What is local search optimization? Local search optimization is focused on providing results that are relevant to a searcher based on their current location. If I search for best Mexican restaurant on my desktop right now, Google would provide me with results that are closest to my geographical location. While local SEO has similarities to national SEO, there are a number of differences.
Keep in mind, it’s conservatively estimated that 50 to 60 percent of all search is made with local intent, so it’s vital to your business that you understand what it is and how it works.
When trying to explain it, I tend to note the three different types of local searches and results that occur within search engines. Most of the time, after people see all three types it begins to make sense:
- Keyword Only – A keyword search is a good substitute for a subject search when you do not know the standard subject heading. When used without a city name, keywords rely more heavily on natural (organic) ranking factors. However, they can still sometimes include local results. Example: web designer or bankruptcy attorney.
- Keyword + Location – Keywords that include a city name provide searchers more precise results because the results are most likely pulled from local listings such as Google+ pages or Google My Business. Example: California museums or San Diego restaurants.
- Mobile-Based Searches – While more searches take place on mobile devices than on desktop computers, results returned from keyword searches performed on mobile devices can produce very different results than that of desktop computers even when using the exact same phrases. This is confusing and frustrating for site visitors as well as marketers because the inconsistencies can occur with or without a geographical phrase added to the search term.
Important Ranking Factors For Local Search Optimization
Local SEO (search engine optimization) is not based on a single tactic. Rather it’s a combination of factors that when used together will give your business a better chance of being seen in search engine results. Keep in mind that what applies to national SEO also applies to local SEO. Local SEO differs in certain areas due to how search engines position a given website high in search; giving it more weight than that of national based search inquiries and results.
When optimizing for local search, here are the most important ranking factors to consider:
- On-Page Optimization – Just like in national search, on-page optimization refers to all measures that can be taken directly within the website in order to improve its position in the search rankings. An example of this includes the business website address and keyword focused content which is important to establishing authority. The differences in local search is that NAP (name, address, and phone number), contact information on the website becomes critical. This information should be placed in a global location such as the footer of the website to ensure that it shows automatically for every page and post of the website.
- Inbound Links – National SEO and local SEO both rely heavily on not just quantity, but also quality of inbound links to local business’ websites from external websites.
- Google My Business & Google+ Pages – Your business profile on these social channels should contain accurate information, optimized categories, and relevant keywords. Those key factors will influence search just as the proximity of a business’ address to where the search is being conducted will. Google has cracked down on category selections, removed the option to add a description to business names, and they flat-out disallow virtual offices.
- External Directories – Your business profile should be available and contain consistent information (name, address, phone number) on other third-party business directories. Example business directories for local searches would include FourSquare, Merchant Circle, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Manta, CitySearch, Internet Yellow Pages, and Angie’s List.
- Mobile Usage & User Behavior – Examples of mobile usage and user behavior include user calls to a business, checkin-ins, and user click through rates from search.
- Search Personalization – It’s important to remember what the goal of a search engine is; to provide the user with the information they’re looking for as quickly and efficiently as possible. Therefore, search personalization includes results provided to users based on what is most relevant to their interests or located closest to their physical location.
- Reviews – The quantity and diversity of positive reviews from real users on legitimate websites influences local search optimization efforts.
- Social Media Signals – Google+ authority, Facebook likes, and Twitter followers provide additional influence in determining local search performance.
There is no denying that the Internet is a vast space of competing businesses and services that you have to surpass in the search engine result pages (SERPs) in order to infiltrate your market and garner new customers and business. Figuring out how to optimize your website and business to rank in the top of local search engine results can be a daunting task that is only exacerbated by the many factors at hand. Google is continually improving the local search ranking algorithms to better suit users. Change is inevitable, but this does not mean that you can’t get up to speed and gear your business toward first page results.