Local SEO: A Simple Guide for Small Businesses in 2021

Local SEO

Did you know that 46% of all search queries on Google have a local search intention? According to Google, every second local search leads to a store visit.

So, the local search has a lot of potential, but also some special aspects. In this article, you will learn what makes local search special and how you can optimise your website for it.

What is Local SEO?

Local SEO is the part of search engine optimisation that focuses on improving the ranking of websites in local search engine results. Since Google has the largest market share in the United Kingdom, we will focus on Google.

Why is Local SEO different?

Google does not evaluate local search results according to completely the same factors. Furthermore, there are some special features that are only present in local search:

#1. The Local Pack

The 3 Pack, also called Local Pack, is a box in the local search results that displays 3 companies plus a map with their locations. In 2015, there were, actually, 7 results displayed here, but, since then, the number has been reduced.

#2 Organic search results

Unlike the normal search results, the local search often finds directories in the top positions.

#3 Competition

The competition in local search is less than in regular search. The reason for this is obvious – not every company has a branch in your city. Although the number of searches is usually lower, you are only competing against companies from the immediate vicinity.

Who is Local SEO interesting for?

Local SEO is interesting for everyone who has a physical address, especially for small and medium-sized companies. Local SEO can be a very good tool to promote their goods and services in the surrounding area. Google does not care how big your business or location is, or whether you are renting on the town hall square or on a hidden side street.

What are the ranking factors?

As with regular search engine optimisation, there are a number of factors that can be influenced by local search engine optimisation. However, Google is very reluctant to disclose individual ranking factors. According to the Google My Business help page, relevance, distance, awareness and importance are the decisive ranking factors in local SEO.

However, tests, and, in some cases, large-scale studies can be used to determine the factors for a good ranking in local SEO relatively accurately. If you take these 12 factors into account, you have a good chance of getting to the top Google positions with your website and generating more sales for your business.

#1 – Google My Business (GMB) Entry: The basis for Local SEO is a GMB entry, which gives Google the necessary information to assign you as a stationary company in a certain region. According to the latest study by the search engine experts at MOZ, a Google My Business listing is, by far, the most important factor for the Local Pack ad.

#2 – Positive reviews correlate with a good local ranking. Therefore, you should always remember to advise your customers to give your company a rating on Google.

#3 – Backlinks: External links are also important in regional SEO. Note that in Local SEO, local backlinks have a higher value. You can get local links from local online media, a local directory, or from a cooperation partner.

Other ways to get local backlinks are:

  • Co-financing an event in your region – usually a small amount is sufficient. In return, you can ask for a link.
  • Publishing a guest article. Guest articles, for example for regional blogs, are also a good way to acquire backlinks in local SEO.

#4 – Proximity: You cannot really influence this factor, but it is important. The shorter the distance between the store and the searcher’s location, the better the ranking prospects. Therefore, stores in the city centre have a certain advantage, but the most important thing is to be close to the target group.

#5 – Onpage Factors: Onpage optimisation is also important in Local SEO. Place appropriate keywords that represent your business in the title tag, meta-description, H1 headline and text, if necessary. The use of keywords with regional reference (e.g. “plumber London”) is usually still the most promising.

Further on page factors are, for example, mobile optimisation and loading times.

#6 – Local Citations: These are local mentions in business directories, such as Yelp, Yell or Trivago. Entries in business directories cannot only improve your rankings, but also, since directories usually rank well in the local search results themselves, generate relevant traffic to your site.

#7 – NAP: Your website, Google My Business, business directories, etc. should always have the correct NAP. What does NAP mean? Name, Address, Phone Number. If you have multiple business locations, you should have separate pages for each NAP. The NAP should always be the same across all platforms, otherwise, Google will not know which data is the correct one. Inconsistent NAP information can lead to incorrect, or no data is displayed, for example, in the 3 Pack. Last but not least, because the NAP is also important for Google’s positioning, inconsistencies in the NAP can also have a negative effect on the ranking.

#8 – Structured Data: Structured data can help Google to better understand the website. Structured data is usually marked up using the markups from schema.org. The formats Microdata RDFa and JSON-LD are available for embedding.

#9 – Local phone number: A local number does not only seem trustworthy to the user, it can also strengthen the trust of Google in the web presence. A local SEO measure can, therefore, be to get a local number.

#10 – User behaviour: User signals, such as a high click rate or mobile calls directly from the search results, are also a decisive factor in local rankings. You can improve the click rate in the result pages of search engines by optimising the title tags and meta-descriptions and, if necessary, by using rich snippets (structured data).

#11 – Social Signals: Social Signals may also play a limited role as a ranking factor. It is recommended to have at least one profile on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn to be findable for potential customers. Citations and links to social media are also sometimes considered ranking criteria in local SEO.

#12 – Personalisation: Google individualises search results based on previous behaviour on the different Google products like Gmail, YouTube, Maps, Search etc. Personalisation has a decisive influence on the local search results, but, unfortunately, cannot be influenced by Local SEO.

How do you register your company on Google My Business?

Register your company for free in 6 easy steps on Google My Business:

  • Click on “Start now” on the Google My Business page.
  • Log in with your Google Account or create a new one.
  • Enter your company address. You may have to move a pin on a map.
  • If you select the option “I provide goods and services at the customer’s location”, you have the possibility to indicate the distance to your location where you offer your services and products.
  • By activating this option, you also have the possibility to hide your location.
  • Select a suitable category for your company. The category is decisive for which search query your company is displayed under in the 3 Pack section, for example. Depending on the category, you can also specify attributes that further highlight what your company has to offer.
  • Enter your company phone number and/or your website URL.
  • Confirm your company. Usually, the confirmation is done via a postcard sent to you. In some cases, other verification methods are available, such as confirmation via phone call or SMS.

Tips for Google My Business optimisation

  • Always keep your data up-to-date and accurate. Google prefers well-maintained entries.
  • Write a short, objective description to provide users with additional information about your company. Make sure that your description contains the most important information and keywords.
  • Add pictures and videos.
  • Use attributes: Select all applicable attributes from the list available for your category. For example, for a restaurant, an attribute could be “outdoor seating”.
  • Respond to positive or negative ratings. Users and Google like it when you are active.
  • Write reviews for Google My Business. These are displayed to the right of the actual search results in the so-called, “Knowledge Graph” under “company information”. This way, you can create more attention and trust for your company.

Combined with Google Ads, Local SEO can increase the visibility of your business in the Google search results. But are Google Ads worth it for small business? Click the link to find out more.