What Is Local SEO and How Does It Work?

December 4th, 2023, 10:00 AM

Local SEO, or local search engine optimization, is an important subset of SEO that helps connect local businesses with customers. 

While SEO as a whole applies to all types of businesses, including ecommerce and other online-only businesses, local SEO is mainly relevant to businesses that provide goods and services within a specific geographic area, such as brick-and-mortar retail stores and service area businesses (SABs).

If you're a business owner or digital marketer working with local businesses and you're not doing local SEO, you're potentially missing out on a huge share of the market. So, make sure you understand exactly what local SEO is and how local SEO works so you can start implementing this powerful strategy today.

What Is Local SEO? A Closer Look at How Local Search Engine Optimization Works

In broad terms, SEO is an online marketing strategy that aims to improve a website's ranking in organic (unpaid) search results. Search engine optimization efforts can be tailored to attract the target audience a business wants, but it's possible to use SEO to get a website seen almost anywhere in the world.

As we touched on already, local SEO is a subset of search engine optimization that focuses only on getting a business found within local search results. Businesses and marketers can employ local SEO strategies to get a website, Google Business Profile listing, or other digital asset found within a very specific geographic area. 

Local search engine optimizations can be made to improve a business's ranking within a hyper-local area, sometimes as small as a commercial district or even a city block, depending on how granular you want to get with it.

When potential customers search for businesses within an area, or using geo-tagged keywords relevant to the area, local SEO helps determine where a business appears in the search results that they are presented with.

When it comes to local brick-and-mortar and service area businesses, the most important local search ranking is that of its Google Business Profile (GBP) — Google accounts for more than 80% of online searches, with at least 46% of those searches looking for local information.

It's also important to optimize your website as part of any local SEO strategy, but the top local search results that people see on Google are always going to be three businesses in what's known as the Google 3-Pack. 

Appearing in the Google 3-Pack is a sort of "Holy Grail" for most local businesses, but the competition is fierce, and it's sometimes nearly impossible to outrank large competitors for the broadest, most competitive keywords.

However, by implementing local SEO strategies, such as local rank tracking best practices, businesses can identify vulnerable areas where they may be able to outrank competitors and make cost-effective optimizations to their business listings to improve their position within their target local market.

How Does Local SEO Work?

There are several key components of local SEO that contribute to its effectiveness:

  1. Google Business Profile Optimization
  2. Local Keywords and On-Page Optimization
  3. Local Link Building
  4. Mobile Optimization
  5. Local Schema Markup

1. Google Business Profile Optimization

Because of its prominence in search results, Google Business Profile optimization is the first element of local SEO you should focus on. 

GBP is a free tool provided by Google that allows businesses to list their business and manage their online presence across various Google platforms, including browser-based Google Search and the Google Maps application.

Optimizing your GBP goes far beyond just claiming and taking ownership of it. Here are some examples of optimizations that can improve your Google Business Profile ranking in local searches:

  • Accurate Business Information: Ensure that your business name, address, and phone number (NAP) are consistent across all online platforms.
  • Categories and Attributes: Choose the most relevant business categories and add attributes that describe your business features, such as "wheelchair accessible" or "free Wi-Fi."
  • Business Hours and Special Hours: Keep your operating hours updated, including any special hours for holidays or events.
  • Customer Reviews and Ratings: Encourage and respond to customer reviews — positive reviews not only boost your credibility but also contribute to higher local search rankings.

2. Local Keywords and On-Page Optimization

On-page SEO deals with optimizing all the content that is visible to potential customers on your business's website. 

To improve local search rankings for your primary business site, it's essential to incorporate relevant local keywords into as much of your website's content as possible. 

This includes optimizing meta titles, meta descriptions, headers, and body text with location-specific terms that potential customers might use when searching for your products or services. 

Here are a couple other local keyword and on-page optimization strategies for local SEO:

  • Localized Content: Create content that is geographically relevant. This could include local news, events, or stories that connect your business to the community.
  • On-Page SEO Best Practices: Implement best practices for on-page SEO, such as using header tags, optimizing images, and creating a mobile-friendly website. Google rewards websites that provide a seamless user experience.

3. Local Link Building

Building a strong network of local backlinks is another key aspect of local SEO. Local backlinks are links from other websites in/relevant to your community and target audience that lead back to your business. Local link building strategies include:

  • Local Directories and Citations: Ensure that your business is listed accurately on local directories, and maintain consistent NAP information across these platforms and other online business listing sites.
  • Local Partnerships and Sponsorships: Forge partnerships with other local businesses or consider sponsoring local events. This not only strengthens your community ties but also provides opportunities for valuable backlinks.
  • Guest Blogging: Guest blogging is a content marketing strategy that involves creating blog content for other sites in return for that content linking back to your site.

4. Mobile Optimization

Considering that mobile searches account for at least 63% of all organic searches, optimizing your website for mobile devices is crucial for local SEO success. Google prioritizes mobile-friendly websites in search results, so ensure that your site is responsive and provides a seamless experience across different devices.

5. Local Schema Markup

Schema markup is a code that you add to your website to help search engines understand it better and provide more informative results for users. Local businesses can use schema markup to provide additional details about their products, services, and location, ultimately boosting their visibility in local search results.

Closing Words

While all types of search engine optimization are important, local SEO is definitely the most important aspect of SEO for local businesses, including brick-and-mortars and SABs, to focus on.

This has been just a brief overview of local SEO, but we hope that you now have a better understanding of what local search engine optimization is and how it works.

If you're not sure where to get started with local SEO, use a local rank tracker — such as Local Falcon — to start monitoring your business's position in local search results and identify optimization opportunities you can implement today.

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