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Local SEO | How To Optimize Your Business Query Results

Local SEO is so important because every business wants to be found with local search by search engines. That’s why even our own local SEO strategies go beyond just web content creation and social media sharing. We are an SEO company that works directly with local customers and others from around the world. And the results of what we do, especially, daily can tell it all!

A great Local SEO campaign works when a customer finds your business first and is a great source of lead generation. Google Maps and a good Google My Business page are important first steps. But, you’ll be successful in local search when your website uses search engine optimization to master all SEO. Let’s create an updated SEO Marketing Strategy for the year, together.

What Is Local SEO?

In reality, business listings are one of the most important ranking factors that impact Local SEO. Meaning, local search ranking must be consistent among Google Local, and Bing Local Listings. So, what is local SEO and how do you create your strategy?

What Is Local SEO?

Local SEO is the practice of optimizing a website to increase traffic, leads, and brand awareness from local searches. Common tasks associated with local SEO include finding local keywords, optimizing a business’s Google My Business profile, and building “NAP” citations. It’s an SEO strategy that helps your business be more visible in local search results on Google.

It’s nothing like International SEO, so to say. Remember; International SEO refers to optimizing your search presence for people who are in different countries or speak different languages. Whereby, a successful SEO uses elements such as geo-targeting, Hreflang tags, and other localization signals. To target web content on basis of users from around the world.

When you optimize local SEO, you are focusing on reaching customers and increasing visibility in a targeted geographic area. This type of SEO is important for local businesses that have a brick-and-mortar location. Local SEO can increase both web traffic and foot traffic. Targeting local SEO can help your website and business rank first when a customer in your area searches.

Using local SEO can help you increase traffic for the specific cities, suburbs, or neighborhoods that you wish to target and serve. An example of utilizing local SEO is with a Google My Business page, which appears at the top of a Google search and includes information such as your hours, location, phone number, and website.

How Does Local SEO Work?

It’s important to realize, 46% of all Google searches are local. Yet 56% of local retailers haven’t even claimed their Google My Business listing. For those of you that are unaware, claiming and optimizing your Google My Business listing is the cornerstone of local SEO. If 56% of businesses haven’t even claimed their GMB listing, well, I doubt what else they’ve done much.

Of course, any business that has a physical location or serves a geographic area can benefit from local SEO.  For one thing, if you search Google for any important keywords related to your business and a map with 3 listings appears underneath it (also known as a map pack), then local SEO can help you grow your business.

At a high-level Local SEO works like a “normal” Google search. When someone searches, Google scans through its index to provide the best results for that person’s query. What makes Local SEO unique is that Google uses a different set of ranking factors to rank the local search results. Local SEO has a set of unique ranking signals, that many SEOs fail to fathom.

Consider the following:
  • The location that the person is searching from
  • NAP citations
  • Presence of Google My Business listing
  • Keywords used in Google My Business profile
  • The sentiment of online reviews
  • Keywords used in online reviews
  • Number of “check-ins” at that location
  • Shares on social media
  • Google Maps star rating for that business

But, while claiming your Google My Business listing is a good starting point, there’s much more to local SEO than that. Let’s now have a look at how good local SEO is done in detail. Unfortunately, many marketing companies don’t practice what they preach.  For one, there are some immediate concerns that an SEO Marketing Agency should be concerned with.

Consider the following:
  • Page Titles lacking an SEO focus keyword
  • Web page titles are copied from the blues
  • Site Pages with URL length issues and foreseen errors
  • Having a Schema Markup that is nonexistent for recipes, products, shows, or events

Overall, nothing ever changes on the website!  The Wayback Machine — Internet Archive — offers a backlog with screenshots on any URLs that were ever indexed. Its founders — Brewster Kahle and Bruce Gilliat — developed the Wayback Machine to provide “universal access to all knowledge.” More so, by preserving archived copies of defunct web pages.

How Local SEO Looks Like

When we talk about local SEO, we’re looking to rank in search results that are localized. Let’s take a look at some of the places that you’ll want to show up. Sometimes, as you’ll see in most local business search results, it’s 100% ads above the fold. Hahahaaa!

But, although this is supposed to be a joke, Google still holds the truth. Of course, it has been pushing more ads into local search results over time, than you can even understand. So, this is something you’ll want to keep an eye out for going forward.

This is commonly referred to as the “Local 3 Pack” / “Snack Pack” / “Map Pack” — where you can see a maps pack with 3 listings. And then, you can see the normal organic results underneath. But, that’s not the only place that search is influenced by Local SEO.

The Ranking Algorithms Affects:
  • The SERP Maps: Searches often use Google Maps to find local businesses,
  • Mobile Search Results: Ranking also affects mobile results too through the new News Result addons,
  • Knowledge Graph Results: It affects knowledge graphs as well for most searched businesses too.

But, wait a minute; what about searches without a Geo-Modifier? Well, even when you search without a geo-modifier, you can get localized results. Notice in the screenshot below, what if I search just the term “dentist” — without putting a city or location. Well, Google already knows where I am, and thus it’ll display localized results for us!

Local SEO Search Results Ranking Factors

In other words, Local SEO is everywhere! Still, are you stuck, yet? Don’t worry! Fortunately, if you have a Brick And Mortar Store, or service area-based business, then this guide will greatly help you. Whilst, ensuring that you are showing up where you need to be.

Additional Reads:

The Internet Archive’s website has a very easy-to-use interface to search for website information. The site provides the date and times of when the site has been crawled, as well as a capture of the site. So, in the end, the investigator can see how the site has changed over time. These achieved web pages may provide the investigator with additional useful information.

This could include ownership information in the archived “About Us” section that may have been deleted. Or rather, later changed to prevent the current webpage from disclosing website ownership. Why am I telling you all this, you wonder? Remember, I mentioned to you that many marketing companies don’t practice what they preach. This is one way to catch them.

How Local SEO Business Optimization Is Done

Do you want to rank your local business in Google, Bing, Apple Maps, and other local search engines? By now, you’re already in the right place. As I mentioned, local SEO refers to the process of ‘optimizing’ your online presence to attract more business from relevant local searches. These searches take place on Google and other search engines.

That other point is also an important one — this isn’t just about Google. People search for local businesses using various search engines… Google, Bing, Yelp, Apple Maps, etc. However, Google has an estimated ~87% market share (in the US, at least). Meaning, most people are using Google to search for local businesses. So, let’s talk about Google for a moment.

Just thinking it loud and then writing a blog post for it is quite hard — how local SEO is done, for real. What am I even thinking? Is there nothing else I can tell my readers about? Well, well, don’t worry yourself to death — you are not alone in this journey. Quite often, most of us have found ourselves at this very point in life. The only difference is we are fighters.

And now, as you very well know, unless it’s webmaster guidelines, product updates, policy terms, service solutions overview, and so forth, Google does not blog to be queried as we do. Instead, just like many other SERPs, it’s just a pathway between content creators and many web users looking for relevant content.

The Key Local SEO Ranking Factors

In the next Local SEO guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about ranking your local business. Use these local SEO marketing strategies to get more free traffic from search engines! Whether you’re a local business, a marketer, or an agency, we’ll walk you through how to rank on Google, and even how to use Google My Business to show up in Google maps.

We’ll also look at how to build NAP citations and business listings, and more. It’s the beginning of a new decade and it’s time to develop an updated SEO Marketing Strategy for the year. The majority of marketers and small businesses are focused on appearing higher organically, but many never follow through on the process.

Some key ranking factors include:
  1. What influences the map / 3 pack rankings, and other map results
  2. What influences organic listing rankings

Again, Featured Snippets and enhanced SERP features should be at the top of your priority list for the content that you produce. Overall, this is the year to look at your SEO Marketing Strategy so closely as a long-term project rather than a one-time show. Bearing in mind, optimization and maintenance are ongoing processes to build your brand on the web. So what are the influences?

Local SEO Pack / Map Rankings Factors

Technically, the #1 factor is My Business Signals – you’ll need to properly optimize your Google My Business listing. I’ll cover that in a bit more depth below. But first, check out the illustration of the local SEO case study by Moz shown below.

Local Map Pack Ranking Factors

Going down the list you can see that links are very important, as well as on-page signals from your website, citation signals, and reviews. Some SEOs even call this a “blended algorithm” – if I may add.

Previously, map results were less influenced by your website’s ranking signals, but now the two are almost intertwined. If you’re not ranking in maps, it may be because you need stronger signals to your website. Let’s talk about that:

Organic Listing / Website Ranking Factors:

This is about the section below the maps in the organic results. Referring to the same Moz Study, here are the top ranking factors:

Localized Organic Ranking Factors

You can see here the #1 ranking factor is link signals. Links remain a vital part of ranking organically. As we go down the list, we see the On-Page Signals feature as well. More so, for optimizing your website with appropriate keywords and content. As well as the inclusive listing of the overall behavioral signals, personalization, and NAP citation signals.

Additional Reads:

Your Google My Business listing is ground zero for how your business data is displayed on Google Maps and Knowledge Graph. In the past, Google has changed how this works and the naming scheme. At one point it was called Google Local, it was also once a part of the Google Plus+ ecosystem. But now, it has all been de-coupled and separated into just Google My Business.

In the 2017 Moz study about local SEO ranking factors that I previously cited, Google My Business signals come up as the number 1 most important factor for ranking in maps results. If not yet, you need to claim and optimize your Google My Business page!

How To Rank In Google Maps Organically

First, head to this link and click Start Now. An important reminder: for a more professional touch, use your business domain email as your login (read: not @gmail.com, @yahoo.com, or any other general email client). You should be taken to a form to put in your business information. Enter the same NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) info that you displayed on your website.

And then, pay attention to the category section at the bottom. Listing the correct category, which lets customers (and Google’s bots) know exactly what your business does, is important for displaying your business in the right search results. Google allows you to use multiple categories, so use as many as are relevant to your business. Be as specific as possible.

 

Google My Business Category

Next, to make any further edits to your account, you need to verify it. Be that as it may, there are a few ways to focus on.

Consider the following:
  1. Postcard: Google snail mails the verification code to your listed address.
  2. Phone: Google sends the verification code to your phone through an automated message.
  3. Email: An instant verification option using the same Google My Business login details in your Search Console account.

At times, some options may not be available, and in that case, the most popular way is to receive a postcard in the mail. Your eligibility to verify using any of the options depend on what type of business you have. Google provides more detailed instructions for every process on its support page here. Make sure you fill out every section possible.

Including uploading photos and filling out all the categories. Want to take your Google My Business optimization to the next level? Check out the Ultimate Guide To Google My Business here! After you have verified and completed all the information for your Google My Business profile, you’ll want to move on to getting awesome Local NAP Citations! What does NAP mean?

Well, in general, NAP Stands For Name, Address, Phone number. More recently a few terms have been thrown around like NAPU (Name, Address, Phone Number URL) or NAPW (Name, Address, Phone Number, Website). Why get NAP citations on relevant directories around the web?

Consider the following reasons:
  1. According to the latest studies by Moz, citation signals account for 13% of the ranking factors!
  2. Many people ALSO use these directories to search for businesses (not just on Google!)
  3. Many of these directories rank for localized terms
  4. You can also get a relevant link to your site by creating a listing!

That said, as you can see, having the correct NAP citation is important for lots of reasons, with some not even mentioned herein! And now, let’s draw our focus on how to rank your web-based business in Google Maps with even better results below.

#1: Create A Consistent Citation 

Citation inconsistency can cause ranking issues. Sometimes businesses can run into a pickle if somethings has changed like your address or phone number. It’s time to do an audit to make sure all your citations are consistent. Why is that important?

A citation is any online reference to your NAP. It does not need to link to you, but Google evaluates them as a local signal. For this reason, it’s able to determine an entity’s online authority. And overall, having inaccurate and inconsistent NAP can negatively affect your local SEO. According to Search Engine Land columnist Myles Anderson, citation inconsistency is very harmful.

For one thing, it’s the no. 1 issue affecting local SEO ranking. Make sure there are not too many variations of your NAP scattered around the web. Especially, if some or many of those are outdated, this makes it hard for customers and thus, Google, to trust your information. If Google thinks your data is untrustworthy, this could downgrade your local search ranking.

#2: Audit And Optimize Your Citations

The most complete way to do a citation audit is to do it manually and uncover all listings and variations of your NAP. But if you just want to do a quick check, you can use Moz Local. Enter your business name in the input bar to the left, and your zip code to the right, then click Check my Business Listing.

As a result, Moz local pulls up all the corresponding listings related to your website from the main local indexing platforms. Including high authority resource listings that will have the most impact. And then, it displays any inconsistencies it finds.

Once you see these inconsistencies, record them in a spreadsheet and make a note to contact the website owners to correct the NAP info with the one that’s consistent with what you have. The results from Moz local are limited to the top indexing platforms that Moz has tagged. So, you may still have citations from other less authoritative or structured website sources alike.

Additional Reads:

These other citations may have less of an impact,  and it will take you time to do a proper audit for every last one, but if you’re so inclined, we created a citation audit and cleanup services that can do a more comprehensive, in-depth job for you. Another alternative is to use our citation audit service – it’s relatively inexpensive and we’re pros at it. Next, just move on to build citations.

#3: Build Your Local NAP Citations

All businesses are different, and you’ll want to create custom citations based on your industry and area. Generally, there are quite many ways to go by. But, as a beginner, there are 2 good places to start with while creating directory citations as follows:

With these lists, you can find the top directories that you should be listed in based on your situation. When building these listings, you’ll want to make sure to fill out the profile, including your business description, hours, photos, NAP, and more. Citations can be a bit of a pain to create yourself though, which is why there’s a service that will do this for you called HOTH Local!

Next, we’ll move on to optimizing your website! Optimizing your pages is important to rank for the keywords your target audience is looking for. You can see a full discussion of this a bit in the article on local keyword research. Though still, there are a few major things you’ll want to make sure you do to rank your website locally.

#4: Set Up Your Website Structure 

To Rank Landing Pages, it’s also good to set up your site structure. If you serve multiple cities, you can create city-specific landing pages for each city. This is a common workaround for a business that only has 1 location, or does not have an office, but serves an entire area. For instance, you may set up your website to have multiple landing pages for each area that you serve:

  • yourwebsite.com/suburb-1/
  • yourwebsite.com/suburb-2/
  • yourwebsite.com/suburb-3/

This will allow you to rank organically in places where you may not have a physical office! Likewise, make sure that you display your NAP in Schema format on your website.

And, as such, make sure you display your name, address, and phone number combination on your website, and preferably in schema format. Make sure that this NAP is consistent with your business listings. P.S. Don’t forget to put your business hours!

#5: Optimize Your Title Tags, Meta, Headers & Content

All normal On-Page Optimization Elements apply here. You’ll want to include your city as well as your keywords in the title tag and on the page. You should also try and Embed a Google Map. For one thing, it’s a great idea to embed a Google map to your location. More so, for your target web users to easily locate and find your lead content.

Additionally, you should also make sure that you include Reviews & Testimonials in your website content. Displaying reviews on your site will help improve conversions, giving users confidence in your service. But, most importantly, make sure that your website is Mobile-Friendly. Bearing in mind, Google has a large focus on mobile-friendly websites.

Additional Reads:

If you recall, we saw the start of this with Mobilegeddon in 2015. Meaning, you’ll want to use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Tool to make sure your website displays correctly on mobile devices. And, if your website doesn’t pass the test, you should consider a website re-design. Or rather, start updating the main WordPress Theme for your Site.

The Best Strategies To Get Local Business Web Links

The next thing is to start doing local SEO link building for your site. Getting links to your website is as important with Local SEO as it is with any other type of SEO, and many of the same techniques work here. This includes the need to publish valuable content for your audience, promote to relevant influencers, guest post in other blogs, and get links on relevant resource listings.

What distinguishes local link building from general link building is its specificity. You should aim to place your links in more locally targeted resource listings and blogs. I’ll assume you already know what valuable content is, how to promote to influencers and all the other usual things I’ve already mentioned. And now, below are some key strategies to consider.

#1: Local Business Listings Links

Before you being, always ask yourself; what establishment would the locals rather support? The business that keeps posting about how good they are on their blog and social media, but has yet to make any connection with their locality, or the business with an active presence and consistently makes a positive impact to the community?

The next thing is local business listings links. But first, gather all the results of your search into a spreadsheet and organize by priority — which ones to connect with first, depending on their relevance and influence.

Consider the following:
  • First, reach out to get your business listed in the most relevant business directories. (Or use our citation building service. Or even join the most active, massive, trade-based organizations related to your business.
  • Secondly, partner with charities, non-profit organizations, or schools. Offer services, sponsorships, scholarships, or even an office space to host their events. As well as participate in or spearhead community events. You can also open a mentoring program, whether for the community or local schools
  • Thirdly, mine your connections to set up an interview with prominent local figures (such as elected officials) then pitch it to your local newspapers.
  • Last but not least, network with local bloggers and other small businesses in your area. Choose which ones are the most relevant connections, and open up a link or promotion exchange. Speak at your alma mater’s next events, or, even better, grant an interview.

Once you do any of these things, pitch the announcement or story to your local newspaper. Why are these important? Getting featured by any of these local resources may yield you some very authoritative .edu, .org, and .gov links.

Let’s head straight to what’s new: finding your locally targeted leads. Whitespark has created a list of the top 50 local citation sites by a country that you can refer to. If that comprehensive list failed to cover everything you need, you can also find more local leads by mining on Google. Below are combinations of queries you can use for business listings and directories.

For local businesses:

[location] business listings

[location] business directory

[location] directory

[business type keyword] business listings [location]

[business type keyword] business directory [location]

[business type keyword] directory [location]

For trade organizations:

[location] [business type keyword] alliance

[location] [business type keyword] association

[location] [business type keyword] council

[location] [business type keyword] society

As an illustration, there’s even this web business store owner who opened a local scholarship — according to a local link building case study by MOZ — and even got featured in their local paper. In addition, they even got so far as to get a link from The Wall Street Journal as shown in the screenshot below.

The Wall Street Journal

Even better, participating actively in these local events gives your local SEO a boost — it’ll also increase your local visibility. Additionally, if you deliver your projects right, you can as well boost your reputation within your local community.

#2: Get Your Business Ready For Reviews

It’s time to boost your business’s local reputation. This means getting more positive reviews! Which restaurant would you rather go to? A B&B with no online profile, a 3-star rated burger place peppered with dissatisfied customer posts, or a 4.7-star rated Italian place downtown with dozens of glowing reviews?

If you’re not one to take chances with a good meal for your buck, you’d probably go with the safest choice — the restaurant you can find online, and read verified, good reviews about. According to a recent local consumer reviews survey, around 87% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Something you too needs to consider in your local SEO plan.

Additional Reads:

But, the wonder of online reviews doesn’t stop there. Reviews can also help drive search rankings up so quickly too. What’s more, a study cited by marketing resources firm consultancy found that having reviews on sales pages can increase conversions by 18%.

So, when you improve your online reputation, you get not two, but three birds with one stone: a vote of consumer trust, a boost in search rankings, and a chance for increased conversions. And now, after all that, it’s time to claim your business profile.

#3: Claim Your Business Profile On Top Sites

Another thing you’ll need to do is to claim your business profile on top review sites. Hubspot published a list of the top 19 consumer review sites, which includes Yelp, Google My Business reviews, TripAdvisor, Better Business Bureau, and Amazon, among others. First, prioritize which sites will bring you the most value.

Choose which review sites are the best for your industry. If you’re in the housing business, Zillow is the review site for you. If you’re in the restaurant business, TripAdvisor would be an appropriate place to start. You can also check your customer service or onboarding reports to track how many customers reportedly found you via which consumer review website, if any.

If you don’t find anything conclusive, then you can stick with the basics: Google reviews — as they show up alongside your Google My Business page, along with your star rating; and Facebook, which also uses the same star rating factors in your reviews. Consider Yelp, with its more than 100 million users, would also do well for almost all locally targeted businesses.

More so, those who want to show up on the map. For Google and Facebook, once you have your business accounts up and running, the review process is as simple as customers leaving comments on your business page. For Yelp, you can claim your business listing by entering your business name and address. Go ahead and Grow your business with Yelp, for free, for better!

#4: Consider Getting More Quality Reviews

If your site is not listed, Yelp will prompt you to create a business profile. It will take a while before Yelp’s moderators verify your business, but after that, you’ll receive an email and you’re good to go. Why is verification important? One thing is for sure, it lets you edit your business information and respond to any user reviews.

So you’ve got your online business profiles down pat, how do you go about the painstaking process of building up your online reputation? But, wait a moment, how do I Get More Reviews? Well, increasing the volume of quality reviews doesn’t have to be hard if you have a system in place. We even have a full guide on Why Google Reviews Matter that’s in detail.

Like Hoth, at jmexclusives, we’ve been able to collect over 1K+ reviews just by asking! However, you can read the step-by-step process of getting more reviews in detail. But, to try to put the whole process in a nutshell, you’ll need to understand a few things.

Consider the following:
  • Collect positive reviews through review-prompting widgets, email autoresponders, and email signatures.
  • Backlink stats to your website or other online business page profiles, and then incentivize for encouragement
  • Resolve negative reviews before they go out by redirecting lower-star reviews to customer service

If you’d like some help with this, you can check out the review software, HOTH Stars which will help you get more reviews too! Keeping in mind, studies have consistently shown that the majority of consumers are highly influenced by online reviews as well, so to say.

In nutshell, the more quality, positive reviews you get, the higher your chances are of convincing customers to choose to spend their dollars on your business. Therefore, it’s quite important to make sure that you prominently display these reviews on your website!

#5: Find A Great Local SEO Agency

Finally, it’s time to connect. Set the stage with how you want to be communicated with and be sure it is followed at the onset of your relationship. Secondly, be sure you are in tune with one another before initiating the relationship. Another important aspect is to ensure that you choose to work with others wisely. And, as interesting you are, your business success is the same.

Are they asking you questions to better understand your intentions and your goals? There’s no way that they will know your business as intimately as you do. Or are they trying to? Do you see their gears turning and the proverbial light bulb going off? Make sure the people/ person you are speaking with has an interest in helping you succeed, not just looking for billable hours.

Related Resources:
  1. What Is SEO? Everything For Every Web Marketer To know
  2. Link Testing Tools | What Webmasters Should Use For SEO
  3. Best SEO Tactics | Get More Rich Snippets CTR & Ranking
  4. WordPress SEO | A Full Guideline On How To Do It Right
  5. YouTube SEO Rank Algorithm | How to get in No #1 results

Always remember, there’s always a catch! But, a big piece that is often overlooked is finding a great Local SEO agency. Or rather, a consultant that ensures you’ll be able to successfully work with them. Searching for a great outsourcing agency may start with a search like the Lead SEOs in Kenya, if I may. You have your tempo and communication style, make sure they are a match.

By the same token, if you are accustomed to responses in a certain amount of time and a specific format, make sure that they will be able to deliver on that. Or, at the very least, you should have an understanding of expectations at the start of your relationship. Communicate with them via phone, email, and text message to be sure you are connecting appropriately.

Whatever the case, jmexclusives is the BEST SEO AGENCY to consider first. All you’ll need is to Consult Us and let us know how we can sort you out. But, if you’d like just to contribute or ask a question on the same, you’re free to share them below.


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