What is Local SEO and Why Is It Important?
In today’s world, where a strong online presence can make or break a business, Local SEO is absolutely crucial. Google unveiled a startling statistic in 2017, highlighting that “near me” related searches grew 150% faster than searches that did not include “near me”. This revelation not only underscored the significance of Local SEO but also marked a turning point for many businesses in recognizing its value.
Now, in 2024, the importance of Local SEO has only intensified. It embodies the strategy of optimizing your website to enhance visibility and improve rankings in local search results. This optimization is crucial for businesses of all sizes—small, medium, or enterprise—aiming to attract more customers within their geographic vicinity.
Let’s dive into what Local SEO really means, how it works, and why it’s become such a game-changer for businesses eager to connect with people right in their own backyards.
Why Local SEO?
- Local SEO is fast dominating the search results as 46% of all Google searches are seeking local products/services, and 78% of people search for local businesses more than once a week.
- It’s equally profitable with high conversion rates. Research shows that 40% of all local SEO campaigns achieve more than 500% return on investment (ROI).
- The increasing mobile usage rate influences local searches, as 76% of people who search on smartphones visit businesses within a day, and 28% end up purchasing.
- Inquiry is now digital. 54% of consumers look up a business Google Business Profile to verify operating hours, and 60% won’t bother visiting the location because of questionable legitimacy.
- Ranking on the map pack is more relevant. 42% of local searches click on Google Map Packs when searching for products and services.
Despite the apparent effectiveness of integrating local SEO into overarching digital marketing campaigns, it’s surprising that only 35% of businesses prioritize local SEO, and 75% of companies have yet to tap into the market.
This means there’s a lot of potential you can take advantage of to propel your business growth digitally.
Local SEO differs from national SEO in many ways.
First, both target different audiences. Local SEO focuses on optimizing your website or online business profile to improve visibility and rankings for local search queries. All your SEO efforts — content marketing, keyword research, link building, etc. — are geared to appeal to people in your target location.
For instance, if you own a coffee shop in Dallas, you’ll target keywords like ‘coffee shop near me,’ ‘coffee shop in Dallas,’ and ‘Dallas coffee shop.’
These keywords are location-specific. Optimizing your website for these keywords increases your chances of ranking above your competitors, targeting broader, more-generic key phrases.
National SEO, on the flip side, is broader. Businesses in this category need to target short-tail keywords that encompass a wide range of topics on a national scale. The keywords will have high search volumes to target diverse interests and preferences of audiences nationwide.
For example, if you own an eCommerce store with deliveries nationwide, you can’t include geo-target phrases in your keywords. Your choice keywords will be more generic, e.g., ‘women shoes for fall,’ ‘black male shoes,’ etc.
So…why should you invest in local SEO for your business?
A common misconception among marketers is that local SEO is specifically for small business owners on a budget. Whether you’re an enterprise or small business owner, optimizing your site for local search queries is a powerful tool for driving high-intent traffic to your site.
Other benefits are:
1. Local SEO is the new normal
Search is changing. The faster we acknowledge this, the better. Evolving user behavior and technological advancements have influenced how people discover and engage with businesses online.
As a result, local SEO is no longer optional. It’s critical for any business aiming to thrive in a cut-throat competitive space.
One of the ways search is evolving is the transition from text-based to voice-based searches.
When writing this piece, approximately 58% of consumers use voice search to find a local business. Voice search assistants answer an average of 94% of search queries. Further research reveals that ‘near me’ and ‘weather queries’ are the most popular phrases used by consumers in this category.
Another huge benefit is how local SEO helps to deliver personalized user experience. In 2019, Google introduced the BERT algorithm, a technology powered by Natural Language Processing (NLP) that interprets user intent and provides relevant, accurate, personalized responses.
For example, if a user searches for ‘best jogging pants suits,’ NLP-powered algorithms recognize the inherent local intent of the query. This allows the algorithm to deliver localized recommendations with the unique preferences of the users based on pre-defined factors like the user’s previous browsing history.
SEOs, marketers, and business owners can adopt NLP techniques to understand consumer behavior search patterns, ensuring they deliver hyper-personalized content to local consumers.
In return, they get rewarded with higher visibility and rankings for catering to user intent.
2. Increased rankings on the search results:
Local SEO presents a non-competitive and fast method to rank on the search results, regardless of your industry or size.
Instead of targeting long-tail, generic keywords, optimizing for local searches requires targeting less generic, long-tail keywords. These search phrases are less competitive, increasing the chances of ranking faster (and higher) on the search results.
Plus, local search results rank above organic results:
Also, optimizing for local searches allows you to rank for Google Map Pack – the top three results on the SERPs (search engine result pages). When this happens, you enjoy increased visibility, traffic, and clicks.
3. Attract hyperlocal in-store foot traffic
If you’re not optimizing your site for local SEO (yet), you’re leaving lots of traffic ($$) on the table for your competitors.
As I pointed out above, a well-optimized local SEO strategy increases your chances of ranking above the organic search results (the Google map-pack). So, whenever a potential customer searches for your product/service online, your website will be ranked above competitors with a subpar or no strategy.
Here are some interesting statistics to back my claims:
- 78% of people search for local businesses in a week.
- 90% of consumers verify if a company has a brick-and-mortar store nearby before visiting.
- 70% of customers are likely to visit a company with an optimized Google Business Profile.
- 44% of consumers click on local pack results.
4. Boost credibility and visibility for local searches
In SEO, trust is the new gold. Local SEO can help you build trust and credibility with search engines and users. Here’s how.
One of Google’s core local ranking factors is prominence — a measure of how authoritative and credible your business appears in the local context. Several factors contribute to increasing your ‘credibility score’ in the eyes of search engines:
- High-quality backlinks from local sites,
- SEO-optimized content ranking for local keywords,
- 5-star review ratings from previous customers,
- A well-optimized GBP page
… and many more.
Simultaneously, all these factors influence how online users perceive your business. This research proves that customers are 70% more likely to visit a business with a well-optimized Google Business Profile, and 50% of them are more likely to purchase from those with a complete profile.
5. Gain competitive advantage
Have you been thinking of ways to outrank your competitors or break into a competitive marketplace? Local SEO is your best bet! By optimizing for localized searches, you earn more rankings than competitors who aren’t.
Local SEO also gives you an opportunity to be listed with the big players in your industry. For example, see the search results for ‘best scent candles for dentists.’ This website, ‘Hotel Dentists’ ranks alongside Amazon and Esty. This wouldn’t have been possible without SEO.
Local SEO is quite similar to regular SEO. The only difference here is you’re optimizing for local searches, instead of broader search phrases. Here are some tactics to help you scale in 2024:
1. Raise the bar for on-page SEO
On-page SEO involves optimizing your web pages to rank for relevant search queries. This includes everything done ‘on page’ to improve user experience, visibility, and rankings on the search results. The common tasks are keyword research, optimizing meta titles and tags, improved internal linking, optimized images, and content optimization.
Why is it important for local SEO?
On-page SEO directly influences how search engines understand, categorize, and rank your web pages for local searches. It also impacts how users perceive and interact with your site.
For instance, when you optimize your meta tags, titles, and content with hyperlocal keywords, you’re not just sending signals to Google about the geographical relevance of your page but also helping users find quicker answers to their search queries.
- Incorporate high-intent geo-targeted keywords into your SEO strategy.
- Optimize header tags with hyperlocal keywords.
- Ensure your NAP (name, address, and phone number) details are consistent and accurate across all citations, websites, and directories.
- Use internal links to create a seamless and well-structured web architecture for users and search engine bots.
- Publish localized content relevant to customers in your targeted region or area.
- Use high-quality images in your local listings, GBP, and service pages. Include alt texts to optimize them for search engines.
- Implement schema markup for your product pages to increase rankings for rich results.
2. Share user-generated content (UGC):
Spruce up your content game by incorporating UGC into your local SEO content strategy. Examples are customer testimonials and reviews, influencer-sponsored posts, guest articles, etc.
This helps amplify your brand’s authenticity and build trust with potential customers seeking a reliable business to patronize.
Another method is integrating your social platforms into your GBP. This way, you can cross-promote your business content across multiple platforms and generate reviews from your social media pages while establishing a consistent brand presence online.
Rebekah Barton, professional content writer and blogger, shares her experience with the Growth Experience podcast:
“…Make reels on social platforms like Instagram and Tiktok. Both platforms make it easy to collaborate. You can also create reels or organize a Q&A section with other local businesses you work with. For instance, if you work with a restaurant, ask them why they love working with you and how their businesses have changed since they started working with your company. Then, share it as a collaboration to both pages to increase your reach and get a local SEO boost without spending a dime.”
Location pages (also called service area pages) are webpages specifically optimized for a geographical area or region. It usually comprises relevant information about your business NAP, product/service offerings, reviews, directions, etc. It’s equally a great way to target and rank multiple locations simultaneously.
Rebekah affirms this:
“Using localized landing pages can be a great way to target local areas that you’re not in. Whether it’s a local city or suburban, you can create a local landing page to rank for these locations. This involves optimizing a landing page for the city and running a social media ad to funnel clients in this region who may not have found you via the search results.”
When creating location pages, ensure each is unique and tailored to your target location. For example, infusing geo location keywords into your copy and headers, using location-based events, or anything affiliated with your target location.
By doing this, you’re sending signals to Google that your page is relevant for local searches, increasing your chances of ranking high on the search results. It also establishes connections with potential users seeking businesses actively involved in their community.
“One of the best things you can do if you’re targeting a specific neighborhood, city or region is to write an in-depth guide to that region. Mention things that people are already familiar with, for example, popular places in the region, landmarks, cemeteries, historical marketers or anything you can work into the copy naturally without keyword stuffing to tell Google and readers that you’re familiar with the area.”
Keyword research is the foundation of your local SEO strategy. If you get it wrong, your entire SEO campaign will crumble before you start. Conversely, optimizing for local keywords increases your visibility and rankings for relevant search queries.
SERP results for coffee shop in Texas:
The first step is starting with your audience. What words are they using to find you online? Keyword research tools can help you identify those terms.
Also, check out your competitors. What keywords are they currently ranking for? SEMRush also has a competitor analysis feature that gives you insights into your competitor SEO strategy. This data can help you decide which keywords you want to rank for.
Lately, if you haven’t, claim and optimize your GBP. Google Business Profile is a platform provided by Google to help business owners manage their online presence.
It consolidates all business vitals and makes it easier for potential customers to find products and services quickly.
Here’s some advice from Jason Pantana, Business Coach and Trainer for Tom Ferry International:
“Google is always googling you. Arguably, the spot where they gather most data about your website aside from what’s listed on your profile is the domain linked to your GBP. Changes you make to optimize your website can have profound ripple effects in terms of how that plays out with your GBP. This means your website has a big influence on your GBP.”
Here are some advanced tips to help improve your GBP optimization:
- NAP consistency and accuracy:
Search engines like Google rank businesses with accurate information over those without. That said, ensure your profile contains all the vitals — business name, address, and phone number. Also, make sure the information aligns with that on your website, listings, and citations.
- Post location-relevant articles and blogs
To incite engagement, post relevant content on your GBP. It can be announcements, offers, events, or FAQs. Also, publish articles or blog posts relevant to your local audience and industry. As I pointed out above, incorporate location-specific keywords naturally in your content.
- Get customer reviews
Always ask past customers who interact with your business to drop a review. Offer incentives like free coupon codes, gift cards, movie tickets, etc., to compel them.
Customer reviews act as votes of confidence for your website. It’s Google’s way of determining your business’s credibility, relevance, and authoritativeness. Also, it acts as a propellant in influencing consumer purchase decisions.
Also, always respond to every review on your profile, including the negative ones. It shows you’re engaged with your audience and value their feedback.
If used properly, local SEO can be a game changer for your business. There are several tools to help you get started on your own, e.g., SEMRush and BrightLocal. But if you want to see better and faster results, work with an SEO agency. They have the expertise, tools, and techniques to help you find ranking opportunities you may have missed using a DIY process. Also, note that not all SEO agencies offer local SEO as a service. Local SEO differs from regular SEO, so working with an agency specializing in localized optimization is better. Luckily, one of our core services is local SEO, and we will be delighted to help you scale your local SEO efforts.