Think traditional SEO is all you need? Keep reading.

Here you’ll find:

  • What defines local SEO
  • Which business owners benefit from local SEO
  • SEO tips for implementing local SEO properly
  • SEO mistakes to avoid with your digital marketing strategy

Local SEO (search engine optimization) is often undervalued and misunderstood. 

Some mistakenly believe it serves the same purpose as traditional on-page SEO or that it’s not necessary for their small business’s marketing strategy.

The truth is that local SEO can do wonders for your brand’s overall organic performance — and increase your foot traffic and phone calls. So, here’s your SEO guide on the basics and advanced techniques to improve your local search ranking.

Google Maps on iPhone

While many businesses may benefit from global traffic, they’re almost always more relevant in specific areas. (Image: Unsplash)

What is local SEO?

Local SEO is the practice of optimizing your website and Google Business Profile listings to increase visibility in local search results. This way, when someone searches for a product or service in your area, your business will appear in the search results.

How local SEO works

Local SEO works in two ways:

  1. The searcher types in a keyword with a local component, such as a city or town (e.g., lawn care service Atlanta) or words like “nearby” or “near me” (e.g. lawn care service near me)
  2. The searcher has location on mobile device turned on, so when they look for a service, it automatically shows nearby businesses

This type of SEO uses local ranking factors to appear higher in organic results and target local audiences.

Local SEO examples on the SERP

To illustrate, here’s a screenshot of a local lawn care service in Atlanta, Georgia in organic search results:

lawn services in organic search

You’ll even see one published in 2018 still ranking on the first page of Google for the keyword. This proves the power of local SEO and its long-term benefits. 

And for the same search term, we see the local 3-pack:

 local 3-pack

Optimizing content for local SEO is similar to traditional SEO with the addition of local keywords. Examples include things like:

  • City/state/country
  • Local landmarks
  • Local lexicon (pop vs. soda or inspector vs. detective)

Here’s an example of Kroger listings for Texas:

Kroger listings for Texas

While website content is obviously important, blogs aren’t your only option. Use whatever format feels most relevant to your business, website, and SEO goals. Content marketing alternatives include:

  • Local news and updates
  • Case studies
  • Webinars
  • Infographics
  • Videos
  • How-to guides

Note that you must include local keywords in whatever content formats you use for it to appear in local search results.  

For example, GreenPal ranks #2 for an article that lists the top 10 best lawn care services in Atlanta for the keywords “lawn care service Atlanta.” It’s a page that showcases different lawn care providers in its network and their reviews, providing social proof.

green pal reviews page

Further proving that Google values different types of content for local SEO.

Which businesses should use local SEO?

Physical businesses aren’t the only companies that can benefit from local SEO. If you own a business that targets customers in a particular region or country, you can use local keywords to increase the odds of content appearing in SERPS for that locale. 

For example, maybe your audience research shows folks in Australia frequently purchase the shoes you sell. You can create content that includes terms like “Australia” and “Sydney.” In this scenario, you should also include Australian spelling words (e.g., colour instead of color) and develop content with topics relevant to Australian culture and interests. 

Many stores mistakenly try to reach the largest audiences instead of those most likely to convert. 

While service providers like plumbers and painters often don’t have physical locations, they typically operate within a set service area. Their potential customers will likely use local keywords when searching for them.

However, for companies in software-as-a-service (SaaS) and ecommerce, customer location doesn’t matter since they can ship or offer access to the product to anyone wherever they are in the world. 

Pro tip: Despite the belief that local SEO only benefits physical businesses, there are usually areas and local keywords that apply for all company types. Think about what you sell, where or to whom it’s most useful, who your ideal audience is, and what location has the most of that demographic.

Local SEO facts and benefits

Many businesses ignore localized SEO because they’re unaware of its advantages. Let’s break down some key stats, findings, and benefits.


  • Almost half of all searches are local
  • Google favors local results, plus it’s often easier to rank locally
  • 80% of mobile-based local searches lead to transactions
  • 87% of consumers used Google to evaluate local businesses in 2022
  • 42% of millennials who perform a local search will visit a business most of the time, 58% of companies still don’t optimize for local search (31% would like to), and only 30% have a plan to capitalize on high-converting local traffic

Top benefits:

  • Improved overall SEO
  • Higher Google Search results ranking and Local Pack ranking
  • Increased traffic
  • Targets bottom-of-funnel consumers
  • Can result in more in-store sales

Local SEO has been an invaluable tool for us to scale. It has helped us grow our business from just one city to serving thousands of customers nationwide,” says Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal, the example featured above.

local business sign

Optimize your local SEO by maintaining exact address consistency across the web. (Image: Unsplash)

How to implement a successful local SEO strategy

A winning organic localized SEO strategy has two important components: Google Business Profile (formally known as Google My Business or GMB) and organic search results.

Let’s examine both and cover SEO best practices for each.

1. Create and manage your Google Business Profile

Google Business Profile (GBP) is a free service that allows you to create and manage a profile that Google displays in search results and on Google Maps. This powerful tool provides detailed, easily accessible information, and conveniently facilitates contact right from Google.

You don’t need to rely solely on searchers using Google Maps to find local businesses. Apple Maps has been gaining traction lately since its newest updates rolled out. If your business isn’t already on Apple Maps, we suggest adding it ASAP. (The Google Maps advice below applies to Apple Maps as well.)

When building your profile, fill it out completely with the most updated info, so it’s a comprehensive listing. Proofread carefully and confirm that all info is error-free and displaying properly on Google. And don’t forget to update as needed if things like your hours or location change.

Pro tip: Virtual businesses don’t qualify for a Google Business Profile at this time.

2. Develop individual location pages for each location

Business is going well, and now you have another location opened and accepting customers. Should you rely on your current Google Business Profile to attract business to both? Absolutely not. Creating unique location pages with information specific to that location is key. Each one will need its own: 

  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Business hours
  • An embedded Google map 
  • Any specials unique to this location
  • Any products / services unique to this location
  • At least 500 words of unique content that contains location-based keywords
  • Customer reviews (if possible)

“We’ve implemented various local SEO strategies with effective results. One key strategy we use is creating city-specific landing pages for all the markets we operate in,” says Clayton.

“It’s helped us rank highly for local search queries, driving significant traffic to our site. Based on the results, focusing on garnering reviews on Google has proven beneficial in boosting our local SEO rankings.”

Clayton also learned the importance of focusing not just on rankings, but on the overall user experience. Ensuring users can easily find what they’re looking for once they land on their site is just as critical as getting them there in the first place.

3. Optimize each location’s Google Business Profile

Optimizing each location’s Google Business Profile is an essential part of any successful local SEO strategy. By optimizing your profile, you can make sure potential customers can find and access the information they need easily.

To start, make sure all of the information on your profile is up-to-date, accurate, and error-free, such as:

  • Link to each location’s individual page on the main website.
  • Add a unique phone number for each location
  • Ensure the business name is the same across all listings
  • Select a primary and secondary category
  • Be sure to fill out specific business details for each location, add images, QA, business hours, services, and products
  • Here’s an example of a hairstylist whose filled out their GBP:

hairstylist google business profile

4. Create listings on other third-party sites

Consumers often use business directory sites to find local businesses, so having a presence there can drive more customers to your website or physical store. Popular options include Angie’s List, Thumbtack, Yelp, Yellow Pages, Bing Places, Apple Business Connect, and TripAdvisor

When creating your listing, include accurate and up-to-date information, such as your address, phone number, hours of operations, and services/products offered, just as you would with your Google Business Profile.

5. Post content regularly 

Yep. Owning local listings on search engines is much like running a blog. You need to post content regularly to keep the page fresh and ranking. So include blog posts, articles, videos, social media updates, and new reviews (ask happy customers to rate your business honestly).

Whatever you publish should be relevant to the location or product/service the business provides. Regularly posting content allows businesses to remain top-of-mind for customers and ensure that Google frequently crawls your website for new information.

Some topics you can cover include upcoming local events, company updates, new features, and product or service promotions.

But you don’t have to create all the content yourself.

“One thing we’ve found immensely useful is capturing local content from our vendors. We regularly collect and showcase before-and-after pictures from local vendors,” explains Clayton. “Not only does this provide fresh, geotagged content, it also adds a level of authenticity that users appreciate, further improving our local SEO standing.” 

6. Encourage customers to leave reviews

Trivia time! How many consumers read online reviews for local businesses

  1. 40%
  2. 57%
  3. 98%

If you picked #3, you’re correct. Almost all consumers read local business reviews. Plus, 76% regularly read online reviews while browsing for local services, proving it’s critical to ask for reviews from happy customers. But don’t just gather them; respond to positive and negative feedback as well.

This shows you’re active, responsive, and care for your customer’s satisfaction.

“Reviews also give customers the confidence that a company is trustworthy and worth their time/money,” notes  Yara Askar, lead strategist at HawkSEM. “Businesses with too few reviews or not responding to reviews lose viable leads that would’ve been ready to visit a company or make a purchase.”

Pro tip: Staying active on GBP, such as posting, responding to reviews, adding images, and updating products/services sends a signal to Google that you’re staying active, and you’re a trustworthy site.

Advanced local SEO insights

Already doing the above? Then you’re ready for seven of our most advanced insights for localized SEO.

1. Reinforce with repetition

If there’s one thing you learned about local SEO, it’s repetition is key. But it’s not only your NAP details that need to be consistent.

Make sure keywords are also in metadata and geotag your local images.

2. Improve your rank and credibility with citations

Citations are important for local SEO, helping to improve your website’s rank, visibility, trust, and overall prominence in search engine results. Like external link building, citations play a major role in telling search engines where your business is located and what it’s about.

When used correctly, local citations can boost your ranking in local searches and give customers more confidence in your business.

3. Include content targeting rich snippet placement

Rich snippets are search results that include additional information than just a title and description. They typically appear as definitions, lists, ratings, images, and reviews. Implementing rich snippets can help your local business stand out from the SERPs competition (search engine result pages).

To target rich snippets, create content with formatted data that the search engine can easily read. For example, if the question asks for the best or top options, then having a list format (bullet list or numbered H2s or H3s) is ideal. If it’s a “what is” question, answer it in a short paragraph at the start of an H2 titled “what is X” (like we did in this article). 

4. Leverage Google tools like Analytics, Search Console, and Keyword Planner

Local SEO tools speed up processes and make it easier to identify areas to improve. Our favorites for evaluating effectiveness, audience behavior, and high-traffic keyword research include:

  • Google Analytics: Helps you understand the metrics of your website, such as number of traffic, source of traffic, and conversions
  • Search Console: Helps monitor your website and give valuable insights into your site’s performance in search results, such as where your site ranks, how often your pages are shown in search results, and what search terms people use to find you. It makes performing an SEO audit faster.
  • Keyword Planner: Help you find and analyze keyword suggestions, to drive relevant traffic to your website. 

At HawkSEM, we have an additional tool we use to help businesses rank and drive high-converting traffic. ConversionIQ is our proprietary software that runs sophisticated analyses of keywords to find which terms your converting visitors use the most. 

5. Get relevant local sites, area blogs, and news outlets to link to your site

Backlinks aren’t just for organic search results. It can also boost your local SEO and broaden your reach. Run link-building outreach campaigns to get other local websites, area blogs, or news outlets to link back to your site. 

To get started, reach out to local sites and offer them something in return for a link. For example, you could offer a discount code or free product in exchange for linking back to your site.

“One mistake we made while using local SEO was overlooking the significance of local backlinks,” says Normand Chevrett, CEO of CME CORP, a company that sells healthcare equipment, logistics, and services. “We focused primarily on acquiring backlinks from national and industry-related websites and neglected the power of local link-building. This oversight limited our visibility in local search results and hindered our ability to connect with the community.

He also learned that local backlinks are crucial for establishing credibility and authority locally.

“We should have focused on building relationships with local organizations, healthcare facilities, and influencers to get relevant backlinks. We also realized that sponsoring local events, collaborating with local partners, and contributing to local publications will improve our local SEO and make us more visible in local search results.”

6. Have an FAQ section on your site with relevant info

There’s an opportunity to answer all the questions your local customers are likely to have before they reach out to your company. This helps to eliminate those who’d call just to ask a question and pre-qualify leads so you’re getting more conversions.

Things you can discuss include information about where you’re located (directions), service areas, products available, product details, pricing, payments accepted, and returns policy. 

Mistakes to avoid when scaling a local SEO strategy

Businesses make many mistakes that can lead to ineffective and costly campaigns before coming to us for local SEO services. To maximize the effectiveness of your local SEO efforts, here are some common mistakes to avoid.

1. Neglecting website maintenance and issues

According to Askar, neglecting website scalability and not addressing website maintenance issues can be a major obstacle to achieving success with local SEO.

Issues like not creating a location page for each location, or even adding location schema markup, can make it harder for search engines to identify a business’s physical address and other details accurately.

Also, technical SEO issues on the site, such as broken links, slow page load times, broken images, and not having optimized meta tags, can prevent your web pages from being indexed correctly and limit visibility in search results.

2. Ignoring localized content

It’s tempting to target short-tail keywords that generate tens of thousands of views per month. But doing so only makes your ability to rank harder. 

“Focusing on “short-tail” keywords like “HVAC contractor” is very competitive and not specific to your location,” advises Askar. “Including a longer-tail localized keyword strategy like “HVAC Contractor in downtown Austin” provides a better chance to rank locally.”

Once you find local keywords, you can add them to:

  • Headers
  • “About this location” section
  • Directions to location section
  • Titles and meta descriptions

“You can also write blog posts about events or activities that are specific to the location you serve.”

3. Ignoring mobile search optimization 

Eighty-five percent of Americans own a smartphone. And odds are, they use it to conduct local searches before making a purchase. If you’re not careful, you could be turning away these potential customers without realizing it. 

“In my experience, [a mistake that] stands out was not prioritizing mobile optimization early on,” says Clayton. “Given that most local searches are performed on mobile devices, having a mobile-friendly site is vital. We learned this the hard way and had to revisit our mobile strategy.” 

So think ahead by developing a responsive website that adapts to any screen size. 

An example of local SEO done right

Starbucks, almost everyone’s favorite coffee shop, does well with its local SEO strategy. It appears in the local pack for the term “coffee shops near me.”

coffee shops near me results

And when you click on their website link in the GBPlisting, it takes you to a location page (not the homepage) with all of its information — address, phone number, store hours, and directions with a map.

And as an added bonus, it has a prominent call-to-action button so customers can have their coffee ready to go when they arrive:

Starbucks landing page

Nice touch to get more conversions without the customer even having to step out the door. 

The takeaway

Google has made local SEO a powerful tool. Whether or not you have a physical business location, this can be an essential component of your well-rounded search optimization strategy overall to help increase your online presence.

Not only will leveraging these tips and tactics help improve your SEO profile, but it can do wonders when it comes to beating your local competition as well. 

This article has been updated and was originally published in February 2021.

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Saphia Lanier

Saphia Lanier

Saphia Lanier is a content writer and strategist with 16+ years' experience working with B2B SaaS companies and marketing agencies. She uses an engaging journalistic style to craft thought leadership and educational content about digital marketing, technology, and entrepreneurship.