For brick and mortar businesses and companies with a regional service area, it’s essential to make sure your website ranks when people near you are searching online. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to local SEO for 2023.
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO (search engine optimization) is the process of boosting your appearance within search results, specific to your geographic location.
Think about the way you use Google. Sometimes you’re looking for information that’s universal. What’s the Federal Reserve? Who’s Neil deGrasse Tyson? Who won Super Bowl LV?
But a lot of the time, you’re looking for information that’s specific to where you live. What’s the weather today? Where’s the best dry cleaner? What pizza places deliver to my house?
Local SEO is the process of making sure your website ranks in searches specific to your area. 46% of all Google searches – nearly half – are looking for local information.
And these searches get results. According to Google, 76% of people who do a local search on their smartphone visit a business within 24 hours, and over 25% of those visitors make a purchase.
Any business with a physical location or that provides regionally specific services – particularly brick and mortar retailers – will benefit from local SEO.
Local SEO Tools
There are a number of tools online for auditing your SEO. But what does that mean? We’ll take you through the basics first. Then we’ll provide a list of tools you can use to get started.
Local SEO auditing
There are three key areas to look at when auditing your local SEO: on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and technical SEO.
On-page SEO is all about content: the elements of your website that you can adjust and control – optimizations that can boost your search engine results page (SERP) rankings.
This is where keywords come into play. But it’s not enough to just use the right keywords; you need to understand what people are searching for when they use those keywords so you can tailor your content to answer those burning questions.
Use keywords in your headers, body content, title tag, and meta description. Your title tag and meta description are super important because they’ll help users identify your page in their results – they’ll know your site is relevant even before they click on it.
You can also boost your on-page SEO with internal links – links to other pages on your website to drive traffic to them and establish their authority. It’s also a great way to keep site visitors on the path to conversion.
You’ll also want to have HTML or XML sitemaps to help search engine crawlers identify your content. Platforms like WordPress have plugins to help you create sitemaps and submit them to Google. The process can get pretty technical, though, so it’s helpful to work with an SEO expert.
With off-page SEO, the name of the game is backlinks – links on other websites that send users in your direction. Backlinks help you rank better for important keywords and establish your website’s authority in your area of expertise. Ahrefs’ Backlink Checker and Moz Local’s Link Explorer are both free tools you can use to find out who’s already linking to you – and who’s linking to your competitors.
Google loves efficient websites. It’s a major criteria for landing high on the search page. Technical SEO refers to the basic mechanics that make your website more crawlable for search engines when it’s getting indexed. It’s a complicated area, but there are three initial questions to ask yourself:
- Does my website load quickly? 53% of users will leave a page if it takes more than three seconds to load. And the effects are cumulative because a higher bounce rate hurts your SERP rankings. Google’s free page speed insights tool will show you how long it takes your site to load on both mobile and desktop devices.
- Does my website work on mobile? Now that over half of all web traffic comes from mobile devices, it’s more important than ever that your page loads very quickly and displays cleanly and responsively on a smartphone.
- Is my website secure? You know that little lock icon next to a website’s URL on Google Chrome? That indicates whether or not a site is secured and encrypted. Insecure sites are at greater risk for data theft – a big no-no with Google – so it will affect your ranking.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, here are some of the most useful tools for auditing your local SEO and managing directory listings.
Google Business Profile
Setting up a free Google Business Profile is the essential first step. Even if you don’t recognize the name, you see and interact with these profiles all the time. Every time you look up a store’s hours, check out a restaurant’s reviews, or plug a business’s location into your GPS, you’ve interacted with one of these profiles. You need one, too.
Even if you’ve already set up a Google Business Profile, there’s probably more you can do to increase attention to your profile. Lots of businesses enter basic contact info then call it a day. But you know better! You’re going to:
- Describe your business – Focus on the problems that your company solves for its customers, and remember to use those SEO keywords.
- Post photos – Save yourself a thousand words by posting some photos. Show people what your business looks like – highlight your location, your products, your staff, and your customers. These photos make your business stand out in local searches, and let people know what to expect before they get there.
- Answer questions – This is your FAQ. But you don’t have to wait for the questions to come pouring in. Anticipate your customers’ needs. Pose some common questions about your business and answer them. This way your customer service starts even before your customers walk in the door.
- Highlight your services – Google auto-suggests service categories based on your type of business. Select the ones that apply – and custom-make your own – so Google knows what you do.
- Curate your reviews – Good reviews build trust with potential customers. Encourage your customers to leave positive reviews. Then, respond to them online (even if they aren’t so positive) to show you’re focused on their experiences and you’re there to listen.
Semrush Listing Management
With Semrush’s listing management tool you can post and monitor your business’s profile across multiple online directories.
BrightLocal is a suite of automated local SEO auditing tools. Their dashboard will display your website’s performance across a number of different metrics. You’ll use these results to help optimize your site.
Yext is an online data management tool that automatically audits business directory listings. Then it will update and replace inaccurate information.
Moz Local is another automated tool that allows you to monitor and develop your online directory listings. Their software has some great tools for optimizing your business’s online profile.
Local SEO and Competitive Analysis
Many businesses make the mistake of assuming they know what keywords are most important for their business. But the keywords that seem intuitive to you aren’t necessarily the same ones people use when they’re searching.
That’s why it’s important to do local keyword research to find out what your customers are actually typing into that search bar. This will help you identify keywords that your competitors have neglected and choose ones that will help you rank better in search results.
Start by listing your products or services.
If you run a Chinese restaurant in Minneapolis, you probably expect people to search for “Chinese restaurants” or “Chinese food.” But how well does your website rank on a search for “lo mein” or “wonton soup”? Listing what your business offers will help you expand your bank of possible keywords.
Next, check for local intent.
When you search a keyword on Google, does it display a map listing nearby businesses? If so, that means there’s local intent to make a purchase when people search for that keyword. If not, it means Google interprets these keywords as a universal search, not specific to your area. Put aside any keywords that don’t get local results. (We’ll deal with them in a minute.)
Next, check local search volumes.
This can get a little tricky because of the difference between implicit keywords and explicit keywords.
- Implicit local keywords are keywords that get local search results, even if the searcher doesn’t specify an area. For instance, if you search for roof repair, even if you don’t add “near me” or the name of your town, you’ll probably get local results. Google figures you’re probably not looking to learn about roof repair in general.
- Explicit local keywords are the ones that contain the name of a particular search area. Like “roof repair Fort Lauderdale” or “24-hour diners Chicago.” There are a number of free third-party keyword research tools, but they give you search volume estimates for the entire country. Google Keyword Planner is the best option if you want to limit your results to your specific service area.
Group and map keywords to distinct URLs.
Your home page won’t rank for every keyword that’s relevant to your business. So once you’ve identified the keywords you need to rank for, you should create separate pages for each of the products and services your potential customers are searching for. That way your homepage doesn’t become a useless (and boring) jumble of SEO keywords.
Producing distinct pages that address questions from your potential clients will dramatically improve your website’s ranking and organic traffic. When we created keyword-optimized pillar pages and blogs for Florida’s Alexander Orthopaedics, they increased their organic traffic by 590%.
Research your competitors and figure out what they’re missing.
It’s just as important to audit your competitors’ sites as it is to audit your own. Finding out where they rank will show you what to do (and what not to do) to get more eyes on your site. Any low rankings provide you the opportunity to attract new business with long tail keywords.
Local SEO Reporting
There are lots of different metrics to look at when you’re evaluating the impact of your local SEO efforts. Each of the tools we mentioned above will help you keep track of those metrics all in one dashboard. Here are some of the most important metrics to keep an eye on:
- Overall organic search – How many people are coming across your site naturally, just by searching online? Google Analytics will help you keep track of this number so you can decide which adjustments to your SEO are needed.
- Keyword ranking – Keep track of how well your site – and your competitors’ sites – are ranking for each specific keyword. This will show you where you have strengths, where you have weaknesses, and where you have room to grow.
- Bounce Rate – Your bounce rate tells you how many people immediately leave your site the moment they click on it. This can tell you much more than a simple click rate, because it lets you know when people realize they aren’t finding what they need. What drove them away? Was there a disconnect between the link they followed and the page they found? Did it take too long to load?
- Customer Reviews – It may sound low tech, but monitoring and managing what people are saying about your business online is critical to maintaining strong visibility and building relationships with customers. Bad reviews always stick out. When looking at Google results, most people’s eyes head straight for the average number of stars a business has. Lots of low ratings will drive folks elsewhere.
Strong SEO requires a lot of effort. Chances are you’ve done some work yourself – maybe you’ve made some headway – but you’re not yet seeing the results you want to see. At Cordelia Labs, we’re at the forefront of SEO development, creating audience-driven, valuable content that’ll delight your customers, improve your rankings, and grow your business. Drop us a line to find out what we can do for your business.