The Definitive Guide to Local SEO

Definitive Guide to Local SEO

Local SEO is a highly effective, reliable way to expand your customer base and strengthen your brand’s online presence. 

Online marketing is competitive, even in small communities, so you need a strategic plan to appear on the first page of Google results. With local SEO marketing, you can help your site appeal to Google’s algorithm and increase your search rankings.

There are many elements to a strong local SEO campaign, so getting started can be overwhelming. The best way to create a thriving local SEO plan is to take it one step at a time. Our local SEO guide will explain what local SEO is, why it matters, and how to do local SEO effectively.

If you’re a small business owner, read through this local SEO guide to hear our best local SEO tips and strategies.

What Is Local SEO?

What Is Local SEO?

Before you dive into our local SEO guide, it’s essential to understand what local SEO is. Without a strong understanding of the field and its benefits, you won’t be able to implement local SEO strategies properly.

Local SEO is a subcategory in the search engine optimization field. It involves a wide variety of techniques, so the local SEO definition may vary depending on who you ask. Local SEO is a marketing strategy to improve your rankings for location-based searches, which can drive traffic to your website and ultimately increase sales.

Here are some examples of local search queries:

  • Hardware store near me
  • Dentist in Philadelphia
  • Orange County plumbers
  • Best pizza near me

Local SEO is a critical marketing strategy for any brick-and-mortar, local business. If you’re trying to compete with large, well-known companies, local SEO for small business can give you the competitive edge you need.

Local SEO helps you make your presence known to potential customers in your area who are searching for your product. Some local SEO tips and tricks are the same as organic SEO strategies, and some are specific to local searches. If you run a local business, it’s important to utilize both organic and local SEO techniques to expand your reach.

Benefits of Local SEO

Benefits of Local SEO

Local SEO is one of the most consistent, trustworthy ways to attract more customers and increase sales. Most people who conduct a local search on their phone will go to a store within a day. More than half of Americans search for local services on their mobile devices, and one in three smartphone searches get conducted right before the person arrives at the store.

The rise of mobile devices means that people search for local businesses while they’re on the go. People Google search local companies when they’re ready to make a purchase, so you don’t have to convince them that they need your product. Instead, you need to use local SEO optimization to let them know that you exist.

Strong local SEO increases brand awareness for your business as well. Even if someone doesn’t make a purchase right away, they may be more likely to visit your business in the future because they recognize your name.

Local SEO can also improve your reputation and trustworthiness. Search rankings are competitive, and people tend to trust the businesses that appear at the top of the page.

Regardless of size, location, or industry, all local businesses can benefit from a local SEO strategy. Unless there’s little to no competition for your industry, it’s unlikely that you’ll reach the top of the search results page without following a comprehensive local SEO guide.

Local SEO Ranking Factors

Local SEO Ranking Factors

Ranking factors are the elements of your website and online presence that affect your site’s search ranking. Google and other search engines use complex algorithms to assess websites and determine search rankings, and they make regular changes to their criteria.

Here are some of the most crucial local SEO ranking factors:

Google My Business profile: Your Google My Business profile is a listing that includes the business name, address, hours of operation, reviews, and other information. Google My Business profiles that are fully completed and optimized are better for local SEO than sites with missing or inaccurate data.

Link signals: This includes the number of inbound links to your site, the anchor text for those links, and the domain authority of the linking sites.

Reviews: The quantity and quality of reviews have a direct impact on your local search ranking. This includes Google reviews as well as reviews from third-party sites like Yelp.

On-page signals: This includes your website’s keyword usage, domain authority, and the number of NAP mentions, which stands for name, address, and phone number.

Citations: Whenever another website references your business name, address, and phone number, it can improve your local SEO performance. Google considers both the volume and the authority of the citations for local SEO rankings.

Behavioral signals: This includes factors like click-through rate, check-ins, and clicks to call from mobile devices. All these signals show Google that the people who see your listing are likely to reach out to your business.

We will explore these ranking factors in greater detail throughout this local SEO guide.

Google Snack Pack

Google Snack Pack

The very first step in our local SEO guide is optimizing for the Google Snack Pack. Appearing in the Snack Pack is one of the most significant local SEO accomplishments for your business.

The Snack Pack, also known as the Local Pack, is the set of three businesses that appear at the top of a local search results page. The Snack Pack includes the following information about the companies:

  • Name
  • Phone number
  • Address
  • Hours of operation
  • Link to website
  • Link to Google Maps
  • Average star rating
  • Number of reviews

Why the Google Snack Pack Matters

The Google Snack Pack uses its algorithm to choose which businesses appear for which queries. Appearing in the Snack Pack is one of the best local SEO strategies to drive traffic to your local business, so it’s essential to structure your site in a way that appeals to the algorithm.

Many people don’t look past the Snack Pack when they conduct a local search. Because it contains so much valuable information, searchers usually find what they’re looking for in the pack.

Appearing in the Snack Pack lets potential customers learn a great deal about your business with just a glance. They don’t have to click through your website to find your location or hours of operation. Instead, everything they want to know about your business is right there. Most people have a short attention span, so the more information you can make readily available, the better.

How to Find Your Google Snack Pack Ranking

Before you create a strategy to earn a spot in the Google Snack Pack, you must figure out where your site currently stands. Fortunately, tracking your Snack Pack ranking is extremely easy with the help of local SEO tools. Many SEO companies will provide a local SEO audit and rank tracking services.

Most rank tracking resources will include your Snack Pack rankings in their local SEO report. You can identify your business name, target keyword, and search radius to discover how you currently rank and which of your competitors outrank you.

Keep in mind, though, that Snack Pack results can vary widely depending on your location. “Near me” searches can change if you go just a couple of miles down the road. Use a local SEO audit tool that provides detailed information based on several specific locations in your city.

Local SEO Guide to Appearing in the Google Snack Pack

Many of the ranking factors for the Google Snack Pack are the same as the ranking factors for local and organic SEO. These factors will be explored later in this local SEO guide.

The best way to increase your chances of appearing in the pack is to complete your Google My Business listing. Google is unlikely to include businesses whose GMB profiles don’t offer any information.

Your site should also adhere to Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines, which outline the elements of a robust and trustworthy site. Google employees who evaluate websites receive these guidelines on two main factors: Page Quality and Needs Met. The Page Quality rating is an assessment of the expertise, authority, and trustworthiness of a site’s content. The Needs Met rating is an assessment of how accurately the website answers the search query.

Here are some of the other local SEO ranking factors for the Snack Pack:

  • Accurate and consistent NAP citations
  • Local phone number
  • Social signals
  • Optimized service area pages on a website
  • Strong overall online presence

Don’t Forget Local Organic SEO

The Snack Pack may be your local SEO priority, but you shouldn’t neglect your local organic rankings. The organic results appear below the pack in a local search, and they can drive a significant amount of traffic to your site.

The local organic results also don’t change as much by location as the Snack Pack. If you search for “pizza near me” on two different sides of town, the results in the Snack Pack could be completely different. The local organic results are less likely to change, though, so strategizing for the local SERP is somewhat more straightforward.

Optimizing for local organic results involves local SEO tips like keyword optimization, link building, tags, and other traditional SEO techniques. This local SEO guide will explain these strategies in more detail later.

Local SEO Guide to Keyword Research

Local SEO Guide to Keyword Research

Keywords are an essential part of our local SEO guide. Google chooses its search results based on how well the pages answer the query, so the algorithm won’t recognize your site as helpful unless you use the same language as the searcher.

Keyword research involves identifying the search terms that potential customers are likely to use. Then, you can include those words or phrases in your site content to boost your local SEO ranking.

Wisely choosing your target keywords is an essential first step in your local SEO content strategy. You may be tempted to focus on the most general search terms related to your business, but those terms are probably highly competitive. When it comes to local SEO for small business, it’s typically better to focus on long-tail keywords, which are specific, precise phrases that have less competition.

Long-tail keywords have been particularly important for local SEO with the rise in voice search. A significant percentage of local searches happen on mobile devices, and it’s becoming more and more common for people to conduct voice searches while on the go. When typing into the phone, most people write a short and concise query. When speaking to the phone, though, they’re more likely to ask a full question using natural language. This could change your keyword strategy.

The following are some of the best local SEO tools for identifying and choosing your target keywords.

Google Suggest

The Google Suggest feature is one of the simplest ways to start your local SEO keyword research. The tool provides searchers with ideas for how to complete their queries. The suggestions are based on frequent searches, so taking a look at what options pop up is a great strategy to discover what people are looking for in their searches.

You can start with a general keyword related to your brand or industry combined with your location. Try different combinations of keywords with your city, county, or neighborhood. You can also try typing in your city and industry, followed by each letter of the alphabet. For example, type in “Denver HVAC a…” and “Denver HVAC b…” to see which words Google suggests. Doing this can help you find more specific and less competitive keyword options.

Yelp Suggest

Yelp Suggest functions in the same way as Google Suggest. Start typing in different keyword and location combinations to discover the most common searches.

Yelp will also sometimes show results that don’t include the term you searched. Some of their results may consist of related keywords instead of the word-for-word query you typed in, which can give you ideas for other keywords to target for local SEO optimization.

Thumbtack Suggest

Thumbtack is a directory of local professionals. Its search suggestion tool is like Google and Yelp, but the site is entirely focused on local businesses. When you type in a generic search term, it will show you a wide variety of more specific search options related to your industry. These are great options to include in your page titles, tags, and other content.

Google Keyword Planner

The Google Keyword Planner is the most advanced and effective way to research keywords for local SEO. Not only does this tool give you keyword suggestions, but it also provides valuable information like search volume and level of competition.

You can search for keywords by location to narrow down the keyword volume to your area. To discover new keyword ideas, type in a phrase or category related to your business. You should then see a long list of relevant keywords, as well as the average monthly search volume and other relevant information.

You can also start your keyword research with the “Start with a Website” option. Enter one of your competitor’s URLs to see which keywords appear on that page.

Google My Business SEO

Google My Business SEO

According to Moz’s Local Search Ranking Factors study, Google My Business is the essential local SEO ranking signal for getting into the Google Snack Pack. Optimizing your GMB listing is one of the best local SEO tips for businesses of all sizes and industries.

What Is Google My Business?

Google My Business is a free tool that local businesses can use to manage their online presence on Google Maps and Google search results. Your Google My Business listing includes all the relevant information about your brand that potential customers may want to know. They can see your phone number, address, hours, reviews, photos, and more.

Google My Business can also be a centralized place for you to interact with customers. You can respond to reviews, answer questions, and provide updates about current promotions, sales, or events.

Local SEO Checklist for Google My Business

Google My Business is a great, thorough tool. There are many categories to fill out to get a complete listing. Here is a step-by-step local SEO checklist for optimizing your Google My Business profile:

Claim your listing.

Before you can make any changes to your Google My Business page, you have to let Google know that the business is yours. If your business is a few years old, it may already have a Google My Business listing available for you to claim. If not, you may have to start from scratch by selecting, “Create a business with this name.”

Google will then ask you for your business location. If you operate a brick-and-mortar store, you can set the specific street address on a map. If you don’t have a storefront but provide services to an area, you can list your service area.

Next, you’ll select your business categories. This is a crucial step in Google My Business SEO, so think it through carefully. Make sure you choose both your primary and secondary categories wisely so that your business will appear to people who are searching for products or services in your industry.

You can also decide which contact details will be visible to customers. Most importantly, you should add your website URL and phone number to your Google My Business profile.

After you’ve provided all this information, it’s time to verify your Google My Business listing. There are a few different options for verification, but not all are available for every business. Sometimes, Google allows business owners to verify their listing by email or phone, but you may have to wait for Google to send you a postcard in the mail with a verification code. You can reach out to Google My Business customer service for guidance on how to claim your listing.

You don’t have to wait for your listing to be verified to start working on it, though. You can take steps to optimize your GMB profile in the meantime.

Fill out all business information.

The next step in your local SEO checklist is to complete the listing fully. Don’t leave any field empty on your Google My Business profile. Google favors sites that offer detailed, accurate information because it makes it easier for potential customers to learn more about your business and decide whether they want to visit.

Your address, phone number, website, and hours of operation all must be accurate. If your hours change during a holiday or other event, make sure to update them.

Everything on your GMB listing and website must be consistent. When the information on the GMB profile perfectly matches what is on your website, Yelp page, and social media pages, Google will be more confident that the listing is legitimate and helpful for searchers.

Your phone number, site URL, address, and all other information should be written exactly the same on your Google My Business listing as it is elsewhere on the web. Even the slightest inconsistencies can reduce your chances of appearing in the Snack Pack.

Use keywords.

Keywords aren’t only crucial for organic search results. You can also use them in your GMB listing to increase your odds of appearing in the Google Snack Pack. The Business Description section of the profile is the best place to add location-based keywords.

Don’t force keywords into your listing where it doesn’t make sense. Your main goal should be to offer high-quality information to viewers. However, when you can naturally include your keywords in the listing, don’t miss out on the opportunity to boost your local SEO ranking.

Add photos.

Images are an excellent way to improve your company’s performance in the Snack Pack. First, you can set your profile picture. Instead of setting a photo of your logo, it may be better to choose a photo that represents what your brand has to offer.

You can also upload other photos that give potential customers a better understanding of your business. This could include pictures of your products, pictures of your employees in action, or images of your store.

The format should be JPG or PNG, and the size should be between 10 KB and 5 MB. Choose photos that are clear, well-lit, and focused—avoiding putting filters or other alterations on the images.

Respond to reviews.

Your Google reviews are highly visible to potential customers. Responding to reviews shows that you care about customer feedback and satisfaction. The quantity and quality of your reviews is also a direct ranking factor for the Google Snack Pack, so it’s a critical part of your local SEO plan.

Respond to positive reviews to thank the customers for their support. If someone leaves a negative review, acknowledge what they wrote, and thank them for the feedback. Provide any additional details that may clear up any confusion, but avoid being overly defensive in your response.

Monitor your listing.

You should continually monitor your GMB profile to make sure the information continues to be accurate. You can also measure its performance with Insights. This local SEO audit tool will tell you what terms viewers searched to find your business, which can show you how effective your keywords are.

GMB Insights tells you whether customers have found your listing through a Google search or Google Maps. It also tells you about customer actions like website visits, clicks to call, and requests for directions.

On-site Local SEO Guide

On-page Local SEO Guide

The two most significant elements to your local SEO strategy are your Google My Business listing and your website. Once you’ve optimized your GMB profile, it’s time to turn your attention to your site’s on-page SEO strategy. The following local SEO tips are all about ways to improve local SEO marketing within your site content.

Content Creation

Written content allows you to provide helpful information to your site visitors while also utilizing your local SEO keywords. You can incorporate your location-based keywords in your blog posts by writing about topics that are specific to your area. If you host an event, write a press release about it to inform the community. You can also include calls to action that encourage readers in your location to reach out to your business.

You should have a separate page on your website for each city or community you serve, and each of these pages should have unique content. Doing this will allow you to use those locations as keywords, and it will enable you to explain why your business is valuable for each specific area.

As always, avoid keyword stuffing. Your website content should incorporate the keywords naturally. Google’s algorithm can recognize keyword-stuffing, and search engines penalize sites that use manipulative SEO strategies like this. Write with the reader in mind.

A Map on Your About Page

You can embed a Google Map on your website’s About page to give Google a better idea of your location. Find your business in Maps, click on the menu in the top left corner, and select the “share or embed map” option. Then, you can add the embed code to your website.

Meta Descriptions

Your meta description is the small blurb of text describing the page that appears under the URL in the search results. An engaging, informative meta description will increase your click-through rate and drive traffic to your site.

Here are some local SEO tips for optimizing your meta descriptions:

  • Use a unique meta description for each page.
  • Explain the value or purpose of the page.
  • Keep the description between 135 and 160 characters.
  • Include the target keyword as close to the beginning as possible.
  • Include a call to action at the end, encouraging viewers to click on your page.


Adding Schema to your website is one of the most comfortable but most effective local SEO tips. Schema is a system of tags you can add to your site to help Google understand it better. These tags tell Google about the meaning, purpose, and context of your website so that the algorithm will know that the information is helpful for specific search queries.

Schema has a Local Business category that allows you to identify your phone number, address, and other relevant information. This may not help you appear in the Google Snack Pack, but it can boost your rankings in the local organic results.

Increasing NAP Citations

Increasing NAP Citations

NAP stands for name, address, and phone number. The number of NAP mentions your business has across the web is one of the most important local SEO tips for the Snack Pack. This includes NAP citations on your website as well as on business directories, social media platforms, review websites, and other pages.

For a NAP citation to count toward your local SEO ranking, it must be completely accurate and consistent. If a citation has even the slightest mistake, misspelling, or other inconsistency, it won’t help your local SEO optimization.

Here’s a step-by-step local SEO checklist for increasing NAP mentions.

NAP Audit

Your first step toward strengthening NAP mentions for local SEO is to run a NAP audit. There are lots of local SEO tools that will search the entire internet for NAP mentions for your business. If your company has had any change in name, address, or phone number, search for the old information to see if there are any outdated citations still on the web.

Fixing Broken NAP Mentions

Your NAP audit will probably reveal several incorrect or outdated citations. Now, the goal is to fix as many of these errors as possible.

You may be able to change some of these NAP mentions on your own if they appear on your website, social channels, or Yelp page. However, some of them may need to be fixed by someone else. For example, if you see a mistake in local business directories or news articles, you’ll have to reach out to the writer to change it.

Send them a brief but personalized and friendly email asking if they’d be willing to update the information. You may not hear back from everyone, but this is a quick and easy way to try to strengthen your local SEO ranking.

Build Citations with Business Directories

Adding your site to business directories is one of the best local SEO tips for receiving NAP mentions, and it can also help you reach new customers. There are hundreds of online business directories, so your options aren’t limited. If possible, focus on lists that are actively edited by people. These tend to have less spam, so Google trusts them more.

You can find local business directories with a simple Google search. Here’s a list of top business directories that you can start with:

  • Yelp
  • Yahoo Local
  • Manta
  • Angie’s List
  • SuperPages
  • Patch

Most of these are free business directories and claiming your company is quick and easy.

Local SEO Tips for Link Building

Local SEO Tips for Link Building

Link building is one of the best local SEO strategies. When other sites link to your page, it shows Google that your website offers something of value. If you didn’t have informative, engaging, or helpful content, no one would link to you.

Not all links are valued the same, though. Google prefers links from high-traffic, high-authority sites. For link building to benefit your local SEO, you should focus your attention on worthwhile sites.

Business Directories

Business directories aren’t just good for NAP mentions. They also are an excellent resource for link building as most online business directories will link back to your site.

You can look for general local directories or a list of top business directories for specific industries. For example, there are several free business directories for home service providers like electricians, plumbers, and handymen.

Local Chamber of Commerce

Your city’s Chamber of Commerce can give you a secure, high-quality, and highly visible link. Not all towns run their Chamber of Commerce in the same way, so you’ll have to reach out to your local office to get your business listed. Some charge an annual fee, but the visibility you’ll get is well worth it. Others may list your business for free.

Local PR

Local news sites can be a great resource both for links and for NAP mentions. If your business has a special event coming up, reach out to local reporters to see if they’d be interested in covering the story.

Also, keep an eye out for reporters who are looking to speak with people in your industry. Sometimes, writers will post on social media when they’re looking for insight from businesses or professionals. Take any opportunity you can get to receive local PR.

You can send press releases about your local events to media distribution lists, too. Most of the media sources may decline to publish the content, but it only takes one news source to generate a high-quality link.

Generate Reviews

Generate Reviews

Reviews are a vital part of your local SEO strategy. Google considers the number of reviews and the average star rating when they determine the ranking, so the more positive feedback you can get, the better.

Google My Business may be the most critical platform for reviews because they’re directly connected to Google, but you shouldn’t neglect reviews on other sites. For example, reviews on Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Yahoo business directories can all impact your rankings.

Here’s a local SEO checklist for generating reviews across all platforms:

Add links to your emails.

You can put links to your Google, Yelp, or other review pages in the signature of your email newsletters. When you make it easy for customers to leave reviews by linking them directly to the page, many of your customers will be happy to give feedback.

Use signs.

Most customers won’t think to leave a review on their own, but they’ll be more likely to if you remind them. You could place a small sign or placard near the cash register or in another prominent location in your brick-and-mortar store.

Link to review sites on your website.

You can make it easy for customers to review your business by linking to review sites at the bottom of your web pages. You could also add a widget to your site to encourage Google reviews.

Offer rewards for reviews.

Incentives can be a great way to generate reviews. You could offer customers a free item, a discount on their next purchase, or entry into a prize drawing in exchange for a review on Google or Yelp. This also encourages customers to return for additional purchases.

Social Signals

Social Signals

Many of the strategies in this local SEO guide can be incorporated into your social media channels. You can use your social media platforms to build links, increase your NAP citations, encourage reviews, and strengthen your overall local SEO performance.

If your business doesn’t already have a social media presence, now is the time to establish one. You should have a Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Each of these platforms lends itself to different types of content, and each has a different primary demographic. Having accounts with all three platforms will help you reach as many potential customers as possible and strengthen your social signals.

Share all your blog posts on your social channels to generate links. Shares, mentions, replies, and other social signals can all influence your local SEO performance.

You can use social media auditing tools to measure the performance of your posts. Look for patterns in what performs well and what doesn’t and adjust your strategy accordingly.

Use your keywords strategically in your social media profiles. This is especially important with Facebook as your page includes an About section. Your Facebook page should also include your address and phone number.

You can use social media to get involved in your community and show your support for local events. This can increase brand awareness, and it can lead to opportunities for PR or guest blogging, which increases links and NAP citations.

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

Local SEO for small businesses isn’t optional anymore. Almost all successful companies currently have an online presence. People discover local businesses by Googling them, so if you don’t have a local SEO campaign, you could be missing out on a massive part of your customer base.

Local SEO is a broad field that includes a wide range of strategies. A comprehensive local SEO marketing plan includes your website content, your social signals, your Google My Business listing, and several other channels. It takes a lot of time and effort to implement a thorough local SEO campaign, but the results are worth it.

Local SEO also isn’t a one-time strategy. Our local SEO guide includes tips to establish your SEO campaign, but Google updates its algorithm multiple times per year. A robust local SEO plan is continually evolving. The best local SEO practices today aren’t the same as they were a few years ago, so you have to stay up-to-date on the latest trends.

Online marketing is competitive, and you need local SEO to make your presence known to potential customers in your area. You can gradually implement the strategies in this local SEO guide until you have a fully optimized site. After you make a few changes to your web content to strengthen your local SEO, you should see an increase in website traffic, leads, and sales.