local seo

Local SEO: A Simplified Guide for 2021

If you have a business that operates within a specific geographic area, then you need to consider the difference between local SEO and general or regular search engine optimization.

That’s because the vast majority of your customers will come from inside your range or be searching for keywords or search terms that are targeted towards your specific geographic area, region, state, town, or city.

For instance, if you own a restaurant or small chain of restaurants, a construction company or contracting business, a medical practice, or anything similar that only works with clients in a localized region, then you need to perform local SEO, as opposed to an ecommerce store or brand that isn’t limited by physical proximity, where general SEO tends to be the order of the day.

There are also reasons why you would do both local SEO and broader SEO – more on that further in the article, so keep reading and learning!

What Is Local SEO?

what is local seo

Local SEO or localized SEO is the art and science of optimizing a website or web page in order to improve search visibility for a business that focuses on serving customers within a certain area, region, state, country, city, town, or other geographic location.

This type of SEO is essential for the vast majority of businesses that have a specific geographic range and often focuses heavily on building listings or citations about the business – think Google maps listings, Bing maps listings or anything else that shows up in local maps or nearby listings when you search for local options.

In fact, more than 50% of users find a new company or product after a Google search and a significant amount of those are local searches (46% of all searches are local), so if you run a local business or any kind of brand at all, you need to do SEO (or hire someone else to get it done).

What’s more, if you are doing local SEO, you’ll want to create listings or profiles on review sites like Yelp, Trip Advisor, Trust Pilot, Angi, Consumer Reports, FourSquare, Amazon reviews (if applicable for Amazon sellers), Consumer Reports, the Yellow Pages, Better Business Bureau, Manta, Consumer Affairs, Yahoo Local Listings, Data Axle/City Search, TrustRadius, or dining-centric sites like Doordash, Postmates, UberEats, Caviar, Grubhub, or similar sites if applicable.

Devarious other B2B or niche specific sites and social media sites like Facebook or Instagram and business social media sites like G2Crowd, Capterra, LinkedIn, and Glassdoor.

Difference Between Localized SEO and Broader SEO

lokal seo

The key difference between local SEO and general SEO or regular SEO is that broader SEO helps you to capture searchers wherever they may be in the country or world, while localized search engine optimization focuses on searchers looking for something within your geographic or physical region.

In general, local SEO and regular SEO follow similar SEO techniques.

And like we mentioned above, 46% of all Google searches are localized, so if you run a business or do marketing for a business with a physical location or service area, you definitely need to work on your local SEO.

Localized search engine optimization almost always involves building directory listings, review site listings, and perhaps most importantly, listings or citations in key spots like Google My Business and Bing Places, and anywhere else that will help your business or storefront show up on any kind of maps listings or GPS system.

It also involves ensuring that your site is optimized for location-specific keywords (e.g., keywords or search phrases that have your city, town, state, or region in the them), using the proper mark-up schema so that the search engines can properly crawl and index your content according to the location or locations that you want to target, and other activities that aren’t normally a major aspect of broader or more generalized SEO.

The core of a great local SEO campaign starts with keyword research.

Your keyword research is essential in setting up your local campaign, and it should be the first thing you do prior to opening your business or prior to setting up a citation building campaign.

Not sure on where to start with keyword research?

Check out our latest SEO techniques on keyword research.

Why Would You Do Both Local SEO and Regular SEO

local search ranking factors

There are many reasons why you might need to work on both types of search engine optimization in order to get customers who live or work nearby as well as those who live or work further away or may call or order online – perhaps the most important factor might be the fact that 46% of Google searches are local.

For instance, if you own a store with a physical location or multiple brick and mortar locations, then you probably need to do localized SEO to get the drive-by and nearby traffic as well as broader national or generalized SEO for the ecommerce aspects.

Medical practices like plastic surgeons or cosmetic dentists, or any other highly specialized practices may also think broader, since people may be willing to travel for care and to see the best practitioners in a given field.

The key to understand on why you would need both is to dive into searches around your keyword research.

First, do Google Ads appear on the top and bottom of a search?

If there are, chances are you’ve leveraged a search query that shows profitable search intent.

Second, does the Google map pack come up?

If it does, then you’ve already figured out that Google sees search intent in that search query by showing local business listings.

Next, what comes up in broader search link results?

Before we dive in, and as an SEO consultant, we would also suggest going after both local and broader search results for most businesses with a local presence.

In most cases, your business usually has a clear definition of search intent and both local and broader SEO results tend to deliver the same type of Google results.

If you’re a local plumber, then you’ll want to optimize for Google Maps as well as optimize for broader SEO to outrank Yelp, HomeAdvisor, and other local competitors.

If you are starting a stuffed animal repair shop, then you’ve found a personalized niche that has low competition.

For the search, “stuffed animal repair near me” you can see there are mixed search results of local and national.

seo for local search

By seeing a high selling product on Etsy, starting a stuffed animal repair service may require some additional thought.

Not to go too far off the topic of this guide, you may find yourself in between business niches where putting more of an effort makes sense.

If you are an expert in stuffed animal repair, then you might also be an expert in doll repair.

For comparison, let’s have a look at those search results.

First, there is a map pack.

Great news, there is.

google local seo

Next, 6 out of the 10 front page results are all local, and there is a map pack for local search intent.

local seo solutions

The other results include 2 blog posts and 2 national search results for mail-out services.

Personalized niches have lower search volume but earn higher conversions.

The reason why the above case was brought up was to put the emphasis on how important it is to study the first page results once you’ve selected a set of target search queries.

If you find that your front page results look similar to a stuffed animal repair service, then determine whether you’ve selected the right keywords or look at what other approach you can take to optimize for local search intent.

How To Do Local SEO

local seo guide

One of the first things you should do when you are starting the local SEO process is to build out as many specialized listings as you can, along with ensuring that you have localized keywords on your site including properly and fully built out location pages, an About Us page or similar with company background, schema or markup for Google Maps and similar, and all the other indicators as to where your business is located and the areas you serve or cover.

Obviously, there is the big daddy of them all – Google My Business – but there’s also Bing Places, Yelp, TrustPilot, and any social media sites you need deem necessary in addition to the obvious ones like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube (even if you don’t intend to actively use them, be sure to claim your listing).

Make sure that you have adequate pictures, listings for multiple locations if applicable, and encourage customers to leave testimonials or reviews.

Optimizing for Local SEO takes precision if you want to stand out.

Today, it isn’t enough to just sign up for as many high-quality business citation sites as possible (although it doesn’t hurt), but you should be consistent everywhere.

If you are a cosmetic dentist optimizing for your Miami-based location, then you should be consistent with a query like “cosmetic dentist Miami” for all of your business citation listings.

Unless you have multiple locations, or you have a professional local SEO team working for you, don’t try to game the system by sprinkling different city queries in your keyword campaign.

That strategy simply doesn’t work, and definitely isn’t sustainable.

Also, besides religiously studying front page results of your targeted keywords, copy your competitor’s categories.

Doing this is easy, just use Google’s own source code.

First, add your keyword in a search.

In the below example, we are a moving company based in Chicago searching to make sure our GMB categories are correct.

localized seo

Next, we want to choose one of the 3 companies in the map pack.

For this example, we’ll choose Two Men and a Truck because their trucks are seen frequently in the Chicago area.

In a new browser tab, do a search for the business you are looking at and click on the side banner Google Map location.

how to do local seo

Once you’re there, right-click to view the source code.

local search engine marketing

Here are the categories that are most likely set up in their Google My Business page:

Mover\”,\”Debris removal service\”,\”Moving and storage service\”,\”Moving supply store\”,\”Piano moving service\”],

local search engine optimization services

And, here is the 2nd company in the map pack:

what is local search optimization

Here are their categories:

[\”Mover\”,\”Moving supply store\”,\”Piano moving service\”,\”Self-storage facility\”,\”Records storage facility\”,\”Moving and storage service\”]

For comparison, if your moving company also has these services you want to choose as many of these categories in your Google My Business page as possible, as well as make sure your citation campaign reflects these categories on other listing sites.

Not all of these categories are going to be available for you to select, as Google uses them internally for their own database architecture so choose what is applicable.

Why Do You Need Local SEO?

local search optimization

image: Google

You need to do local SEO if you have a business or businesses that operate in a certain location or within a localized geographic area, or if you have physical storefronts like a brick-and-mortar shop, salon, restaurant, medical office, gym or fitness studio, or anything else that involves customers actually entering your place of business.

As a business owner, you typically want to make sure you do everything you can to ensure that prospective clients can find you, after all, and local SEO is one of the most common and effective ways to accomplish exactly that – and people already use Google to find and discover local companies – nearly half of all Google searches are localized!

Local SEO Optimization Tips

local seo marketing

There are certain best practices or checklists that anyone following a local SEO plan or anyone who wants to optimize a website or business listing for local SEO should follow.

We’ve included these checklists and other instructions for setting up tracking and results measurement, conducting local SEO audits, common mistakes in localized SEO, when you should hire a service or professional SEO consultant, and more for small business owners so read on to get your local search engine optimization on point.

First, a couple of definitions below.

On-Site Local SEO Strategy

On-site localized SEO is the process of ensuring that you are using the properly geographically tagged keywords, HTML markup and schema, and that all your on-site content is prepared, crawled, and indexed in order to ensure that your business or brand shows up prominently in all forms of local search index listings or search engine results pages (SERPs).

Off-Site Local SEO Strategy

Off-site localized SEO involves creating and building business listings, social media accounts, review site profiles, and other link-building activities that don’t take place directly on your domain or on websites that you or your business (or employer or client) personally own.

Performing A Local SEO Audit

local search seo

If you have a localized business, are starting SEO for a local business, or are taking over a local business’s online marketing, one of the first things that you’ll want to do is conduct a local SEO audit so you can accurately see what you have.

One final thing to keep in mind that is local SEO – like any kind of SEO – needs to be regularly reviewed and your listings updated with new images as well as claiming new listings as new review sites pop up or become popular in your area, or Google, Bing, or other search engines change their algorithms and how they rank various platforms.

When doing a local SEO audit, you’ll want to use a spreadsheet of your choice.

Google Sheets is free, web-based spreadsheet software that you can access from anywhere.

First, make sure you search for your current business name, and any previous names used by the business to make sure you can find duplicates or old information (like addresses, web domains, phone, etc).

Once you’ve found all of those listings and recorded them in your spreadsheet, you can use a data tool to scrape any duplicate listings that you couldn’t find by a manual search.

BrightLocal is an affordable tool that has built a reputation for having a nice dashboard with easy-to-use features.

Their tool will provide current listings you have as well as any NAP (Name, Address, Phone) issues you have with old listings, address changes, or anything done by a previous marketing agency.

Here is a BrightLocal quick starting guide.

Setting Up Local Business Listings For SEO

local seo ranking

Once you know what listings are already set up for your business thanks to the localized SEO audit we covered above, you’ll need to make sure the listings you have are properly optimized and fully filled out and that you fill out any blank or new listings.

It is important to note that there are upwards of 180 moderately valued business citations in existence.

While these business citation listing sites can fluctuate (website owners simply shut them down), you should expect to do a lot of work in getting your business listed to all of these directories.

If you value your time, and you simply want to hand off the work to a professional, White Spark provides a service that can do the leg work for you.

We have found that White Spark also has access to distinct niche directories.

For example, if you are a local insurance provider, they have specific niche listing sites that focus on insurance provider listings.

On a final note, we firmly believe that Google & the Internet is one big voting system, the more quality links you can get to your site the better, so opt for maximum business citation listings – and keep your accuracy with NAP at 100% across the Internet.

Local SEO Map Packs

Setting up and filling out your listings with the various options for local maps is one of the most essential things you can do for local SEO, or really for any business that has a physical location or locations, or operates in a specific geographic area.

The local SEO 3-pack of map listings is the first three businesses or listings that you see when you perform a localized search on your computer, tablet, or phone.

Usually tied to phrases like “near me” or “near (insert your location here)”, the SERPS or search engine results pages resulting from searching these phrases are typically a list of local businesses that fit your search query according to their descriptions, keywords, names, and other details – but perhaps most importantly their physical address or location.

Here’s a quick tip – Google My Business posts can make their way into the map pack.

We’ve seen all types of posts in map packs, but the “add update” seems to be favorable among all of the different types of posts.

We haven’t tested this extensively (yet), but it makes sense that Google would reward engagement to businesses that are active on GMB.

Setting up Google My Business, Bing Places

local seo factors

image: Google

Claiming your business’s listing on Google My Business, Bing Places, Yelp, Trust Pilot, Trip Advisor, any and all of the relevant restaurant sites, any and all travel or shopping review sites, any and all construction or contracting sites, and similar niches is essential.

Always make sure you have your current menu or product and service offerings, phone number(s) and social media accounts, email address, physical address(s), any other way to contact you, opening hours, updated images and videos, and recent reviews.

If you have multiple locations, you’ll need separate listings on each site as well, and they should be clearly marked e.g., “Business Name: Location” or something similar.

Quick tip – You should have a dedicated location page for each location on your website that your business citations link to.

That page should include NAP (name, address, phone), but it should also include everything relevant about the location.

To stand out, you can include common things like reviews, featured staff, and even a write-up on the city you are based in.
Because each location is its own entity, you should have multiple profiles on sites that make sense, like Facebook and Yelp.

Going back to your keyword research and front-page searches, look and see where those front-page searches are landing – are they landing on a homepage of a website, a website service or product page, or a dedicated location landing page?

In some cases, if most searches are heading towards a homepage, then you will most likely need to put some heavy authority into your location pages.

The reason for this is the homepage generally tends to have the most domain authority on a website.

Based on domain authority, competitor analysis, and other relevant factors It would be best to consult with a local search expert when building out location pages in a highly competitive industry.

How Map Packs Work on Various Devices

local seo service

When used or shown in in the SERPs, map packs display the top three results situated near the location being searched and the device’s location itself (if and only if the user of said device has opted into permissions to share their location with Google, Bing, Facebook, and the like, but people tend to allow those permissions).

Local SEO and Social Media

Social media is a major discovery tool for users looking for local businesses like restaurants, salons, stores, and other options, and it’s only growing.

This is another reason why you should always claim and completely fill out or optimize all the social profiles you can, even if you don’t intend on using them intensely – you never know who is searching where and plus, you should “own” your name on all the platforms possible.

Databox has a great write-up on the relationship between social media and SEO.

Local SEO and Review Sites

local seo strategies

Review sites are one of the key elements of the Map pack and local map listings on Google, Bing, and other search engines like YouTube, Facebook, and more.

Therefore, you need to ensure that your profiles and reviews are set up properly on sites like Yelp, Google My Business, and more (the exact review sites that matter most will depend on your niche, industry, or type of business).

Having fully fleshed out profiles with good keyword-rich descriptions, high quality accurate photos and videos that are regularly updated, a current menu or product list if applicable, accurate opening hours, and the right contact information is always key.

What’s just as important is ensuring that your best reviews are filtered to the top, and there are several ways to accomplish this, including being an advertiser, favoriting reviews and following top reviewers, and on Yelp, choosing to showcase reviews left by Yelp Elite members if applicable.

Getting Reviews

local search engine optimization services

Sometimes, getting reviews can be easy, especially if your product is insanely terrible (in which case, stop reading this and get your business in order!) or insanely great (which we know it is – you just need to get the word out about it to more people).

That said, you generally can’t openly incentivize people to leave reviews with free product and the like, but you can follow top reviews, favorite their positive reviews, place Yelp and other review site signs prominently around your business’s storefront or shop, and link to your profile on said review sites on your company website, other social media, and anywhere else that logically makes sense for you to place a review link.

Optimizing Reviews

Once you have all those positive reviews, you’ll want to ensure that people actually read them!

Pulling them into your site and using them in your ads and other marketing materials is always a good idea, just make sure you check the Terms and Conditions of the site the review originally appeared on to make sure you have permission to do so and how you need to credit the user who left the review and the website where it appears, if at all.

Because social proof sells, your website product or service pages should be arranged using conversion rate optimization with inline reviews right around your call to actions.

Want to learn more about how valuable your reviews are offsite and onsite?

Check out this excellent social proof guide written by CXL.

Promoting Positive Reviews and Downgrading Negative Reviews

Promoting or increasing the visibility of positive reviews is relatively simple, as we’ve mostly covered above with responding and saying thank you, promoting the positive ones on your own site or platforms, and following, starring, and otherwise engaging with happy reviewers.

Getting rid of negative reviews can be harder, of course, but it is possible to turn negative reviews around or at the very least have them pushed down in the SERPs.

One of the easiest and most effective ways to achieve this goal is simply to build up more good reviews in order to outweigh or overshadow the bad ones – people tend to forgive a business that has mostly 4 and 5-star reviews with an occasional negative note, after all, because everyone has bad days and some customers or people are just determined to be unsatisfied.

Another way to mitigate bad reviews is to respond to them if the review platform allows for that.

However, you should always address specific points – never use generic or standardized responses, or anything that could be seen as condescending like “we’re so sorry you had a bad experience.”

Be honest, be truthful, be apologetic if necessary and try to diffuse the situation; remember that sometimes it’s not the negative review itself but how you respond to it that shows the character of your brand.

You can also try to take things offline by inviting your critics to call, email, direct message/DM, or stop by your business and try again if that seems appropriate for the situation.

What is important to understand about negative reviews is they aren’t a ranking factor, and they won’t push you down in search results because you have them.

There are a lot of high-ranking business websites that have negative reviews, and they perform perfectly fine.

If you get a good review, respond to it.

If you get a bad review, respond to it.

Google and review sites tend to reward engagement – which in return can be a double benefit.

If the bad review is legit, then make internal corrections and treat it like a learning process – you still win.

If you respond in a timely manner then you are an engaged business that cares, and that goes a far way for aggregator review sites as well as customers that are looking to do business with you.

Local SEO and Images / Videos

local seo strategy

Many local review or business listing sites (including the most popular ones belonging to major companies like Google, Bing, Yahoo, Yelp, Trip Advisor, Trust Pilot, and more) allow for you to add pictures or even videos of your products, services, store, team, or place of business.

You likely also have images and videos of these things on your own site as well, or at least you should get to work on that sort of thing if you don’t already have a photo gallery and other good pictures of your work.

Having good images is particularly important if you operate in a visually heavy niche, such as contracting or construction where people definitely care how the finished product looks almost as much as how well it operates.

Owners of businesses that provide auto detailing, a salon, spa, or any kind of cosmetic field, boutiques, art galleries, or restaurants should all invest in high quality imagery as well.

Whenever possible, always try to use authentic images when building out your profiles on review sites.

Stock photos tend to work against our previous discussion on social proof and authenticity.

Common Problems and Quick Fixes for Local SEO

seo local search

There are some common problems that tend to crop up in localized SEO projects – but luckily for most business owners, many if not all of these common problems offer fairly quick fixes that can likely be accomplished within several business days if not sooner.

One of the most common problems with local SEO that this SEO company has found are business owners or their marketing teams not claiming all their local listings and citations, or at least not filling them out completely if they do.

Neglecting to update local listings if the business moves locations, adds locations, changes the menu, or adds new product lines or services is another problem, along with failing to respond to negative reviews or similar issues.

It is also important to maintain consistency in local citations and social media in regard to location, product offerings, and other key details.

The solution for this is to manually search your brands name to see what comes up in search results, or use a local service software platform like BrightLocal to find those old listings for you.

Another regular problem with local SEO is the lack of localized keywords on business websites and in their listings and citations.

After all, how are clients and potential clients going to know that you have locations in say, Chicago or Oak Brook if they don’t see the info on your website?

When doing a local SEO citation campaign, keyword research is your anchor for successful results.

When designing a website, you will want to have to a good mix of keywords mixed into the actual website copy and headlines, article titles, and such – the stuff that users can actually see – and in the HTML markup or schema and ALT tags, or the elements that users can’t see but search engines crawl and use to rank and index your site.

You can often use the “about us” page or develop separate location pages along with separate Google My Business and Bing Places listings to handle such things; these keywords should also appear in your website copy and the meta data for the various pages, images, and documents or downloads so Google and the other search engines can properly crawl, index, and locate your site, citations, and listings.

It is worth mentioning, you don’t always need to add the city you are targeting in your keyword queries unless you are competing in a highly competitive niche or city.

If you are a roofing company in Memphis, TN, then you are most likely going to try and get behind a search with high volume like “roofer Memphis.”

But if you are trying to target a less competitive city or general area then take a look at those front-page results to see how Google is categorizing your targeted areas.

Ignoring social listening and not monitoring the social web for mentions of your brand or brands – positive or negative – is another significant and common problem with local SEO.

You’ll want to know when reviews pop up, of course, and people don’t always stick to Yelp and the like – they may post on their own Facebook page, blog, or Instagram account or similar, so you’ll want to ensure that you have the appropriate Google alerts and social media listening tools set up for your company name and related key phrases.

Need a good tool for monitoring your brand online?

BrandMentions can help out with that.

Last but most certainly not least, one of the most common and easily fixed problems with local SEO is business owners or representatives that neglect to find and follow through with updating the Google My Business and Bing Places codes online via the postcard they receive in the physical mail, thus confirming their location and making things official on the local Map Pack and related citations.

So always check your mail or make sure someone is checking it, so you get those all-important postcards!

KPIs For Local SEO

local seo tips

There are plenty of key performance indicators or KPIs that can help show you the progress of your local SEO campaigns, but of course, first you need to determine what those KPIs are and then set up ways to track and measure them.

Conversions – however you define them – are perhaps the primary indicator of a successful marketing effort in general, but you will of course want to determine how to tie those conversions to your localized SEO campaigns.

Here’s a list that includes (but is not limited to) some common local SEO KPIs:

  • Conversions (defined as leads through the website, sign-ups for email lists or to requests to learn more, social media followers, direct sales via a listing or anything else that you or your local SEO client might consider to be a conversion
  • Brand awareness as defined by searches related to the name of the brand or business, or similar topics
  • CTR (click through rate) from localized search keywords
  • Conversion rate from localized search keywords
  • Bounce rate from localized search keywords
  • CTR from business listings
  • Conversion rate from business listings
  • Bounce rate from business listings
  • Backlinks/incoming links/others linking to your website or listings
  • Conversion rate for events (like sales, special deals, parties, etc.) tied to local business advertisements or listings
  • Ranking in Google local map pack or similar SERPs
  • Unique visitors
  • Localized traffic versus total site traffic

You can use Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and free or paid social media management tools like Hootsuite, Sprout Social, Buffer, and more to track these; more robust localized SEO tools like Yext, BrightLocal, White Spark, Moz, and others can offer more extensive capabilities and insights.

The right local SEO tool or mix of tools for you depends on the size of your business and budget, the intricacy of your project, and how much time you and your team have to manage local SEO.

If you’re not ready to invest in an analytics suite, use a UTM parameter on your external web profiles to track data in Google Analytics and Google Search Console.

While using a spreadsheet to document all of your URLs, head over to Google Analytics campaign URL builder to get started.

The Best Localized SEO Tools

local ranking

image: Yext

There are dozens if not hundreds of SEO tools out there, many of which can be used for local SEO and some of which are specifically designed for localized SEO and small businesses.

The advantages of using free, low-cost, or otherwise paid local SEO tools?

The ease of reporting and rank tracking, ability to transfer information between listings, and general project or time management can make local SEO tools worthwhile, especially if you are managing a project with multiple businesses at different locations or several businesses all together.

***Note: iSimplifyMe does not support or receive compensation from any specific local SEO software tool or service.

BrightLocal vs. White Spark vs. Yext

There are a range of local SEO citation building tools or services, and while they can all get the job done in their own ways, certain services fit different types of businesses and their needs better.

G2 has a local listing management software comparison with reviews, it’s worth checking out.

Yext tends to be the most expensive of the localized SEO solutions that doesn’t involve hiring an individual consultant or an SEO agency (where local SEO is often grouped under the umbrella of a larger project).

However, Yext also has a direct API connection into the main review services instead of the aggregators or manual submissions that other services, meaning they can often get things done more quickly than their competitors.

Yext also allows you to easily create special offers like coupons or special events, and they have customized reporting that tends to appeal to larger companies or accounts.

Yext is your solution if you want to build local citations fast using a simple dashboard.

Here are Yext’s pricing plans.

The downside of Yext is if you cancel your service, you lose all of your built citations which may likely require a citation audit or even a cleanup.

If you are looking to hire a local SEO company to help out, it is important to ask how they will be building your business citations, as Yext seems to be a common affiliate partner to smaller local SEO companies.

Moz Local is also another alternative, you can learn more about Moz Local with their overview.

Hiring BrightLocal to Build Citations

local search engine optimisation

image: BrightLocal

BrightLocal is a service that helps with local SEO tasks like building citations and maintaining a localized SEO presence, and it is often touted as an affordable solution for busy small business owners who may not have the time or inclination to sit in front of a computer when they could be out there actually doing their job.

One thing to keep in mind is that if you hire a service to handle your local SEO, uploading citations and making changes may take longer than if you simply do it yourself or handle things in-house, even for small things like adding an item or service to the menu.

After all, bigger companies and their employees often have many clients and tasks to contend with instead of focusing on just your account, no matter how personalized the service might appear when they sell it to you.

BrightLocal is perfect for business owners that want to manage their online presence using an easy dashboard.

BrightLocal has a standalone citation builder service which is different from Yext as the citations that they build are permanent.

The results tend to be slower than Yext, but once they are built, they won’t change unless you go back and manually make changes or hire them for a citation cleanup.

As local SEO consultants, we are usually always going to recommend a permanent citation building campaign.

Hiring White Spark to Build Citations and Reviews

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image: Whitespark

White Spark bills itself as a reputation management builder that helps boost positive reviews, so it definitely holds appeal for companies who need assistance generating and gathering positive reviews so they can be prominently posted and shared online.

They can also help with manual and aggregator submissions for citations, but we tend to recommend them for business owners who are primarily looking for help with reviews or very niche citations.

In fact, White Spark will build you the most permanent citations possible.

We’ve run campaigns with them that have reached to 70+ citations, crossing them off as your go-to service for lots of citations including industry-niche related citations.

Interested in learning more about White Spark?

Learn more about their services and pricing by visiting their website.

Need a quick link to your business for your clients to review your business?

White Spark’s Google Review Generator is an indispensable tool.

Our Local SEO expert tip – use BrightLocal and White Spark together to build out as many citations as possible.

If you find that the costs are simply too high, opt to hire a VA.

Finding a VA (Virtual Assistant) on Upwork to Build Citations

seo for local business

image: Upwork

Have you ever hired a virtual assistant or anyone off of UpWork, Fiverr, or a similar site?

It is also possible to hire someone from one of these sites or similar services to help with local SEO who can manually submit your business information and make updates, as well as possibly do some basic social media management, listening, and reporting.

Be aware that hiring a virtual assistant who may live far away or even overseas and doesn’t know the local area and dialect or slang may present some barriers and the time and effort involved in training them and setting things up may be more extensive than going local or DIYing local SEO – but it could be worth it if you find the right connection.

One thing to consider is that no matter where or how you are hiring a consultant or SEO agency, always ask for references and check with your connections or friends who are also small business owners dealing with similar problems – they may have recommendations for a service or solution that you might not already be aware of or know about.

Manually Building Your Business Citations

local business seo

Sometimes if you want done right, you have to do it yourself, or maybe it’s a small project for a small business in a limited area and you don’t want to use your budget for a consultant or software when you can do it yourself in a “more time than money” sort of situation.

This is when you can go through the audits and checklists mentioned above and claim, create, update, and fully build out your local SEO listings for your or your client’s business(s) yourself.

If you are going to build out your own citations, make every possible effort to track everything you do.

Once you build a citation, you’ll need to follow-up with every website you’ve added your business to.

Some require email confirmations; some require follow-up responses by text or phone.

Definitely expect to invest some time when you are DIY your own business listing.

Tracking Localized SEO

local seo tools

image: AccuRanker

Keeping track of your efforts and progress towards your goals and ensuring that your KPIs are trending in the right direction is one of the most important aspects of the local SEO process (or any marketing or advertising process really).

Accordingly, you want to ensure that you have some kind of reporting system and software in place before you launch major local SEO efforts.

This software and KPI tracking for local SEO doesn’t have to take a lot of time or money.

Google Analytics and Search Console along with low-cost or even free software like BrightLocal, Moz Local, Yext, or other options such as a virtual assistant can all be good solutions, especially if you are performing local SEO in-house or otherwise on your own without a consultant or agency.

Checklist For Local SEO: Local SEO Audits

local seo sites

If at first local SEO seems daunting, then you can follow this checklist in order to conduct the initial audit and get things set up, and then use the modified version of the local SEO checklist (or perhaps we should say check-up for this one) on a regular basis to ensure that you are still following localized SEO best practices and there are no major problems or significant changes need.

Without further ado, here are the key things that you should check off when performing an initial local SEO optimization:

  • Are the proper localized keywords that include your location or locations on your website, including the meta data of each page, relevant images, and documents, and more?
  • Does your About Us or location(s) page(s) have the current addresses, phone numbers, and anything else your users and the search engines will need to find and properly understand your business and its location and offerings?
  • Are all your listings and citations filled out with current info, including images and videos if applicable?
  • Do you have business listings on all the relevant sites for your niche or industry, and is everything current?
  • Have you claimed your business name and filled out a profile on all the relevant social media sites?
  • Have all reviews been addressed and catalogued, both positive and negative?
  • Do you have a social listening system and Google Alerts in place to see when, where, and how people are mentioning your business?
  • Have you defined what a local SEO lead and/or conversion looks like? Do you have a set of KPIs that you are tracking in place, and regular reporting via analytics software and Google Search Console to track your progress?

If the answers to any of these queries aren’t positive, then you have work to be done on your local search engine optimization.

Even if you think things are under control, it can be good to run through a full local SEO audit or checklist if you are starting over with a re-brand, inheriting or a buying an existing business, or simply do not think you are getting the results you desire from the localized SEO process.

Monthly Or Regular Check-ups for Local SEO

google local ranking

When should you perform a local SEO check-up?

Or any other kind of SEO check-up, for that matter? Whenever there is a big search engine algorithm update (you’ll see news about this online marketing forums and social media accounts and pages, and possibly on tech news sites if it is significant enough) or if you or your client have made major changes in your business like opening a new location, moving a location, starting to offer a new service, product line, or menu, or there has been another drastic change.

Here are the key elements you should regularly check and update, if necessary, when maintaining a local SEO presence:

  • Local listings: Ensure that any changes to your business – new locations, new offerings, or updated info like hours, images, videos, and more are accurate. What’s more, have your listings been recently updated? Users tend to give more weight to new pictures, social posts, and reviews than ones that are months or even years old.
  • Social listening: Check out reviews and reply to them, following and starring the good ones and mitigating the negative ones as described above.
  • KPI and result tracking: Are things trending in a positive manner? Any obvious problems that you can fix or work on? Do you understand all the reporting and why you are getting the results that you are?

If the answer to any of these questions is in the negative, then you need to update your business or brand’s local SEO efforts.

How Long Should Local SEO Take to See Results?

be locally seo

image: Google Search Console

The amount of time it takes to see results from search engine optimization varies widely depending on a number of factors, including the age and authority of your domain, how long your business has been around, the competition in your niche, the size and complexity of the region that you are optimizing in, the number of keywords or phrases you are targeting, the amount and quality of the backlinks you currently have, the amount of time, effort, and budget you are willing to put in, and much more.

It is an art and a science, after all.

That said, experts will often say that local SEO will require about 3 months for you to start to see results, 6 months for real traction, and 9 months to a year to be a key business driver – but this can vary due to the aforementioned factors and a number of other elements.

If you are a new business starting out with a fresh domain then your expectations for real results should be tempered for a minimum of 1 year.

If you are competing in a major city, or a competitive niche then add some more time to that unless you’ve hired a professional local SEO company.

Even then, sustainable results take time.

If it was easy, all businesses would succeed – so don’t give up, and follow your local SEO campaign all the way through.

Also, invest in paid ads early on.

By investing in ads on different platforms you can start to understand where you can become profitable, and where you should pivot from if one platform doesn’t work out.

What Types of Businesses Need Local SEO?

benefits of local seo

Industries that need marketing are any kind of business that operates within a specific geographic area or region needs local SEO in order to make sure that customers or potential clients who are located nearby or searching for goods or services nearby can easily discover their company and what they have to offer.

This list of businesses that need local SEO includes everything from hairdressers to mechanics to pet sitters to restaurants to general contractors and roofers, and really every localized type of small to medium business in between.

Furthermore, even large national or international businesses or corporations can require local SEO if they have specific physical locations – think franchise businesses or large chain stores with many locations that people might be looking for or similar organizations.

So, as you can see, a variety of types of businesses could use local SEO or localized SEO, at least for some aspects of their business.

As long as customers need to visit a physical location or a company only serves a certain geographic region or area, then local SEO matters including citations, reviews, and map listings.

How To Hire a Local SEO Company?

local seo management

Hiring a local SEO company is more common – and can be easier – than you think.

After all, if you are a busy business owner or manager, you might not have the time or inclination to delve into the world of search engine optimization, so it makes sense to hire experts.

One key factor to consider when hiring a company to do your local SEO is how well they rank themselves for their own locations!

They should be able to do it for themselves, even if they are a national company, they likely have physical locations somewhere.

In addition, you’ll want to see results from them in real time showing sites they’ve gotten ranked in real time, not just screenshots.

A reputable local SEO company should be able to provide you an initial strategy that includes keyword research, a citation builder campaign, and a general competitor analysis on what companies in your space are doing things correctly.

If you hire a local SEO company and they offer instant citations, they are most likely using Yext.

Yext isn’t a bad product, it is just a monthly / yearly investment.

If you stop an investment with your local SEO company than you will lose any citations that were built.

Most local SEO companies want to show you results fast, which is why they lean on Yext as their main strategy.

About 90% of the time, our local SEO consultants will opt for a paid strategy while a permanent citation campaign is being built.

There is also the option of hiring a consultant or local SEO agency to help you put together a plan of action and get things set up, and then execute and perform the ongoing maintenance yourself or have a member of your team do it.

Think of it like buying a car – the expert engineers and mechanics build it, but you can do basic maintenance such as oil changes or fixing a flat tire.

Doing Local SEO In-House / Yourself vs. Hiring a Consultant or Agency

seo local

If you have a larger localized SEO project or multiple SEO projects, you may want to consider hiring a consultant or outside agency that specializes in local SEO or has the relevant expertise amongst their staff members, particularly if your marketing budget contains more money than personnel hours.

Hiring a local SEO company is comparable to hiring a personal trainer – a personal trainer has seen hundreds if not thousands of results from their clients, so they have an understanding of the method that needs to be implemented to achieve your goals.

Besides, there is something to be said in terms of hiring the experts in terms of efficiency and getting things done right the first time, especially if you have a particularly thorny local SEO problem with multiple listings, duplicate citations, an extensive number of bad reviews that you may have inherited from a previous owner or were the result of a jealous competitor, or other issue that may require more detailed and intricate knowledge of the localized SEO realm.

On the other hand, no one knows your business better than you, so if you have a relatively small company that operates in a limited geographic span, then wading into the waters of local SEO yourself or perhaps getting an intern or junior in-house team member to work on it could be a good start before you decide if you need to bring in the big guns.

How Much Does Local SEO Cost?

Local SEO can be quite inexpensive if you have one location in a small area and doesn’t require a serious cash outlay for software or something similar, but the price can go up significantly if you have multiple locations, several businesses, need generalized or broader SEO, or need significant web design or development, copywriting, video production, paid advertising, or other marketing work in addition to the local SEO.

Put your budget together, and reach out to multiple agencies to begin the process of obtaining quotes.

Or, hire a local SEO consultant to put together a blueprint for you and help you hire the company that is the right fit for your business.

How To Do Local SEO with More Than One Location?

local seo nap

Local SEO with more than one location is more complex, of course, but very doable particularly if the two locations have the same or similar offerings.

Then it is just a matter of creating multiple location pages and multiple listings, one that corresponds to each location, and building backlinks and encouraging and optimizing reviews in the correct places for each individual location.

There is also the decision to be made as to whether you are using one social account for the brand or individual accounts for each location – an argument could be made either way depending on how your audience tends to use social media.

Managing these listings including updating reviews, optimizing content marketing, changing information, adding special events, deals, and offers, and reporting on results can get more complicated the more locations you have, however, which is when you may want to considering engaging a local SEO software service or SEO agency to work with you on localized SEO and related campaigns.

No matter what other search engine optimization or marketing efforts you put forth as a business or brand owner or marketer, if your business primarily or solely operates in the physical space then you need to do local SEO so nearby clientele and potential clientele can discover what you have to offer.

Have more questions about localized SEO or search engine optimization in general?

Leave a comment below or contact us and we’ll be happy to help you out.

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