Local SEO helps brick-and-mortar businesses increase online visibility in a specific geographical area. Its ultimate goal is to improve omnichannel selling by converting more online searches into in-store visits.
But optimizing your online presence for your local target audience goes beyond working on your own website.
In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into local SEO, why it’s important, and how to create a local SEO strategy for your business.
Let’s get started.
Table of Contents
What is local SEO?
Local SEO, or local search engine optimization, helps local shoppers find your retail store in search engine results. You may think you only need to worry about SEO for your online store, but Local SEO is just as important in helping to attract local customers to your physical location.
Local SEO vs. national SEO
Local SEO is hyperfocused on the specific location of your retail store. It’s used to optimize your online presence and drive traffic from a local area to your website, and foot traffic to your retail store. National SEO is used to reach customers on a national or global level.
Both strategies are worth working on, especially if you ship nationwide or internationally. But when it comes to attracting more people to your brick-and-mortar store, local SEO is the way to go.
LEARN MORE: To learn more about national SEO for your website or store, checkout this SEO checklist and start ranking on page one!
Local SEO vs. paid search
The main difference between local SEO and paid search is that SEO is organic and paid search is, well, paid. Both come with a cost, because creating SEO content, putting up business listings, and optimizing product pages takes time and effort. But unlike paid search, there is no direct cost to ranking on search engines.
Put simply, SEO is used to increase your business’s rankings or visibility in organic search results, and with paid search you can pay for a top spot in search results.
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The benefits of local SEO
The ultimate goal of local SEO businesses is to help bring more traffic to your store so you can sell more. As consumers continue to demand omnichannel shopping options, most retailers are managing two storefronts. A physical store and a digital store—also known as phygital retail.
Developing a local SEO strategy will help your digital storefront stand out, but it has many benefits for your brick-and-mortar store as well.
Let’s look at all the benefits of Local SEO:
- Increasing website traffic and reach. Local SEO maximizes the number of people who find your website, which results in increasing your overall reach and brand awareness.
- Driving more foot traffic to your physical store. Local SEO helps more people find your store, peruse your website, and learn about your business. And once they’ve found this information, consumers are more likely to shop in-store. In fact, mobile searches conducted out of home are 38% more likely to lead to a purchase.
- Building your brand reputation. When local SEO helps prospective customers find your business online first, it builds brand awareness and trust, and explains why your products are unique. This allows you to give a great first impression and encourages shoppers to visit your store.
- Growing a loyal customer base and community. Using local SEO to catch nearby shoppers’ attention can help you build a loyal customer base and community of social media followers. And a more engaged audience helps distill trust in your business and boosts brand awareness.
- Standing out from the competition. The majority of local retailers don’t take advantage of local SEO. While it’s a shame they don’t, this gives you the opportunity to stand out from the crowd and outdo your competitors.
- Getting more customer leads. Optimizing your online presence for local SEO makes it easier for customers to find your business. If it’s easier to find, you’ll likely receive more messages from potential customers, either by phone, email, or social media. And after the initial contact, it’s easier to nurture leads and convert them into paying customers.
How does local SEO work?
Google uses an algorithm to determine what to bring up in search results for specific queries or keywords. Google’s organic algorithm dictates most search results, but with local search results it works slightly differently and surfaces search results based on more factors than the normal search algorithm.
When you’re performing a local search on Google, there are three main components that Google considers:
- Relevance. Is your content relevant to the search query or keyword?
- Prominence. Does your business stand out, is it trustworthy, and is your content accurate?
- Proximity. Is your business actually close to the searcher?
Let’s take a detailed look at each of these.
Google’s goal is to surface results that are relevant to the searcher’s query. It’s not only a key factor for local SEO—relevance is vital for standard search as well. It’s an integral component to consider while you’re creating content for local search.
But how can you make sure Google and other search engines find your business relevant? Start by making sure you’re targeting keywords or phrases that potential local shoppers might be searching for.
For example, if you sell kitchen accessories at your boutique located in Brooklyn, New York, you’ll want to focus on keywords and phrases such as “kitchen accessories store Brooklyn” or “kitchen accessories Brooklyn,” or you could drill down even further to specific products that your target customers might search for. “Wooden cutting board Brooklyn,” “salad bowl Brooklyn,” and “ceramic bowl Brooklyn” are a few examples.
The best ways to let Google know about your business’ relevance are:
- Incorporating the right keywords into your business descriptions and content
- Creating content that’s relevant to your business and customers
- Choosing the right category when listing your business on directories
- Spending time to improve your on-page SEO (more on this below)
- Adding schema markup to your website to help search engines surface informative results for users
- Building backlinks from local and other relevant websites
In the context of local SEO, prominence is how well your local business stands out from your competitors. Google also looks at whether your business is trustworthy and whether the information and content you publish is accurate.
The more prominent your business is online, the better it is for local SEO. This makes it easier for Google and other search engines to find and validate your company, and a strong and active online presence helps Google flag your business as trustworthy and credible. All of these factors can help you rank higher in organic search results.
Here are a few ways you can improve and sustain your businesses prominence:
- Getting more customer reviews on your website and on other sites like Google and Facebook
- Being active on social media networks and, if possible, getting your profiles verified
- Getting local press and/or working with bloggers so there are more mentions of your business online
- Building backlinks from local sites or other relevant news websites
- Creating relevant content that lives on your website and sharing it across social media
- Curating and sharing content from other sources that’s relevant to your business
- Listing your business in directories that are relevant to your business
After relevance and prominence, the last ranking factor for local SEO is proximity. It’s also the most important local ranking factor.
As a local business, you’ll want to make sure Google is pulling up your store in local results when people in your town are searching for relevant topics.
There are three ways shoppers might search for a local business including:
- Near me
To let Google know your proximity, it’s important to consider the user’s search intent and optimize for the various ways a potential local customer might search for your products.
Here are examples of each type of search:
In this type of search, the user does not include the location in their query. It’s a broader search, but should still be considered while optimizing content. For example, “kitchen accessories” could be a target keyword phrase for your kitchen accessories boutique.
This type of search includes the location, such as the city, general area, or neighborhood, the shopper types in. For example, “kitchen accessories in Brooklyn” could be a target local keyword phrase a potential customer uses if they live in Brooklyn and are looking for kitchen accessories.
Near me search
In a near-me search, the user indicates they want search results for nearby businesses. For example, “kitchen accessories near me” or “buy kitchen accessories near me” could both be phrases that the shopper types into Google search.
💡PRO TIP: Get the Ubersuggest Chrome extension, so you can get a quick view of keyword monthly search volume when you plug search queries into Google.
The key is to make sure Google knows where your business is by listing your address on your website and adding location details to your business listings, social media, and anywhere else your business has an online presence.
As I mentioned above, building local backlinks, creating local content, listing your business in local directories, and more will all help you appear in local search results.
What are local pack vs. organic results?
When a user types a query into Google Search, various types of results come up on the first page. These include paid ads, organic results, pack results, and more.
As they both appear around the top of the page and both are surfaced in local searches, there’s common confusion between pack results and organic results. Let’s take a look at the differences.
Local pack results
These search results are sometimes referred to as 3-pack results and appear above organic results at the top of Google search results. The section includes local businesses based on the search query.
The search results are shown on a map and list specific details about each business, such as its address, business hours, and contact information. Each result also has a star rating, making the 3-pack section crucial for attracting local customers.
Here’s what appears in the 3-pack when I type “kitchen accessories near me” into Google Search:
How to optimize your website for Google’s local pack results
- Claim your Google My Business (GMB) listing
- Add detailed information about your business to your GMB listing
- Verify your business location
- Keep your business information up to date
- Respond to online reviews regardless of whether they’re positive or negative
- Add photos of your store and products to your listing
Similar to the local pack results, organic results are also surfaced based on the search query used. But these results typically show up below the 3-pack results. Unlike local pack results, these listings don’t include detailed information about your business, like contact details, hours, and star reviews.
Here are the organic search results that appear below the local pack results for the same query, “kitchen accessories near me”:
When most people think of SEO, they envision organic results, which isn’t wrong. Improving organic search results is the foundation of SEO.
So, which type of results should you focus on? In short, both. It’s possible to rank in both sections, so it’s worth trying, as it will give your business more visibility in search results. Each type of result requires different strategies, but they’re both equally important for attracting customers to your local store.
5 tips to create your local SEO strategy
Now that you understand what local SEO is and why it’s important for local businesses, it’s time to get started building your local SEO strategy.
We don’t expect you to implement all these local SEO tips in one day, but now you’ll have the knowledge to gain a competitive advantage over businesses that don’t understand the importance of SEO.
1. Optimize your website for local search
In North America, over one-third of consumers discover brands via their website. Optimizing your website for local search is key to making it easy for customers to find the products they’re looking for.
But what does this mean exactly? Website optimization might feel daunting, but it doesn’t need to.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
Create local content and publish it to your blog
Local content consists of nearby places or things that are relevant to your business and fall on your target customers’ interest graph. This way, while they’re searching for something that’s relevant to them they can potentially stumble across your website and discover your store.
Update your on-page SEO
In SEO, it’s crucial to make sure each page of your website has a header, title tag, and meta description. If the page has images, you’ll also want to add alt image text. Once you determine your target keyword or phrase for each page, make sure to include it in the copy that you add to each of the meta detail fields. This will help Google understand what each page is about and pull up relevant content in search results.
Add your business name, address, and phone number to the HTML of your website
Adding your NAP to the HTML of your website and to the Find Us page, or in the footer, will help with SEO and also make it easier for local customers to find your shop. It’s important to make sure this information is always updated across all channels, including your Google listing, social media, and anywhere your business is online.
Building local backlinks
Backlinks are links from another website to yours. And getting local press or working with local bloggers who backlink to your website can impact SEO. You can do this by pitching your business to local publications and bloggers.
Publish landing pages to target specific keywords
To reiterate, it’s best to focus on one target keyword or phrase per page. For this reason, creating landing pages for SEO is a way to target more keywords and create more entry points onto your website. Shogun is the preferred landing page builder of Shopify merchants and it has the reviews to prove it.
2. Do local SEO keyword research
If you’re creating content for your website or updating business listings for organic search, it’s important to do keyword research to determine which words are relevant to your business, the average search volume, and the competitiveness of each keyword or phrase.
Most importantly, during the brainstorming phase you should always consider the user’s search intent. What would your target customer search for in Google? Make a list of 50 to 100 words and/or phrases and then you can easily get started with keyword research without any expensive tools or apps. All you need is Google.
You can begin by:
Doing competitor research to see which keywords similar businesses are targeting
You can do this by going to the brand’s website and studying each page to see what type of content it’s focusing on. You can also plug links from various pages into this SERP simulator tool to see what keywords are included in the meta details. (SERP stands for search engine results pages.)
There are also tools you can use to spy on your competitors to see which keywords they’re ranking for, which words you also rank for, and if there are keyword gaps. I’ll explain more about these tools below.
Typing keywords or phrases into Google Search to see what comes up
Let’s go back to the example of a boutique that sells kitchen accessories. If you go to Google and type in “kitchen accessories” you’ll see a “People also ask” section. This will give you insights into the most commonly asked questions about kitchen accessories. If you’re writing a blog article you can incorporate some or all of these questions into the post.
When you scroll down to the bottom of the search results page you’ll see a “Related searches” section. This is also a great place to look for additional long-tail keywords that you might consider using.
You can use this tactic to search your product type and location in Google and then analyze the results in the same way.
Choosing the right keywords to target
Choosing the right keywords to target isn’t only about search volume. Looking at competition and SEO difficulty are equally important. Smaller businesses can benefit from targeting keywords that have lower search volume and competition, as those words are generally less saturated.
💡PRO TIP: Use Google Trends to see if certain keywords are gaining popularity and create content to target them before your competitors.
Consider your target audience and their search intent before selecting the keywords you’ll target. What information would be helpful for them? Is it relevant? Will the content you create benefit your target audience? This is part of creating your content marketing strategy.
For example, if you’re targeting busy parents who are looking for kitchen accessories to make meal preparation easier and you write a blog article about a meal that takes four hours to prep and cook, you likely won’t attract the right audience.
But if you choose a topic like 5 Kitchen Accessories That Will Speed Up Your Cooking Process, they’re more likely to click on the organic search results and discover your business.
3. Set up your Google Business profile
Now let’s look in more detail at creating your Google Business profile (formerly Google My Business). You can also create listings on Apple Maps and Bing Places for local SEO benefits. The key is to optimize each listing by adding all your business details, keeping them up to date, and making sure each listing is verified.
Getting started with Google Business
Google Business is free and makes it easier to connect with local customers on Google Search and Maps. You can create a listing that displays store information like contact details, a link to your website, store hours, a map, photos, videos, coupons, reviews, and more.
Use your profile to attract and interact with nearby customers when they search for local businesses. Your store will have visibility on Google Maps and Search, and you can post photos of products, respond to reviews, and keep your business information up to date.
Google Business also provides you with insights so you can improve and boost customer engagement.
You can claim your listing and get started with GMB here. Below is a checklist to help you optimize your Google Business listing:
- Complete all sections of your listing so potential customers can find what they are looking for.
- Include keywords your customers might search for in your business description.
- Publish new photos regularly to make your business more attractive to potential customers.
- Answer customer questions quickly to avoid losing out on sales.
- Read and respond to reviews to show customers you value their feedback.
- Keep your business hours up to date to avoid disappointing visitors.
- Use the local posts feature to share special offers, new products, and COVID updates.
- Add your product catalog to your Google My Business listing for free.
4. Ask customers to “check-in” on Facebook at your retail location
Facebook check-ins are almost the same as a friend making a personal referral to a business, plus it shares all the information about your business that a potential customer is looking for. The total number of store check-ins will also be visible on your Facebook business profile.
This location-based digital marketing tactic includes your business address, your Facebook page, which lists your website, and your business ratings.
And if a Facebook check-in is viewed on a mobile device, the user can click a map that will pull up driving directions to your store.
Encouraging customers to check in will help build awareness of your business and can result in your customers’ friends and family visiting your local retail shop.
5. Get local citations
In the context of Local SEO, a local NAP (Nname, address, and phone number) citation refers to any online mention of a local business’s details on local business directories, websites, apps, social platforms, and more.
The format of these mentions can be structured (like in business listings) or unstructured (like in a blog post or as part of a narrative).
NAP citations are crucial for local SEO for the following reasons:
- Relevance: Search engines like Google use NAP information to evaluate the credibility and relevance of a business. Consistent NAP information across various citations helps establish trust and authority, making your business more likely to rank higher in local search results.
- Local search ranking: Having accurate, consistent NAP citations can significantly influence your local search ranking. This is because search engines cross-verify and validate the data from multiple sources to ensure it’s consistent.
- Visibility and traffic: Besides impacting your local rankings, NAP citations also increase your online visibility. More visibility can lead to more website traffic, more customers, and ultimately, more sales or conversions.
- Local listings: Accurate NAP citations can help your business get listed in the coveted Google Local Map Pack—the small list of businesses that appear at the top of Google’s search engine results page (SERP) for local queries.
Now, for some tips to get started with local citations:
- Ensure NAP consistency: Ensure your business’s name, address, and phone number (NAP) are consistently listed across all platforms. Inconsistencies can confuse both search engines and potential customers.
- Choose relevant business directories: Start by getting your business listed in major online directories like Google My Business, Yelp, and Bing Places. Then, target locally relevant directories or niche directories related to your business.
- Use a citation service: Several reputable services can help manage your local citations. They ensure your NAP details are consistently listed across multiple platforms, correct any inaccuracies, and help you create new citations.
- Monitor and update regularly: Regularly review your listings to ensure they’re accurate and up to date. If your business moves or changes its phone number, update your listings immediately.
- Ask for reviews: Online reviews can supplement your NAP citations and boost your local SEO. Encourage happy customers to leave a review on Google, Yelp, or other relevant directories.
- Do a local SEO audit: Perform a local SEO audit to find out where your business is currently listed, check for NAP consistency, and identify where new citations are needed.
Remember, the goal is to create credible and consistent NAP citations that help search engines understand your business better and, therefore, rank it higher in local search results.
9 local SEO tools to help you drive online and offline traffic
Now that you’ve created a list of keywords that are relevant to your business and products, it’s time to do the research to decide which ones make the most sense to target. As I mentioned above, it’s not only about search volume—competition and relevance to your business are equally important.
1. Google Keyword Planner
Google Keyword Planner pulls up historical metrics to help you analyze the average monthly search volume and competition of the keywords that are relevant to your business.
To do this, you can log in to your Google Ads account and follow these steps.
- Go to Tools & Settings
- Click on Keyword Planner
- Click on Get search volume and forecasts
- Add keywords from your list
- Click on Get Started
Here’s an example of historical data for a variety of keywords related to “kitchen accessories”:
You can also use the “Discover new keywords” feature to help spark ideas for keywords to target and content to create.
💡PRO TIP: Targeting the most competitive keywords is not always the best strategy for small businesses. Chances are you won’t be able to outrank larger businesses, so go for the keywords that have decent search volume and low to medium competition.
2. Answer The Public
Answer The Public is a place to go to look for content ideas for a specific topic or keyword. You can get a quick view of the questions the public is asking about your keywords and then answer those questions through a blog article or on a landing page.
3. Google Trends
It’s not enough to only use Google Trends, but it’s a great SEO tool to use in tandem with the other ones. Google Trends gives you a graphic visual of how variations of your keywords are currently trending.
4. Google Search
A go-to SEO tool is Google itself. Once you’ve created a list of relevant keywords, start plugging them into Google search to see what content Google surfaces. This will give you a good indication of the type of content you should create, as you’ll already know it’s what Google likes.
This method also helps spark ideas, thanks to the autocomplete feature.
Ubersuggest essentially combines Google Keyword Planner and Google Search into one platform. Its Keyword Analyzer tool is helpful for getting keyword overviews (similar to Google Keyword Planner), but it also provides you with links to the search results for each keyword.
Within the Keyword Analyzer function, you can get keyword overviews, ideas, and lists, as well as content ideas for each keyword or phrase that you type into the search bar.
Here’s what came up in the Keyword overview for “modern kitchen accessories”:
You can also use Ubersuggest’s Competitive Analysis tool to spy on your competitors. After you create a project, there’s an option to plug in the websites of your competitors and get an overview of common keywords and the keywords gap. This can help you determine which keywords you may want to target to outrank competitors.
After you’ve completed your initial round of keyword research, Quora is a great place to see what questions (related to your keywords) are most frequently asked, and in most cases you’ll also find answers. I don’t use Quora as much as the tools I’ve already listed, but it’s a great option when you’re stumped on content ideas and need inspiration.
Using the same “kitchen accessories” keyword, you’ll find an entire section in Quora where people are asking questions about kitchen utensils and accessories. You may have to take some things with a grain of salt, but scrolling through the questions and answers can help spark content ideas.
BrightLocal’s platform has various features designed to help businesses improve local SEO. Some of its features include audits for your Google Business listing, a local search grid, and this local search results checker, which is a great tool to track the status of your local rankings.
8. Moz Local
Moz Local is a local SEO and reputation management tool. You can use its platform to manage and sync online business listings and manage your online reviews, and it integrates with Google and Facebook, making it easy to publish business updates and social media posts.
9. Shopify partner apps for improving local SEO
There are many Shopify partner apps available to merchants that can help you optimize some of the processes and improve your SEO rankings. Here are a few commonly used SEO tools from the Shopify partner apps library:
- Booster helps ensure your meta tags are relevant, and sends a weekly SEO health report via email.
- SEO:Image Optimizer Page Speed is used to optimize images so Google can index your images and content faster, which can help improve your rankings.
- Search Pie is great for beginner or advanced SEOs and can help you drive organic search traffic and improve image search. It’s a set-it-and-forget-it app that has auto-management features.
Improving your SEO as a local business owner
Now that you understand the importance of local SEO for online and in-store traffic and how it can help improve omnichannel sales, it’s time to put it into action.
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But, before you put your local SEO hat on, remember, the key is to make sure your content is relevant and trustworthy, and that your location details are always up to date on your business listings, website, and social media.
Local SEO FAQ
What does local SEO mean?
Is doing local SEO worth it?
How do I create a local SEO strategy?
- Optimize your website for local search.
- Do keyword research.
- Set up your Google Business profile.
- Ask customers to “check in” on Facebook.
- Get local citations.