What Is Local SEO?

Local SEO (local search engine optimization) is a method of enhancing your website with the objective of improving your organic ranking in the search engine results page (SERP) for location-specific search terms.

In short, we implement various adjustments and improvements to assist Google in understanding what your business does and what your value offering is, so that you are accurately displayed (if Google finds you worthy) in SERP and Local Packs.

Local SEO is similar to organic SEO with the addition of your customer’s geographic location 🗺️.

For giggles, let’s imagine you’re managing a law practice in Hamilton.

When a user searches for “law firm in hamilton” or “nearby law firms,” you want your website to be served on top of the search results in your locale—ideally, within the top 3 rankings on SERP. It will look like this:

Screenshot of a Google results page for local 'law firm in hamilton'search showing a local 3-pack

To us SEOs, this is fondly described as the Local 3-Pack. These ‘business cards’ are shown above the normal organic listings in Google search.

FAQs for Local SEO

How does local SEO work?

Local SEO is an optimization strategy that makes your business be more visible in local search results, so you can promote your products and services to customers and clients within your geographical area.

When gathering information for local search results, search engines like Google look for signals like local content and evidence of proximity (which is a fancy way of saying that your business’s physical location is taken into account). This happens even if the user doesn’t include a city near or request a ‘near me’ result.

Let’s assume that you’re traveling on business and want to find the best Chinese restaurants near your hotel. If you Google ‘Chinese restaurants,’ a map with three listings beneath it (also known as a 3-pack) will appear above the organic search results. These listings are for businesses with the highest ranking based on the factors that Google uses to determine local rankings.

Local search has been around for awhile, but It wasn’t until mobile search exploded that local SEO became an essential marketing tool for any business offering local goods and services. Today, it’s indispensable if you want to build a loyal clientele.

UPDATE: As of late 2019, Google is now displaying a “search by photos” display section for some of their local categories. The functionality is entirely separate from the “discover more places” and “interesting finds” photo-centric boxes sometimes included in the SERPs—the section only displays for mobile searches currently.

Who needs local SEO?

The short answer is: any businesses that offer local products and services! At present, nearly half (46%) of all Google searches are for local information and 88% of those who do a local search on their smartphone contact or visit a store within a day.

Business types that have found local SEO to be especially beneficial include:

  • Bars and restaurants: These businesses rely on local support. Cocktail lounges, pubs, and eateries can all benefit from improved local visibility.
  • Plumbers and electricians: These professionals are always needed in an emergency!
  • Medical services: Urgent care clinics and dental offices are especially popular search topics in this category.
  • Law offices: Legal services are a core part of many transactions, such as buying a house, filing for divorce, or fighting a criminal charge.
  • Repair services: Like plumbers and electricians, repair professionals are always needed in an emergency, so local search visibility is important.

No matter what industry you’re in, you can use local SEO strategies to increase your visibility to local searchers. An outstanding Google My Business listing and company website are a must, followed by regular publication of valuable and relevant content. This includes:

  • Insightful blog posts
  • Social media content that your followers will want to share
  • A presence in trusted business directories or industry publications
  • Press mentions in local publications
Why is local SEO important?

Imagine that you come home at the end of a long day at the office. Being the height of summer, it’s boiling hot outside, so you look forward to unwinding in your air-conditioned condo. Except there’s no air conditioning! Your HVAC system has crashed.

Chances are that the first thing you will do is whip out your phone and search for HVAC repair professionals in your area. It’s what everyone else would do.

This illustrates why local SEO is so important. When people search for local businesses, they use their phones, not the Yellow Pages. In addition:

If you want to be found more quickly and easily by your target customer base, local SEO is the way to go. Take advantage of this opportunity by contacting SociallyInfused Media and asking about our local search marketing services.

How long (quick) does local SEO take?

This is one of the questions we get the most. If you optimize your company’s web presence for local search, how long before you see results?

With all the factors that go into a local search ranking, it’s impossible to accurately predict when you’ll appear on page one of Google, but the following criteria will have an impact:

  • The search terms you want to rank for
  • How competitive those terms are
  • How well-optimized your site is for those terms
  • How long your site has been around
  • The type of content on the site

On average, it can take three to nine months before you start seeing results. If you’re in a competitive field, you may be looking at the higher end of the timeline. However, Google My Business listing optimization can yield beneficial results, in the local 3 map pack, as quickly as two weeks (but this is entirely dependent on additional factors, such as the competitiveness of your niche).

As a general rule, sites that have been around for a while are going to take less time to rank because they have already been indexed by the search engines and probably have the quality content and backlinks needed to establish credibility. Newer sites don’t have the same degree of credibility and will take longer to achieve results, but working with an experienced local SEO agency can give you an advantage.

Do I need a website to rank high in local search results?

Strictly speaking, no. 

What do we mean by that? If someone searches for ‘polka dancing in Smallville’ and you’re the only polka dancing hall in town, local SEO could pick you up from other sources, like news stories, online phone directories, or some really great social media reviews. 

On the other hand, if you want to rank for something like ‘organic grocery in Toronto,’ there’s little to no chance that you will make it into the 3-pack without a website- or a well-optimized Google My Business (GMB) listing. 

At SociallyInfused Media, we know what goes into making a GMB listing that search engines love. By the way, if you don’t have a website yet or your existing one is in serious need of a makeover, SociallyInfused Media can build you an attractive, optimized, and mobile-friendly site that will boost your local search marketing efforts.

Does Google My Business help SEO?

Absolutely! Google My Business has been described as the backbone of Google’s Local Search directory. Setting up your business listing can help you appear in the 3-pack result that appears on top of the standard organic search results. As if that weren’t enough, your business stands an ideal chance of appearing in local search results for queries related to your goods or services.

Research has shown that consumers prefer to go local whenever possible, so they use local search to find stores, restaurants, and professional services in their area. Those businesses with complete and detailed Google My Business listings are twice as likely to be considered reputable by potential customers.

Claiming your Google My Business listing, providing detailed information about your company, and keeping that information current are all imperative to both improving your organic rankings and connecting directly with your customers.

What is Google My Business optimization?

Like your website, a Google My Business listing needs to be optimized in order for your business to rank higher for relevant search terms. In this case, optimization includes the following elements.

A complete profile 

Your listing has to feature all the information a consumer would need to determine whether your business offers what they are looking for. A complete listing includes:

  • The name of your business
  • Street address
  • Phone number
  • Business category (e.g. ballet school, courier service, financial planner)
  • Website URL
  • Hours of operation
  • Description (up to 750 characters). 
  • Photos
  • Depending on your industry, there may be other, additional fields to complete

A detailed description

If your Google My Business description is too brief (“full-service law firm” or “HVAC repairs), it doesn’t provide potential customers enough information to make a decision. Make it one or two sentences that highlight your best features or benefits and summarize your other offerings.

Professional-quality photos

All photos should be both high-quality and relevant. You want to give customers an idea of what it’s like inside your store, eatery, or office, so include pictures of:

  • Your space from various angles
  • Products and services
  • What the place looks like during peak shopping or dining times
  • Events that you regularly hold, such as wine tastings or web design classes 

Do not upload logos, graphics, or scanned documents like menus or specials lists. The goal is to make a positive visible impression that encourages visits.

Collect and manage Google Reviews

Ask loyal customers to leave you a good review on your listing. Those who appreciate your quality products/services and professionalism will usually be glad to do so. Each time you receive a positive review, be sure to respond with a public thank-you.

While we’re on the subject of responses, don’t ignore any negative reviews, even if the reviewer is being totally unreasonable. Make a prompt and professional response, bearing in mind that potential clients will be watching to see how you react. Another reason why a response is important is that unhappy customers can -and do- update their reviews if you’re able to solve the original problem.

Use the Q&A Section

The Q&A section lets you answer customer questions directly on your Google My Business listing. You can publish frequently asked questions and answer them yourself, or respond to queries that come in. For example:

  • Is there parking available?
  • Do you sell decaffeinated coffee?
  • Are you open on Sundays?

The benefit of this feature is that you can publicly answer questions that affect a consumer’s decision whether or not to use your business. Since it’s online, this information can be reviewed 24-7: no one needs to wait until regular business hours to get answers to their questions.

Google My Business is a powerful (and free) tool that improves your local visibility and lets you grow your customer base. At SociallyInfused Media, we show you how to achieve results quickly and ethically, and keep your winning streak active by constantly analysing trends, doing a/b testings, and adjusting your GMB content accordingly.

Can I enjoy local SEO, national and global SEO services all together?

For sure! When it comes to SEO, the more the merrier, as long as each category is appropriate for your business.

With local SEO, you’re optimizing your website and local search features like Google My Business to drive local traffic to your website. National and global SEO reach customers on national and international levels. All three share the many approaches for ranking higher on the search engines, including:

  • Mobile-friendliness
  • An optimized website
  • Content marketing
  • Link building 
  • Engaging with customers on social media

With national and global SEO, your target audience is much wider, so you should emphasize your brand and use more general keywords (online coffee roaster vs. Toronto coffee roaster) that can be more difficult to rank for. 

At SociallyInfused Media, we can help you develop a local presence that leads to national, and global search engine exposure. This is the approach that will turns businesses from small local storefronts to huge franchises and chain stores, and it works just as well for growing your Internet presence.

Can you do local SEO for multiple locations?

Yes, and if you run a multi-location business, you should.

One of the biggest SEO mistakes you can make is putting all of your locations on one master landing page. You need to create separate and optimized pages that feature the following:

  • The store or office’s name, address, and phone number
  • Location-specific content like featured products, testimonials, and staff information
  • An embedded Google map

Think of each location page as a microsite with its own title tags, meta descriptions, and Google My Business page. 

Is local SEO cheaper than SEO?

Technically, yes, because there are more complex steps involved in optimizing your site on the national and global level (which traditional SEO covers)., where competition is fiercer. Local keywords are also less competitive than the general ones, so if you run a Pay Per Click campaign, 

In most cases, you can achieve a high ranking by optimizing your Google My Business listing and keeping it active. Start at the bottom (like Drake did!), and you could find yourself heading up in no time.

What is a Local 3-Pack & How Does It Work?

We’ve all searched for a business or service online and, if you were looking for something locally, you’ve probably noticed the map that accompanies your search results. Google has implemented a Local 3-Pack that will show you the most relevant businesses for your local search.

If you search for something like: “doctor near me,” “doctors office in [your location],” or simply “doctor,” 🧑🏿‍⚕️ Google recognizes that you’re exploring your local options and will serve you a Local 3-Pack section at the top of the search results.

The local businesses that are displayed here rely heavily on your geo-location and Google will display the most relevant results in your area.

Users can get a quick feel for a business in an instant—from their full phone number, address, hours of operation, and even other customer reviews.

Google results page for local 'doctor's office' displaying the various elements of the local 3-pack

Local Packs Structure

You’ve probably noticed a lot of these elements before but have you really stopped to think about them? The Local Pack includes these standard elements for most business types:

  • Location on the map display
  • Business website link
  • Directions to the business
  • Customer ratings
  • Contact phone number
  • Hours of operation
  • Option to view more businesses like these
A screenshot displaying the structure of Google's local 3-pack. The major elements are map display location, customer ratings, contact phone number, website link of the business, directions, and hours of operation.

The Local 3-Pack provides the most useful business details so that local searchers have them available at a glance—the perfect formula to get what you need without scrolling at all.

How convenient, cheers 🍻

Local Packs pop up for almost every local business type, including:

  • Dentists & dental offices
  • Hair salons
  • Doctors and clinics
  • Construction companies
  • Lawyers and law offices
  • Local photographers
  • Car dealerships
  • Gyms and fitness clubs
  • Auto repair shops

However, some business types, for instance hotels or restaurants, often produce a Local Teaser Pack in the search results.

Do you need help ranking your local business in Google?

Contact us for a custom report for your business and a free, no-obligation quote.

GET STARTED

Why Local SEO?

Local SEO is the most cost-effective online marketing strategy for converting customers in your area.

With local search engine optimization, you’ll not only generate heaps of organic traffic to your website, you’ll also encourage many ready-and-willing customers to visit your brick and mortar business.

In fact, 88% of people that search using mobile local search either visit or call the business within one business day. (Source: SEOExperts)

The ‘Near Me’ SEO Strategy

You’ll also want to show up for near me searches. Why? People that search using ‘near me’ are actually ready to purchase or request your services immediately. Don’t take our word for it.

Statistics indicate that 18% of local mobile searches convert to a sale within 24 hours or less. (Source: Think With Google)

Our Local SEO Expert Knows Google Well

Google has levelled the playing field for local businesses with Google’s Local 3-Pack and Pigeon update.

The result? Your local business can compete with national companies for local keyword rankings.

Using our proven local SEO methodology, we’re confident that we can harness our vast experience of Google search and dominate your local target market and area.

Your Customized Local SEO Strategy

To do local SEO right, you need to understand how Google ranks sites for location-related queries.

When deciding who to rank in the Google Local 3-Pack, they take three major factors into consideration:

  1. Relevance is of most importance—Googles best guess of how accurately their results match the search terms that a user queried. This is directly correlated to your local SEO content development and strategy
  2. Distance of user and business—Another important one of the Google local search ranking factors is the proximity between the user and your business location. Often this is calculated by a location-based search term. If a location specific query, such as “Dentists in Hamilton”, is not used then Google will account for the last identified location of the user via historical data.
  3. Google trust score—Your company’s reputation matters, and Google tries really hard to indicate just how credible your business is. Think about boosting Google reviews online, for instance.

Ultimately, these three Google local search ranking factors determine which businesses will earn top organic local rank and within the Local 3-Pack.

We base a lot of our local SEO analysis on research by MOZ. According to them, the most critical local ranking signals are as follows; outlined in the next section.

Local Search Ranking Factors 2020

  • Backlinks (Link signals are important. A local SEO backlink carries more weight than a link that is not localized).
  • On-page signals (Note: it’s best to use a local SEO expert to manage and identify the gaps between these signals and your current on-page strength, as it can get quite technical).
  • Citation building (A local SEO audit and a local citation audit should be performed to understand your businesses current local footprint).
  • Reviews (Facebook, Yelp and other review platforms. Including GMB ranking factors like Google reviews. A vital component of Google My Business SEO).
  • Behavioural signals (These can be identified and analysed through our local SEO reporting that we provide to all our clients monthly).
  • Personalization
  • Social media (including Google My Business page optimization).

Google My Business Optimization: The Most Affordable Local SEO

If you want to put your business on the map (literally and metaphorically), you need to understand best practices for Google My Business and effective local maps optimization.

When someone performs a local Google search for the products or services you offer, does your business show up on Google’s local search results?

Google business location-related query to test where your business is ranked organically.

If so, where is your business ranked on the first page of Google?

Consider that it doesn’t matter if you’re checking on desktop or mobile. Remember, consumers rarely scroll further than the first page when performing a search. So, it’s imperative you ensure that you’re GMB listing is fully optimized and you have a plan to manage your Google My Business listing to show up first for relevant searches.

92% of users will choose a service provider on the first page of their local Google search results. (Source: SEO Experts)

Luckily, we can leverage all these signals to our advantage. With a little help from local Google My Business search engine optimization, we can help to get your business organically ranked in that desirable #0 position on Google search.