Local SEO & The Art of War

Written by: Jason Bayless | January 12, 2016

Local SEO is a highly competitive field, and for good reason. The rewards can make a huge difference to the way a business performs, and the effort it takes to dominate local keywords varies a lot based on the industry and the local area. But trying to stay on top of the local search results is a worthy goal because it can bring it so much more traffic and potential business, especially for mobile users. In this post, we’ll talk about why SEO matters and how to compete successfully for local search.

The first thing to understand about local SEO is that Google has been favoring it more and more lately. Simply adding a place name to a search keyword is enough to take a user to the local world, where locally-optimized webpages can overpower the large, national brands that would otherwise dominate the stack. Now, there is a 3-listing stack reserved for local businesses, so they get pushed far up the results page. Getting those prized local spots is a big deal, because users might never get past them, and they will attract a lot of visits.

While before it might not have made sense to spend a lot of time trying to optimize for the local area, now it is an essential part of doing well in the local area. This all comes as Google is making a bigger push into mobile and location-based information, so this is the precursor to possible new Google products, like being able to target ads to people based on their location as given by their GPS unit. Even before all of that comes, placing high on search results is always going to matter a great deal, and that is what makes local SEO a big deal now.

Competing in the local space is both easy and hard. It’s easy because putting in the effort allows a business to do very well on specialized searches for their line of business and the local market. It’s difficult because a business that doesn’t put in that time will get upstaged by competitors very easily. It doesn’t matter how nationally or internationally important a brand might be. If it’s a search that includes the name of a local market, local businesses will dominate. It’s best to try to take advantage of this by heavily optimizing for local keywords.

One of the best ways to do this is through the power of NAP consistency. Having the name, address, and phone number consistent across many different directories and local sources means a boost in rankings, because that means the Google algorithm will trust that data more. Any mistakes or inconsistencies will cause Google to either display wrong information or push your business down the list, because Google doesn’t want unclear or incorrect NAP data to show to users any more than you do.

Directories and links also matter a lot. Getting placed in some hyper-local directory run by a Chamber of Congress, town government, or local church might not seem like a big deal, but it can make a massive difference, because these are important directories for local searchers. Things like Yelp that are more general also help. Any directory with high local relevance lends a major boost to any businesses that it lists and links, so that’s why it’s a good idea to target them.

The bottom line is that local search is quickly becoming a major element of overall SEO strategy. Taking hold of the local search market means controlling a lot of potential traffic, so the dividends are large.