Three things to keep in mind when optimizing for local search

Written by dartera
July 8, 2022

Let's start with the obvious. In 2020, every search is a local search. Google knows where you are and where you used to be (and can probably guess where you are going). Whenever you enter a search query with commercial intent, you get carefully calibrated results.

Ideally, you should appear in Google's Local Pack. The Local Pack is the table of top business listings that appears when you search for something you want to buy. With more than half of searches coming from mobile devices, a single Local Pack on a smartphone can take up as much space as an entire results page.

If you're not making the effort to optimize for local search, you're simply leaving money on the table. This guide is specifically designed to explain the most important aspects of optimizing for local search. In the end, you should have a sufficiently clear idea of what to do next.

So the three biggest problems for local SEO are:

  • Google
  • Links
  • and website audit

Let's look at each of them in detail.

Dealing with Google My Business

Not surprisingly, Google My Business has quickly become an indispensable factor for local ranking.

I assume that everyone reading this already has their Google My Business pages up and running. Let me make this clear: it's the right thing to do if you want to optimize for local search at all. If you haven't already, it's imperative that you become a verified business owner on Google My Business now.

The tool is free, of course, and allows searchers to see the details you enter about your company. Take care of the details like phone number, opening hours, payment options, address and so on. Upload photos of your company too! Of course, the most important photos are of the site itself, but photos of your products, interiors, and even employees are also very important to Google.

After you have created a nice, enticing description for your business, determine the appropriate category to include it in. Be precise. "Used car dealer" and "car dealership" are two very different categories that attract two very different types of customers.

And do not forget the Google reviews

Oh, Google reviews. These days, it's typical to stand in line and order a hamburger, only to be told there's a discount if you leave a Google review.

Leave all that behind.

Google reviews are the most important factor for ranking. Once you have five Google reviews, they will show up for anyone who comes across your business page in search.

So you really need to make it a priority to ask for a Google review. Set up an email, have a QR code, flyers - whatever. Be careful not to be overzealous, but keep reminding yourself because it actually helps.

When these ratings come in, you should deal with them! Thank the customers who leave positive reviews and address the issues raised in the not-so-positive reviews. This is important for two reasons.

First, it is important to solve any problem your customer has with your product or service. Second, your potential customers should be able to see how you handle negative feedback. A thoughtful response to a negative Google review could actually bring you some customers.

The priority for Google ranking is of course Google reviews. However, increasing the number of your reviews on the web generally affects your position in Google Local Packs.

Maintain your links

Since Google introduced the so-called Pigeon Update, more and more the same ranking signals are used for local search engine optimization as for regular search engine optimization. This means that backlinks are now just as important for local SEO as they are for your non-local campaigns.

The relative weight of your page in relation to the backlinks is one of the most important, if not the most important ranking factor. For local search engine optimization, backlinks are by far the second most important factor for your ranking. So make it a priority to find important, relevant links.

PageRank is more important for ranking today than ever before. For this reason, building a good backlink profile should be at the top of every marketer's agenda. As always, your backlink profile is a balance between link quantity and quality. Of course, more links are better, but quality links are even better.

And don't forget the non-linked mentions

Don't limit your research to just your backlinks. Make it a priority to monitor even your unlinked mentions with a social listening tool. This way you can see who is talking about you on the Internet and in what context. As you know, most people talking about your business don't really bother to link.

At this moment, hundreds of people are talking about your business online, and you probably don't know about it. With a tool like Awario, Tweetdeck or Brandwatch, you can see thousands of mentions of your brand across the web. When you target the people who are actually talking about your company, you can control your brand image in a very direct way.

Check your website

After the aforementioned Pigeon update, traditional on-page optimization became an important metric for local rankings. Therefore, performing a proper audit should be a top priority for anyone aiming for a good ranking. Fix your h1 tags, minimize the 3xx pages, take care of the 4xx pages - all this is crucial for ranking.

Pay particular attention to the pages that are already well placed. See which keywords your pages already rank for and, if your tool allows it, which keywords are also used by your competitors.

Place valuable keywords wisely in your HTML tags, but be careful not to overdo it. There are penalties for stuffing keywords, of course. However, a properly optimized page that is also written for humans has a much greater chance of being included in the Local Pack.

And monitor your local rankings

Of course, after all these efforts, you should also check your rankings. Every company benefits from learning how it ranks in different regions of its country, city or even neighborhood. We all know that SEO is not just about improving content and link building.

Sometimes, as trivial as it may seem, a business fails to rank locally because there is not a sufficient customer base in that location. Such a problem can only be diagnosed by examining the SERPs for different areas where you want to do business.

Both Maps and Local Pack results are extremely location dependent. Always keep this in mind when doing your research. To ensure that your business is displayed in the right places within a city, the search should be narrowed down to a specific address.

There is the easy way and the hard way to find localized search results.

First, you can adjust your Google search settings or use a proxy or VPN. However, if you want to look up your rankings for each individual street, you'll have to dig a little deeper.

In Chrome, go to Tools > Developer Tools, and then click the 3-dot icon. From there, you can go to More Tools > Sensors. Then select Other in the Geolocation drop-down list and enter your coordinates. Then all you have to do is perform a search and view the results for the location you specify.

Now does that sound more like the easy way or the hard way?

A simple way, as with everything since trees are cut, is to use a tool (e.g.. Seobility). Using special software, you can enter the desired location and automatically receive the desired results. To learn how to view Google search results for different locations (both manually and using tools), see this guide in Search Engine Journal.

Making It Work

A decade ago, local SEO was a completely different thing than "regular" SEO. Nowadays, everything is different. Search engines are perfecting the art of delivering extremely specific results to their users. Never again will you, who live in Zurich, get Brazilian websites with many keywords when you search for "buy bike".

Instead, you will see a Local Pack with ratings, ranks, addresses, phone numbers and pictures. And the businesses will be conveniently marked on Google Maps. In this environment, any business that wants to grow needs to do local SEO.

If you are not represented in this Local Pack, there is a good chance that your customers will not find you at all.