Many people are aware of SEO – search engine optimization – but don’t realize that a variation of this is local SEO.
Local SEO refers to optimizing a site or pages on your site to show for organic queries in the search engines where the intent of the searcher is to find local information.
Examples of local search queries include searches with geo qualifiers like the city or town name, or with a zip code, but do not necessarily have to have the geo qualifier either.
Examples of search queries with geo qualifiers are, “personal injury attorney in San Diego”, or “personal injury attorney 92121.”
An example of a query without a geo-qualifier is, “personal injury attorney near me.” While there is no geo qualifier, the intent of this query is to find local information – these types of queries are becoming more and more prevalent with the increase in smartphones.
Search engines can show these organic SEO results in a variety of ways.
Local Pack – Local Business Listing
The screen shot below is of a Google search engine results page (SERP) for the query “personal injury attorney San Diego.” This query has local intent with its geo qualifier San Diego.
The area in the red box below the map shows what many consider the local search results and includes a push pin of the business on the local map along with the address and phone number of the local business listing. Some people refer to this area of the Google search results as a “local pack”, “3-pack”, local listings, and some industry insiders refer to it as a “snack pack.”
It’s important also to recognize that not all queries with geo-qualifers return a local pack in Google search results. The decision to show local listings with a map is solely up to Google.
Factors That Contribute To Local Pack Rankings
Google’s local pack listings are in large part determined by geo signals.
The first signal is the actual address of your business. If your company is not even in the area that Google considers, in this case, San Diego, then it will be difficult to have even your business show in these local listings. Nobody really knows how Google defines a particular geo area – Google has its own rules and algorithm it uses in determining what it considers a geo area, and if your business falls outside of that then you very likely will never appear there.
Other factors that contribute to that are your other NAP listings sometimes referred to as citations. I wrote another post on local seo tips that goes into more detail, but in summary, NAP stands for name, address, phone. NAP listings (i.e. citations) are other sites such as Yelp, or the local chamber of commerce, that have a listing for your business that includes its NAP.
Then there are other factors such as on-page SEO, your site’s domain authority, and more.
Traditional SEO Listings
Local SEO can also include ranking pages in Google’s search results that are outside of the local listings discussed above.
The same query above also had traditional SEO results and pages that were ranking for that query.
Traditional SEO results outside of the local pack which come with a map are still part of the local SEO process and an important one. As a matter of fact, ranking pages in both areas, local listings, and the traditional SEO areas are one way to take even more real estate on the first page and two spots that your competitors won’t have.
Unlike the ranking factors for local listings, ranking pages in the traditional SEO area of a Google search results page is less influenced by NAP and citations and more affected by factors such as:
- On-page SEO
- Domain authority
- External links pointing to the page
- Internal linking
- Location of the business
- Google My Business Page
Your physical address still plays a role in ranking this page in the traditional results for most queries. And because of Google’s Venice algorithm update implemented in 2012, queries without a geo-qualifier can show in the traditional organic results.
As an example, look at the query for “personal injury attorney” which has no geo qualifier term – my location in the browser, however, is set to San Diego, and I get the local SEO results of San Diego businesses.
If I change the location from where I’m searching from to say, Los Angeles, I will see very different results.
Local SEO – Ranking Other Domains
Part of the local SEO process can include ranking other domains in the local search results, not just your own domain.
As you can see in the screenshots of the Google search results pages, Yelp pages are ranking very well also. If you’re implementing a comprehensive local SEO marketing strategy, ranking your company’s page on other domains is another way to dominate local organic results. And if you’re running Google PPC, you have the opportunity in many cases to have 4 listings on the first page! When that happens, you’re crushin’ it!
The below screen shot shows a local business that is crushin’ it in Google’s local search results. They have four listings on the first page:
- Paid Google ad
- Local listing with map
- Yelp page ranking
- Traditional local SEO listing from their website
That my friends is maximizing completely the exposure you can squeeze out of Google. That’s dominating your local competitors and what local SEO looks like when enough time and effort has been put into it.
In summary, to round out this post, Google local SEO is a major undertaking and not as simple as signing up for a local listing service like Yext.
Local SEO services, when done right, can capture a lot of business for you as illustrated here. Many variables and factors influence how and where you rank. It requires a thorough process with a systematic and creative approach to ranking.
You may read in some forums, which by the way are one of the worst places to get information, that local SEO is easy – it’s not.
So what is local SEO? It’s a well thought out strategic process designed to have your business dominate Google organic search results through first page rankings of your own site and other sites that list your business.