Updated : Feb 2019
Ranking your local business on the first page of Google search results can become the most lucrative marketing strategy that you can ever implement - if done right.
In this post, you will learn how to rank higher and get guaranteed online presence on the profitable parts of the local and even organic search engine results pages - in the simplest way possible.
Why Everybody Wants to Rank their Local Business on the First Page of Google
A lot of businesses have shifted to the online marketing game. Most of them have been particularly trying to make their business websites appear first in the Google search engine.
Situations range from smaller businesses aiming for the first page without paying (free options) to more established local businesses who have the budget to get results within 24 hours.
But how do you really get your local business show up on the most lucrative part of Google search? The answer points to a marketing technique called Local SEO - which is simply the process of improving the Google search ranking of any local business website.
The local side of SEO has garnered more popularity than ever. There is a strong emphasis on Google local properties. People like to put their business on the map through Google maps and claim the top spots of the local SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).
This is because consumers are checking out the local pizza stores, bakeries, gift shops and other services from their laptops and smartphones. The local part of Google search is definitely getting busy and businesses need to gear themselves too.
According to studies (Hubspot), 91% of US Internet users search every month, 89% search for a local business once a week, and 1 in 3 smartphone searches are made right before a store visit.
These users can be your business’s next customers. If they can't find you online, you don't exist for them. Are you taking part in optimizing your site?
Terms & Concepts to Know in Becoming a “One-Click-Away” Local Business
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the process of enhancing a business' listing to take advantage of Google traffic specifically the related results to a query based on the location of the searcher. Getting that listing on the top of Google is always the goal.
In other words, being able to show up on local searches whenever your offer is relevant to the needs and location of the searcher. It’s simply the process of ranking locally on Google, increasing the online presence of your business to attract more traffic and leads from relevant local searches.
Well of course, not just increasing ranking but online reputation factors such as google my business reviews should be considered as well.
To draw local customers closer, your Google business listing can be a conveniently beneficial tool as it allows your local business to be marketed online, where most people rely on search results.
In a simple sense, it is simply making sure that you are the best solution/answer to particular product or service demand in your locality.
Local SEO is also considered as a specialized type of Search Engine Optimization that enhances the chances of prospective customers to find your local listing when they search for specific goods or services in your region. It works more efficiently than conventional SEO, when people search specifically for a nationally and/or globally recognized brand, product or service.
This is the kind of SEO that can help Tim get more clients in Nevada, Texas for instance. This is the kind of SEO, which directs people to Tim in Nevada rather than Tim in New York, when they google his name.
Some cases can help explain the applications of local Search Engine Optimization better.
Sometimes your target audience, when they want to get more knowledge about your business, may remember your name or your brand, but want to find out more about your contact number or address. This is one of the most important purposes of your business listing in SEO.
Sometimes people may need a specific service that should be available near where they live. These are the customers who are just waiting for what you have to offer. You simply need to be there the moment they search.
Local Search Engine Optimization can help attract leads and at the same time help you be there at the right time in the most visible part of the search engine results pages.
More importantly, it is something that goes along with the best marketing practices. The needs of the target audience will be the primary consideration. In this case, what people most likely use to search for your brand, product or service.
Then your business should be able to provide the best experience possible for that local intent.... regardless of type of device is being used by the searcher.
Why Conventional SEO is Not Enough to Rank Your Local Business on Google?
As Moz puts it, SEO is the practice of enhancing the "quality and quantity of traffic" to your website. (Traffic simply means website visits.) This specifically refers to traffic that comes from organic search engine results.
In the local setting for instance, when someone googles 'Canadian maple syrup', your maple syrup store should show up in their results. Search Engine Optimization involves the methods and maneuvers to make it possible.
Conventional SEO alone does the trick only when it's a global/national business. But when your business is geographically limited, it just doesn't just cut it.
For instance, consider Sam, a dentist in Nevada, Texas. Sam does everything possible to stay on top of the search results. But when Sam's clinic is shown in results to someone browsing from India, neither parties are benefited. Sam needs to optimize her website for Nevada or just the Texas region - something that is possible through Local Search Engine Optimization.
The Local Intent On Top Search Engines
Local searches are not only processed on Google. There are a bunch of other search engines that people search local businesses on. There is Yelp, Bing, Apple Maps and many more.
So in what search engine should you step your game up? In the US, it is estimated that Google has an 87% market share. Most people use this search engine to look up local businesses.
Additionally, Google states that 46% of searches nowadays have local intent. When searchers put up business-related keywords on Google, it primarily shows results that are associated with the searcher’s location even though other businesses in other parts of the world have higher rankings in the field of what is being searched.
Google Takes Local Seriously
Google continuously find ways to make it convenient for both local businesses and customers to connect. There have been countless revisions on various Google properties related to local search intent. If you are into this field for several years now, you will most likely be familiar with Google places page and Google plus business before it became the current Google my Business. (Update: Google plus will be shut down by Google)
We can always expect changes, but as long we are in line with their vision of providing good user experience, we've got nothing to fear. Google local business listing optimization will always work for our benefit.
Where to Rank Your Local Business: Local SERPs, the Snack Pack and Organic Results on Google
When you type keywords for a product or service you’re looking for on Google and other search engines, it is understood that the business results being searched are based on your current location. These suggestions are being offered on the local search engine results pages (SERPs).
There will appear two sets of results for your query: the “snack pack” results and the “organic” results.
Google Snack Pack is what you call the boxed top 3 local business listings that appear on Google’s first page of results that are suitable with what you’ve searched for. The “organic” results, on the other hand, are the ones that come after that box.
Experts say that 33% of all the clicks are earned by the local “snack pack” results while the regular organic results get 40%.
To find your way to rank in these positions, you might want to double your efforts in your local SEO. That is a major key.
Bonus: When viewing search results from any location, you will need to understand that sometimes Google personalize your results based on your activities, location, or if you are logged in to your Google account. Even the ads and map packs are different depending on your settings. To get around this, use impersonal search plus in private browser.
Anatomy of a Local Search Result
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Every time information about your local business is mentioned on web properties, especially the business directories and yellow pages sites, the confidence that Google has on your business ascends, leading to higher positions in maps pack. Any mention is commonly referred to as "Citations".
Getting a citation is the building block of the success of your local SEO. Wherever your business’s NAPW (Name, Address, Phone number, Website URL) information appears throughout the web, that is a citation. It shows up on online directories or business listings websites.
An accurate and consistent business details online is something to consider. All citations must also further support what you placed on both your main website and Google my business listing.
68% of users say they would stop being customers to a local business if they find incorrect information in local directories. With that being said, information must be regularly updated and cleaned up to avoid difficulties in the future.
A High Level Overview of What Goes On in Local SEO
To start with, it’s essential to keep in mind that your potential customers do local searches on Google using various apps and devices. There are the Google Maps app and Google Assistant. Some do their search on mobile and some on a laptop. If your Google maps listing or label is not showing, then you are missing on a lot of opportunities.
Results may vary depending on the location you are in or the device you are using. Phones have smaller screens compared to that of laptops. Because smaller screens can limit the results seen at first glance, customers in a hurry tend to rely on the top results therein. This is why there is a high demand for google maps optimization services.
Initially, the important thing of course is to make sure you are there in the right playing field and that you are taking advantage of all the tools you can use to maximize your brand and business presence online.
According to their website, Google My Business manager account is a free and easy-to-use tool for businesses and organizations to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps. It is basically your business’s profile on Google.
When you look up a business on Google, 46% searches are all local. While a lot of businesses are already taking advantage of the suggestions to improve google maps or google local business listing optimization, only 56% out of all local retailers haven’t already claimed their Google My Business listing.
Consider your business’s stance across the web. Haven’t claimed yours yet? Then, you’re missing out your ticket to the journey to Google maps top 3.
Leverage Local SEO Solution Providers
If We Will Dig Deeper Into the Basics...
The 1-2-3s of local SEO explained in previous sections are really simple. BUT! That's the bare minimum. For your business to totally rock, get ready to go the extra mile. Improving your sales or clientele by about 1000% is a real prospect. Find your footing in accordance to your local SEO strategy and the available resources within the industry.
- Clear all outdated and inappropriate listings about yourself.
- Additionally, know the search queries that fit your bill.
- Familiarize yourselves with your competitors.
- Check on their footprint and find where they get their citations from. There are specific tools to do that. Also, there are specialists to take up this job, that's often followed by advanced tasks. We don't suggest going solo, when you are a total beginner.
Opportunities Missed in Local SEO
What makes local SEO work? What really makes your business show up as part of the top players? Let's check the core problem, why your local business may not be showing up.
The mistake local businesses do is forgetting to complete their listing especially the most crucial business details. Optimizing your listing name, description, address, phone, hours of operation, website, and one wild card - your Google categories!
Also, you really should be very familiar with your GMB dashboard!
Google categories are only some of the very few clues we have on what goes on in Google's algo when it comes to relevancy. Not taking advantage of this is one of the major opportunity missed by most local businesses.
Another mistake is setting and forgetting. After a Google listing is claimed, a lot of online marketers just leave it like that. It is important to continuously mirror what you placed in your Google My Business listing to what you say on your website, and other properties around the web!
So basically, to improve your visibility, it starts by overcoming those basic mistakes before you can go all the way to advanced and expert implementation of Local SEO. A lot of what I just mentioned are part of another chapter. But check out our Local SEO blueprint for more!
Choosing the right guy for the job...
Ideally, it is not recommended to take a DIY route on local SEO. The job does require the help of an experienced local SEO provider.
Educate yourself on local SEO to choose the best company from the lot. Check whether they are committed to take up your project.
Test their commitment by verifying whether they have solid plans to optimize your site. Ask some hard hitting questions before placing your trust on them.
Knowing the right questions to ask...
When choosing a Local SEO provider, cut to the chase and ask what's their plan is for you. If they are talking trade secrets, this isn't your SEO agent. Secret 'recipes' should tell a lot about their lack of credibility.
- A good company should make you feel you know what they will be doing.
- More importantly, you will know for sure, why they will be doing that.
- Discuss with them about Local SEO vs. Organic SEO debate.
- Get a feel of their philosophy and authority on it. Such talks should give a sense of how effective their techniques are going to be
- Ask questions for which they just can't fake it.
- Shake hands only when you're 100% confident that their company will be committed and effective in making you rank better.
Enter your text here...
6 Common Actionable Steps in Ranking Local Businesses on Google SERPs
Climb your way up the listing ladder!
While there can be hundreds of approach to optimizing your way to profitable parts of the local search results, here are the 6 items we picked just to make sure you have a good foundation for your local SEO domination.
Worried? Don’t be! This guide is specifically made for you. So stand back and relax because we’ve got your back.
Step 1. Consider User Experience
Ask yourself, “Is my website providing good user experience? Is it even mobile‐friendly?"
You would want to ensure that your website can be reached not just by visitors who prefer normal browsers but also those who use mobile. 61% of these searchers tend to connect with local businesses who have sites that are mobile‐friendly. Creating a mobile-friendly website means you can be accessed on all devices.
In addition, what the eyes see has an impact to the brain. Make sure to have your website appealing to the customers. No matter what your rank is, nobody wants unprofessional-looking sites. The goal is to attract, not to drive away searchers.
Of course if you happen to be a Local SEO agency, aside from knowing all about your client business, you will want to look in the eyes of all important parties involved:
Now in a perfect setting, you would want to outpace competitors while providing the common interest of the other parties mentioned.
In a high level explanation of this basic concept, you would want your client's business to get more leads so that you as a marketer can perhaps earn more or offer higher dollar services. The end users get the experience they need and the channel remains a profitable place for everyone (so try your best to play by the rules of that channel).
Step 2. Choose your Keywords Wisely
In it's most basic sense, simply look into your customer's mind.
What keywords will they most probably use whenever they are willing to pay for something they can acquire through online search?
Local SEO keywords
Before we get to the processes, let's talk keywords. Keywords for localized search is not the same as your usual SEO keywords. It should clearly include both the product/service, and location.
SiLs (“Service in Locations”)
Example: "Baton Rouge Plumbing Service"
As you do your keyword research, the locations involved in your business whether they are actual physical locations of your business or service areas play an important role.
- Enumerate what services you do and where.
- Once you have these words, mix and match them so you’d get ideas of good keywords.
- Don’t skip including plurals and variations of your services.
- You may also use keyword generators online or sites that will help you derive local keyword ideas such as Craigslist.
Google Autocomplete / Google Suggest
It’s such a nice experience when the Internet offers convenient searching. The same thing applies with keywords.
Having your customers find you through keywords can be made possible with Google Autocomplete.
Begin with the basic keywords of your business, type it on Google, and skim through the list of suggestions that are offered.
You may want to take some relevant suggestions into account. Do the same thing with your other variations.
Refining and Selecting Your Keywords
If 'Divorce Attorneys' is your keyword, localized keyword would be "Divorce Attorneys Alabama" or "Divorce attorneys in Alabama".
When it comes to the location, focus on name of the city, state and overall region. Familiarize yourselves with keyword modifiers, which are adjectives that serve as prefix for your keyword.
SEO Keyword: Divorce Attorneys
Local SEO Keyword: Divorce Attorneys Alabama
Local SEO Keyword with Modifier: Trusted Divorce Attorneys Alabama
Always check if your chosen keyword, its variations, and in combination with modifiers:
- trigger the maps pack
- has at least signs of search volume (well it can be really low since it's local)
- has realistic difficulty in relation to competitors. (A lot of tools can help you check KW difficulty such as Majestic SEO, SEM Rush, or AhRefs)
- BONUS: it would be best if your keywords are really close, if not exact to the GMB (Google My Business) categories applicable to your business.
Look in the Eyes of Your Target Audience
Let’s say you’re in a different city, you have limited time and then suddenly you feel you’re starving because you haven’t eaten yet. How do you easily find somewhere to eat locally? Doing an online search seems a quick, convenient way.
You type keywords on your search engine and voila! Within seconds, you have a solution to your problem.
This kind of setting is no stranger to what your customers face. Better make sure your keywords are tailor-fit to the kind of business you run because you never know when a potential customer is in need of a business just like yours.
More importantly, consider buyer intent. The most profitable keywords are the ones being used by searchers to solve their problems.
And if you happen to present the best solution by just simply being there the next time they search, then you got yourself a lead.
Step 3. Set up your Google My Business listing
It is important to know that you can add multiple locations in Google My Business, which you can manage in the locations dashboard - so still just one login and you can manage everything!
To start setting up an account, click here. This is the chronological order of what you’re going to do:
Enter your business name
The first thing Google will ask for is your business name. Type the name and they will look for your business in their system. It’s either you will create a new business or claim an existing business.
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When you create a business name, only put the name, exclude keywords. Google My Business has a set of guidelines that you need to follow. Read them first to make sure that you comply with them.
Enter your address
Enter the address of your business. If Google already has your business in their system, this section will appear prefilled. Upon claiming your listing, double check or update the information.
However, if confusion brought by other circumstances may arise, refer to the guidelines provided by Google. If your business has a real physical office, use that address. If you work from home and you have business partners with you, choose the address of the person nearest to where you mainly serve. Do not put the address if you have a virtual office unless staffed during business hours, or you may just put the address of your home.
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You will encounter a checkbox saying, “I deliver goods and services to my customers.” Check this if you deliver goods and services to your customers. If you listed a home address, check the corresponding box saying, “Hide my address (it’s not a store).”
Enter your exact location
If a map show up, drag the location pin to where your business location is.
Choose a category
Think what best describes your business because you only get to choose one. According to their guidelines, to help you decide what would that be, complete the statement “This business IS a” rather than “this business HAS a .” It should depict what your business exactly is.
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If ever that you’re unsure, take a look at your competitors’ category. In doing so, you can help your business locate its place in the competition.
Enter your phone number and website
This one is optional but if you do this, be sure to be consistent with the information you provide all throughout.
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Verify your listing
Verifying your listing is usually done with a phone or via a postcard sent to you location. Google will provide you instructions on how to verify your GMB listing.
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Optimize your listing further
Once you’re verified, don’t stop! Your Google My Business ranking will depend on how you maximize your optimization opportunities by putting additional information such as phone numbers, opening hours, other services you offer, more categories, and uploading geotagged photos.
Further, make use of all available features such as Google post, Google sites, Google Photos, Google Reviews and many others.
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Google My Business Insights
Every time you have the opportunity to sign in, it is always worth the time to check your latest Google My Business statistics. A lot of hacks can be derived from the the numbers that Google reveals about your business. There may be times when it seems like your listing disappeared from the search results. Aside from reaching out to the support team, you can figure out the root cause of the problem by first checking the most recent stats which reflect real world reception of your local business.
Once your GMB Listing is Live
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Once you are able to verify your business successfully. You will start showing up on Google maps and Google search.
Step 4. Pay Attention To Your On Page SEO
On-page SEO refers to the strategic processes you can apply to what you can control and manipulate on your web page to attain higher ranking in search engine results.
Make your website rank locally
Does your business run in different locations? Make your landing pages location-specific to help you with your local ranking in each place. Here’s a recommended structure: nameoflocalbusiness.com/nameofarea/.
Something to keep in mind: just put the locations where there is actual presence of your business. Include related, nearby places that have something to do with your business. For distant places, only make a landing page if your business indeed runs in that specific location. Don’t make different landing pages with the same location but somewhat varies in terms, it’s not helpful for your ranking.
Improve your webpage
When you optimize your homepage, narrow down your focus by giving emphasis on your business’s main location. Because local SEO is all about locality, Google will show localized results.
On your location page (for multiple - location businesses) or site-wide (for single location businesses), add these to help with your optimization:
- NAPW (Name, Address, Phone number, Website URL) information
- Google Map showing your location
- Customer testimonials/reviews/ratings
- Schema markup
Improve your local landing pages
Optimize your local landing pages specific to each location. Add each area’s opening hours, words related to it, and if you have physical presence, add your local NAPW.
Enhance schema markup of your pages
Schema markup refers to the semantic vocabulary of tags (or microdata) that can be added to your HTML. This is used to improve how search engines read and represent your page in SERPs. By adding this, Google and other search engines can be able to better understand the data that that is being put in your website.
You don’t have to worry much about this because Google’s Structured Markup Helper is here to help you! Just start by marking the “local businesses” checkbox, paste in one of your pages, then click “start tagging.”
You will begin with entering your NAP (name, address, phone number). Add your business’s logo. You may also put additional information that are acceptable, just remember everything is consistent with your Google My Business data.
Once you’re done, click “create HTML” and choose the JSON‐LD format. Use Google’s Structured Data Testing tool to test the code. What you will do is to paste it and any error will be highlighted. Fix what needs to be fixed and then paste the code into your website’s header section.
Should you have different locations, do the whole process for each of your business’s local landing pages.
Step 5. Build links
For local organic results, link signals are the most crucial ranking factor according to a survey done by Moz. While for the local snack pack, these are second.
Wonder how to build links to local business websites? Here’s what you need to do:
Be your customers’ “need”
What made you create your business in the first place? Of course, you probably have assessed the what, who, where, when, and why of your business. To be part of the business world is to be innovative. What drove you to do what you do may be a product of observing something that needs help or solution. Does your business hold a role in this?
Because people are constantly in need of things that help them better their lives, evaluate what “help” your business could be. And, who can this “help” assist. In this way, you can build help the identity of who you can attract and most importantly, how can you attract them—your potential customers.
When you finally have the answers to these, you can easily formulate how your business should be promoted. Facebook and other social media sites, where most of your potential customers could be, are a great place to start with.
In this case, exposure equates to attention. For local businesses, write for local blogs and publications that can send your website targeted referral traffic.
To find such opportunities, you can Google combination of keywords that include guest posting, blog posting, your location, and type of business.
Take a look at your competitors
“Find the sites linking to your competitors but not to you,” this is Ahref's Link Intersect’s catchphrase when you go to their site. Link Intersect can uncover a lot of directory links that are among your competitors. This is a great way to be at par with your competitors, isn't it?
Step 6. Go the Extra Mile to Rank Higher
If you think you've done (and known) every strategy towards a successful local SEO by now, you're wrong! This isn't a one time big time move.
Be consistent on Google My Business
Your journey on Google My Business is a never-ending one. What you need to do is to respond to reviews coming from customers or clients. This is an indication of a good business. Record and see what the point of view of others is. Positive or negative, every review from them can help you grow, improve, and be the business you've always envisioned.
Mistakes are inevitable but that's okay. The good thing about your customers or clients having a say is that they can help you realize errors that you may have made. They can suggest edits on Google My Business. These can be validated by Google without you knowing so keep an eye on everything that can affect your ranking. Any edits that may appear inaccurate should always be something that you should be aware of.
Take advantage of Google Posts to inform your customers. It is a micro-blogging program on that Google My Business covers. This can appear on your listing and in here is where updates are made. With that, this can draw attention to your business.
Create content continually
How does Google and your online visitors know if your business is still ongoing? Creating content continually solves that! An update once or twice a month will do.
Not only do blogs attract links but they can also be an indicator that your business and website is well-maintained.
Content can come in a form of a simple blog post update, an important news, a comprehensive tip, a video, an info-graphic, and the list goes on. Anything that can provide value to your prospects, take advantage of it.
So much have been said but hopefully you get the gist of the basics of local SEO. Remember that focus, creativity, discipline, management, and hard work can help you be a successful business.
In addition to that, this guide can aid with that, too! So give it a shot and we wish you and your business the very best!
Too Lazy to Read? Here's A Video about Local SEO - From Ahrefs.
Or this Local SEO SlideShare Presentation
What You Can Do:
Here's your AxiFic takeaway for this post!
- Step up your game by reading our Free Local SEO Blueprint
- Start Completing and Optimizing Your GMB Listing
- Start Auditing Your Website for User Experience
- Start Doing Citation Audit, Cleanup and Building
- Start Improving Your Website's On page SEO
- Start building relevant and high quality links - the more local they are, the better.
- Continuously Create Locally Relevant and Useful Content for your Customers
- Encourage Reviews
- Reverse Engineer Your Competition
Need A Custom Local SEO Blueprint?
We can audit your existing campaign and create strategies that are actionable and specific enough! All you need to do is forward it to your SEO Specialist!
*all images are non-copyrighted stock photography