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What Is Local SEO and How to Build It?

Sydney Vallée

March 25, 2022

What is local SEO, how does local SEO work and what does it mean to you?

Local SEO is most often defined as a topic whose purpose is to increase businesses' online visibility, focusing on the local area. With local SEO, you aim to achieve the highest rank possible in your local SERP (search engines results page). Since the approach is aimed at local SERP development, most cases where local SEO is applied are confined to physical a.k.a brick and mortar businesses.

Now, that is not to say that local SEO is useless to firms beyond brick and mortar; after all, expanding your business and creating a franchise may require you to conduct research and familiarize/localize yourself in each new location.

Before we dig deeper into the topic, it's imperative to mention that local SEO isn't merely a necessity but a potential way to gain a serious competitive advantage over your competitors. Imagine you had a bar or a restaurant; if your locations popped up first every time someone searched for "bars/restaurants near me," it would be easy to predict that your foot traffic and sales could increase significantly. 

Also, you might be surprised but achieving success in local SEO rankings is relatively easy. This comes from the fact that focusing on a significantly smaller, local area, instead of a country or even a continent, allows for tiny amounts of competition, in comparison. Though it should be said, even small amounts of competition, compared to a country, state or continent, can still be challenging.

Google's ranking system for local search results and what is important for local SEO?

There are four key factors that a business has to consider when aiming to improve its local search result rankings: popularity, proximity, relevance, and customer reviews.

Popularity

Starting with popularity, this is where your local backlinks become your greatest advantage. Google's ranking of your site/store may seriously depend on plentiful, high-quality backlinks. So, when you start improving your local SEO, ask yourself this: do other sites link to mine? If they do, are they reputable? How many backlinks do I have overall? Conducting adequate research in answering all of these questions may give you an answer as to how to successfully improve or retain your rankings.

Proximity

Proximity as an idea is relatively simple. If someone googles for "a pet shop near me" and they are currently in Boston, they won't receive results from New York. The local SEO searches will almost always prioritize businesses nearest to you. Therefore, building a site that effectively conveys that it is a, for example, a Boston pet shop instead of just a pet shop somewhere is crucial. Location-targeted website landing pages are a great example of how to increase your local visibility.

Customer reviews

Similar to proximity, customer reviews are somewhat self-explanatory. Plenty of positive reviews = good, and many negative ones = bad. Research suggests that more than 60% of people consider ratings before going to a business. Although it should be said that while customer reviews as a benefit are simple, their gaining is far from it. Firstly, it depends on the quality of what you are offering. There isn't much advice we can give you on this front; however, there are other, secondary points. 

They are arguably less critical but nevertheless important factors that could affect the quality of your web page in many positive ways. The core of them is ensuring the information you provide is correct while maintaining an appealing website. Having excellent reviews instead of poor ones is crucial. Thus, making sure the information you provided is as accurate as possible is a necessary and simple way to prevent negative responses.

Relevance

If someone is searching for dog food stores, they won't get results for the nearest car repair shops. Once again, similarly to the point mentioned in customer reviews, ensuring that both Google and your customers clearly understand what and where you are selling is crucial.

Now, having looked at all of the above-mentioned, key, 4 points, let's discuss the actual step-by-step process you should take to create an effective local SEO marketing strategy.

How to Start Doing Local SEO Marketing?

Step 1. Keyword research

Keyword research is a complex and intricate topic, often seen as the core of SEO marketing and research. Discussing every detail of keyword research would probably require an entire thesis written, so the focus will be put on the fundamental ideas in this article. Although, we do have an interesting article that goes more in depth into the topic of keyword research.

Starting off, say you're a local Boston business named AB that sells computers. You would certainly want to place among the top in search queries such as "computer store near me," "AB," "AB phone number," "when does AB open," and so on. An excellent way to start is by looking at SiLs (Service in Location).

SiLs

Imagine, how would someone look for your business? Often it would probably be something along the lines of "computer store in Boston" or "PC shop in Boston." Service in locations focus is on making a list where you look at everything you offer and combine it with the locations in which you serve. Then, merge them both and create appropriate keywords. The two above-mentioned keyword searches are prime examples of SiLs and it really is as simple as that.

Google autocomplete results

Let's use the most basic keywords, "computer store in Boston" what comes up?

Computer store Boston results

Maybe you haven't thought of "best computer store in Boston" or "computer parts Boston." If you feel like these may be relevant to you, write them down and continue doing this for each keyword variation you might have. Using a keyword tool that can tell you how much traffic each keyword gets would be highly effective and recommended as well.

Competitor rankings

Analyzing what specific keywords your competitors use and how they perform is a crucial part of keyword research. Most businesses aim to create a varied list of competitive long-tail (more than 1-2 words) keywords. An excellent way to start and enhance this search is by looking at what keywords already exist, work and how they are relevant to you. 

Lastly, it should be noted that keyword research is increasingly becoming such a vast topic that without tools, you are at a significant disadvantage of losing to your competitors. Therefore, we highly recommend Google Keyword API to help boost your local SEO keywords. This can come in many forms, from generating new keywords to adjusting phrases to get more exact results.

Step 2. Optimizing Google My Business, Apple map listings, and Bing places

For local SEO, having a detailed description of your business on all three listings, Google, Apple, and Bing, is nothing short of essential. Effectively, each one will ask for your firm's information, locations, names of the businesses, and other equally important details. Though the process is somewhat lengthy and many parts are involved, it's not really that complex. However, there are some important tips you may want to consider.

Google My Business (GMB) is king

Out of all three businesses, GMB is, without a doubt, the most important one. This means completing the listing fully, with all its quirks and requirements is key. Making sure that every section is completed accurately is crucial as well.

Smartphones and apps are important

Nearly a third of all smartphones in the US are from Apple. The conclusion then is that a 3rd of smartphone users in the US use Apple Maps. Such points are imperative when it comes to your personal local SEO research.

Imagine that the market of your business primarily operates through phones. You may want to focus as much on Apple maps as on GMB. Yet, in a completely different case, if you run a business that benefits relatively little from smartphone users, maybe putting your efforts towards Apple maps is a waste of your resources. 

Essentially, realizing what is relevant for you is vital when it comes to local SEO, though having an optimized website for smartphones is very rarely a bad idea.

Step 3. NAP

It stands for Name, Address, and Phone. It's effectively how your business gets cited online. The focus of NAP lies in its goal of having the core of your local business information available on multiple listings in the exact same way. If Yelp shows that your address and phone numbers are ABC and 1879, respectively, other websites should do the same. For example, having a website that instead lists your phone number as +142 1879 (adding the country code to the front) then this is something you must fix, as it could confuse the NAP citations, even though technically it's the same number.

Maintain and increase citations

Making sure all mentions of your business are the same is essential. Yet, as you continue to grow, your number of mentions of your business and where it's listed will keep getting bigger and bigger, so a constant watchful eye over the whole of all your NAPs is critical. Failure to do so creates an ever-growing gap in information accuracy, which you undoubtedly don't want. Inaccuracy = confusion and negative reviews. That is why it's highly encouraged not to finish and forget about any of your NAP strategies and instead to constantly revisit them.

Step 4. On-page SEO

Like keyword research, on-page SEO is unavoidable for any successful local SEO strategy. The most common focal points are various topics such as keywords in headings, title tags, URLs, appealing meta descriptions, and short and sweet URLs. However, some lesser-known yet still crucial points often get overlooked. One of them should certainly be mentioned, and that is:

Homepage optimization

Relevant for all local SEO websites, though mainly for multiple location-based ones, homepage optimization encourages all sites to be built according to unique requirements. Those individual requirements are centered around the idea that every website should be built in accordance with its location. 

Let's imagine you have an Italian restaurant in Yorkshire. After doing some SEO research, you find out that "Italian restaurant" as a keyword gets 500 times more searches than "Italian restaurant Yorkshire." This could make you adjust your local SEO strategy, so it includes such a keyword more; however, that would be a mistake. 

Google is smart and irrelevant of whether you do or do not put the location name into the keyword; it would still show location-based results, i.e., if someone searched for an Italian restaurant, the vast majority of the results would be location-specific. For any business, a fact like that highly encourages creating specialized websites.

Conclusion

So, you've gone through all these steps and figured out a local SEO strategy. You looked at local search engine rankings, local SEO optimization, and every other part that is considered relevant. Yet, even after all of these points, which are undoubtedly very beneficial for most businesses, local SEO strategies should be approached individually.

This is why there is one final point that ought to be mentioned. Every firm, location, and business is different. Therefore, your local SEO strategy should be unique as well. While most, if not all, of the factors mentioned in this blog will be relevant for you, the extent of relevance for each point may vary greatly depending on your business. As with most things, research, diligence, scrutiny, and a flexible view are a must. The same can be said for building a successful local SEO strategy where relevant and accurate research could be the sole reason your local SEO strategy succeeds or fails.

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