Local SEO: How Should You Approach It?

Posted on May 3, 2015 by in Resources | 27 comments

Local SEO: How Should You Approach It?

As I’ve said many times before:

SEO is like the Kim Kardashian of the online marketing world. You either love it or you hate it, but either way, you still find your way back to it.

The subject of SEO is one that many of us spend tireless hours, days and even years trying to understand, which is really hard to do with Google always changing the rules without coming right out and sayin’ what they’ve changed.

When most of us think of SEO, we think of ranking a website for certain keywords in order to gain traffic to said site. However, when you throw in the idea of Local SEO, many people are thrown for a loop. Why?

Because ranking for local search takes a different approach than what you would traditionally do to rank a website. This leaves many people confused and wondering how to get their site to page one or if it’s even possible.

Just like any other SEO tactic, things are subject to change at the drop of the hat, but so far, the list below is a great place to start when trying to rank your business in the local search results.

But first, let’s talk about why Local SEO is different and if everyone should implement Local SEO tactics for their site.

Local SEO Versus “Normal” SEO: Are They Different?

Simple answer: Yes, they’re different.

How are the different? What is one of the main things thing that makes them different? I wanted to know and so I reached out to my friend Amy Marshall — who works largely as an SEO consultant and is much more knowledge than me on the topic of Local SEO — to help me with the answer:

While they’re similar, local SEO typically has a geographical component that organic SEO doesn’t. It’s primarily focused on building signals or relevance and reliability around a brick and mortar location or series of locations.

Essentially, ranking in Google’s Local Search takes the approach of nailing down that you are, in fact, a locally based business.

Ranking for the Local SERPs takes a different approach than trying to rank your site or pages on just a general topic or keywords alone (i.e. Organic SEO), however, there are things that remain the same such as creating unique content or acquiring a certain amount of domain authority for your site (more on that later.)

In fact, there are things about Local SEO that leave the rules you often hear about for Organic Search ranking at the door and there are things you’ll have to do to rank your website locally that you would (almost) never have to do for what we call “normal” SEO.

This can make this a bit confusing, but in my experience, with a bit of time and practice, it’s actually considerably easier to rank a page of website for Google’s Local SERPs than in Organic (normal) SEO.

Should Everyone Implement Local SEO Tactics?

Again, the straightforward answer: No.

Local SEO can and should be used for businesses that serve a certain geographical location, but if it doesn’t, then trying to rank your site in Google for this purpose would be completely useless.

For example, it would make sense if a brick and mortar company tried to rank its site to show up in local searches because they are trying to kick up business from their local area since that is where they are located.

On the other hand, say you’re a blogger or affiliate marketer who writes about clocks or something off topic like that. Since you’re likely focusing on targeting a keyword and the interest of a larger target group than just a local audience, then ranking your site for your local area isn’t going to do you any good because you’re not generating income for those people.

Essentially, Local SEO works best and is best for businesses (big and small) who are looking to get business and leads from their local area. If you serve both a local audience and a global one, then Local SEO will still have its benefits.

The Crucial Areas To Tackle When Ranking Your Site in Local Search:

On-Page SEO Factors

Below is a list in no particular order of things you’ll want to do to help you rank high in Local SERPs — both desktop and mobile search too.

Use Your City and State in Landing Pages

According to the 2014 Moz Local Search Ranking Factors using your City and State in the title of your landing pages was the number one factor in high ranking sites.

The lesson here is pretty simple then: place your city and state in the title of your page.

Also, the link above is very intriguing and enlightening read so you should definitely take the time to read through it.

Domain Authority

Not so surprising is the fact that Domain Authority is a ranking factor in Local SERPS, however, creating a site that has this can be a bit confusing.

What is domain authority exactly and how do you get it? Miriam Ellis explains:

Simply stated, “Domain Authority” is a metric used to predict how well a website may perform in search results compared to other websites… [E]very local business will want to publish the strongest possible website. This means having a user-friendly, optimized site with excellent content that earns links and social mentions over time. You will always be working to build your domain authority, and the higher it is, the better your chances of ranking well for your most important terms. SOURCE

In this regard too, ranking a site in local searches is similar to ranking a site in local searches. Basically, if you have a user-friendly, mobile optimized site that provides content that is unique and shareable, then you’ll build your domain authority with time which will help keep your ranking in the future.

Full Contact Details on Your Homepage (and Other Pages Too)

Make sure to add full contact details on your site’s homepage so that Google (and everyone else) know that you truly are a local based business. Include the following (applicable) details in Text on your site:

  • Full Address (street, city, post code, country)
  • Telephone and/or fax number
  • Email

Don’t just put this information in the site’s footer (though this is a good thing to do and I would recommend that too), but be sure that these details are prominent on your Homepage specifically.

Another place to pay attention to is your Contact Page. Put the same details there and see about adding a Google Maps to your contact page. It may not exactly help with Local SEO, but it won’t hurt you either.

You still want your site to be informative and user-friendly and these small details are often very helpful to people trying to locate you or drive to your place of business.

Use Alt-Text For Images

Here is yet another thing that regular SEO tactics and Local SEO have in common. The ALT text of your images is a great way to target some keywords that people use to search for whatever service you provide.

As a word of caution, though, you don’t want to go crazy and keyword stuff your pictures (or blog posts), but don’t be afraid to optimize your images for ranking purposes either.

The one image that I would suggest using a keyword targeted ALT text is your Logo and then use that same image across all the directories and platforms you list your business on.

Ensure Your Site is Fast and Mobile Friendly

Fast loading and mobile friendly sites are still something you’re going to want when ranking your site for Local search.

With Google’s new mobile algorithm rolling out, if your site isn’t mobile friendly, then you’re going to get dropped from being shown in searches made on these devices which you really don’t want to happen.

If you’re looking for a responsive theme or you’re already an Elegant Themes member, then you’ll be happy to know that Divi is an excellent theme to use for your local business as it is both fast loading and mobile friendly.

If you have a current site and you’re not sure if your site will sail with Google, then just check here:

Get To Bloggin’ on Your Site

Just like any other SEO strategy, great content is still a key factor for ranking locally. I can personally speak to the validity of that statement.

While helping a local company with their content marketing and SEO, I started to regular post content to their blog that targeted long tail keywords and then promoted it on Google+.

The combination of creating fresh, unique and informative content while promoting to Google Circles to have the posts like on the Google Plus platform skyrocketed that site from page 3 to page 1 in Local SERPs. Of course, everyone’s experience is going to be a little different than my own, but the results were something that everyone has been happy with.

Get Your Google+ Local Listing Correct; Get Reviews

Considering Google is the big dog, you’ll want to tackle this listing first and you’ll want to do it right. Claiming your Google+ Local Business listing is essential so don’t put this one off.

Here is a great article about setting up and optimizing your Google+ Local ListingNote: Many of the tutorials you’ll find about Google+ Local will be under the topic of Google Places, which was what it used to be called.

I’m not a fan of review based business since it only takes one really crazy person to flip out and try to screw you over, but getting legitimate reviews on Google+ will help you with ranking better so don’t be afraid to ask your cleints to leave a nice review for you.

Get Listed In Top Directories

Google isn’t the only local business directory you want to focus on. According to Moz, there are about 15 main sites that you want to get listed on. The list of these is below:

  1. Google
  2. FourSquare
  3. Yelp
  4. Facebook
  5. SuperPages
  6. Infogroup
  7. Localeze
  8. YP (Yellow Pages)
  9. Factual
  10. CitySearch
  11. Best of the Web
  12. Bing
  13. Yahoo!
  14. Hotfrog
  15. Axciom

Yeah… that’s quite a few, I know. But these links and the consistency of the information found in them does play a factor in your local ranking.

You can decide to tackle the job of signing up and getting listed on these major directories yourself. If you do, try to keep an excel sheet showing where you’ve listed your business and the information you’ve entered. The biggest ones that I would focus on are Google, Bing, Yahoo!, Facebook and Yelp.

If you want to save yourself some time, you can also sign up for Moz Local which will handle your listings and get things up on all these sites in addition to finding possible duplicate listings that you’ll want to take care of.

Price is a reasonable $84 per year which is much cheaper compared to Yahoo Local Works and Yext.

Nail Your NAP: Consistency Is Crucial

I don’t mean nap, I mean NAP (Name, Address, and Phone Number). According to research done by Moz, a consistent NAP is crucial.

When you’re placing your business in various directories your need to have a physical address to use and you want to make sure that all the information you enter will be the same across every platform.

This sort of leads off the point above, but it’s important to mention nonetheless. If you already have a site or local business that has been up and running for a while and you’re trying to rank higher in Local searches, then use the Moz Local Listing Search to see if your information is correct or if you need to change or add anything.

Use Your Local City in Your Business Name

Yes, using the name of the city you plan to service in your business name does in fact help you rank better in Google’s Local Search.

Personally, I find this rather stupid because of how easy it can be to take advantage of the Local SERPs (plus it goes against some of Google’s other “SEO Laws” when ranking sites for general topics), but Google hasn’t seemed to pick up on it yet.

For example, say you service San Diego, California as a window cleaner. If you called your business San Diego Window Cleaning with a URL to match and a Google Business page with the same name, then Google will favor your list over someone else’s company that has a more brandable name but who doesn’t have the city’s name in it.

You can see exactly what I mean in this screen shot below.

How to rank in Google Local Search

Obviously, Google could catch on to this and flip the switch at the drop of a hat, but for now, this approach does give the upper hand for ranking higher in Local searches.

Wrapping It Up

If you’ve been struggling to understand how to rank for Local SEO or what factors play into it, then I suggest going back through the article and clicking on the links in the various sections of the post.

Many of the points I’ve made in this article are based on the data-driven research made by others much smart than me on this topic, so going right to the source for clarification and education is another way to help mentally figure this stuff out.

I’m sure that many of you guys here in the community have tips tor tactics to share. What has or has not worked for you when ranking for Google Local?

Article Thumbnail by rassco vis Shutterstock


  1. Great article, Ariel! Thanks for the advice. This will help me support clients who run a local business.

    I work with people all around the globe via Skype, and I’m curious if you have any specific SEO advice for me. I welcome local clients too, but I don’t want to limit myself to one location. Is blogging the best way to increase Google rankings? Would it hurt me to include local SEO as well?


  2. You mentioned putting an email address on the home page. How does one do that without being spammed to the hilt?

    • To avoid getting spammed from having your email address “hanging out there” online, do a search for a javascript snippet to mask an email address. It looks just the same on the front end, even complete with a “mailto:” link, but when you look at the HTML/javascript code, you’ll see why spambots don’t catch it.

      You can insert it into the TEXT view of WordPress content entry.

      I’ve been thinking of working up some plugin development chops by building a plugin that will do this for us automatically. Wonder if there would be a “market” for such a plugin?

  3. Usually, I don’t comment on blog pieces I don’t like, but I must know: In light of the quality the ET articles usually have, is this article a draft version? Plus, it seems it is aimed at people who do their SEO themselves. Yet, there’s a bunch of blah (“you can xyz, but it won’t do anything for you…”) but no info where it would actually be important. Ex: Longtail keywords (definition) or SERPS. Aside from that, I’d like to point out that correct grammar and spelling also have an effect on ranking (people content). Sorry guys, you know I love you, And I don’t want to come across hating. But yeah, dislike this one.

    • constructive criticism shows you care… +1

    • For me, this was a valuable article. I’m new into this and I got three things to do later today or tomorrow. So, Tanya, realize that not all articles will be up to your expectations or standards. But, that does NOT mean they are not valuable to some. Life is, after all, a bell curve.

    • I agree to an, but ET isn’t necessarily an authority on the topic. I read moz articles every day so I was uber critical while reading this article as well. I don’t wanna harp too much on the grammar, but yeah, it could’ve used a bit more proofreading + revisions.

      That being said, much love to ET! looking forward to more great articles.

  4. Thanks for this helpful summary and links to some useful Moz tools. Great post, as usual, from April.

  5. Thanks for the well organized article. I’m doing some local pizza shop and law firm and this gave me some real actionable ideas.

  6. Thanks for the great article on google local SEO. I would like to add 1 point here, What’s about Local Business Schema Microdata in website source? I mean, if I’ll add microdata in header of my wordpress website then would it help in Local SEO?

  7. I have a local business where I travel to the clients home or business. I am small so I work from my home. I don’t want to put my home address all over the internet. Is there a way around this when it come to local SEO?

    • I’d like to hear an answer to this, too. We prefer to not plaster the office address all over the website as it’s a residence. All meetings with clients take place on neutral ground or in their space. Is NP just as effective as NAP?

      • You could rent a post office box – either at the post office or a local postal services specialty shop.

        OR you could ask a friend who owns a local business if you could use his address. Offer to rent a small corner of a shelf in his office for $50 a year, call it “1234 Oak St., Suite S-3” (where S-3 means Shelf #3). If an when any mail arrives for you, he could put it in that spot you rented until you can pick it up.

        No doubt there are plenty of other solutions for us creative types!

  8. Great article Areil. We have about 80 floral sites we manage and your advice is spot on. After all the static SEO work is done, the dynamic SEO work, blogging is soooooo important and having a great blogging strategy, i.e your long tail searches.

    I agree with your comment “Personally, I find this rather stupid because of how easy it can be to take advantage of the Local SERPs” – We see this is the floral searches all the time. Type in city state and the word florist, the majority of those links you see are middle men and not B&M (brick and mortar) florists.

    Tanya: http://lmgtfy.com/?q=Define+SERPS

  9. This style of article has long term appeal, stays current (it isn’t news or time dependent) and offers real value and insight. The more pillars you have on your blog the better. Great article Areil.

  10. This is a very wonderful and informative blog, i actually i caught up on a lot of things that i were missing out on SEO for a long time. Thank you.

  11. Hi Ariel,

    Well done. Many quality tips and tactics in your post.

    The part about “get to blogging” is my favorite. I’d like to add, a powerful tactic I’ve implemented to enhance my blog posts awareness is to email anyone related to the blog post (5-10 emails). I’ve found a personal email sharing the blog post with an influencer related to the blog post helps increase the likelihood of the blog post spreading over social media. Email outreach has become an essential part of my blogging strategy and I think local businesses should highly consider spending 10 minutes sending out emails after every blog post.

  12. Local SEO is essential for companies to position themselves, it’s great.

  13. Excelente Ariel!
    Otro gran articulo lleno de buenos consejos.

  14. Love these tips and it’s exactly what we need for our business’ website right now.

    Our main challenge right no (incoming rant), is when “fakes” claim the Google Place that really belongs to a big company (with multiple branches). The big company doesn’t bother to claim their place and the “fakes” who are impersonating the big company with very similarly named domain names place better on SERPs and appear very prominently on mobile results. Ugh!

  15. this top directories list is interesting, i just copy-pasted it ^_^

  16. Thanks for the beautiful insights. Everywhere we read about the traditional SEO but we have very few knowledge on local SEO. The tips will be definitely helpful in building our local SEO strategies.

  17. Thanks for letting us know about this and yes, its true that your site should responsive / mobile friendly to rank high, google made a change recently.

  18. Hey,

    It was seriously an interesting read… I have a few questions and I hope you’ll help me out…

    1. Apart from top directories, there are so many mid to low quality local directories available, is it a wise decision to get listed in those directories too?

    2. SEO in general is an on-going process and I am sure local seo is no different… What should we continually be doing in local SEO other than the above strategies mentioned?

    Thanks in advance

  19. Well written article and lot of useful tips being a small business owner, every little bit helps the Internet and local search has put small business in the game with larger business in turn offering a better service for not much more cost.

  20. Great article. I think one thing you have to explain to local clients is that time is a factor. If they have a brand new url and little else going for them online, its just going to take time to grow.

  21. Great information and resources. It amazes me that SEOs still overlook using alt-text with their images. It’s such an easy thing to do, too.

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