Local SEO (or local search marketing) can be a lot to get your head around even if you’re already fluent in standard SEO, but if you’re coming completely fresh to local SEO, the various completely new techniques and tools you have to learn and understand can seem very intimidating.
For this reason, it’s very common for local businesses, even those with multiple locations, to seek to outsource this part of their marketing to trusted experts in the field. And there’s certainly no shortage of those.
I’ve already written a guide to choosing the best local SEO agency or consultant for your business, but when it comes to knowing what to ask for (and understanding the disciplines available), the page you’re reading right now is where you want to be.
Why Do Businesses Need Local SEO?
If you’re here, it’s likely you already understand local SEO, but in case you’re still not sold on the potential of local search marketing, take a look at this guide to the benefits of local SEO.
Ready to dive into the top local SEO services? Let’s go…
Top Local SEO Services
1. Localizing your website
By ‘localizing’, I mean including your city, county, or region naturally throughout your site and in key parts of your website’s meta data (such as Page Titles, H1s, Meta Descriptions). This process tells search engines a lot about which local search results your website should appear in.
For multi-business locations, this means something slightly different. You won’t want to localize your main site for a specific location, so you’ll want location pages (or store pages) that are themselves localized for their areas.
Wanting to go even further? Time to look at content hubs specifically created and organized around your location pages. On these hubs, write and publish content about local events, lists of local businesses, especially because they’ll help you with…
2. Local link building
Not to be confused with your standard link building for SEO, local link building demands a lot more involvement in the local community, and unlike standard SEO, local links don’t even need to be ‘follow’ links to make a positive impact!
To boost the locational aspect of your business’s website, page, or hub, you’ll need links from local websites (community groups, church groups, even neighbourhood watch websites).
This is something larger brands will definitely need help with, as local community websites are there to prop up local, homegrown businesses rather than multinational chains.
Simply put, it’s generally easier for a truly local business to get a local link. However, with the right approach, a good local SEO agency or consultant will be able to find clever ways to get those all-powerful links, whether it be from sponsoring an event, contributing to the community, or helping out a local charity.
It should be noted that all of these practices give a great boost to your business’s standing and reputation, so it’s a win-win!
3. Claiming and managing your Google My Business listing
More and more, Google My Business is becoming central to consumers’ buying journey. Information on this platform is what shows up in the local pack, Google Maps, and local finder so it’s absolutely crucial to make sure someone is keeping it up to date for your business.
This is especially true given the features Google is including to drive engagement around the Google My Business listing itself. Things like Q&As, Google Posts, and Google Reviews all ensure that your potential customer gets all the information they need about your business before they even consider visiting your website.
Add to that the fact that Google uses a whole host of this information (including the all-important business category and sub-category) when deciding what terms to rank your business for and in which position, and you can see how local SEO isn’t a game you can play without Google My Business.
4. Building local citations
A ‘citation’ is the fancy way of saying ‘wherever your key business data is shown online’. Think online business directories, Google My Business, review sites, and more. Anywhere that your business’s NAP (Name, Address, and Phone number) appears online is considered a citation, and these things can help local SEO massively.
Not only does getting your business data into these sites improve the chances of your business being found in the places people are actually looking for them, but they all act as signals to search engines, boosting their confidence in your business data and improving your rankings in local SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of local citation sites out there, some focusing on particular areas or industries. Therefore it’s important whoever is doing your citation building has a great understanding of your business, your location, and your industry in order to get you on the key ones first.
5. Managing local citations
Of course, building citations is just one part of the puzzle. Once you have lots in place, you’ll need to ensure someone is monitoring and managing citations to ensure the data is continually accurate and updated when necessary.
For multi-location businesses with a ton of citations for each branch, this data management can become hugely unwieldy, but it’s still very important. Providers of local SEO services that offer to build citations will need to offer citation cleanup and management as an ongoing service, too.
6. Online review management
It’s been shown time and time again that consumers trust online reviews almost as much as recommendations, so it shouldn’t need saying that your local SEO services provider should have a handle on what’s going on with your business’s online reviews.
Now, this isn’t as simple as sitting there and responding to negative reviews. If anything, that’s the easy part (and a key way of understanding where your business’s service or products can be improved). Studies show that many consumers only trust reviews left in the last two weeks, so even if you think you’re sitting pretty with a 4.5 average star rating and 100+ reviews for a location, many of your consumers won’t think twice to pass your business up for a competitor with fewer, but more recent reviews.
This shows that continual online review generation is what’s required for an optimal business reputation. Of course it’s important to respond to all types of reviews from customers happy and sad, but if you’re not constantly getting new reviews in all the places that matter, including review sites specific to your industry, then your reputation is merely treading water.
What’s more is that search engines like Google are starting to put more faith in these online reviews, using oft-repeated phrases to understand what the business offers and even highlighting certain reviews in business profiles.
For enterprise businesses with hundreds of locations, online reputation is so crucial they often have a staff member or team entirely dedicated to monitoring, managing, and prioritizing the hundreds of thousands of reviews they receive every day. This is where a reputation management tool can really help.
7. Monitoring local search rankings
While this practice is a little more in line with standard SEO, complications for local businesses arise when they are monitoring so very many different channels. On top of your usual website and email traffic, local businesses have to understand rankings in both organic search and the local finder, as well as finding out how people are finding their Google My Business profiles and contact information.
A combination of phone call tracking, Google My Business insights and Google Analytics data can give you a decent idea of who is coming from where, but to really understand your local website’s performance in an insightful way, you need someone to be rigorously monitoring local search rankings.
Because local SEO is always changing (not least because Google is regularly updating local SERPs appearance), you need to see exactly where your business is appearing in the local finder at all times.
It’s not enough to perform a local search yourself every so often. You need vigilant monitoring of keyword performance and competitor rankings, and you need to do this in a way that replicates how your customers will be searching for you, using specific search locations. This isn’t easy to do manually, but there are tools available to help you find local search results for free.
8. Performing a local search audit
Anyone worth their salt who offers local SEO services should undoubtedly start with a local search audit, a comprehensive but easy-to-understand analysis of your website and localized web pages’ performance.
A good local search audit should:
- give you insights on your competitors
- tell you how your local rankings look in comparison to the industry averages
- provide and an overview of your citation situation
- review your online reviews
- show you where you’ve been going wrong or right with social media
- spot opportunities to optimize your Google My Business listing(s)
- deliver an assessment of your website’s technical weak spots
You might be inclined to want to jump right into local search tactics instead, but without your local SEO services provider giving you the lowdown on your current situation and the industry landscape, you won’t be able to tell how much value you’re getting out of them once they start cracking on with all the local SEO services mentioned above!
Want to truly succeed in local search? Start by understanding the situation with a local search audit, then prioritize quick wins, and then going on the larger project stuff. Your account manager and local SEO services provider will be glad you did.