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Local Search Optimization: How to Improve Local SEO Rankings

If you operate a local business and you’re not working to optimize your web presence, then you’ll likely struggle to get noticed online. This could mean that you lose out on interest from a huge pool of potential customers or clients. And, of course, your loss will be someone else’s gain.

Optimize is the key aspect of ‘SEO’. Without optimizing your web presence you’ll probably struggle to compete in the search engine results pages (SERPs), whether that’s globally or locally. For local businesses, this could mean you lose out on a huge pool of potential customers or clients. And, locally, this could mean a big gain for your direct competitors.

Optimizing for local search (known as local SEO) has many of the same processes as traditional SEO, but when you’re looking to improve your local rankings there are a number of extra things you’ll need to be aware of.

As a local business owner, it’s natural that you’ll want to rank at the top of the Google search results when someone is looking for a business like yours. However, with so many different contributing factors to consider, learning how to boost your local search rankings can initially feel like a daunting task.

Our top tips for improving local SEO

  1. Audit your local SEO
  2. Optimize your Google Business Profile (opens in new Hub)
  3. Focus on review management (opens in new Hub)
  4. Understand business directories and local citations (opens in new Hub)
  5. Get building local links
  6. Master Local Keyword Research
  7. Invest in Improving On-page SEO
  8. Create Location Pages
  9. Improve your website's speed and core web vitals
  10. Implement Local Business Schema
  11. Create a Multi-location SEO strategy

These practices—which require different degrees of ongoing attention—will help to enhance the authority of your website which, in turn, can boost your organic rankings.

First, understand the local algorithm and the local ranking factors

Although the local system (or algorithm) works in a similar way to the regular one, when deciding which content to return for a local search query, Google takes a number of different ranking factors into account. Being aware of these differences—and ensuring you devise your local SEO strategy around them—could give you the edge required to outrank your competitors. 

 

This can seem like a complicated concept to get to grips with. Fortunately, we’ll be exploring it at length to equip you with the knowledge and confidence to tackle it head-on. 

Then, it’s time to start boosting your search visibility with local search engine optimization

Armed with the knowledge shared in this section, you’ll be well on your way to understanding how to improve local SEO rankings. This means you’ll be better poised to power ahead in the search results and continue growing your business and reputation.

Remember, improving your local SEO is not a one-time action—you’ll need to regularly address, evaluate, and work on your online presence. This involves staying informed on the evolution and fluctuation of the local search algorithm, as well as any changes to the top local SEO ranking factors.

Audit your local SEO

Google penalties

As with any strategy, it’s always important to get a sense of your current standing before you go about improving things. You don’t want to blindly tweak something that could already have been just fine. We’d recommend performing a local SEO audit and potentially a more granular Google Business Profile audit to get you started.

Optimize your Google Business Profile

Your GBP should be your first port of call. Before you even start making changes to your website, you’ll need to optimize your business profile. Whether it’s crafting the perfect description, organizing your photos, adding posts, or simply choosing the right category, you’ll need to work your way through a GBP optimization checklist. For many, this could be their first impression of your business, so get it right.

Focus on review management

We aren’t just talking about the odd review here and there, either. If you want to improve your local rankings, you’ll have to get serious about reviews. Data shows that 77% of consumers typically read reviews and it’s known that they’re one of Google’s ranking factors for local.

Replying To Reviews

Spend time asking for new reviews, responding to the ones you get, and monitoring to make sure you don’t miss anything significant.

Understand Business Directories and Local Citations, then make sure they’re consistent

Building your online presence is more than just buying a website, optimizing a GBP, and grabbing social media accounts. You also need to build the foundations of your online presence with authoritative citations and business listings. There are many, often specific to a location or industry, like these US business directories or more general, like the top citation sites anyone can add their site too.

When you build citations, you’ll need to make sure you keep your Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP) consistent throughout.

Get building local links

Links have been an important part of the overall search landscape for many years. While they may not be as important a ranking signal as they once were, they’re still incredibly valuable. Whether that’s passing authority from one site to another or driving referral traffic, links have their uses.

For local search, the type of links you need can be a little different. Sure, getting a link on a nationwide site may be appealing, but often you need to spend time building local links from within your industry or community.

Read more: Local Link Building

Master Local Keyword Research

Keyword Research Modifier

When you’re trying to work out how to track your local rankings, you’ll need to find out how people are discovering your business. Performing localized keyword research can help you see how you’re doing, any gaps you need to fill, and where your competitors are beating you.

Invest in on-page SEO

Getting the basics of on-site optimization right can help you with local search too. Make sure you’ve optimized your page headers, for starters, as well as your on-site content. While it's not a direct ranking factor, take a look at your metadata (page titles and descriptions) as well. You can help your click-through rate with a well-optimized title and grab attention with a good description.

This is just scratching the surface, there’s a lot to be getting on with when you’re optimizing on-page.

Localize your content

We’re not just talking about adding a bunch of location words into pages here either, you need to show Google why you’re an authority in your vertical and in your local area. This could mean creating expert guides on your area, publishing relevant news, or it could simply be location pages. If you’re truly an expert on your local area this should be a cinch.

The key is to speak about your local area with expertise, authority, and trust.

Create local landing pages and location pages

One arm of localized content is creating excellent location and local landing pages. A location page can offer all the information about one exact location for your business, with content unique to that branch, like maps, quotes, and photos.

A local landing page can encompass an entire area that’s relevant to your business, whether you have a service area business or a group of outlets all in one area.

Improve your website’s speed and Core Web Vitals

Core Web Vitals

Source: Google

Site speed has long been cited as a ranking factor. If your pages take too long to load Google simply doesn’t want to rank you, as you’re not seen as a useful source. Page speed is just one of Google’s Core Web Vitals, which are a set of metrics it uses to assess how well users will experience your site.

For anyone serious about ranking and converting customers, your Core Web Vitals will give you an insight into what needs to be changed.

Implement Local Business Schema

You may have heard mention of schema and markup before. It can come across as quite a daunting task to implement. Schema is structured data that’s been specifically created to help search engines understand what a page is telling a user. This can help it understand why it should rank certain types of content in different SERPs when it’s crawling your site.

There are a number of general types of schema that all sites should consider, like FAQ markup, but for local sites, there’s a specialized set. You should sort Local Business Schema and Review Schema at the very least, then look at what other types you can implement to help Google crawl your site better.

Create a Multi-location SEO strategy

When you’re in the fortunate situation to be focusing on more than one location, you need to do all of the above, and at scale. There’s a nack to it though, so you’ll need to invest in a proper multi-location SEO strategy that incorporates localized content unique to each of your physical sites or service areas.

These practices—which require different degrees of ongoing attention—will help to enhance the authority of your website which, in turn, can boost your organic rankings.

Getting Noticed Online

Although it can be a lot to learn, conquering local search optimization will help boost your business and get you noticed online. Most importantly, developing a powerful local SEO strategy will help you dominate the first page of Google for the search terms that are most relevant to your business. This means you’ll earn high-quality traffic from people who are looking for a product or service like yours.

There are—of course—many ways to drive interest in your business, such as through social media and paid advertising, but it’s important not to neglect local SEO. With millions of people taking to Google every day to find the products and services they need, you’ll definitely want to get a piece of the action!