Local SEO is a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy that helps your business appear more prominently in Google’s local search results.
Local SEO can benefit any business that has a physical location or serves a geographic area. Local SEO can help you grow your business if you search Google for any important keywords related to your business and a map with three listings appears beneath it (also known as a map pack).
To understand Local SEO, however, you must first understand how Google works.
Because there were few websites in the early days of the internet, navigating the web was simple. However, as the internet grew in popularity, search engines were developed to help users find the sites they were looking for more easily.
When you typed a phrase into a search engine, it was matched to websites that contained the keywords in your search phrase. Google took a similar approach, but it quickly surpassed the competition when it became the first search engine to use links between websites to determine which websites were trusted and had authority.
Google now considers hundreds of factors, both on and off your website, to determine whether it is relevant enough to display as a search result. Your “digital footprint” is made up of factors, each with a different weight or value, that the search engine uses to return results. Your digital footprint determines whether or not you appear as the top result in a Google search.
When you enter a search term into Google, it examines the pattern of various website signals, or ranking factors, such as how relevant your site is, to return a list of sites that match your query.
Most people are unaware that Google does not perform a live search of the entire internet every time they type something into the search bar. It’s actually searching a cached copy of all the sites discovered by Google. This copy is known as the Google Index.
Google crawls the web with small programs known as “spiders” to create the index. Each spider operates in the same manner: it begins on a single page, then follows the links on that page, then looks at content on subsequent pages, and so on.
The index is built as web content is crawled and stored on Google’s servers. The spiders operate on a massive scale, crawling through trillions of pages at breakneck speed. This keeps the index as current as possible, and new sites and connections are discovered quickly.
Google employs a variety of techniques to rank hundreds or thousands of websites in the blink of an eye. These procedures are known as algorithms. When you Google something, an algorithm searches the index and returns a list of websites in organic results that match your search. Those results are selected and ranked based on the relevance, prominence, and popularity provided by inbound links.
The algorithm considers a variety of on-site and off-site factors to determine which websites contain content relevant to your search. All relevant sites are added to the list, which is then ranked in order of importance. The algorithm determines which sites best answer your search query, based on various on-site and off-site factors, and those sites are listed at the top of the search results.
Improving your SEO affects your website’s relevancy, prominence, and link popularity. When the right elements of your site’s digital footprint are optimized, it appears higher in search results.
What about organic local search results? Google discovered that people looking for certain types of businesses require results from their immediate area after analyzing the behavior of users during trillions of searches. That’s why Google’s local search algorithm includes a proximity factor, which is a fancy way of saying that when you search for a local keyword, Google considers your location (a query with local intent). This occurs even when the searcher does not include a city name or the phrase “near me” in their query.
What exactly does this mean for search marketers? While the local map pack appears within the standard Google organic search listings, the main Google search results for local rankings and the local map pack results are powered by separate algorithms. As a local business, you have the option of appearing in both the main organic search results and the local map pack.
If you’re new to online marketing for your business, one of the most difficult challenges is determining where to focus your efforts.
Localized content and local link popularity are factors, just as they are in Google’s traditional search algorithm, so it’s important to create local landing pages for each of your locations—especially if you have multiple locations—where you should include not only your business name but also details like address and phone, as well as optimize their titles, tags, meta descriptions, and follow SEO best practices. This should be factored into your content marketing and link-building strategies as well.
Furthermore, location-based factors such as having a business listing in Google My Business, local citations from data aggregators, and review signals – which should be published by your local customers – are taken into account in your local SEO rankings, and, as a result, you should include them in your local SEO efforts.
It’s also worth noting that there are local SEO tools that can assist you in developing local oriented SEO audits, such as developing keyword research focused on your local audience, building citations, managing Google My Business listings, business profiles, and Google posts, and even monitoring your inclusion in local packs.
Website content is important, as it is in Google’s traditional search algorithm, but location-based factors such as Google My Business, citations, and review signals are also taken into account.
With a better understanding of SEO fundamentals and how Google ranks local search results, you can begin to focus on signals that will optimize your site’s digital footprint in the local search ecosystem. This way, your company will appear higher on the results page, allowing more potential customers to find you.
There are numerous factors that influence your visibility in these searches, but keep in mind that local search is still evolving. Panoma Technologies Local SEO experts can help you form your strategy playbook by keeping track of which signals are becoming more and less important. You’ll be able to serve more people in your geographic region—and grow faster—once you start improving each important signal area.