You’re heading on a road trip with your family, and you just blew a tire in Ocala, Florida.  You’ve never been to Ocala, Florida, but now you’ve got to find a tire shop that’s open on a Saturday afternoon to help get you on your way.

What do you do?

If you’re like 80% of smart phone users, you pull out your phone and open Google, or maybe even Google Maps, and search for “tire repair.”  You quickly find that Bob’s Tire Repair Shop is just down the street, and they’re open until 5:30 pm.  They’ve even got 42 great ratings from happy customers, so you feel confident they’ll be able to help you. Success!

local seo results

Aren’t you happy that Google knew you were in Ocala, Florida and didn’t return a list of tire shops in Santa Fe, New Mexico or Boise, Idaho? This is local SEO.

Local search engine optimization (or, local SEO) is the art of optimizing listings on a variety of platforms that help users find you when they’re searching from specific location.

It seems so obvious, doesn’t it?  Local SEO is one of the most important aspects of optimizing your brick-and-mortar business’ digital presence.  In fact, 78 percent of local searches on mobile devices result in offline purchases.  That’s a ridiculous number to ignore!

Much like standard SEO, there are a huge number of factors that contribute to rankings in local results.  It can certainly be overwhelming, but you need to at least begin to consider most of the following.

Start with Google Places for Business

As with all things search, Google reigns supreme in local SEO with their Maps listings.

(Fun fact: SEO professionals call the local listings that appear right within the Google search results “The Local Pack.” Until very recently, there were always 7 results showing (you may have heard these referred to as “the 7 pack”), but now there are just 3.  This is going to hurt any businesses that were in the 4th position or lower, but should help any businesses in the top 3 immensely.)

The Local3 Pack

Head to Google My Business and make sure your contact information, hours, and all profile details are as complete as possible.  Upload a few photos, and be sure to select relevant categories.  Most local searches are for specific businesses, but the second most popular search is for specific categories (like tire repair), so you’ll want to optimize for both approaches.

Take a minute right now (we’ll wait here) to try some local searches. Sign out of Google (if you are signed in) or open an incognito browser window. Search for your geographic location and industry terms and see how your site is ranking. Does it make the Local Pack?

The only way to break into the Local Pack is to make sure your Google Business listings are as complete as possible, and to gather as many great ratings and reviews as possible – so get to work!

Take a Look at Your Website

SEO isn’t just about map listings.  Search engines also take into account the actual cities and locations that are listed in the contact information on your website.  In fact, a properly optimized website could account for up to 18% of what Google considers when determining which sites to show in local search results.

While an entire post could be written about any one of these suggestions (and maybe we will!), start by doing the following few things on your website.

First, use local keywords in your page titles.  Do some keyword research to determine your company’s most relevant keywords, then add a geographic location.  Think “Tire Repair Ocala” or “Web Design St. Petersburg.”

Second, make absolutely certain that the NAP (Name, address, phone number) you’re using in HTML on your website is 100% consistent with the NAP listed in your map and directory citations.  That means no abbreviations (St. for Street), no short-forms, or anything can be different or you lose credibility (and rankings) in local search directories.

Also, be sure that your NAP is actually HTML, and not an image on your site. To be sure, hover over your address to see if you can highlight individual characters.  If so, it’s HTML and not an image.

Begin to create some local content.  Write about your involvement in local events, your specific solutions for local neighborhoods or communities, whatever. Just include some local words in your content.

Last, get a little bit familiar with Schema. Schema markup essentially tells a search engine what the words on your website mean; not just what it says when your website gets listed in search results.  Schema markup is the code that you’ll be putting in your website to help the search engine provide more informative results for users.

Proper schema encoding is how your search results begin to look like this – which is infinitely more useful for local searchers than having to click to find your address on your website.

Schema for local seo
Update Your Citations

Ok so your website is updated, and you’ve got your Google Local up and rocking.  What next?

Go claim all of those other stray citations!  Be sure to maintain NAP consistency to help ensure credibility and quality across the networks.  This can be time consuming, but it’s not difficult.   Avoid using listing networks that automatically create multiple listings in various low-quality directories – remember, the same SEO rules apply with regard to finding high quality backlinks.  Checking the PageRank and Domain Authority of a website before you add your NAP is always a good idea.

Wonder where to begin?  Start with this list and work your way through a few each day.

Get Some Reviews!

Focusing your efforts on getting great customer reviews will not only help with higher rankings (and review snippets in the elusive Local Pack!) but online reviews also have a huge influence in customer purchase decisions (90% of people who read online reviews claim that positive reviews influenced their buying decisions).

Encourage your clients and customers to post Google reviews first and foremost; if you’ve got plenty there, move on to other review sites that are commonly used in your industry.

How?  Ask them when they’re there in person.  Email them to request a review.  Leave a review to a partner company of yours (or friend) and ask for the same in return.  Add a link to your email signature.  Create custom business cards with links to your profiles to distribute with purchase receipts. Put a sticker in your store window. I could go on and on …

Great start!

It’s a long process but worth the rewards, and easy enough to manage on your own.  Over a third of all searches last year were local and when you include non geo-targeted keywords that trigger local results, the number nears 50%.  So keep on keepin’ on!

If you need some help, just let us know.