What Is Local SEO?

Written by: Jason Bayless | September 08, 2014

Local SEO (Search Engine Optimization) allows sit-down businesses to stand out. It is a simple concept: Optimize your website and business so that a) customers can find it and b) customers will find it.

Consider a popular portable navigation system like the Garmin Nuvi 52LM. If you search for cafés, the GPS navigation system automatically returns the closet cafés first. Local SEO is an extension of this technique: Get your name and business in front of the people who will use it.

How the Cloud Came Down
Local SEO blossomed out of the mobile Internet revolution. Once web users were unchained from desktop PC’s, their information needs changed. According to an expert xAd study, 46 percent of mobile users used their devices – smartphones, tablets and so forth – to conduct searches for local products and services. That means almost half of the American mobile crowd – not to mention the rest of the earth – uses the World Wide Web primarily for local searches.

The conclusion is simple: Local SEO is not merely smart business. It is lifeblood.

Who Needs Local SEO?
Traditional SEO aimed for popularity. It wanted web traffic, SERP results, advertisement popularity and backlinks. But what good is it to a New England florist to have web traffic from Arizona? In contrast, the purpose of local SEO is to get traffic from nearby geographic regions. In short, traditional SEO desires exposure, while local SEO desires relevance.

Any business with a brick-n-mortar presence requires local SEO. Think of it as the Internet’s yellow pages. This includes lawyers, retailers, physicians, real estate agents, masseuses and more. Local SEO is also critical for regional businesses, such as B2B suppliers, warehouses, distributors and manufacturing facilities.

Search Engine Algorithm Tendencies
Google’s search algorithm is like a genie’s lamp. What goes on inside is a mystery, but what results is spectacular. The algorithm has certain tendencies which have been analyzed by web experts.

Search engine results often have centroid bias. If searching for donut shops, for instance, the search engine prefers shops located closest to the center of the city, the mecca of tourism. Or Google may pay more attention to local web directories than to social media sites.

Yet site optimization is not all white-hat magic. Perhaps the most effective optimization tool is the simplest: customer reviews. Wield the power of word-of-mouth communication, and let praise flow from unbiased mouths.

Local SEO Tips & Tricks
The fundamentals of local SEO are the fundamentals of common sense. Envision the frequently asked questions a user may have when attempting to access your site, and then answer those questions. Indispensable information includes:

• Show a physical address with number, street, city and zip code information.
• Include a phone number and e-mail address. Avoid toll-free 800 numbers and virtual P.O. boxes.
• Detail hours of operation.
• Use geo-targeted phrases such as “cave tours in Rolla, Missouri.”

Register the site. Submit the site to local web directories. Use physical location services like Google Maps, Bing Maps and Yahoo Maps. Steve Olenski, writing for Forbes, advises businesses to have accurate citations. “You need to make sure all of your information is filled out and you have consistent NAP (Name, Address, Phone) data for your company across all listings,” he says. “You will have to verify that you are the owner of your business either by email, phone, or possibly traditional mail. Services such as Yext and Localeze can also speed up this process because they can also help you create these citations or make them more uniform so that all of your local information on the web is accurate.”

Local SEO is an ongoing strategy. As Internet users change the web to fit their needs, so optimization must evolve as well. Avinash Kaushik says, “The web is so good at destroying things. If you suck, you die.” That’s why there is local SEO, for it is lifeblood.