You’ve heard of search engine optimization or SEO. You know that you need to rank high in a search engine’s results to ensure that web users have greater access to your content. You know that you need to participate in various practices, like link building and social media, to ensure your webpages rise within a certain search’s ranks.

What you might not know is that all your SEO efforts might be for naught because what you should be focusing on, instead, is local SEO. Unlike SEO, local SEO helps businesses rank higher for specific searches in specific areas. This is essential to companies striving to offer services to local customers — and it requires a slightly different set of practices than traditional SEO.

Even if your SEO game is on-point, you might be missing substantial business because of your ignorance of local SEO. Here’s a quick guide to Local SEO — what it is, how to achieve it, why it is necessary — so you can attract even more attention to your business.

Understanding Local Search

To Google, there are two different kinds of search: the standard, informational search, and a search with “local intent.” Consider the two following search queries:

  • Home bodyweight exercise ideas
  • Personal trainers near me

Ranking for the former is relatively easy, especially as your website gets older, gains authority, and refines its search optimization. Gyms and physical trainers could rank for these keywords, as could fitness and lifestyle blogs. The web user who searched for the first phrase is only looking for information; they don’t seem to have any intention to buy any workout tools or invest in a fitness service.

The latter search, however, is filled with purchase intent. In this case, the web user is looking for specific services that are available to them, likely with the purpose of obtaining a personal trainer in the immediate future. Thus, gyms and trainers interested in attracting this business need to be able to rank highly for these kinds of local search queries.

Google’s search engine results page for local searches looks different from the typical SERP. Instead of the standard list of results, Google returns what’s called a “three-pack” or “local pack,” a map with three business listings below it. The listings show the business’s name, a star rating, business hours, and contact information — everything a web user might need to reach out. To appear in this pack, you need to set up a Google My Business (GMB) profile — which is a major component of how you optimize for local search.

Optimizing for Local Search

On your GMB page, you can fill out details about your business, like your address, phone number, website, and operating hours, and keeping this information as up-to-date and accurate as possible is critically important for ranking in local search. Google users generate many other elements, such as your business’s attributes, ratings, and Q&As, so it is imperative that you maintain high-quality customer service to win over users who might fill out this information for you.

However, your GMB shouldn’t be the only place users can find your business’s name, address, phone number, and website (NAPW). You should have profiles on relevant websites like Yelp and Angie’s List, and you should post your NAPW on every social media page, within every press release and in a prominent location on your website. These are called citations, and they are critically important to ranking in local searches because they indicate that your business is prominent and relevant.

Prominence and relevance are two of the three conditions necessary to rank in local search and especially in the three-pack. Your business also needs to be close in proximity to the searcher, but as you can’t control that as easily as prominence and relevance, these factors are typically what your SEO agency will help you build to improve your local SEO. Services for local SEO typically include adding citations as well as optimizing meta-data and creating local content, all of which tell search engines that local consumers are important to you.

Benefiting From Local Search

Not all businesses benefit from being optimized for local search —but most do. As modern consumers turn away from traditional methods of finding local services, like the white pages and local television channels, ranking in local search is incredibly important for businesses trying to grow. If you have been neglecting the local SERPs in favor of traditional SEO, it is time to change your strategy and focus on SEO tactics that will attract the audience that matters.