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Local Search 101: An Introduction To Local SEO

May 18, 2024
Local Search 101: An Introduction To Local SEO

Google uses multiple algorithms to return search results, search engine optimisation commonly known as SEO is the strategy of optimising signals on and off a website to influence how the site displays in search engine results pages when users search certain keywords on Google. 

When a marketer or business owner talks about SEO, they are more often than not referring to regular SEO that targets Google’s traditional Algorithm. For Local SEO, where your results are displayed within certain geographical locations, Google uses a different algorithm to return localised search results. Local SEO is the strategy of optimising the signals targeting the Algorithm for local searches. 


What is Local SEO 

Local SEO is a digital marketing strategy that helps you optimise your website to rank better in search results and reach your local audience. By optimising your business for Local Search, you can help Local customers find your business online. It is an essential process for businesses focusing on increasing localised traffic, leads, and brand awareness.

It is important to note that Local SEO is not a one glove fits all, tactics used in one location might not work for others located elsewhere, the same is to be said from sector to sector. A local SEO strategy for an accountant in London would be totally different from one implemented for a Cardiff plumber. The type of location will also play a factor; a city-based business will have a different optimisation strategy compared to a rural business. 


Why is Local SEO Important 

Stats time! Are you ready to see some stats and statistics about why Local SEO is important for businesses? Without further ado…

How Google’s Local Algorithms Work

Google can analyse billions of search queries it receives every day and determine the searches that require certain local businesses even if the user has not entered any geographic modifiers within their search query. 

For example, if you are in a new town visiting for the day and you decide to find a local Chinese restaurant, you can quickly search on your phone using Google Maps or your browser, entering the search term “Chinese restaurant,” and boom! All of the local restaurants nearby pop up. You did not specify any specific location, and neither did you write “near me” within the search term. Yet Google knows this is a local search query. 

This is Google’s local Algorithm firing on all cylinders. It has taken your search term, identified it as a local search and ran it through the “local algorithm” and here we are, pages full of yummy local chinese restaurants for you to choose from. Isn’t local SEO wonderful! 


Key Ranking Factors of Local SEO 

Of course no one knows for definite the exact signals that are used in Googles algorithm (except the Google engineers) . So, how are we supposed to know how to optimise a website? 

Every year, large marketing agency owners and SEO tool providers release a list of what they see as the most important ranking factors based on results from the millions of websites using their services or software. This is known as the “Local Search Ranking Factors Survey.” With this data, we are able to get insight into key factors within the local search algorithm. 


2023 Ranking Factor Results 

Local PackLocal Organic
1. Google Business Profile (32%)1. On-page (36%)
2. On-page (19%)2. Links (26%)
3. Reviews (16%)3. Behavioural (9%)
4. Links (11%)3. GBP (9%)
5. Behavioural (8%)4. Personalization (7%)
6. Citations (7%)4. Citations (7%)
7. Personalization (6%)5. Reviews (6%)

As you can see above the same signals matter for both areas, but the weights are different. But of course this cannot be taken as factual. Instead it can just be a helpful guide to gain an understanding of what agencies and tool makers are seeing as key elements. 

If the map pack and local organic search percentages were combined, it would look something like this: 

1. On-page optimisation (28%)

2. Google My Business Profile (21%)

3. Links (19%)

4. Reviews (11%)

5. Behavioural (9%)

6. Citations (7%)

6. Personalisation (7%)


In case you are wondering, “the map pack” is made of “Google My Business” profiles displayed within the mapped area:

google map pack results for search term "coffee shops"
Google Map pack


And Local Organic will be the search results beneath:

google local search results for search term coffee shops
Local Organic Search Results

1. On-page Optimisation

Scoring 19% in the local pack and 36% for local organic (a combined 36%). Optimising your On-page content for Local searches is going to play a pivotal role in the success of your Local SEO strategy. 

Ensure your content is well written, unique and contains localised content about your business its location and surrounding areas. Don’t forget to make sure your NAP (Name, Address & Phone Number) Is visible on every page. 


2. Google Business Profile

A business’s “Google My Business” profile was evaluated as being the most important for the map pack and 3rd most important for organic local search. With the growing importance of businesses, “Google My Business” profiles are quickly becoming the “home page” for local businesses; potential clients no longer need to access your website to view the services you provide, as well as your location or contact information. This is all accessible within your GMB profile. So, making sure this is updated regularly and showcasing your business is essential for Local SEO. 


3. Links

Links have always been one of the most weighted factors in Google’s traditional search algorithms, and with a combined importance of 19%, they are incredibly powerful in Google’s local search algorithm as well. 

Google’s local Algorithm will evaluate links slightly differently compared to the general search algorithm. Traditionally, businesses would always look for domains with the highest authority within their niche. However, with local SEO operating on a smaller scale, the location of the website will play an essential role in how your website is evaluated for local search. So, building relationships with local businesses, events, charities, etc, will be a great way forward for your local search campaign. 


4. Reviews 

Reviews are not only important to potential customers viewing your business. Google will evaluate your customer feedback too! If a business has tons of bad reviews you are less likely to use their services and this is the same for Google. 

So make sure you are sharing your review link with each and every customer who uses your business. 


5. Behavioural

The ways in which search engine users interact with your business online were evaluated as the (combined) 5th most important. 

This is the “real-world engagement” aspect of your businesshow many people search for your business, how many people are clicking your Google my Business profile going through to your website and reading elements of your business profile page. High interactivity will tell Google your business is relevant to the search terms and should be listed high in the search results. 

If there are few interactions or click through to your website and quickly click back to the search results (known as pogo-sticking), This should Google your business might not be relevant to the search or is serving the user poor quality content. 


6. Citations

Citations are mentioned of your businesses Name, address and phone number on other websites. The most common type of citation is a business directory this will have a “structured citation” of your business details on their website. You will have each business detail structured on a separate line. 

Then we have an “unstructured citation” this will be mentions of your business details in long form content such as news articles and blog posts. 

Citations are a foundational element of any Local Search campaign. If your business NAP details are not consistent throughout your citations, it can lead to confusion for clients and search engines. So make sure they are all up to date and correct. 


7.  Personalisation  

 This will be areas such as the location of the user when they conduct a search, the previous sites they have visited and the language they speak. There is not too much you can do to help with the personalisation factor within local search as Google bases this on the data they have collected about the user. 


Final Thoughts

This concludes my Introduction to Local SEO. I hope you have found some valuable information here to get started on your Local SEO journey. I help businesses around the UK with their local SEO campaign, so if you are looking to improve your local SEO, please reach out to me here. 

And I would love to hear any feedback and comments from you regarding this post, so please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts on Local SEO and any experiences you have had that worked well for you. 

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