You’ve seen it a ton of times.
Keywords targeting a specific city.
“Plumber in Austin.”
“Flower shop in Newark.”
“Best pizza in Rockford.”
Which gets you thinking: If you can rank for a keyword that targets multiple cities, will that help your SEO?
Enter, local SEO.
We’ll explore here how it can actually hurt you and learn how to do it right so it helps you instead.
Let’s dive in!
Why Is Local SEO Important?
If local SEO can potentially “hurt” you, why do it at all?
Here are two good reasons.
Local SEO Attracts Foot Traffic
Imagine traveling out of town for a distant cousin’s wedding.
On the night before the big day, you’re in your hotel room, craving a giant cheese pizza.
You pick up your phone and Google…what?
I don’t think so.
I bet you Google a location-specific keyword, like “best pizza in Louisville.”
When you get the results, you don’t say “Ah, great info,” and go on to sleep.
You pick up your phone and order the pizza.
Or you get up, take a taxi, and dine out at that spectacular pizzeria.
And you’re not the only one doing this.
In fact, more than 50% of local searches result in an actual store visit.
And you’re not the one in a million person who’s doing a local search, either.
Nearly 46% of Google searches have local intent.
So, the next time you’re thinking of skipping local SEO, think again.
It could actually be your ticket to getting that random out-on-vacation dude to check out your pizza place.
Local SEO Ranks You Higher on Google
We’re all well-informed on the SEO KPIs you should be tracking to rank on Google.
Two of these are:
- Clicks to your site.
- Keyword ranking increases.
With local SEO, you hit these two birds with one stone.
City Pages: Good or Bad for SEO?
Long ago, in the dark ages of SEO, city pages were used to stuff in local keywords to gain higher rankings on Google.
For example, you’d create a page and write content on flower delivery.
Then, you’d copy your content onto several different pages, each one with a different city in the keyword.
So, a page for “flower delivery in Louisville,” “flower delivery in Newark,” and “flower delivery in Shelbyville,” each with the exact same content.
It didn’t take long for Google to notice this spammy tactic.
When it rolled out its Panda Update, it made sure to flag and penalize sites doing it.
So yes, city pages can hurt your SEO and penalize your site.
Which brings us to…
Make Your Most Important City Pages Unique
If you want to list out all the cities in a region, just list them on the page – you don’t need an individual page for each city to rank in most cases.
In terms of making the pages different, write original content for each area or city.
Which means, it’s up to you.
You can simply list all the cities you serve on one page.
Or you can go ahead and create individual pages for each city.
When you take this step, though, make sure the content on each page is unique.
And no, I don’t mean simply changing the word “hand-wrestling” to “arm-wrestling.”
You need to do extra research on your targeted location, then go ahead and write specific and helpful information for readers in the area.
- If you’re a plumber, talk about the problem of hard water in the area.
- If you’re a florist, explain how you grow your plants in the local climate.
- If you’re into real estate, talk about communities in the area.
Here’s an excellent example from 7th State Builders.
Adding information about a city or town is also a great way to build your clients’ confidence.
They’ll see how much you know their area, and trust you to solve their area-specific problems.
Important note: Make sure this information goes on all variations of your website.
With Google’s mobile-first index in place, you don’t want to fall in the rankings simply because you failed to optimize for mobile.
5 Tips on Optimizing for Local Search
1. Use Google My Business
Remember, Google’s mission is to organize information and make it accessible to online searchers.
Its goal is to give people exactly what they’re looking for.
Which means, if they can verify your business, you’ll have a higher chance of ranking on the SERPs.
Enter, Google My Business.
When you register on Google My Business, Google will be confident about sharing your content to searchers.
The good news is Google My Business is free and easy to use.
Simply create an account, claim your business, and fill in as much information as you can about it.
Photos and customer reviews (plus replying to reviews) can also help you optimize your Google My Business account.
2. Get Into the Google’s Local Map Pack
Ever do a local search and get three featured suggestions from Google?
You know, like this.
Yes, these businesses are super lucky.
Chances are, searchers will pick one of them and look no further for their plumbing needs.
And with the right techniques, you can be part of this local Map Pack.
Here are three things you can do to increase your chances of making it to one of the three coveted slots.
Sign up for Google My Business
As discussed in the previous point, Google prioritizes sites it has verified.
Give Google All Your Details
Provide Google with all your information, including your company’s name, address, phone number, and open/close hours.
Photos and other media work splendidly too.
Leverage Your Reviews
The better your reviews, the higher chances you’ll have of being featured on Google’s local Map Pack.
3. Build Your Internal Linking Structure
Did you know that tweaking your internal linking structure will help boost your SEO?
Sure, external links pointing to your site are great.
But if you can’t get them yet, internal linking will help you:
- Improve your website navigation.
- Show Google which of your site’s pages are most important.
- Improve your website’s architecture.
All these will help you rank higher on Google and increase your chances of discovery by someone doing a local search.
4. Build Your NAP Citations
NAP stands for name, address, and phone number.
Generally, it stands for your business information online.
The first place you want your NAP on is your website.
You can always input this information at the bottom of your homepage, where visitors expect to find it.
It’s also a great idea to list your business information on online data aggregators.
These aggregators provide data to top sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Microsoft Bing.
Here are three you shouldn’t miss.
Listing your website on all the top aggregators sounds tedious, but it’s worthwhile if you want to get a feature like this.
Important note: Make sure that your NAPs are consistent throughout the web.
One mistake can seriously hurt your chances of getting featured on Google’s local Map Pack or on sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor.
5. Optimize Your Site for Mobile
If you wake up in the middle of the night to find your bathroom flooding with water from an exploded faucet, do you:
- Run to your laptop and do a local search for the best emergency plumber?
- Grab your phone and type “emergency plumber” into your Chrome app?
If it’s 3 a.m. chances are you chose #2.
But here’s the thing.
People don’t only choose their smartphones over their computers at 3 a.m.
They do it all the time.
About 52% of all website traffic comes from a mobile device.
As usual, Google noticed and moved to mobile-first indexing.
All this means your site has to be optimized for mobile if you want to rank well on Google, especially for local SEO.
Here are six tips on making your website mobile-friendly.
- Make sure your website is responsive, fitting nicely into different screen sizes.
- Don’t make your buttons too small.
- Prioritize large fonts.
- Forget about pop-ups and text-blockers.
- Put your important information front-and-center.
- If you’re using WordPress, choose mobile-friendly themes.
Ready to Target Local SEO?
Your business is open and running, and you’re ready to bring in those loyal customers.
But as you optimize your website, a few questions remain.
To create or not to create city pages?
Is it worthwhile to spend time on your site for local SEO?
The truth is, local SEO can work wonders for you.
But you need to do it correctly so it helps, rather than hurts, your site.
A good rule of thumb is to put yourself in your customers’ shoes.
Ask yourself, what are they looking for?
What kind of information will help them?
With their perspective in mind, it’ll be easier to know which local SEO practices will work and which won’t.
- 5 Common Google My Business Problems & How to Resolve Them
- Local SEO: The Definitive Guide to Improve Your Local Search Rankings
- A 50-Point Audit for Getting Started with Local SEO
All screenshots taken by the author, October 2020.