Local SEO Guide for small business

As a full-service advertising agency, we see tons of local businesses that are expecting to get a return on investment when it comes to their advertising strategy. It’s 2019 though, that means that everyone is shopping online and the brick and mortar store model is dead, right? Not so fast! Amazon was jumping for joy when the Commerce Department reported that a staggering 12% of all retail sales occurred online. Couple that with an estimate of 90% of purchases occurring at a physical store and 80% of US disposable income is spent within 20 miles of the home and you begin to get the picture that people do indeed still leave their house to buy things. 

How does this impact a local business? 

Let’s dig a little deeper into how customers are finding businesses. According to HubSpot, 46% of all searches on Google are local. Which means that consumers are looking for local businesses online. But are you there?

Ranking for these local searches is a specific subset of search engine optimization called Local SEO. If you already have a background in traditional SEO techniques, you’re already ahead of the game! 

Who Should Be Concerned With Local SEO?

Local SEO is something that should be included in the marketing strategy for any business that serves a specific geographic location. Especially if you have a product or service that is available for customers out of a specific location, you should be implementing some kind of Local SEO strategy in order to make your business more discoverable to the local audience. 

What are the Local SEO Ranking Factors?

According to a 2018 survey regarding Local Search Ranking Factors, Moz found that Google My Business Signals were the top ranking factor for the Local Pack. The Local Pack is a part of the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

Local Pack/Finder Ranking<br />
Factors<br />
1. Google My Business Signals (Proximity, categories,<br />
keyword in business title, etc.) 25.12%<br />
2. Link Signals (Inbound anchor text, linking domain<br />
authority, linking domain quantity, etc.) 16.53%<br />
3. Review Signals (Review quantity, review velocity,<br />
review diversity, etc) 15.44%<br />
4. On-page Signals (Presence Of NAP, keywords in titles,<br />
domain authority, etc) 13.82%<br />
Localized Organic Ranking<br />
Factors<br />
1. Link Signals (Inbound anchor text, linking domain<br />
authority, linking domain quantity, etc.) 27.94%<br />
2. On-Page Signals (Presence of NAP, keywords in titles,<br />
domain authority, etc) 26.03%<br />
3. Behavioral Signals (Click-through rate, mobile clicks to<br />
call, check-ins, etc.) 11.5%<br />
4. Google My Business Signals (Proximity, categories,<br />
rd in business title. etc) 8.85%

If you go to Google and perform a “local search”, you’re probably going to run across a “3-pack” of local businesses with Google My Business Reviews, as well as maybe directions from Google Maps, a phone number, and a website link. That is where you want your business listing to populate if you’re doing Local SEO right.

How Do You Become A Top Local Listing?

  1. Get Your Website Right

Whether it is traditional SEO or Local SEO, if your website isn’t properly optimized, you’re not going to climb the local search results. 

Check your website’s SEO now and get some immediate ideas on how to make improvements.

Start by creating a dedicated contact page that clearly shows your “NAP:”

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone

It’s also a good practice to include an email address if applicable.

If you have multiple locations, include all of your business addresses, ideally in the footer of your website. 

On mobile, all of your phone numbers should be clickable. 76% of local searches result in a phone call, so don’t miss out on this simple user experience tool. 

If you’re not sure how to make phone numbers clickable on your website, Google has a great help article available.

  1. Show Google your “Trust Signals”

Dating back to 2011, Google has made a number of official statements about ranking Trust Signals. There are essentially two types of reviews you can generate for your business. First-party reviews, which are typically reviews that are collected natively on your website and use schema markup to communicate to search engines that they are reviews. Third-party reviews are ratings collected on external sites like Google or Yelp. 

While both are important, first-party reviews have more impact on your website SEO ranking because with reviews, like anything, search engines will not allow you to benefit from duplicating someone else’s content to climb the search rankings. With that being said, in the case of local search rankings, it is believed that Google reviews impact Google Local Pack Rankings

To ensure that you’re in the best position to rank in both the Local Pack and in the organic search results, you should create a marketing campaign that engages existing customers to generate more reviews to your Google My Business (GMB) and on your website. This could be a simple A/B email campaign or a concerted marketing and sales effort. 

  1. Claim Your Citations

Citations are any mention of your business's name, address, phone number, or website (NAP+W) anywhere on the internet, including when a link is not present. 

It is imperative that your business citations match your business’s actual information because it is estimated to account for 13% of the local ranking factors. (Note: local citations only apply to businesses with physical locations. If your business is only represented by a P.O. or virtual offices, local citations are unacceptable.) 

The key with these citations is consistency. 

Mismatched citations are considered to be the most common local ranking issues. How can you check this? There are a couple of great options out there like Moz Local Check and SEMRush Listing Management.

We have found Yext to provide the largest citation database, with the best possible management solutions. 


  1. Create Local Content

No matter what kind of SEO it is, content is still king. If you haven’t already, you need to create a blog or begin creating content on your website. 

Creating content does not always mean creating written content. You can repurpose images, videos, and other information resources for content marketing purposes.

For optimum results, your blog should be hosted on your business’s domain. From best to worst, this is the best way to host content for your website:

  1. Subfolder: “www.website.com/blog”
  2. Subdomain: “blog.website.com”
  3. Micro-site: “websiteblog.com”

By hosting the blog on your site, you’re able to generate content & links on your business’s main domain. 

Local content is slightly different from just content because it focuses on the local (surprise) area and includes that localized term + the keyword you are trying to rank for. 

Local searches may include variations of the local community or the areas around it, so be sure to include mentions of some nearby cities and neighborhoods.

Search engines will reward you for creating content that includes the local news and other relevant happenings. This not only will provide you a slight Local SEO boost, but it is providing scalable value to consumers, which will bring them back to your website over and over again. 

If you are including local events as part of your local content strategy, you should be writing that content from the lense of your end consumer. 

Another way to help build content (and backlinks) is by interviewing other local experts within your company and industry. Doing this will usually lead to at least that person sharing your content (besides your mom… ps: thanks mom). It creates a relationship with other leaders that you can leverage for backlink opportunities, and scale your online presence.

Your content needs to be benefit-focused for your audience.

Start providing value for your customers before they even spend a moment speaking with you.

  1. Show Me The Links

If content is Led Zeppelin, backlinks are The Rolling Stones to search engine optimization. They go hand in hand. Remember, links are considered to be the #1 ranking signal for search engines.

As you generate more content and grow your business's presence online, the links will naturally (that’s a nice way to say slowly) come. 

If you’re really going to see results, you need to use a real link-build strategy. 

A great place to start is by joining the conversation on other local blogs within your niche. You can also leverage your existing business relationships to ask for backlinking opportunities or research influencers to connect with using tools like BuzzSumo to identify and manage your outreach strategy. 

There are plenty of backlink strategy “gurus” out there. So whatever you do, just remember it takes time and you have to be committed to it. Don’t give up on your strategy without truly exhausting all opportunities. 



18% of local mobile searches lead to sales within a day. So if you are relying on local customers, you need to make a serious investment in Local SEO.

Especially if you’re competing with a national giant, competing for the top SERPs result can seem like a never-ending battle. 

Start small and as you become more proficient, begin dabbling in more technical Local SEO strategies. 

Know that Local SEO is not the final solution. You need to implement SEO and social media strategies to influence your rankings.

Whether it’s traditional marketing or digital marketing, superior products and services are undefeated in any market. 

The longer you wait to address your business's problems and Local SEO needs, the harder it will be to recover in the future.