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Local SEO is an incredibly effective way to give a business visibility in its catchment area. It allows you to promote products and services to local customers at the exact moment they are looking for them online, from their computer or their smartphone.

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What is local SEO?

Here are some interesting statistics (source Searchengineland.com) :

96% of PC owners conduct local searches.
46% of all Google searches are local.
64% of local customers use search engines and directories as their primary means of finding local businesses.
50% of local mobile searchers are looking for business information (such as a business' address or phone number).
78% of local mobile searches result in an offline purchase.

Local mobile searches that lead to an offline purchase

To understand how local SEO works, it is necessary to understand the notion of "local search". According to Google, 46% of searches have a "local intention". For this kind of queries which usually contain the name of a city or a district, the robots are able to understand that the Internet user is looking for suggestions or listings based on location.

To improve their visibility, local businesses need to make a place for themselves on what is called the "local pack" or "pack 3". This is the block of businesses that appear below the map in the results displayed after a Google search with local intent.

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Everything that is displayed on the local pack is customizable within your Google My Business account. It is indeed an essential part of local SEO marketing.

What is Google My Business?

Previously known as Google Local, Google My Business is as its name suggests, your company’s online profile. It provides the search engine with valuable information that can potentially be displayed in multiple locations. For Internet users, being able to quickly find the location of any business near them is a convenience that is easy to take for granted. Yet, this is indeed an "effort" by businesses that have signed up to Google My Business.

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Most of the time, you will find the local results on the top right (or at the very top on mobile). This is called the Knowledge Panel. With your Google My Business profile you can show information about the services you offer, your contact information, your business description and hours of operation. However, you should know that some characteristics of your business will be generated by consumers and their behavior, such as hours of operation, reviews ... A large part of local SEO is therefore to regularly update your Google My Business profile with useful information.

Google My Business is an indispensable and very powerful tool, but it is only the tip of the iceberg! It is only one example of what is called "citations".

What is a “citation” in local SEO?

A citation is simply a place where information about your site appears (name, address, phone number, website URL), such as local directories (Yellow pages, etc.). These sites are very important because if you don't appear in places where people are looking for businesses like yours, you are likely to be overtaken by competitors.

There are two types of citations: unstructured and structured. Structured citations come from sites where you sign up via a form. Unstructured citations usually appear in press and social media, where information about your company is visible on a page, in an unstructured way (such as a simple mention).

How can I rank my site well in local search?

Now that you know what local SEO is, you're probably wondering how to successfully reach the top spots. First of all, you need to ask yourself the right questions: Is your offer relevant to the user's search? What do consumers think of your products or services? Do you have several locations in the same city or region?

The rules of local SEO are very different from "classic" SEO. Indeed, you are aiming at different objectives. Local SEO allows you to capture a prospect at the very moment when his need is felt. Classic SEO allows you to capture larger targets on a national or international scale.

Eliminate possible duplicate pages on Google My Business

You might be surprised at how many people don't realize that they, or someone else in their company, has already started a Google My Business page. The problem here is that Google bans duplicate content. It wants to provide the most accurate search experience for its users without wasting resources. Duplicate profiles go against Google's rules and therefore can affect your ability to rank.

To check if you have multiple pages, you can use the Moz Local tool. If you find any duplicate, you should contact Google to have them removed as soon as possible to preserve your rankings.

Localize your site

Localizing your website means including the name of your city or county naturally in the pages of your website. Although it may be tempting to group all your products or services in one big page, it is not recommended. It is better to dedicate a page to each product and location. Your "local SEO juice” wouldn't be as strong if you grouped everything into one page because you would give the image of a company that doesn't specialize, which decreases your ranking possibilities.

Manage reviews and ratings

Genuine ratings and reviews are essential to showcase your quality of service and strengthen your presence on local searches. They send a positive signal to the search engine that you are trustworthy. The number of reviews and the overall rating are important criteria for your positioning. So make sure you get regular reviews from satisfied customers, you will also encourage local customers to buy from you. A survey shows that 85% of customers believe in online reviews as much as in personal recommendations.

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Get relevant and quality backlinks

Backlinks obtained naturally from trusted websites help Google recognize your site as a trusted site in general, which will indirectly influence your local SEO. Links from local newspapers or even local associations can also help improve your site's visibility.

Optimize for voice search

Voice search is on the rise. Therefore, in local SEO, it's essential to optimize your content to match the way people ask questions when talking on their devices. Your customers are essentially using more long-tail keywords when they perform voice searches. For this reason, you'll also need to adjust your content's SEO to fit the more conversational tone, as if you were talking to someone. To do this, there is a simple rule: adhere to the 5W2H method (who, what, when, where, why, how and how much).

It is also essential to look for user intent when optimizing for voice search. This is because these searches are most often performed when the user needs a specific piece of information. For example, if he is cooking and asks Alexa to convert tablespoons into cups, he expects an immediate and concise response. You must therefore be careful not to spread your content too thinly and to target the user's intention on a given search.

Optimize the site for mobile

Visits from mobile devices have increased from 57% in 2016 to 63% in 2 years and the total number of site visits from a computer has dropped from 43% to only 37%. If we also take into account that a majority of people search while away from home, to satisfy an immediate need, we can confirm that site optimization for mobile is of paramount importance.

Here are some tips to achieve this (note that these tips are also valid for classic SEO):

  • Improve page loading times
  • Use larger, easy-to-read fonts
  • Use images sparingly to avoid weighing down the page and disrupting navigation
  • Develop an intuitive user interface to maintain a good UX

Take advantage of online business directories

Online business directories like Yelp or Yellow Pages, to name a few, are particularly interesting for local SEO.

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Your business description should include some essential elements for robots to understand: business name, address and phone number that are accurate and consistent in all directories, a backlink to your website (even in nofollow) and finally a complete description of your business.

Be active on social media

The impact of social media on local ranking has been the subject of much debate. However, it is undeniable that it has an important place in a local SEO strategy because it creates buzz, generates visits, etc. It’s also a great way to promote (local!) content you have written in order to get quality natural links to your site.

Conclusion

The rules of SEO change very quickly. We all don't know when Google will introduce new features in its SERPs (results page) for local searches, but one thing is for sure: they will happen! That's why it's essential to always stay on top of what's new in local SEO. By implementing the steps explained above, you'll ensure that your business is not only taking advantage of local searches at the moment, but that it also has a solid foundation when new SEO features are introduced.

   Article written by Louis Chevant

Further reading

The complete guide to local SEO with Google My Business

The step-by-step method to optimize your company's Google My Business listing.

Download for free