Four out of five consumers search online for products or services in their neighborhood. And within 24 hours of their search, 50% of smartphone users visit a store, and 18% purchase

While most brands understand the importance of optimizing for traditional organic SEO, many don’t always know how they can (or even that they should) optimize specifically for local SEO, too. 

This comprehensive guide will cover everything you should know about local SEO. Learn what it is, how to amplify your local SEO strategy and the best local SEO tools to get you there.

Table of Contents

What Is Local SEO? 

Are you a business that offers services and products in specific geographic locations? If so, then you need local SEO. 

Local SEO is a powerful tool for businesses to promote their products and services to customers in the area. For example, let’s say you’re a plumber who serves the Atlanta, Georgia area. When an Atlantan types in “plumber near me,” with local SEO tactics, your business can show up in their search results. 

Better yet, local SEO is all about putting your business in that featured map pack—ideally at the very top. With the right strategies, Google can place you in the local 3-pack, which is a block of business listings that appear below a map in Google results for a search with local intent.

The local 3-pack is prime real estate, but businesses don’t get placement there from standard SEO. The local 3-pack info comes from a business’ Google My Business profile, which is a critical part of local SEO marketing. We’ll dive more into this in a bit.

What Is the Difference Between SEO & Local SEO?

While SEO focuses more on ranking in searches from a wide area (the country or the world),  local SEO prioritizes appearing in search results in a specific location. 

The goal of local SEO is to help your business get found online by people who are searching for nearby products or services. 

How Does Local SEO Work?

Geographical location obviously takes center stage in local SEO, so location-oriented keywords and “near me” searches are often the fuel that drives local SEO strategies. 

Local search results show up through Google Maps, and when Google determines that a search has local intent or purchase intent. This is true even if the query doesn’t specifically state it and if the query wasn’t entered in Google Maps. 

Why Local SEO Is Important for SEO

If you aren’t convinced that local SEO is important for your business, we’ll let these statistics speak for themselves: 

What Are the Benefits of Local SEO?

Here are some of the specific benefits local SEO can have on your business:

  • Helping your business stand out in local searches, which can drive more foot traffic
  • Helping potential customers, both local and non-locals in the area, discover your company
  • Giving potential customers valuable information about your business, products, or services
  • Providing an easy way for people to call your business or access your website directly from search results
  • Building brand familiarity

Who Can Benefit the Most from Local SEO?

Local SEO can provide advantages for any business, large or small. These businesses may include: 

  • Retail stores
  • Restaurants
  • Hair salons
  • Medical offices
  • Health spas
  • Florists
  • Lawn and yard care
  • Cleaning services
  • Electricians
  • Repair services
  • Locksmiths
  • Mechanics
  • Tax preparers
  • And more

What Factors Affect Your Local SEO Rankings?

There are three core elements to local SEO:

  • Proximity – How close your business is to the searcher
  • Relevance – How relevant your products/services are to the search query
  • Prominence – What other consumers say about your business, products, and services

Each of these elements contributes to specific local SEO ranking factors: 

1. Google My Business (GMB) Signals

As of the end of 2018, GMB signals (including proximity, categories, keywords in business title, and more) are the largest single factor for local 3-pack placement. They are also among the top factors for localized organic search results. 

2. Link Signals

Google looks at the presence of links in deciding which businesses should rank higher in search engine results. Indeed, links are the top factor for localized organic search. Link signals (inbound anchor text, linking domain authority, linking domain quantity, etc.) are also the second most impactful factor for local 3-pack placement. Topically and locally-relevant links work best.

3. Review Signals

Over the last few years, review signals (review quantity, review velocity, review diversity, etc.) have been playing a larger role in SEO. This factor is especially helpful when reviews contain keywords.

4. On-Page Signals

On-page signals come from your website and include the presence of NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number), keywords in titles, domain authority, etc. In particular, the correct NAP info across all online profiles/sites is critical for local search results.

5. Citation Signals

A citation is an online reference to your business name, address, and phone number (NAP). Google looks at listings in places like:

  • Local directories
  • Industry-specific directories
  • InfoUSA
  • Citysearch.com
  • Local chambers of commerce
  • The BBB
  • Yelp
  • Internet Yellow Pages sites
  • 411.com
  • MerchantCircle.com
  • Foursquare.com
  • And others

6. Behavioral Signals

Behavioral data is also used to inform local rankings. These signals include things like:

  • Location of the searcher
  • Branded search volume
  • Click-through rate
  • Mobile clicks to call
  • Check-ins
  • In-store visits

7. Social Signals

Local search rankings also factor into how people engage with a brand’s content on social media, as reflected in comments, shares, likes, reviews, votes, links, and more. The idea is that the more engagement content has, the higher its quality, value, and relevance.

8. Other Ranking Factors

It’s important to note that Google uses hundreds of different ranking factors, and they are pretty tight-lipped about exactly what those are. Therefore, it’s challenging to boil down local SEO into a specific checklist. 

Setting up your business for success in the local SEO world requires looking at other factors such as:

  • 3rd party reviews and testimonials
  • Attached Google map on your site
  • Schema
  • Photos
  • Clickable phone numbers
  • Local keywords

How Can You Improve Your Local SEO Results?

Improving your local SEO results is a focused strategy, but if successful it can help you compete more effectively for customers. See how we helped SwimJim capitalize on local SEO, which resulted in rankings on page one of the search results as well as spots in Google’s local 3-packs.

There are several things businesses can do to start improving their local SEO results. Start with these 6 tips and best practices:

1. Claim Your Google My Business Account

Google My Business (GMB) is the gateway to managing your online presence in Google’s local search results, and it’s completely free. If you haven’t already, claim or create your My Business listing

A good starting point (after obtaining access to Google My Business), is filling out as much information as possible in the Info section.  This includes:

  • Business Name
  • Category
  • Physical Address
  • Business Hours (Including Special Hours)
  • Phone Number
  • Website
  • Attributes

Google My Business also has a Photos section which is a remarkable opportunity to give potential customers a familiarity of your business through photos. There are several different types of photos a business can contribute to their business listing in Google:

  • 360 photos
  • Interior photos
  • Exterior photos
  • At work photos
  • Team photos

Businesses can even upload a 30 second video about their business! There are several great opportunities for a business to give customers a taste of what they could experience.

Much of the information entered into Google My Business is pushed into the Local Knowledge Panel, which can be accessed in the Google Search Results Page and is also populated in Google Maps.

2. Gather Customer Reviews

Customer reviews are so powerful—not just for your SEO, but for your audience as well. Don’t neglect this part of local SEO. There are so many different ways you can ask your customers for a good review, so find out what works and start raking in those gold stars!

3. Use Local Keywords

Use any keyword tool to compile a list of high-volume keywords relevant to your location and sprinkle those keywords in your My Business listing, your website content, and your current SEO strategy. Don’t forget popular local destinations or region-specific landmarks (i.e., restaurants near SLC airport).

4. Optimize Your Social Media Profiles

Even social media can have an effect on local SEO for small companies. Consistency is key in your SEO strategy, so make sure you fill out your social media profiles with the same information in your My Business listing. If your information doesn’t match up across the web, Google is less likely to recommend you in location-specific search results.

5. Use Location Pages

If your business has multiple locations, it’s important that you create different pages—with unique content—for each location. Then use these specific multi-location tactics to further augment local SEO.

6. Maximize Local Citations

Every time your business name, address, and phone number (NAP) is referenced online, that is called a local citation and it also helps to boost your local SEO. Look for ways to increase mentions of your business across the internet. Then make sure that your NAP info is accurate, and identical across the board. Use this list of the Top 50 Citation Sites for Local SEO to get started.

16 Local SEO Tools & Services

We know there are dozens of SEO tools and services available to help you with local SEO. And we also know most business owners don’t have the time to comb through them all. So we’ve done the work for you.

Here are the top 16 local SEO tools that can help you create a data-driven, local SEO strategy.

1. Google My Business (GMB) 

4.6/5 stars

What It Does: Online presence management tool
Price: Free
Pros: Free tools directly from Google, applies across Google platforms
Cons: Limited data (keyword, custom fields, or tags), displays basic business info, so users might not click through to a website

What Experts Say:

“GMB is a must for local and online presence, as well as ranking in the local map pack. As the saying goes: “No GMB, no local ranking” (at least on Google). GMB can also be used to showcase products, services and posts detailing events or other goings on of a company. As well, actively posting on GMB is a local ranking factor.” – Andrew Jacobson, 9thCo

2. Google Search Console 

9/10 rating

What It Does: Service to monitor, maintain and troubleshoot your site’s presence in Google search results
Price: Free
Pros: Free tools directly from Google, applies across Google platforms
Cons: None, these tools are necessary for everything SEO

What Experts Say:

“The Google Search Console (GSC) is a free tool that gives its users a lot of helpful information about their pages, search queries, errors, etc. A small snippet of javascript is all that is required for a lot of helpful information.” – Jef Romero, Octiv Digital

3. Google Structured Data Testing Tool 

9/10 rating 

What It Does: JSON-LD Schema Generator
Price: Free
Pros: Can load into the tool directly
Cons: None really – just make sure there are no mistakes in your coding

What Experts Say:

“Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper makes it easy for almost anyone to implement markups. Without any knowledge of coding, you can simply highlight and tag your content according to their appropriate category within the tool. When you’re done, insert the generated snippets into your web page.” – Shawn Lim, Traffic Bees

4. BrightLocal

4.8/5 stars 

What It Does: Integrated and Local Citation Platform
Price: Free trial, then $29/month or $2/citation
Pros: 14-day free trial, easy citation building, adaptable
Cons: Not as user friendly as other tools

What Experts Say:

“I’m a big fan of Brightlocal for businesses with more than 3 locations. The reason for this is that it allows for bulk updates to local citations and the ability to manage profiles across multiple platforms within one interface. This is vital for pushing offers live, changing opening times for seasonal periods and updating tagging and categorization across a number of profiles.” – Nathan Thompson, Pavilion Broadway

“My favorite local SEO tool is BrightLocal’s Local SERP Checker! I love this tool because you can view Map and SERP results for queries from any location. One pro of this tool is that it allows you to go beyond page one of the search results. It is also an excellent way to see whether our clients are showing up in the local 3-pack since some tools don’t track the SERP feature.” – Katie Stone, Leadhub

5. MozLocal 

4.3 / 5 stars 

What It Does: Automated listing management tool
Price: Limited free option, $129 – $299/year
Pros: Free option available, easy to set up, extensive resource center
Cons: Updates can take a long time to appear online, expensive plans

What Experts Say:

“Moz Local is a great local SEO tool that does a great job of managing local profiles, listings and data for businesses with more than a handful of local listings. It also helps with review management and even social posting, both great features for any local business.” – Stacy Caprio, Accelerated Growth Marketing 

“One of the most helpful local SEO tools is Moz. Like other local sites, Moz will send your business’s information to hundred of other directories on the web. Moz is great because it does most of the work for you and when it can’t, it will inform you of the exact information that you still need to add. In my opinion, the best part about Moz is the ability to check your online presence. This tool gives you a comprehensive look at how your local efforts are working.” – Andrea Bailey, Tandem Interactive

6. SEMRush

4.6 / 5 stars

What It Does: Listing management tool
Price: $99 – $399/month
Pros: Easy to use, good data visualization
Cons: Expensive plans

What Experts Say:

“SEMrush is a marketing software that allows you to conduct keyword research, track search rankings, SEO status and helps you analyze backlinks. If you want to know what position your pages are ranking and how well your pages are performing from an SEO standpoint, SEMrush is one of the best tools.” – Stuart Leung, VP of Marketing at Breazy

7. Ahrefs

4.6 / 5 stars 

What It Does: Toolset for SEO analysis and backlinks [Location Rank Tracking] 
Price: $99 – $999/month
Pros: 7-day trial for $7, can view the ranking history of a website and its pages
Cons: Short trial period, costs more than most tools

What Experts Say:

“Ahrefs provides an easy overview into any and every competitor site that we need to do research on, whilst at the same time, allow us to stay on top of every site that we are currently building through the dashboard feature. We have used Ahrefs for anything under the SEO sun really, be it from Outreach Campaign through guest posting to actual SEO optimization for our own internal sites.” – Chloe, Undercut Digital Marketing

“I love Ahrefs.com and use it every day. It keeps track of my websites’ rankings, my competitors’ rankings, backlinks, how much traffic I’m getting, how much my website is worth and more. One of the best uses for it is to spy on competitors and see what they have done in order to be successful. You can see each and every backlink they have and especially what pages of theirs are popular. It even allows you to analyze other websites to see what keywords they are ranking for that you are not. It basically tells you what to write about, what kind and how many backlinks you need, and how far away you are from that #1 spot!” – Dane Kolbaba, Watchdog Pest Control

8. Keywords Everywhere

4 / 5 stars

What It Does: Browser add-on for keyword research
Price: 1 credit = 1 keyword, buy 100,000 keywords for $10
Pros: See keyword search volume/CPC and other info right in the SERPs (use [keyword + geo location])
Cons: Used to be free but now is a paid tool where you purchase credits to see keyword suggestions and volume

What Experts Say:

“I use the Keywords Everywhere plugin and see what search volume is for keywords generated by Moz. I can then gear content to fit local keyword research. The upside to Keywords Everywhere is that it’s extremely cheap and you pay for what you use (they have a credit approach instead of subscription).” – Josh Hastings, Money Life Wax

9. Surfer

4.6 / 5 stars

What It Does: Cloud-based on-page optimization tool
Price: Starts at $29/month
Pros: Ease of use, affordable pricing
Cons: Not the best dashboard

What Experts Say:

One of my favorite SEO tools right now is a platform called Surfer. Instead of trying to guess what Google likes to rank, this tool offers you a data-driven analysis of exactly what’s missing from your page. It also allows you to select competitors within the first page of the SERP to compare your content against. Things like LSI/NLP/TF-IDF keywords, meta tags, images, and structural elements like Hx tags. It’s essentially the playbook to help your pages jump past your competitors.” – Corey Trjanowski, Valve+Meter Performance Marketing

10. Yoast

8.9 / 10 stars

What It Does: WordPress SEO plugin
Price: Free to $89/year
Pros: Free, comprehensive plugin
Cons: Slow site speed, premium version required for advanced SEO settings

What Experts Say:

“We like using Yoast for SEO it doesn’t matter if it is local or national but if you know your local market it will help you by making sure you’re hitting all the proper on-site items like keyword usage, headlines & much more.” – John Walko, Solten Marketing

11. Bing Places

4.7 / 5 stars

What It Does: Service that allows businesses to add their listings to Bing
Price: Free
Pros: Free local listing
Cons: Bing search results are not as visible as Google

What Experts Say:

“Bing Places is a much simpler version of GMB, as you simply need to fill out the relevant form about your business, and your listing will be shown when using Mapquest or another Microsoft navigation service.” – Andrew Jacobson, 9thCo

12. Georanker 

4 / 5 stars

What It Does: Rank tracking tool
Price: Free to $490/month
Pros: Choose keywords and locations for true keyword tracking
Cons: Can be pricey

What Experts Say:

“Easy to use. I like that the ranking can be checked down to a city level and on different platforms, like bing, google, google map[s] and more.” – Sandra L., Integrated Marketing Analyst

13. Local Falcon

4.5 / 5 stars

What It Does: Local search ranking tracking tool (shows and tracks Google Maps rankings)
Price: Pay as you go, 5 cents per map scan
Pros: Specifically designed for maps, real-time analysis
Cons: No longer a flat rate subscription

What Experts Say:

“Local Falcon has an intuitive UI and UX while providing excellent data on how your business ranks in various places in town or in region. Often, business is hyper local, and these days, understanding how your business performs in those situations is invaluable. With competition as fierce as it can be, having all of the information available makes decision-making easier and more profitable.” – Ryan W., Marketing Communications Consultant

14. Whitespark

4.5 / 5 stars

What It Does: Managed citation and local SEO services
Price: Free to $80/month
Pros: Great for enterprise companies, offers international options
Cons: Expensive, small/medium-size businesses cannot use

What Experts Say:

Of the several tools they have, I like the Citation Finder tool best :-)” – Andy K. 

15. Places Scout

4.5 / 5 stars

What It Does: Rank tracker software
Price: Quote required
Pros: Dedicated local SEO platform
Cons: Only dedicated to local and lead gen, must get a quote for a price

What Experts Say:

“Spending long hours researching comments to develop the business is a thing of the past. With this incredible tool, we have been able to minimize efforts and achieve the proposed objectives. We have been able to validate the commercial reputation of our business in an easy and innovative way and thus be able to develop our recruitment strategies.

This platform provides automated search tools in such an agile way that the time invested in this task is now put at the service of our customers. We have been able to identify the ranking of our business in search engines and thus be able to analyze the references of our customers and competitors.” – Daniel P., Marketing Specialist

16. ZipSprout

5 / 5 rating

What It Does: Matches brands who need local SEO and marketing/nonprofits with sponsorship opportunities
Price: Quote required
Pros: Unique offering for local SEO
Cons: No package pricing, quote required

What Experts Say:

“ZipSprout has been great! Since 2016, they have helped our non-profit bike advocacy group secure four new sponsors at no cost to us. The ZipSprout staff is helpful, friendly, and quick to respond. Give ZipSprout a shot. You won’t be disappointed!” – Dave Simmons

Local SEO in Action

If you need some inspiration for your local SEO strategy, we’ve got you covered. At Big Leap, we’ve seen firsthand the difference a targeted local SEO strategy can make, both for large companies with several locations across the country and smaller businesses with just a few locations. 

Let’s take a look: 

  • Honest 1 Auto Care came to Big Leap for help in improving their online visibility. With more than 300 locations, each with its own dedicated website, local SEO techniques were applied for a pilot program in 10 locations. Those 10 locations experienced an incredible 230% increase in organic traffic year over year. See more about how local SEO helped Honest 1.
  • Cascade Collision Repair hired Big Leap as they opened a new location. We helped them achieve local search engine visibility and lead flow for their new location while strengthening their presence at established locations. As a result, they saw visible differences in search result performance and more business. Read more of Cascade’s story.

Visit our case studies page for more local SEO tips. 

Work with Big Leap to Grow Your Business

If you want to start taking advantage of the opportunities provided by local SEO but aren’t sure how to juggle it all yourself, Big Leap can help. Our holistic set of marketing services can help elevate your online visibility and build trust with potential customers.  Contact our SEO experts today. 

 

Janet Lee