What is Local SEO and Why Your Business Needs It
Local SEO is a technique used to improve the online presence of local businesses within search engine results, with the goal of increasing leads and brand awareness. This is achieved using three SEO techniques; business profile information, NAP citations, and organic search results targeting relevant keywords.
A successful local SEO strategy will result in your business appearing towards the top of Google’s standard organic search results, and within Google’s Local Pack, also known as the Map Pack.
Google’s Map Pack
The Map Pack, also known as the Local Pack, is a list of local companies that Google classifies as the top local businesses for the search term.
As you can see in this example, Switch Jam appears top for the search term ‘Local SEO near me’.
46% of Google Searches are looking for Local Information
How Local SEO Can Grow Your Business
On average Local businesses get 1,260 views per month via Google Search and Maps
You’re Just 3 Steps Away From Ranking Higher
What Type Of Businesses Benefit From Local SEO
Local SEO is extremely important for businesses with geographic limitations, such as local contractors, or businesses with physical bricks and mortar locations. Whereas e-Commerce stores have no physical location for their customers to visit, in the same way that large service providers operate remotely from office locations.
Locally operated companies need to draw customers into a physical location to sell their products or services. Or they may need to promote their services to clients located within close proximity of their office or home, so they are within traveling distance for on-site visits. A good example of this would be a building contractor or pest control specialist. Here’s a list of business that can benefit significantly by investing in a professional Local SEO service:
Bricks and Mortar
- Cafés or Restaurants
- Retail Stores
- Gyms and Health Centers
- Estate Agents or Insurance Brokers
- Health Care Professionals
- Automotive Service and Repair
- Educational Institutions
Local Radius Specific
- Roofing and Guttering Services
- Flooring and Carpets
- Appliance Repair Services
- Electrical Services
- Pest Control
- Plumbing and Heating Contractors
- Window and Door Installation
- HVAC Services
- Home Security and Alarm Services
- Fencing Installation
- Pressure Washing Service
- Building Contractors
- Solar Installation
- Landscaping and Tree Care
- Take-away Delivery Services
- Taxi and Transport
Why SEO Is So Important For Your Business
It may not surprise you to learn that 46% of all searches on Google have local search intent. Meaning users are searching with phrases such as “best restaurants near me”. But it may surprise you to hear that 76% of local Google search results in some type of action, such as a store visit, or a booking. So, this goes to illustrate the huge opportunity for local businesses prepared to invest in Local SEO and get their business in front of search engine users.
How Local SEO Works
In many ways, Local SEO works in the same way as a standard Google search. A user enters a search term “Plumber in Birmingham” and the results are generated.
The main difference with Local SEO is that Google includes the Map Pack feature, and it also utilizes a different set of ranking factors.
Ranking factors are the criteria within search engine algorithms used to determine the best result to present to users. For Local SEO there are hundreds of factors, but the most significant criteria include:
- Search Intent
- Location of The Search
- Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP)
- Google Business Profile [formerly Google My Business]
- Local Directory Citations
- Review Sentiment
- Incoming Backlinks
- On-Page Terminology
- Social Media Signals
Top 9 Local SEO Ranking Factors
The key to delivering a successful Local SEO campaign hinges on fulfilling a number of different technical and quality requirements. Search engines, and in particular Google, set out guidelines to help website owners and agencies create content to promote their business without breaking the guidelines and being subjected to penalties.
But they never disclose exactly how their search engines work, whilst continually updating their algorithms and adjusting thousands of ranking criteria. Due to the confidential and secretive nature of how search engines like to operate, the SEO industry has had no choice other than to learn through trial and error, by split-testing different SEO techniques across a number of similar websites and taking note of the best-performing tactics.
Due to core algorithm updates happening 3 or 4 times a year, the goal SEO posts can move significantly. Notwithstanding the regular monthly updates for specific search features and E-E-A-T. With that being said, as of today we can reliably say there’s a list of major criteria that need to be met for a good Local SEO campaign. Here’s a fairly simplistic and easy-to-grasp explanation of the nine most important ranking factors for Local SEO right now.
1. Location of The Search
The physical location of the person conducting the search is obviously the single most significant determinant of local SEO rankings. Search engines use the computer or phone IP address to geo-locate the device location, and provide the most relevant local results. Therefore, a user searching for a restaurant in Cheltenham will see different results from a user performing the same search in Worcester.
So it’s critical for businesses to ensure their location information is accurate and up-to-date across all digital platforms, allowing search engines to use this information as a ranking factor.
2. Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP)
Your business Name, Address, and Phone number also known as (NAP) has to show consistency across all digital platforms, such as your website, social media pages, directory listings, and Google Business Profile.
Any discrepancies or inaccuracies will confuse search engines, or look suspicious and potentially lead to lower rankings. Google and other search engines use ‘Trust’ as a major ranking factor across all areas of SEO. In SEO ‘trust’ is expressed in many ways, but your company’s NAP is what really underpins it. You see, search engines are looking for red flags that could indicate fraudulent activity, suspicious behavior, or other black hat practices. If your company NAP looks like it has been falsified in any way, Google and other search engines may view this as a red flag, and penalize your listing. Even the smallest detail, such as using different ways to spell Avenue or Ave across various web directories can lead to problems.
There are a number of specialist SEO SaaS tools we can use to consolidate a company’s NAP and manage it from a single dashboard, keeping the entire data set consistent across the web.
3. Local SEO Keywords Search Intent
Search intent, also known as user intent, refers to the underlying motivation that a person has when typing a query into a search engine. It’s what the user is trying to achieve, such as seeking information, making a purchase, or finding a particular website.
Common Local SEO searches consist of three common phrases:
1. Intent + Service = Best Plumber
2. Service + City = Plumber in Birmingham
3. Service + Near Me = Plumber Near Me
A local SEO campaign will focus on targeting search terms with local intent, or intent to buy such as ‘best plumber’.
Search engines are smart enough to piece together several strings of information to deliver the best results. For example, let’s take the ranking factors we have discussed so far; Location of The Search + NAP + Search Intent – and piece them together below, to illustrate how search engines use it.
A user searching for the Best Plumber would have been made from a device IP within a certain location, e.g. Birmingham, and the result will be from a company that has Birmingham data contained within the NAP (name, address, phone number).
Determining the Best plumber will be derived using Customer Reviews and other ranking criteria from Google Business Profile and other sources. This will be pieced together to list the best local plumbers.
It’s essential to use optimized Local SEO keyword phrases when it comes to ranking your website or Google Business Profile.
4. Google Business Profile
Google Business Profile, formerly known as Google My Business, can significantly influence local SEO ranking. If the profile is set up correctly, and verified and each section is optimized for SEO, it can steer Google in understanding more about your business, and the quality of the listing.
Regularly updating a profile with keyword-optimized posts, and photos, as well as responding to customer reviews or questions, demonstrates to Google that your business is active and engages with its customers. Which can have a positive effect on your local ranking.
5. Local Directory Citations
Citations are instances where your business Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP) appear on other websites or directories. Examples of these directories include Yelp, Yellow Pages, and TripAdvisor.
As a general rule, the more relevant and high-quality the directories are, the more credible your business appears to search engines. On the flip side, listing your business in low-quality spammy directories can often lead to search engine penalties and poor SEO results.
Having the knowledge and technical capabilities to identify low-quality directories is essential. When local listings or websites get hit with a Google penalty, it is often as a result of actions taken several years before, when listing a business in any directory for ‘link juice’ was an acceptable tactic. Unfortunately, these outdated grey-hat methods tend to come back to penalize unsuspecting website owners.
6. Customer Reviews
Customer reviews have a role to play in building a robust Local SEO strategy. It will be no surprise to hear they can enhance or damage your reputation. But they can also influence your ranking in local search results. Google’s algorithm recognizes positive reviews as a trust signal. It also understands that reviews are sometimes negative, and business owners who are responsible and respond to negative reviews demonstrate trust, professionalism, and appreciation, which Google rewards. So even negative reviews can lead to positive SEO if handled in the right way.
There are five primary factors that businesses need to pay close attention to when trying to rank in Google’s Local Pack and Map results.
You may have heard the term ‘backlink’, which is used to describe a hyperlink that links to your website. For example, if your website URL https://mywebsite.com/ was on another website, that is classed as a basic domain-level backlink.
In the eyes of search engines, a backlink from a credible, high-quality website acts as a vote of confidence, improving your website’s authority and relevance. Backlinks continue to play a big part in all types of SEO, and acquiring powerful backlinks can be a game-changer.
However, not all backlinks are created equal. Generally speaking nowadays, the easier they are to create, the more likely they are to have a detrimental effect on your website. Search engines have really tightened down on spammy backlinks, user-generated links, and paid backlinks. Building links has become something of a specialist SEO discipline, as they can make or break a website. We use very strict guidelines for our link building, to mitigate the risk of being hit by a Google penalty.
8. On-Page SEO
On-page refers to actions we take on your website to optimize your title tags, meta descriptions, headers, copy formatted for Rich Snippets, word count, keyword density, and many other page elements. It’s purpose is to help Google understand what your business services or products are, and where your business is located, improving your online visibility within your local area.
A website with well-optimized pages, combined with a strong Google Business Profile will always outperform a stand-alone website or a stand-alone Google Business Profile. You see, search engines like to cross-check their facts, so having two sources of information reinforces the positive signals and geographic referencing that search engines need.
9. Social Media Signals
An active social media profile can drive traffic to your website, increase brand visibility, and provide a platform for customer engagement. Although this is not a direct ranking factor, a high level of engagement does indirectly influence your SEO. It offers another reference point for your business, that search engines like, and it demonstrates that your company is proactively working on expanding it’s reach and building a brand.
This is a strong signal to search engines that your business is active and is worthy of inclusion in their search results. The last thing Google wants to do is present a business that no longer exists or is simply neglected.
10. Other Ranking Factors
There are many other ranking factors that all play an important role in how search engines perceive the quality of your business. Such as User Experience on your website, including the time spent on each page, the bounce rate, website Page Load Speed, and other elements such as Content Layout Shift.
It important to acknowledge that Search Engines are put under huge demands crawling billions of web pages daily. So they tend to give preferential treatment to well-managed websites that are easy to crawl and understand. This is where a Technical SEO service is important to make sure your website code and structure are set up to accommodate search engine bots.
Optimizing Your Google Business Profile
Your Google Business Profile should be viewed as your digital storefront, so you need to make the most of it through optimization. Google wants to show the best businesses in its search results, and to do this it analyses several metrics and signals from your business profile.
- Complete Every Section: Fill out each part of your Google Business Profile and complete as much of the content as possible. This includes your business name, address, phone number, website, hours of operation, and product or service categories. Google want to see that the profile is live, and actively being managed.
- Choose the Right Business Category: Be as specific as possible when choosing your business category. Google uses Category as a classification in deciding when to show your business in search results. Get this wrong and you could be missing out on opportunities to promote your business.
- Use High-Quality Photos: Upload high-quality images of your business store front, your products, or services. Businesses with photos see higher engagement than those without.
- Get and Respond to Reviews: Encourage your customers to leave reviews. Respond to reviews, whether they are positive and negative. This demonstrates that you value customer feedback and are engaged with your clientele. Google recognizes this characteristic and associates it with a professional business worth promoting.
- Post Regularly: Use the Posts feature to update customers about new products, offers, events, or other business activity. This can be used to encourage customers to engage with your content and build your brand.
- Use Keywords: Your Google Business Profile should include relevant keywords in the business description and posts, that clearly describe the products or services that your offer. However, avoid keyword stuffing, as this detracts from the user experience and can lead to Google downgrading your listing.
- Verify Your Business: Make sure your business is verified. This process is typically done through a verification code that Google sends to your business address.
- Keep Information Up to Date: Regularly update your profile to make sure the information is current and correct. This includes hours of operation, especially during holidays or special events.
- Use The Messaging Feature: Give customers the option to message you and get a quick and clear response. Again, this type of willingness to serve customers, provides a clear signal to Google that your business is worth promoting in search results.
- Manage and Respond to Q&As: Monitor and respond to the questions and answers section on your profile. This is also a place where you can add frequently asked questions and provide answers.
A well-optimized Google Business Profile can lead to improved visibility in local search results, which ultimately will attract more customers. Regular maintenance and updates are an important part of maintaining a fully optimized Business Profile.
How Much Does Local SEO Cost
The cost of Local SEO varies depending on the client’s requirements and the current state of their online presence. I know, how frustrating as you just wanted to know how much this stuff costs. Okay, I will put down a few examples so that you have an outline to work with.
We offer three types of Local SEO services, 1. Google Business Profile Set Up, 2. Google Business Profile Management and 3. Local SEO campaigns.
1. Google Business Profile Set Up
This service gets you a Google Business Profile account set up and optimized as a one-off project. We work with the client to gather all of the business information required and proceed to create your Google Business Profile.
The cost of this service can vary but starts around £450 ($495). Once the project is complete we hand the account over to the client to manage.
2. Google Business Profile Management
This is our ‘done for you’ service where the Google Business Profile is handled by an account manager on a monthly retainer basis. The goal is to rank the profile as high as possible in your location of choice. The services included are listed in the expandable link below.
This entry-level SEO package is very popular with sole traders who want a hands-off approach, without having to spend large sums on more advanced SEO campaigns. It costs £495 ($549) per location. Some clients operate multiple stores or franchise locations that require this National or Multiregional SEO service covering each location.
3. Local SEO Campaign
For anyone really looking to dominate their local web search results, having an optimized website is essential. The combination of a website optimized for Local SEO and a Google Business Profile will benefit both your Google Map Pack and organic search results.
Most small business websites that use this entry-level SEO package have less than 20 web pages in total, so we optimize each page for local search terms and user intent on a rolling basis.
This type of Local SEO package also includes all aspects of technical SEO, to ensure your website is easy to crawl and performs well in Google’s Core Web Vitals. In total, we perform over 45 checks and tasks each month.
This service starts from around £895 ($995) per month, with your account manager working to squeeze every last drop of SEO juice out of your existing digital assets.
For clients wishing to invest to drive growth, we offer a number of advanced SEO packages, where we deep-dive into your competitor’s websites and develop a customized SEO strategy for your business. This incorporates advanced keyword research techniques, topical mapping, content production, link building, removing toxic backlinks, building E-E-A-T, trust citations, Social Signals, and many additional advanced techniques. If you have an appetite for serious growth, tell us about your project by requesting a quote below