This post was updated on June 28, 2022.
The way consumers search for information, recommendations, and local businesses is rapidly changing.
Just a couple of decades ago, we’d need to pull out that chunky phone book (that what?) and search alphabetically for “plumbers in [insert your physical location].”
Now, we can yell it across the room at that weird little box we all carry (“Hey Siri, show me plumbers near me”) and get a list of available contractors complete with online reviews, pricing, and a variety of contact methods.
But these handymen aren’t showing up without reason; they’ve invested heavily in local SEO.
In this article, you’ll learn 9 high-performing local SEO tactics to help you join their ranks and get found online.
But first, a quick local SEO 101.
Table of Contents
How is local SEO different?
Let’s break this whole thing down from the start.
SEO stands for search engine optimization, and it’s the practice of getting your website found on Google (and other search engines).
It encompasses a variety of tactics, including:
- Keyword research
- Content creation and optimization
- Link-building (internal and external)
- Technical SEO elements, such as site architecture and improving page load speed
SEO professionals use these tactics to signal to Google that this page is a good fit for a particular keyword, with the end goal of improving its search engine rankings and getting on page 1 (and ideally, position one).
Local SEO is a subset of SEO that focuses on optimizing your site to come up in local search results.
So, what is a local search result?
Basically, a local search is anytime someone enters a “near me” search—for example, “hotels near me.” But Google is a little smarter than that.
If I simply search “hotels,” Google makes the (valid) assumption that I’m looking for hotels in my immediate vicinity. The “map pack” will then display a list of hotels near me.
However, local search isn’t limited to where you are. If I’m looking to book a holiday in Stuttgart, then a search for “hotels Stuttgart” will also bring up a local search result for that area.
The results shown above are included in what’s known as Google’s Local Pack, a selection of results Google favors based on a number of factors (such as positive reviews, Google My Business profile completion, availability, etc.).
Below that, you’ll find a variety of organic search results, which are pages optimized for that particular keyword.
By and large, local searches demonstrate a lot of purchase intent.
Searchers are looking for something “near me,” so there’s a sense of urgency involved, and they’re typically searching for a business type (hotel, restaurant, hardware store, cafe, etc.) as opposed to an informational search like “how to rank on page one for a local keyword.”
For marketers, local SEO looks, by and large, very similar to “regular” SEO. Aspects such as internal link structure, page optimization, backlinks, and the creation of relevant and valuable content are all important tactics.
However, each needs to have a local focus (backlinks should be from other local businesses or sites, for instance), and some tactics (like the first couple we’re about to discuss) are exclusive to the local SEO world.
12 top-performing local SEO tactics
1. Start by creating a Google My Business listing
Google My Business (GMB) is basically a business directory.
It’s free, so there are no excuses for not having one, and it’s the perfect first step for finding yourself in local search results (if you’re not playing Google’s game, they’re probably not going to help you out).
Check out this search result for “coffee near me:”
Each of these results is a Google Business Profile.
GMB, first and foremost, gets you found on Google Maps (a pretty big plus). However, it also allows you to:
- List your business hours
- Display menu options
- Give potential customers contact details such as your phone numbers
- Collect and promote reviews from patrons
- Include a few compelling photos to draw customers in
2. Collect customer reviews like they’re Pokemon
Like it or not, today’s consumer economy runs on reviews.
When customers search for “restaurant near me,” they’re instinctively attracted to a business with great reviews and a strong star rating.
Think about it: they’re looking for recommendations (that’s why they’re searching in the first place), and they don’t want to spend a lot of time wading through a list of potential options. They want to know what’s best and what’s closest. Simple.
So, you’re going to need to spend some time investing in collecting customer reviews.
First, send an email to your previous customers for reviews. Ask them to leave a review on your Google profile, but be sure to offer something in exchange (for example, 10% of their next purchase)—this will incentivize action and elicit more responses.
Then, set up an automated email sequence to go out after a customer makes a purchase (so you can continue collecting reviews perpetually).
Pro tip: Grab snippets of the best reviews to include as social proof on your website.
3. Get heavy on link-building
As a local business owner, backlinks (links to your page from other websites) are a key ranking factor and will likely be a core pillar of your company’s SEO strategy.
The logic is this: search engines see it as a positive thing when another website links to yours. They take it as a signal that your page is a valuable resource.
However, they take this signal in the context of the website linking to you.
So, let’s say you run a local cake shop. Relevant backlinks could come from:
- A local newspaper celebrating your 10th anniversary
- A local food blogger discussing the quality of your cupcakes
- A list of “best cake shops” in your area
This link from UrbanList, an Australian media brand, to Phat Mango, a local restaurant, is a good example of local link-building done right.
Random links from unrelated websites might give you an initial boost, but they’ll hurt you in the long run.
So, focus on building links from relevant sites, and if they’re local (in the same neighborhood, city, or region), even better!
4. Make sure your site is optimized for mobile search
Mobile now accounts for around 63% of all searches and has been the majority option since 2016.
For local search, this growth is even more extreme.
You can safely assume, then, that if someone is searching locally, they’re doing it on a mobile device.
If your site isn’t optimized for mobile (i.e., it shows up weird, with distorted sizes, strange navigation, and difficult-to-read content), you’ll have problems with local SEO.
Think about it—Google’s entire focus is customer experience. It needs to ensure that when a customer (their customer, as in, a searcher) looks for a local business, their experience is smooth. Results need to be accurate and up to date, and sites must display as expected.
If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, hire a developer or designer to get on that quickly.
5. Take advantage of local directories (but stay consistent)
Google My Business isn’t the only place you can list your company online.
To improve your online visibility (and the likelihood that local searchers will find you), get your organization on online business directories, such as:
- Better Business Bureau
- Moz Local
- Yahoo! Local
Make sure to keep your details consistent and update them in all online directories whenever you make a change.
If you’ve got 1 address and number on GMB, another on Yelp, and a third on Better Business Bureau, something will go wrong.
Someone is going to display the wrong details, and, in the worst scenarios, Google might decide not to show your business in search results at all (inconsistent contact details don’t make for a smooth user experience).
So, an easy win here—audit all of your existing online listings (including social media pages like Facebook and Instagram) and ensure all of your details are consistent.
6. Develop a comprehensive local keyword strategy
Now we’re getting into the technical stuff.
If you want to rank for local search terms, you’ll need to invest in creating landing pages and content for specific local keywords.
Use SEO tools such as Ahrefs or Semrush and pull together a list of relevant keywords to your business, including your locality.
Say you run a bakery in San Diego. “Bakery San Diego” is an obvious start, but using Semrush’s Keyword Magic Tool, we can identify many other relevant search terms.
The general rule is to prioritize search terms with a low keyword difficulty and high monthly search volume.
In the above case, the terms “gluten-free bakery san diego” and “best bakery in san diego” both represent good opportunities, as they have low difficulties and decent monthly traffic (1900 and 1300, respectively).
7. Refresh your internal linking strategy
Internal links are the links between pages on your website (meaning we’re not talking about inbound links from external websites here).
This is important for user experience (guiding readers from 1 page to another using relevant and effectively placed links), but it also has an impact on SEO.
When you link from 1 page to another, you’re essentially telling Google’s search bots, “These 2 pages are related, and they talk about similar or related topics.” This helps search engines understand how you’re presenting information to readers and what topics your site might be an authority in.
8. Publish locally-relevant content
Recall the list of keywords we identified in tactic 6. You’ll need to produce locally-relevant content to rank for each of these.
For some keywords, an internal landing page may be most appropriate, for instance, the keyword “french bakery san diego” (note the URL slug in the below example, which is ranking on page 1 for this search term).
For others, you’ll need to create a round-up, reviewing local bakeries (including yours) to compete with the current SERP competition.
Perform an SEO audit of your site and identify opportunities to optimize for local search terms on existing landing pages, then develop a content plan for publishing additional pages.
9. Be prepared for the future of search: voice
The future of search engine usage is undoubtedly voice.
Consumers are increasingly using the likes of Google Assistant, Siri, and Alexa to perform voice searches, which changes the types of keywords used to look for local businesses.
Already, 40% of mobile owners use voice search at least once daily, and the aforementioned voice assistants have only been around for a decade.
Get yourself future-ready by focusing on conversational keywords.
Conversational keywords are a type of long-tail keywords that look very different from the traditional Google search. Years ago, we were taught to search online using clunky, robotic phrases like “learn Google Search Console.”
Now, voice assistants are making searches verbatim, meaning when a consumer asks, “Hey Siri, how do I use Google Search Console” then the search query will be “how do I use Google Search Console,” not “learn Google Search Console.”
This is a subtle but important difference for content optimization.
The local SEO tactics we’ve discussed above, when implemented correctly, are powerful methods for driving organic traffic and acquiring new customers.
But don’t make the mistake of considering this a “one and done” affair—SEO takes a long-term commitment and a lot of trial and error.
Learn how marketing automation and ActiveCampaign can help boost your website’s search results, segment audiences, and drive email engagement here.