Marketing
December 21, 2021

Everything you need to know about local SEO

When you open a business or begin building a brand, you automatically start building a reputation. Now, we know there’s a lot to learn and a lot to do when you’re starting out. That’s natural. But if you put in groundwork, you can help your name spread like wildfire.

The best way to bring maximum visibility to your business is by levelling up your local SEO rankings. By this, we mean how high you appear on search engines for local queries.

For example, if you’ve just opened a men’s designer clothes shop in Northampton, you’ll want to make sure you’re ticking Google’s boxes to top the rankings.

Wait, what is SEO?

If you didn’t know, SEO is your mission to appear higher on search engine result pages (that’s SERP’s for short).

SEO is all about understanding your audience. Who are the brains behind the searches – and how do they think? There are four patterns of thought you need to think about: 

  1. What are they searching for?
  2. Why are they searching for it?
  3. How do they want to find it?
  4. Do you have the answer?

If you’re craving a more comprehensive breakdown of SEO, visit our primer here.

And what about local SEO?

Standard SEO is usually known as organic SEO. Whilst organicSEO usually thinks about global domination, local SEO is all about becoming the hometown hero based on your business’s geographic location.

The aim of local SEO is to get your business appearing in local search engine results. Google’s local packs and maps, Apple maps, local review platforms and so on.

For example, if you’re a bakery based in Northampton, you’ll want to rank high on SERP’s when somebody searches something like:

  • Bakeries near me
  • Northampton bakery
  • Bakeries to visit in Northampton
Okay, cool - why is local SEO so important?

That’s the million-dollar question, right there. And it all comes down to those screen-swiping, keyboard-writing customers of yours.

Did you know that 46% of all Google searches have ‘local intent’ (Social Media Today, 2019) – this means they’re looking for a personal, localised result. If Google approximately registers 5.6 billion searches a day (Hubspot, 2021), local ones take up 2.5 billion.

If that’s not enough to persuade you, 76% of people that search for something local – like a car wash in Northamptonshire – visit that store the very same day. And 18% of local searches result in a purchase within24 hours (Backlinko, 2020).

Do you want your ecommerce brand to rank first for your town? Of course you do. It’s a no-brainer. Read our guide to local SEO for all you need to know to get started, and if you want to talk long-term SEO strategies with us, get in touch.

A local SEO expert’s guide to getting started

When you’re building a brand, starting a business, or taking your store to the next level; there’s a lot to do and learn. That’s why we’ve done the hard work for you and simplified the building blocks of local SEO into three key factors you need to focus on.

1) Understanding Google's guidelines for representing your business

The guidelines for representing your business on Google is your local SEO bible. Find them here. Read it. Then again. And again. Don’t put them down until you know them off by heart.

If your business either has a physical location that customers can visit, or travels to customers where your customers are, you can create a Business Profile on Google. For example, if you’re that Northamptonshire bakery, you might be based in a shop at Sixfields or travel to markets in Blisworth.

The most important part of the guidelines is understanding the ones for eligibility for inclusion on Google My Business. It’s a simple one, too: you must make in-person contact with customers during your stated hours.

So, if you’re not serving people face-to-face during opening hours, you’re not eligible – so you won’t be listed, and you won’t be able to conduct local search marketing campaigns.

2) Basic business data

When you’re using the internet to advertise your business,you’ve got to work with data to do it.

Set up a spreadsheet and list out each of your store’s locations. You’ll need to add its name, address, contact details (that’s mobile, email, and fax – hey, a lot of businesses still use fax, okay?), your business description, opening hours, and the kind of payment forms you accept.

Whilst this step is more for you than it is Google at this stage, you might run into trouble as your business grows and you’ll need to use Google’s bulk upload services.

3) Identifying your business model

Google’s guidelines for representing your business have unique requirements and opportunities depending on your business model. And they’re always changing. So, brush up on them regularly.

Of course, it’s important to understand what kind of business model you’re operating within Google’s categories. For example, our Northamptonshire bakery might serve customers face-to-face and deliver packs of cookies, so it would be a ‘Hybrid’ model whereas a car wash in Duston would be a ‘Mobile Business.’

Cracking Google’s Local SEO Algorithms

Algorithms. Who let them out of the classroom, right? Whilst you might have a few flashbacks to mathematics, understanding Google’s algorithms for local SEO is critical.

Google’s local packs, local finders and maps are always updating and always unique to the user. This means that its algorithm for local SEO breaks the mould made by organic SEO.

Like with organic SEO, there’s hundreds of ranking factors.But don’t worry about counting them all. There’s just three you need to focus on:  

  1. Proximity – where Google believes a user is in connection to your business address.
  2. Prominence – how important Google thinks your business is in relationship to your nearby competitors.
  3. Relevance – how closely related results are to words searchers use.

Proximity

We apologise if this next bit feels a little too much like 1984, but Google is always watching. It knows the postcode a user’s computer is in. It can even pinpoint exact geocoordinates of mobile searchers.

That’s why when we search ‘bakeries near me’ and we’re in NN3, you’ll get options like Deliciously Divine Cake Design and Brooklyn Brownie Co. because they’re in the same postcode.

Remember: local SEO hinges on a clear understanding of user-to-business proximity. You can’t control where in the world somebody’s searching. However, this does offer up opportunities to meet more regular customers through localised searches.

Prominence

Prominence is all about trust. It’s about being the brand the locals can get behind. If you were a Northamptonshire pub, you’d want those living in the streets near you to flock in their droves on a Tuesday night for the pub quiz – not go halfway across town in a taxi.

Google measures prominence by a bunch of different factors such as: 

  • Your Domain authority – your relevance to a specific area or search.
  • The number of links and mentions your business earns.
  • Foot traffic to your business’ physical location.
  • The local business listings it builds, and any user activity around it.
  • The number of its reviews – and what they say.

If you want to be a local SEO hero, you’ll need to nail prominence. Your goal is to influence Google’s trust in your brand as an authoritative answer to a user’s query. ‘Good pubs near me Northampton’ – you want to be right at the top.

Relevance

Google has a reputation to uphold. That’s why relevance is a key factor for local SEO. Because they don’t want to throw out suggestions for search queries that don’t help the user. And that would just make your life difficult too – you’ll end up with confused customers looking for something else.

Relevance is measured a lot like prominence. Google thinks about your website’s content, your on-page SEO (you can find more on that here), your reviews and the content of them, the text of Google posts and so on.

When it comes to relevance for local SEO, it’s simple: you want to be the brand Google believes is the most appropriate answer to a query.

Here’s all the Local SERP features you can win

Sometimes in life, it’s easier to see local SEO like a gameshow. There are prizes to be won for ticking off your tasks.  And those prizes will bolster your business by bringing you new customers and creating more awareness around your brand.

The prizes are local SERP features. Here’s a whistle-stop tour of them all and what to look out for:

  • Local Organic Results – Google’s old-school lists are all about the searcher and where they are in the world, which is wonderful for you. Remember, localisation equals personalisation, so ranking high here means you’re ticking the boxes for proximity, prominence and relevance.
  • Local Pack Results – You’ve all seen these. They’re usually just above the organic results, highlighting three listings for local businesses (and the occasional paid ad!). When your business lands a local pack result, you’re practically finishing on the podium at the local SEO Olympics, okay?
  • Local Finder Results – With local packs comes local finder results. If a user clicks ‘more places’, it’ll open up into an interactive map with even more options. This is handy, as it highlights how close your business (and your competitors) is to the user.
  • GoogleMaps – Okay, this one’s sort of cheating. It’s the same as local finder results, only it’s specifically on Google Maps. But local SEO will help you appear higher.
Building authority brick-by-brick

Being a brand is about more than painting a picture. It’s about being better at local customer service. When it comes to local SEO, you’ll want to top the scoreboard for customer service so that you fit Google’s rankings.

To do this, you need to build your authority up. This is where your content comes in. Local businesses living in roomy markets – like a Northampton high street filled with hairdressers and barbers all next to each other – need content that stands out from the crowd.

You’ll want to ask yourself questions like these:

  • Does our content support our customer’s needs?
  • Have we got content that covers all the key search terms we’re likely to rank for?
  • Are we balancing our use of geo-terms?
  • Is our content unique enough to our competitors?
  • Are we using strong calls to action on all our pages?

If you’re answering no to any of these, you’ll need to switch up what you’re doing. And it’s easy enough to begin. You’ll want to use E-A-T to do it.

E-A-Ting up content

E-A-T stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. In layman’s terms: if you’re one of those Northampton high street hairdressers, does your content position you as the number one hairdresser that can talk the talk and walk the walk?

You have one aim with E-A-T for levelling up your local SEO: possess the ultimate level of expertise. You’ll need to use the following to achieve it:

  1. Blogs – who doesn’t love a lunch-break blog to chew through like your sandwich, right? If you’ve got the time to do it, do it.Don’t be half-hearted, pour the passion you have for your brand into your blog.If you’re a bakery, think about seasonal recipes you can post. If you’re a pub, why not rank your best beers on offer for Winter nights.
  2. Social Media – Social media marketing is easy peasy these days. All you have to do is share more than you sell. Oh, and don’t forget to solve problems, handle complaints, and highlight the good that you do. Okay, there’s a lot to it, but by being active often and providing content that’s meaningful to the user (and shareable!) you’ll really help build authority.
  3. Email Marketing – Oh boy, we love email marketing. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s effective. You can send out streams of curated content to your customers whenever you need to. If you’ve got an established client base, but need to up your authority, email marketing is a good way to do it. 

It’s not about being a viral sensation. You’re not trying to take over the world. Just your town. To really dominate local SEO, you want consistent, meaningful communication that keeps your customers engaged. That way, Google will know you’re the real deal and not a robot.

Linking it all together

Before we forget, there’s a few other things you can do for building authority. Think of these as golden tickets to Google’s local SEO factory. 

  1. Links – We don’t need to tell you what these are, do we? Whether it’s linking to other pages on your website or to others, link-building is everything.
  2. Unstructured Citations – When the local newspaper or an online blogger mentions your business, you’ve earned an unstructured citation. And that’s kind of cool.
  3. Linktations – This is the Hannah Montana of the above. It’s when an unstructured mention also includes a link.

The more of those you earn, the better your chances are of Google pushing your business as a popular, trusted resource in their results. Just remember, you’ll want to avoid buying links or seeking links from websites that make no sense to your own. It’s just bad for business.

Let's talk SEO

So that’s local SEO in a nutshell. It’s not everything there is to know, but it’s a bitesize blitz of what you need to know to get you off the ground. 

If you’re serious about sharpening your local SEO rankings and levelling up your business, we can help. We don’t just do SEO, our digital marketing experts can help you craft a robust, local digital marketing strategy. Become the brand your business deserves, get in touch today.