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What Is Local SEO and Why Is It Important?

Local search engine optimization is a branch of SEO that focuses on maximizing a website’s chances of being found in local search results and can be an incredibly effective way to market your local business online.

Local SEO follows a strategic process that focuses on emphasizing the optimization efforts of local brick-and-mortar businesses. Optimization for local SEO can be quite different than traditional on-page SEO.

What Is a Local Search?

To really understand what local SEO is, it’s best to begin with understanding the difference between a standard organic search and a local search.

Anyone with well-optimized SEO and authority can rank for a search query like ‘how to fix a clogged drain.’ This query has informational intent. The difference comes when the query has buying intent behind it. Some examples of these are:

    • doctors near me
    • retirement communities in [city name]
    • car washes near [city name]
    • doctors in [city name]

Much like the examples above once purchasing intent enters the search box, the query changes from ‘how to fix a clogged drain.’ to ‘plumbers near me’ or ‘plumbers near [location]’. These are called ‘near me’ searches.

For ‘near me’ searches, search engines understand that what the user is looking are business suggestions or lists based on their location. This is precisely what they offer up in the local search engine results pages (SERPs).

Why Is Local SEO Important?

Local SEO can be a powerful tool in a marketer’s arsenal for business with physical locations, as it helps businesses promote their products and services to local customers at the exact time they’re looking for them.

Recent statistics show that 46% of all searches on Google have local intent. Additionally, 88% of customers who searched for a local business on a mobile device either call or visit that business within 24 hours.

Local SEO is also part of Google’s Core ranking algorithm and has been since 2014. This update, popularly known as “pigeon,” allows Google to prioritize local results for searches.

Map Pack

The Map Pack is the holy grail of local search visibility. This list is the block of three business listings that appear below the map in the results displayed after a Google search with local intent. Often referred to as the “Local Pack" or “3-Pack,” local businesses can significantly increase organic traffic to their site by earning a listing in the map pack.  

Below is the local pack that results from the search ‘recording studios denver’.

Studios DenverAlmost everything that is displayed in a Map Pack listing comes from a business’ Google My Business profile.

What Is Google My Business?

Google My Business (GMB) is a free tool businesses can use to help manage their online presence. A business’ GMB profile can include information submitted by the business owner, such as a general business description, what services are offered, contact details, and hours of operation. It’s important to note that features such as GMB questions, Google Reviews, and user photos are almost entirely generated by consumers, ideally who have had an experience with the business.

Ensuring that your business has an up-to-date and accurate GMB profile can have a large impact on local ranking. Additionally, having a trustworthy, attractive, and appealing business listing can help increase click through rates to your website and / or its contact information.

While powerful, it is not the only ranking factor in how Google determine local SEO rankings.

How Do I Rank in Local Searches?

Now that you have a general idea of what local SEO is about, you’re probably wondering how your business can rank for local searches. Generally speaking, there are three major ranking factors that can influence ranking in local searches. These are:

    • Proximity: How close is your business to the user?
    • Relevance: How relevant are your services or goods to the search query being used?
    • Prominence: What do other customers say about your business?

However, this is not all that goes into it. The reality is that the local search environment is much more complex and includes dozens of factors.

Every year, Moz compiles a list of these ranking factors and their relevance. Below are their findings for 2018.

Moz Local Search

Local SEO strategies range from including your website and business information on your website to claiming your Google My Business listing to creating/claiming your business in various online directories (i.e. Yelp, Yellowpages, HotFrog, etc.) to attracting user reviews and ratings across multiple platforms.

Admittedly, performing local SEO optimization can be a bit daunting given the complexity of the local search environment.  If this is something that your business needs help with, there are many SEO services that can help with this.

Grow Your Business with Local SEO

Local SEO is an important but complex part of a well-rounded organic strategy for any local business. Given current increases in mobile searches, local SEO is only going to get more significant in the future.

Now is the time to leverage local SEO services to help increase traffic to your business before your competitors catch on. All local businesses can help make more money through local SEO, so get started today!

Matt Walde
Post by Matt Walde
March 5, 2019

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