How does local SEO work?

SEO (Local Search Engine Optimization)

Local SEO (search engine optimization) is a digital marketing technique that uses Google's organic results to assist customers find brick-and-mortar businesses.

Assume you're an international hotel business with over 7,000 locations throughout the world, such as Marriott. Each one caters to a distinct geographic area, not simply a single city. (There are more than a dozen Marriott hotels even in a tiny city like Tulsa.) We're talking about specific zip codes when it comes to local SEO.

Also, don't be fooled by the term "local." Given that local searches account for 46% of all Google searches, the potential for SEO ROI is enormous! So we put together this local SEO guide to help you make sense of it all!

  • Even if you have hundreds or thousands of locations, local SEO may assist specific physical sites compete on a local basis.
  • Keyword research and competitive analysis are critical components of a successful local SEO plan, just as they are for traditional SEO.
  • To guarantee consistency across Google My Business, Bing Places, Google Maps, and Apple Maps, audit and optimise citations.
  • Local SEO is based on obtaining reviews, developing local relationships, and producing scalable local content.

How does local SEO work?

SEO (Local Search Engine Optimization)

Local SEO (search engine optimization) is a digital marketing technique that uses Google's organic results to assist customers find brick-and-mortar businesses.

Small businesses like plumbers and electricians aren't the only ones who benefit from local SEO. Hotels, restaurants, retail stores, real estate agents, and financial services organisations all require foot traffic, as do national and multinational corporations with tens of thousands of employees.

Consider this: if someone in Dallas, Texas, searches for "financial advisor in Dallas," they'll be provided with a plethora of local possibilities. Your local SEO efforts will help you rank on the first page of Google.

Local content, links, citations, and online reviews are all factors that influence local SEO.

E-A-T (Expertise, Authority, and Trust) is the king of traditional SEO. Locally, the following are the most important elements that determine rankings:

  • Proximity: the distance between your business and the searcher
  • Relevance refers to how well your items or services suit the needs of the searcher.
  • Prominence: the number of reviews and your company's presence on citation sites

Read our post What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for a more in-depth look at SEO. a Guide for Executives

Create a local SEO plan.

You'll need to tweak your SEO strategy to account for some local ranking elements in order to perform well in local search.

1. Conduct keyword research for local SEO.

Local SEO keyword research is usually easier and more straightforward than non-local keyword research. While some places and localities are more competitive than others, the pool of competitors for local keywords is typically significantly less than the pool for non-geographically bound keywords.

Using a simple method, come up with a list of seed keywords: [product or service] in [place]. Consider the following scenario:

  • Austin furniture store 
  • Chicago financial advisor
  • Boston coffee shop
  • Tulsa Hotel

Combine all of your products and services with all of your locations, and you've got yourself a winner! You now have a list of seeds.

You don't have to worry about exact-matching a keyword like "accountant near me" in most cases. Because Google can substitute the user's location with "near me," this is possible. Rather, concentrate your seed list on certain regions.

Google has a lot of tricks up its sleeve. The search engine knows where someone is even if they are browsing in private or incognito mode. To put it another way, if someone in Tulsa types in "hotel," Google will return many entries for hotels in Tulsa.

But why take chances with your life? Optimize your listings so that Google has the information it needs to show your location to those who are looking for it in the proper area.

To widen your options and choose your keywords, feed your list into a programme like the Ahrefs Keywords Explorer.

2. Conduct a competitor analysis

Enter competitor websites into a tool like SEMRush, Spyfu, or Ahrefs to discover what keywords they rank for to do a competitive analysis. You'll see that your competition ranks for inquiries other than "[product or service] in [service area]." Use your findings to create a list of long-tail keywords that you may target with more content on your site.

Using a service like BrightLocal, compare your Google My Business results to local competitors to get an accurate picture of your local performance in areas like citations, reviews, and more.

Then have a peek at your local competitors' backlink profiles. Take note of any local resources, media sites, or blogs that reference them. Add these opportunities to your list of link-building targets.

3. Google My Business optimization

Google My Business listings, as you might think, play a significant role in local search. Google My Business enables search engines to verify that your firm is authentic, allowing them to avoid giving junk search results to their local search audience. You'll be more likely to appear in local search results, including Google Maps and the coveted local pack, if you claim and optimise your profile on this site.

The information you provide to Google My Business can also be used to generate a knowledge panel that appears in the Google SERPs when people search on your brand, such as this:

The information you provide Google My Business, such as your products or services, hours, business description, and contact information, forms a large part of this knowledge panel for local results. The reviews come from third-party websites as well as Google Reviews.

Create and verify a Google My Business page and fill it out as much as possible to optimise for Google My Business. Keep your information current by returning to your profile to update it if your hours or location change. Encourage your consumers to leave reviews on your website, and answer to all of them.

You can even use Google My Business to make welcome offers and publish content for your local audience, giving your listings more space in the SERPs and differentiating them.

4. Bing Places, Google Maps, and Apple Maps should all be optimised.

We may presume that anything ranks in Google will likewise rank in Bing when it comes to non-local SEO, and we can take Google as the gold standard. That isn't the case with local SEO, because the local listings are greatly influenced by the particular place listings of each search engine (Google My Business and Bing Places). To capture all of your local search traffic in Bing, claim and enhance your Bing Places profile.

Making sure you're as complete as possible in Google My Business is a big part of Google Maps optimization.

Apple Maps is particularly crucial because it is the default navigation tool for mobile searches on iPhones. Apple Maps Connect allows you to add or edit your business information.

5. Examine and improve your citations.

One of the most essential variables for ranking on local search engine results pages is citation signals. Citations are mentions of your firm on the internet that include your company's name, address, and phone number, or NAP. Local citations can be found on websites like Yelp, Angi, your company's Facebook page, and local business directories.

If you have many business names, make sure to combine them. This will benefit both potential customers and search engines. For two reasons, having a consistent business profile across all of your citations is vital to local SEO:

  • It confirms the information Google has on file for your site (via your GMB listing), boosting its confidence in the data.
  • People actually utilise those citation sites to conduct direct searches for businesses. This can result in increased foot traffic and sales.

To improve your local citations, you must first audit them. (If you want to automate things, look at the tools section below.)

Enter the NAP you wish to utilise into a service like BrightLocal, and it will pull all of your local citations for you, flagging any that are missing or wrong. They'll also show you which sites you haven't yet been listed on. Then you can tweak each profile separately, adding details where they're needed.

6. On-page SEO for local businesses should be improved.

Optimize your website's on-page content using your local keyword research. Many of the same recommended practises that you use for other SEO initiatives, such as optimising title tags and meta descriptions, will apply here. However, there are a few local SEO tactics that go above and beyond, such as creating a Google My Business account (GMB page). For further best practises, see our advanced SEO checklist or our advanced on-page SEO guide.

Make your homepage more appealing.

Your home page is unlikely to be optimised for local keywords. Instead, concentrate on keywords that relate to all of your customers. Optimize your home page for the highest-opportunity keywords you discovered that serve the broadest market.

Then, for those home page keywords, optimise your meta data, H1, and on-page content.

If your business, such as a hotel, relies heavily on showcasing individual locations early on its home page (as opposed to a financial services company like Schwab, which has a home page focused on its services and products), you should consider adding a tool that allows users to search by location to your home page.

Make your local landing pages more effective.

For each location, create a local landing page. Optimize each page for its own set of local keywords and include NAP data in the content.

Create geo-targeted content for each web page by finding the characteristics that distinguish each place. Encourage local customers to share their success stories or to highlight excellent evaluations. Include directions to public transportation and parking, as well as other location-specific information. Make each local landing page as distinct and helpful as possible.

Because this is such a vital issue, we've written an entire article about lead generation landing pages.

Insert schema markup.

Schema markup is a type of structured data that you may include on your website to assist search engines provide more useful search results. There are numerous forms of location markup you can use to display hours, location details, and more in the SERPs for your physical locations. Go to Google's structured data markup helper, select Local Businesses from the drop-down menu, and follow the directions. Maintain your NAP in this area as well.

Internal connectivity should be improved.

Do you want to know how to boost your SEO? Focus on crawlability and use internal links to establish an SEO-friendly site layout. Look for natural opportunities to link to other sites in your content on each page of your site.

Examine navigational features such as your menu to make sure the flow is smooth and logical, and that priority pages are included. Use the footer of your website to provide more extensive navigational links that don't fit in the main menu. Your footer is an excellent spot to include links to your most popular physical locations.

7. Link-building best practises for local SEO

One of the most essential ranking variables for local SEO is inbound links from third-party websites. While local citation listings put you on the map (literally), they won't suffice as a backlink strategy in and of itself. Local websites can build links in a variety of ways:

  • Forge connections with local bloggers and publications, and reach out with newsworthy content.
  • Provide a fresh perspective or professional view on something that is trending in the news on a larger scale. Use your imagination to make the most of the knowledge you have at your disposal! For example, a national bank could compare mortgage patterns in one city to those in the rest of the country, and then publish the results in local publications for various cities.
  • Organize events that reflect the local flavour while also giving back to the community. Alternatively, you can support local community events by sponsoring them.
  • Join local chambers of commerce, business associations, and other community organisations, and look for ways to list your business on local sites.
  • Create a scholarship fund and promote it websites as well as other financial and educational resources. Make ties with each school in the area.
  • Write articles on thought leadership and how-tos for your local audience.

8. Create a content strategy for the local market.

Create local blogs or integrate geo-specific material in your main blog as an alternative. To improve your ranks for long-tail keywords and reinforce your relevance in each place, blog on a regular basis and add other local content. Write about current events and happenings in your community and industry. Make resources for your audience in your area. Convert your content strategy into a link-building tool by creating a visitors' guide, a local "Best Of" guide, or a local calendar. Make it a point to deliver genuine value to each local audience.

9. Look for reviews on the internet.

Online reviews are a key trust signal for Google, and they play a significant role in your results on vertical search engines like Trustpilot, Yelp, Trivago, Glassdoor, Priceline, and others, depending on your industry. You may not be able to choose which reviews appear in the SERPs - you can't simply "switch off" a negative review so that searchers don't see it. However, on an SEO level, you can manage the narrative and provide a more holistic view to guarantee that your satisfied customers speak loudest.

Like other businesses, you undoubtedly have a large number of satisfied customers and a far smaller number of dissatisfied consumers. When you mobilise the voices of pleased customers, the impact of any negative reviews that may appear is dwarfed, and they are sometimes pushed to the bottom of the first few pages of the SERPs entirely.

Make a call to action for potential customers to evaluate your business on Yelp, Google, and other review sites. Add this CTA to receipts, register signs, and other materials. Then get your local employees used to asking for feedback, especially when they go above and beyond to assist a customer. Most of the time, all it takes is a simple request – but you must ask!

10. Make it Scalable. 

Staying scalable when your company is national (or worldwide) and has multiple locations can be difficult. Assign regional personnel to seeking and managing feedback and reporting any business adjustments as possible (e.g., store hours, etc.). Just make sure you give enough direction (particular review sites, for example) so that the information is consistent.

Is there a method to ensure that your strategy is scalable? Tools for local SEO.

SEO tools for local businesses

Automation techniques are essential due to the time-consuming nature of citation construction and/or optimization across multiple places (particularly if you have hundreds or thousands of them). Here's a list of the most popular local SEO tools.


BrightLocal is a more comprehensive tool than many of its competitors, as it was designed exclusively for local marketing purposes. The platform's multi-local capabilities allow firms to swiftly update local citations, monitor reviews, and evaluate competitors.

Local RankFlux by BrightLocal

Local RankFlux from BrightLocal is a free tool that tracks changes in Google's local search algorithm. It's a useful tool to use to see if your site's traffic or behaviour changes suddenly.

Moz Local 

Moz Local verifies your business on Google and Facebook, as well as distributing your NAP data to other citation sites. They primarily target Google and Facebook, and they provide real-time review management for both.

Local Citations Whitespark

Whitespark, like BrightLocal, automates the addition and maintenance of local citations across all major listing systems. They also enable you to manage reviews across all platforms in real time.


Yext helps local websites optimise for Google knowledge graph and allows you to easily create optimised, location-based landing pages in addition to building local citations.


Local firms may use GeoRanker's SERP scraper to swiftly harvest data for keyword and competitor research. They'll also keep track of your local search ranks, mine data from voice searches, and audit your local adverts.


What exactly is local SEO?

Local SEO (search engine optimization) is a digital marketing technique that uses Google's organic results to assist customers find brick-and-mortar businesses.