What is Local SEO & Why it Matters

Local SEO is the process of improving local businesses’ visibility in the local search results. On Google, this generally means getting listed in the local map pack and the typically localised search results that appear under the map pack.

The objectives of Local SEO are to increase awareness and engagement with your business on Google Search to drive more leads, sales and store visits.

Another way to think about this is that Local SEO is a subset of traditional organic SEO (aka Search Engine Optimisation).

In the rest of this post, we will help you understand local SEO and how to put this tactic to work for your business.

Understanding Local Search

Google understands the difference between a local business, a national business and an online business.

In SEO speak, we tend to call this the “intent” behind a keyword. So a local keyword has local intent.

For instance, if you search for a plumber, let’s assume as simply as by searching “plumber”.

Google will automatically provide results that are relevant to your location.

In the screenshot below we see:

  • Nearby providers (ads)
  • 3 x Google Ads (the rules here are different)
  • Find results on
  • Google Map Pack
  • Google organic results (below the end of the screenshot)

Google search results for the search term plumber

The primary target of Local SEO here would be the map pack and the localised organic results below the map pack.

Secondary targets would be the Nearby Providers and Find Results On page features.

Beyond the Map Pack 

The traditional description of Local SEO will focus primarily on the map pack.

I believe this is the wrong way to think about Local SEO and we should look at all of these page elements as a potential to market your business.

To do this you must do a landscape analysis by searching for your keywords and reviewing the results.

Any kind of listing on that page is something you should target and measure.

With a search for “plumber” we want to consider:

  • Find results on
  • Google Map Pack
  • Google organic results (below the end of the screenshot)
  • People-also-ask results

This is still a fairly high-level view and it pays to dig further into each of these areas.

Two examples here would be:

  • Find results on – you want to optimise your listings on the platforms linked here
  • Organic Results – these link to portals like checkatrade and you will want to ensure you optimise your listing there

Local Intent

In 2022 and beyond a user does not need to add the location they are looking for – Google will automatically localise search results where they believe there is local intent.

Google has detected that the person conducting that search, and previously many millions of others like them, have a requirement that has local intent.

Why Local SEO is important

In 2020 your prospective customer has the Internet in their pocket.

The first thing that the majority of people do when they are looking for a new local business is to Google what they are looking for.

Accountants, architects, barbers, cafes, dentists, driving lessons, electricians, garages, hotels, painters & decorators, plumbers, pubs, roofing, skip hire, solicitors and many, many more.

For traditional business categories, local search is huge.

Local SEO Stats

Whilst SEO stats are generally overstated and tiresome they can help understand the enormity of Local SEO:

  • 76% of people who search for a local business visit the business within 24 hours (1)
  • 28% of those searches result in a purchase (1)
  • 30% of all searches conducted on Google are local searches (2)
  • 97% of search engine users search online to find local businesses

You get the gist. The majority of people start their interaction with a local business by searching on Google.

To have a chance at winning that business you have to be at the right place at the right time.

The right place is the top of Google.

The time is now.

How to put Local SEO to work for your business

Fortunately, ranking in local search results is somewhat easier than targeting organic results.

Google actually has a support article that outlines how to improve your local rankings (3).

Google Business Profile

The first order of call is your Google Business Profile (GBP) previously known as Google My Business (GMB) (5).

Here you will want to focus on:

  • claiming your profile
  • entering all relevant business information
  • keeping hours accurate
  • requesting, managing & responding to reviews
  • adding photos
  • adding news, offers and information

Ranking Factors

The three key ranking factors as stated by Google are:

  1. Relevance – how well does your profile map to what a person is searching for
  2. Distance – how close are you to this person conducting the search
  3. Prominence – how well known a business is

Prominence is a key factor here and Google states the following:

Prominence is also based on information that Google has about a business, from across the web, like links, articles, and directories. Google review count and review score factor into local search ranking. More reviews and positive ratings can improve your business’ local ranking. Your position in web results is also a factor, so search engine optimization (SEO) best practices apply.

Here we see how the more traditional Local SEO tactics come into play:

  • Citations – listings for your business around the web
  • Links – relevant links that help build authority and location trust
  • Reviews – how users engage with your business

Website

Your website is also critical to how well you perform in local search results.

You need to ensure you clearly detail what you do and where you do it.

Our beginners SEO tips and small business SEO tips can help here.

Measuring Local SEO

Another important aspect to consider is how you measure your local rankings.

Traditionally, rank tracking is used here but with Local SEO the further you get from the business, the lower the rankings may be.

If you target a larger geographic area it is important to use a rank tracking tool that measures rankings at various points over the geography you target.

grid of local rankings

This gives you a far more realistic idea of how visible you are across the locations you service.

There are various SEO Tools that will provide this kind of information and we tend to use Bright Local at Bowler Hat.

This may also make you want to consider using Google Ads to target areas where your local SEO is not quite so strong (on the fringes in particular).

In addition to this we would typically recommend tracking:

  • Organic Impressions (Google Search Console)
  • Organic Clicks (Google Search Console)
  • Organic Traffic (Google Analytics)
  • Organic Conversions (Google Analytics)

By combining these factors you can get a clear idea of how visible you are, across what geography, and how that is generating business.

Summary

Traditional Local SEO is the process you follow to get your business listed in local results on Google and other search engines.

Your Local SEO strategy should also consider other listings on the page, primarily the organic listings and any portals that are listed that may also get a click.

You also can’t forget about ads, in the example above, the top two page elements are still paid ads (nearby providers + 3 text ads).

Further Reading

  1. Local Business Profile Guidelines – All Business Profile policies & guidelines – Google Business Profile Help
  2. Local SEO Guidelines from Google – Guidelines for representing your business on Google – Google Business Profile Help
  3. Small Business SEO Tips – https://www.bowlerhat.co.uk/small-business-seo-tips/
  4. Beginners SEO Tips – https://www.bowlerhat.co.uk/seo-tips-beginners/
  5. Google Ads Success Factors – https://www.bowlerhat.co.uk/google-ads-the-4-key-success-factors/

References

  1. Mobile Shopping Trends and Consumer Behavior – Think With Google
  2. How Mobile Search Connects Consumers to Stores (thinkwithgoogle.com)
  3. How to improve local ranking on Google

 

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