What Is Local SEO? [The Definitive Guide]

The way search happens today is very different compared to, say, ten or even five years ago. With hyper-localized search results, it’s never been easier for people to find relevant businesses nearby. That’s why, if you’re a business catering to local customers, it’s essential for you to master the art of local SEO, gain better visibility, and beat the competition. In this blog, we’ll discuss what local SEO techniques you can use to do just that.

Ready? Let’s start off by learning a bit more about local SEO.

What is Local SEO?

Local SEO refers to all the tactics that you employ to rank your local business and promote your products to a local audience. The key here lies in the search queries of the users. Generally speaking, informational queries are all about learning about a subject. For example, a standard informational search query will be something like “how to make Belgian waffles”. This will trigger all the search results aimed at providing information for this query.

Google search results for how to make belgian waffles

 

Compare that to a local query which would be much more transactional and local in its intent like “waffle houses” or “waffle houses near me” and you start to see the difference.

Google search results for waffle houses near me

 

So, those late night searches telling you which waffle house is open near your place at this hour … that’s local SEO at work!

To tell you the importance of local SEO here are some stats for you: out of all the Google searches, about 46% of them have local intent. And 50% of people who did a local search on their phone went to a physical store within one day. It’s pretty clear that without a solid local SEO strategy, you’re missing out on a world of opportunities.

Google Snack Pack

Whenever searchers do a local search on Google like “best Thai restaurants near me”, they’re presented with a box right on top containing the top 3 results that best satisfy the search query. That box is known as Google Snack Pack or 3-pack.

 

google 3 pack
The searcher’s current location is used by Google to show relevant local results.

 

Claim Your Google My Business Listing

All the information that is displayed in the 3-pack is fetched from the Google My Business profile. So virtually the first thing you need to do as a local business is to claim your Google My Business Profile which is your business profile on Google. Some of the information in your GMB like QnA, Google reviews are generated by the users. Mainly the content there is driven by you. But you need to ensure your GMB profile is as up-to-date and accurate as possible so that you have a higher chance of a click-through from potential customers.

Google My Business Homepage

Getting Listed on Local Directories

To have better visibility for your business, getting cited on local directories is a must for you.

Back in the day, Yellow Pages would be considered the Holy Grail for local directories. Featuring there was crucial. And rightly so, because that was the only option back then.

But with the advancements in search, the number of options has expanded. So you need to do your research in the niche you’re operating in to know which directories are the most important for you.

Not only do citations give you a boost in rankings because they are one of the top 3 local ranking factors, they also increase your chances of featuring in the snack pack. So the more consistent and accurate your NAP info is, which is the Name, Address, and Phone Number of your business, the more credible you are for Google and hence get rewarded with a higher ranking.

One awesome way of knowing whether your info is consistent and accurate is using Moz’s local listing score. It will check the main data aggregators in the country you operate in and tell you if there are any discrepancies in your listings. That can be a lifesaver for you.

You can also get your information disbursed to a lot of small and medium-sized directories using data aggregators. Here, a tool like BrightLocal will help you submit your information to all the aggregators all at once.  Apart from that, it’s a good idea to check your profile on the top data aggregators’ websites since other small directories get your information from there. The top 3 aggregators which you can check include Infogroup/InfoUSA, Factual, and Acxiom.

Once you’ve sorted out your citations on current directories, you can always work on adding more directories to cite your business on. For this, tools like Ahrefs and Whitespark’s local citation finder tool can do a great job for you.

Local Business Schema

Schema markups can truly give an edge over your competition. Not a lot of the business owners know what they are or how to leverage them. Putting the schema markup code on your site helps customers to find more descriptive and informative results from the search engines. So here are the top 3 must-have local SEO schemas.

1. Organization Schema

Organization schema allows you to add your brand signals in the SERPs like your NAP info, your logo, some details about the company, links to your social media, etc.

Organization schema markup

 

2. Opening Hours Schema

With the opening hours schema, your customers would exactly know your operational hours so make sure that they are accurate for each of the locations that you operate in.

opening hours schema markup

 

3. Rating Schema

Another great way of occupying a unique position in the SERPs is through the rating schema. Not only does it allow you to boast how good your products or services are, but it also sends a signal to Google that your business is authentic and hence gives you a better position in the local pack.

aggregate rating schema markup

 

Let’s talk a bit more about why getting positive reviews is crucial for your local SEO. Did you know that 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations?

So it’s only logical for Google to give more weight to what others say about your business as compared to what you say. And that is why it is a super important ranking factor. Make sure that you are responding to customers and providing them with up to date information on your offerings.

Local On-Page SEO

It should go without saying that a lot of your conventional on-page SEO tactics like using H1, H2 tags, optimizing your content and URL, improving page speed, etc. are all very important for your local SEO as well.

Here we’ll talk about local SEO specific on-page tactics. More specifically, we’ll discuss how to optimize content and location-specific landing pages.

Optimizing Local Landing Pages:

Landing pages are those which potential customers land on after clicking your link on the search page. All of your local landing pages should be targeting specific locations. So for example, if you’re a San Francisco based baker and cover two other locations: Los Angeles and Sacramento, you should have separate landing pages for each i.e:

  • examplebakers.com/los-angeles
  • examplebakers.com/sacramento

 

Local SEO stats
What searchers want to know the most about a local business. Image source: Search Engine Land

 

Your openings hours, NAP info, and related keywords would all have to be optimized according to those local landing pages. Similarly, your Meta titles and headings all need to be targeting specific locations. One thing to note though: if you don’t have an actual presence in those locations, there’s no need to create separate landing pages.

And here’s a pro-tip for you: Make sure your homepage has your NAP info, Google Maps embed, and customer testimonials. This way, even if the search terms of customers aren’t localized like “bakeries in San Francisco” and are very broad like “Bakeries”, Google will be able to fetch their location and display your results accordingly.

Local Off-Page SEO

When it comes to off-page SEO, backlinks are the name of the game. Earning quality backlinks, in general, will give a boost to everything, including your local SEO efforts. Many factors mentioned above fall under the local off-page SEO umbrella like reviews, citations, GMB profile optimization.

Therefore, see which publishing platforms are most popular with your target audience & region. Get mentions on those journals or publish a guest blog there. Do it more for brand awareness, visibility, and eyeballs – rather than the link juice. So super-local content on high authority websites should be your main aim.

Once you’re equipped with the knowledge of local SEO, you can definitely see the difference in results it will generate for you both in the short and the long term. Be agile, and tweak your strategy here and there based on SERP feedback, and you should be good to go. I hope to see you in the local snack pack soon.

 

Top SEO Trends To Look Out For In 2021

Guys, its 2021 finally. If you made it out unscathed, kudos to you.

Overall, we had a rough 2020 with Covid taking a toll on most of our plans (which it still is). But it’s a new year and hopefully we can get a fresh start.

In terms of search, there’s a lot that happened last year, and there’s a whole lot more to happen with SEO trends for 2021.

In this blog, we’ll quickly recap SEO in 2020 and see how Covid impacted everything (including search). But, more importantly, we’ll share some of the most decisive factors that we think will shape how search will perform in 2021, and what you need to do to dominate the SERPs.

 

First up, let’s take a quick glance at some of the key search developments in 2020.

A (quick) look back at search in 2020

If you ask anyone, what’s the one thing that’s had the most impact to SEO in 2020, they’re most like going to say Covid. That is true when we look at the search trends too. Covid was on everyone’s mind when the lockdowns started to happen all across the US and worldwide. In March alone, Covid-related searches were the most popular on Google.

Covid Search Trends Hub on Google
Google released a Corona Virus Search Trends Hub indicating everything people wanted to know about the coronavirus.

 

When we talk about conversion rates, they took a hit big time with an average decrease of 21%. The demand for non-essential items like high-fashion products and travel and tourism had a serious dip as people focused more towards essential items.

But all was not too gloomy. There were some industries that saw record search volumes. To the surprise of many, toilet paper was the most sought-after item in the early stages of the lockdown. Queries like “toilet paper near me”, “hand sanitizers near me” were on an all-time high.

Search trends for online groceries
Online groceries saw the biggest bump in March 2020.

 

With lots of uncertainty on how to avoid the virus, searches for home remedies, telemedicine and telehealth all grew tremendously.

Then, as people continued to stay in quarantine, topics like “learn a new skill”, “start a side hustle” “e-learning” “home gyms” “online conferencing” were surging across the search all through April and May.

From June onwards, people started accepting the new normal and transitioned towards gradual reopening. Queries like “remote tourism”, “private beach vacations”, “car camping” started popping up big time. Interest in “curbside pick-up” was going all the way up.

Special announcement schemas were also used by businesses to announce details like revised hours, shopping restrictions, closure notices etc.

One trend in particular which SEOs observed was an uptick in interest for long form content. This is something which is considered to be a best practice generally. But Covid made it a bit more evident. With people having more time on their hands, chances of them reading through comprehensive content on a single topic increased and so such content ranked better.

In terms of the Google core updates in 2020, we had 3 of them, with the first one being rolled out in January, second one in May and the last one in early December. Google’s advice throughout these updates was to keep focusing on quality content, make use of structured data, and simply fix any overarching SEO issues that affect user experience.

Factors that will influence SEO trends in 2021

When we talk about 2021, we know, things can seem a bit dicey. Questions like “Will it be any different for search than 2020”, “What’s Google up to?”, “How do I sustain my rankings or even grow them” all start to pop up in everyone’s mind at the start of the year.

And the simple answer to all these, as always, is sticking to the process and adapting to what works best for you. That’s how it has worked all those previous years and that’s how it will this year too. With that said, let’s look at some factors that you need to give special attention to. This is based on our assessment of what’s most important for Google to rank websites in 2021.

Page Experience ranking factor

First up, is the all-important Page Experience ranking factor that’s about to come in May of this year. Google officially announced it in November 2020 but there was chatter going around it even before that.

This update will essentially take expected user experience into consideration for ranking in search results. This ranking signal will itself have multiple sub-factors associated with it including, mobile-friendliness, safe browsing, HTTPS, intrusive interstitials and the core web vitals. Among all these, the core web vitals will take up most of this score. And the 3 factors that you need to focus on are:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP). This measures the time it takes for a main page’s content to load. Ideally, it should be less than 2.5 seconds
  • First Input Delay (FLD). This measures the time a page takes to be interactive for the user. This should be less than 100 milliseconds.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS). This measures visual stability and it should ideally be less than 0.1.

 

Google Core Web Vitals
Make sure to check the core web vitals for each of your pages before the update rolls out in May 2021.

 

The bottom line is that websites that will not evolve with this update, will do so at the cost of hurting their rankings. Google has made it pretty clear that it wants to give users the best possible search experience and so it’s high time that you do too.

EAT

Google EAT
EAT is not an algorithm but focusing on it will pay off a lot in the long run.

 

With plenty of new content rolled out on the web every day, it is important for Google to show the searchers something which is truly valuable for them. And that is why it uses EAT as a metric to gauge the quality of the content. With EAT (short for Expertise, Authority and Trust), websites that try to just spin the content without adding much value of their own struggle a lot.

There are different ways you can incorporate EAT in your content like getting certified professionals in your niche to write for you, gather lots of backlinks, having positive organic reviews and so on. If you’re interested in knowing more about it, check out our blog here.

Semantics SEO

Something that goes along with EAT is semantics SEO and we think that’ll be a big part too in terms of influencing which content will show up more in the SERPs. Contrary to what used to happen a few years ago when all the focus was to hammer down primary keywords every few sentences in a content, Google now rewards websites that have a natural content flow with lots of secondary keywords to provide better context to the reader.

It’s a pretty simple process: the more you understand your target audience and figure the intent behind their search, the higher you’ll rank in the SERPs. Keyword research tools like SEMrush and Ahrefs will do almost a perfect job for you in finding semantic keywords and topics.

Voice search

Voice search has been touted for some time as the next big thing that’ll disrupt the way search works. With 20% of all mobile queries being done through voice search and almost 60 million Americans owning a smart speaker, we believe, 2021 will be the year when things begin to pick some pace.

The mechanics to optimize for voice search remain primarily the same as optimizing for standard queries. The only difference is voice search queries are more conversational in nature. So when you type in “weather today” on Google, for voice search you might say “What’s the weather forecast for today”.

And semantic SEO will also play a big part in voice searches simply because having related keywords in your content will help Google to understand the context better and hence show results accordingly.

Local SEO

Statistics about Local SEO
Source: Shanebarker.com

 

The importance of local SEO has got a further boost due to the pandemic.  As people hunker down, the demand for online shopping has shot up drastically. Businesses which have optimized for local SEO have seen great results. This shows that search engines are and will continue to be used to find localized products and services. And this trend will continue to grow.

What makes it even more crucial for businesses to focus on local SEO is the fact that searchers no longer have to visit specific pages; all the information they seek is displayed on the SERP itself. So featuring in the local pack or the knowledge panel for related keywords is like hitting a goldmine.

Video Content

The final factor which you need to definitely focus more on in 2021 is video content. Everybody loves a good video. It’s more engaging, fun to watch and relatable. That’s why we feel the websites that will repurpose their existing content and have a solid video content strategy will have a better shot at a higher ranking. The best part is that videos help to gather lots of authority too.

So it’ll be a smart move if you chalk an entire video content calendar and identify platforms that you can use for publishing. We’re pretty sure, this will pay off big time in 2021.

Takeaway

We encourage you to have a proper SEO strategy in place keeping all the factors discussed above in mind. Always remember that no matter what niche you’re in and no matter how big or small you are, for your SEO strategy to be successful, you need to do a lot of experimenting and adapting to what works best for you.