audit, technical site audit, competitor analysis, user behavior analysis, and much more.
We also began the build of a new website to improve the shopping experience and give the site a modern look. We integrated our research from the user behavior analysis to create the ideal shopping experience.
In early 2020 we completed much of our initial local SEO work and the new website launched.
Local SEO improvements included:
- Local listing distribution
- Metadata improvements site-wide
- Google My Business optimization
- Technical SEO fixes and user behavior improvements
- SEO pruning and indexing optimization
The following is the resulting impact of the project post site launch:
1. Increased Website Traffic & Brand Visibility
- 38.60% Increase in clicks to the website from Google
- 29.60% Increase in organic visibility (Impressions)
- 0.10% Increase in CTR (Click Through Rate)
2. Improved Local Pack Visibility
- Nearly doubled the appearance rate of the business in the local map pack (for the main location).
3. Improved Ecommerce Shopping Behavior from Organic Traffic
- 23.84% Increase in Organic Sessions with Product Views
- 142.89% Increase in Organic Sessions with Add to Cart
- 116.90% Increase in Organic Sessions with Check-Out
- 176.92% Increase in Organic Sessions with Transactions
4. Increased Ecommerce Revenue from Organic Traffic
- 179.40% Increase in Organic Traffic Revenue
- 132.85% Increase in Organic Traffic Conversion Rate
- 182.05% Increase in Organic Traffic Transactions
How Long Does Local SEO Take?
Local SEO is similar to other types of SEO in that the time for effectiveness differs widely.
Some local SEO updates may make a nearly instant improvement, such as Google My Business implementation or optimization. While others like acquiring backlinks and increasing domain authority may take much longer to create an impact on visibility.
Best Local SEO Tools & Resources
To help you develop your local SEO campaign, there are certain tools and solutions you will need. These are some of the best tools to use to get the job done.
Google My Business
To start, create a Google My Business listing and verify it if you haven’t already. Google makes it easy to set up your profile and confirm it.
Google My Business is the single most important local SEO tool you can set up for your business today.
SEMRush Listing Management
To help expedite this process and manage your local listings, tools such as SEMRush Listing Management will help make your life a lot easier.
The SEMRush Listing Manager distributes your information to 60+ different platforms. You only have to input your information once and SEMRush takes care of the rest.
It takes care of not only NAP but your business description, images, social media profiles and more.
The Listing Manager allows you to monitor and update your listings as needed.
Reviews, duplicate listings, and user suggestions can be managed from the dashboard.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console is often overlooked and unknown especially to small business owners as a tool that they should be using.
Google Search Console is a great way to let Google know your site exists and that it should be crawling it.
Google can discover, crawl, and index your site without being connected to Google Search Console, however, strong benefits are still present.
Google Search Console allows you to:
- Submit your sitemap to Google
- Submit new pages created to request indexing
- Get alerted of potential SEO errors
- Track and analyze search data
We highly encourage any business owner to connect their site to Google Search Console.
More Local SEO Tools & Resources
- Yext Business Listing Scan
- Screaming Frog
- Local Business Schema
- Smartcrawl Pro
- Schema Markup Generator
- Google Structured Data Testing Tool
- Google PageSpeed Insights
- Manual Geolocation Tool
BONUS: 2021 Local SEO Checklist
Set up Google Search Console
In addition to these tools, it’s important to make sure you have the resources needed to develop and maintain your local SEO campaign. However, smaller businesses may not have the experience, time, or staff needed to give local SEO campaigns the attention they need.
If you’re interested in local SEO to boost your rankings and site traffic for your business but don’t have the time to work on it, Nomadic Software’s team of digital marketing experts are here to help! Contact us today to get started.
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