Local Search Engine Optimization (SEO) The 2020 Ultimate Guide

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SEO 2020: The Ultimate Definitive Guide Every SEO Expert Should Have

For the SEO experts, this is the definitive guide to the 2020 SEO strategies.

It is simple and straight onto the point.

In this SEO guide, I will share with you the following:

  • Ranking in the 3 pack.
  • Building NAP citations
  • Optimizing your GMB profile.
  • And many more.

Let’s hit the road!

Table of Contents

Chapter I: Basics of Local SEO

We will start with the basics of the local SEO.

I will include interesting data that proves the importance of SEO to local businesses.

Next I will introduce you to The Map Pack and show you how it works.

Finally, I will give you every possible clue of how The Map Pack works.

Let’s take a look.

What is Local SEO?

Local SEO refers to the knowledge of how to optimize your business website so that you can increase traffic, leads and also brand awareness through the use of local search. Some of the most common tasks that are often associated with local SEO strategies include the following:

  • Finding local keywords
  • Optimizing Google My Business profile for your business
  • Building “NAP” citations

What is the Importance of Local SEO?

Let me show you some stats on what other experts are saying about local SEO. Nonetheless, I intend to start with some rather cool stats that actually show you how important general SEO is for any local businesses.

Recently, a study shows that 46% of all the searches that are done in Google must contain some “local intent”.

“Around me” for instance, most searches have now grown to be 150% faster than the traditional, local-based search that was the previous trend and that’s according to Google.

More importantly, up to 29% of all the Google SERPs have also said to contain some part of local packs in their results.

While Google cites that 74% of the consumers that always search for anything local using their phone will visit your store on the same day that the search is done.

NOTE:

In line with what I have cited above, there is no shred of doubt that local searches actually make up some huge percentage of the SEO world. Therefore, you can simply get your local business at the top of these searches, you could easily see a spike in your conversion rates too. It is that simple!

How Local SEO Works

How does local SEO work? It might take you by surprise that even a high-level Local SEO will work like the “normal” Google search.

When a web visitor searches on the Google’s search tab, Google will scan through its indexed pages and provide the visitor with the best results for their question.

Even so, the one thing that makes the Local SEO strategy extremely unique is the different set of ranking technique that Google uses with the local search results.

These unique sets of ranking signals, include:

  • Location of the search
  • NAP citations
  • The presence of Google My Business listing
  • The keywords used in the Google My Business profiling
  • Views of the online reviews
  • Keywords used by the online reviews
  • Level of “check-ins” around that location
  • Number of shares on the social media
  • Google Maps star rating for the business

 

While some may relate to the general SEO strategy, some are actually different. As such, they bring in a very different approach.

Chapter II: The MAP Pack

Have you ever heard about the MAP pack? Now you have.

I will take you through the MAP pack strategy in this chapter.

You will learn the following:

  • How the MAP pack works for local SEO
  • Tracking your MAP pack rankings
  • Important tools for MAP pack ranking
  • Ranking in Google organic for the local keywords

Let’s get into details.

The MAP Pack

The MAP Pack is also referred to as the Local Pack.

It is a set of 3 local business results that come with a map on their SERP.

The map is usually pulled from the Google Maps.

Here is a good example of the MAP Pack search results for New York Barbers.

While the map search results appear at the top of the SERPs. The normal searches will appear right at the bottom of the MAP Pack.

While we will talk about the MAP Pack in details, I want you to remember that the MAP Pack comes with its own algorithm and set of rules.

Nonetheless, having some sets of backlinks can also help you in ranking for local and also traditional organic results.

However, other tricks such as the NAP will only play a crucial role for ranking within the MAP Pack.

The one thing that I should point out though is this:

Google won’t only show the local results for your keywords when they contain the specific city or even state. However, they will show more, depending on what they think you need. In that case, Google will leave you with a set of local results that they feel you need.

This is done irrespective of whether the keyword is obviously local or not. Let me show you an example of where that applies in the Map Pack.

NOTE:

This is extremely important to remember when doing keyword research for any local business. Why so? Because you intend to optimize for both the “store + city” in your keywords.

In most cases, using the generic “store” in the keyword without the location will garner more search volume than when you use the “store + city” in your keyword version.

With that said, let’s see how you track local SEO rankings.

Tracking the Map Pack Rankings

The very first steps that you must learn when dealing with any local SEO campaign is this: make sure that you always benchmark where you’re.

More specifically, you’d want to understand where you rank first in your “The Map Pack” then track the Map Pack rankings with time.

The Map Pack tracking is something that every rank tracker has.

{Screenshot of Map Tracker}

TIP: Here is the issue. With the local SEO, the location from which you’re searching from plays a HUGE role.

In fact, if you didn’t know, the Map Pack results that you get can be completely different within every mile. That’s because the search is pinned from your location of search.

Example:

Try searching for “coffee shop” on 72nd st in New York City and 2nd avenue in the New York City – the results will be completely different.

The reason is simple. The results are completely tailored to the location on which you are standing. That’s why when the same search is performed few blocks away it might end up with completely different results on the Map Pack results or simply a different order.

NOTE:

If you choose to only track the local rankings that you get from one location (such as “New York”), you will be seeing only a limited sample of the place that you actually rank compared to the real world.

That’s why, it is important that you get crystal clear with your local rankings. If you do so, you’ll easily see where you are ranking across that entire city or that local area.

One of the best tools that you can use for the same is the Local Falcon. It is highly detailed with the best Map tracking. How does this tool work? Take a look!

  • Make sure you have Google My Business Profile set up.
  • Now choose your business name.
  • Next choose the keyword that you want to view your rankings for.
  • Choose how broad you want your ranking tacking to cover (8km).
  • The tool sets up a 7×7 to 15×15 grid that shows you where you rank within the area.

Now the next thing is to check your exact ranking within these areas.

Once the tool gives you the grid, it’ll also provide you with a visual interface showing you the exact rankings for every geographical position that is reflect in there.

SCREENSHOT

This map includes different spots within the city or municipality.

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The ranking will be superior within the city and drop faster as you move out.

NOTE:

When your ranking drops as you go further, it isn’t so much of a problem really. The thing is this. A competitor could be having a location that’s much more centrally located as it further goes on than your business as such, if the person doing the search was moving, Google will consider your competitor the better fit.

If the competitor is ranking first then you’d want to click onto the result and see who the competitor is.

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You can as well click on the results to find the exact physical location of the business that’s competing you.

Put the competitor’s location on your ranking map to see why you are second within that location.

SCREENSHOT

Local Organic Ranking

While the MAP Pack is the real deal for a local business, you don’t want to ignore the traditional local results too.

Like I mentioned, they still play a crucial role. That’s why they always appear below the local pack.

Why is the local organic ranking important?

Well, since most local searches here have insanely stronger commercial intent, it is worth it if you rank in local SERPs.

Unlike the Map Pack results, ranking in the local results is basically the same when you want to rank in any Google SERP.

As such, when you want to optimize the business site for your local organic rankings, the best way to do it is to use the keyword that you were searching for in your title tag or the url. More importantly, you should use it in all your traditional on-page SEO stuff.

VIDEO

NOTE:

The one thing that’s unique about local organic rankings is basically how you are tracking them. Keep in mind the “store + city” within the keywords makes up for only a fraction of all the local searches that you will get.

Do a proper keyword research to find the best results for all your intended ranking possibilities on the map pack.

Chapter III: Keyword Research for Local SEO

Now that I have mentioned something about keyword research right above, I intend to give you a comprehensive look on how to find the best keywords for your local SEO.

Thankfully, for local SEO, the keyword research is a “one time” thing.

So unlike the blogs or contents, there will be no need of finding new KWs from time to time.

Mark my words though, I am not saying that keywords aren’t important for the local search, of course they are.

However, in this case, you will be working with low keyword volume as compared to when doing blogs.

Use Yelp Suggest

Yelp Suggest works in the same way that Google Suggest Works.

All you need is to type into the search bar a possible KW that someone may use to find your business…then follow up on the suggested “drop-down” results too.

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The cool thing about Yelp Suggest is that they can go an extra mile further to leave you with KWs that you won’t contain any words from the terms that you searched for.

A search for the word “Japanese” leaves you with suggestions of “Asian Fusion Food” too. That’s awesome!

SCREENSHOT

Google Suggest

While it works in the same way as Yelp Suggest, Google Suggest is best suited for local searches only.

However, unlike YELP suggest, what you search on here must be something that’s potentially the one thing that local consumers will search for.

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From your root word, you can always add a letter after it to see some other cool KWs that you can use for your local SEO.

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Local Voice Searches

My sister loves to use the Google Voice search. Apparently, it is one of the most result-oriented options that you can use for local SEO.

According to the latest data, Google states that 20.1% of searches that are via the mobile platform are now voice activate.

And the figures are bound to rise with time.

Why are the voice searches effective?

Compared to the keyword oriented searches, voice searches tend to be longer and more detailed. They also use natural language.

As such, they are much more effective and will give you a rather “on-point” results for every search that you eventually make.

Example:

Keyword Search: Los Angeles Burger

Voice Search: Los Angeles Burger Shop that’s Open Now

While voice searches are comprehensive – it is unfortunate that there aren’t any tools that you can use to get suggestions for the best voice search keywords to use. Too bad!

Google Keyword Planner

The Google Keyword Planner (GKP) is another great option to look at. GKP will give you the best search volume data for a specific geographic area.

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As such, you can create a pool of keywords and then use the Google Keyword Planner to choose the very best.

GKP also comes with a great feature that you can use if you are hunting for new keywords. This is the “start with a website” feature.

SCREENSHOT

 

To use this feature, here is what you can do.

  • Get into one of your competitors website
  • Feed in the url.
  • Google suggest several kws based on the terms that’ll show up on the page.

SCREENSHOT

Chapter IV: Ranking Factors for Local SEO

Naturally, we should see how the local SEO in Google works for sure.

This means that we should look at the vital ranking factors for local SEO.

That’s what I intend to show you guys here…

And additional tips on how you can optimize for the same.

Take a look!

Google My Business Profile

Latest research shows that the #1 ranking factor for local SEO strategy is the Google My Business Profile.

SCREENSHOT

In other words…

The website of your local business is still very important.

The content that you have on your page and also the links that point to your website will also play a key role in the Map Pack rankings.

However, for your business to come in #1 in the rankings for The Map Pack, the GMB profile must stand out.

That’s why in the next chapter, I will look at everything about GMB profile.

NAP Citations

The NAP (Name, Address and Phone number) citations is another important local SEO ranking factor.

Since it is the part where you will list your

  • Name – name of business
  • Address – business address
  • Phone number – contact number

SCREENSHOT

More importantly, it plays a crucial role since Google and any other Search Engine will use the NAP citations to confirm the business info that you set in there is correct.

When Google sees your NAP citations more, it breeds the confidence that your business is actually where you suggest that it exists on.

SCREENSHOT

That’s why it is important that you stick with consistent NAP citations.

Online Reviews

Online reviews also play a crucial role. Citing the same study that we did under the GMB profile, you realize that online reviews also occupy a significant percentage in the chart.

In other words, when you have negative reviews on your Google My Business Profile, it might actually hurt your business beyond any reasonable measures.

This applies across many platforms including YELP, since Google is comprehensive and will look at third party sites too. 

As such, getting positive but genuine reviews can be of great help.

Don’t just focus on getting reviews, also engage your customers by including personal responses to create trust and get better ranking.

Don’t Forget “Normal” SEO

Remember those Googles Traditional Ranking Factors for SEO? They still apply here 100%. No shortcuts whatsoever. In fact, Google confirms the same.

According to Google, “Your position in web results is also a factor, so SEO best practices also apply to local search optimization.”

As such, if you rank on first page of the organic search results, chances are you will rank on the same page when it comes to The Map Pack.

That’s why creating original content, building backlinks, and optimizing your website pages, are very important for the local SEO ranking.

Chapter V: Google MY Business

Like I promised above, I am going to comprehensively look into Google My Business.

I will answer the following questions:

How do you optimize for Google My Profile?

The truth is that claiming your business listing in the Google listing is awesome.

This is true when you intend to rank on the local SEO results.

However, learning how to do it is the most important of all.

Here is a smart guide for the same.

Maintain 100%+ Consistency

With Google My Business Profile, there is no shortcut.  Consistency is no compromise. It is the real deal.

Not only will you enter and match everything in your GMB with that of your website, but you’d require to match all your NAP citations wherever they appear around the web.

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This is vital. Such that when Google Scouts your business, they’ll notice that all the info is consistent around every site including the third party sites.

This shows that the business is legitimate and develops some peculiar level of trustworthiness all round.

SCREENSHOT

However, when your business only has a single address that’s listed in your GMB and a different one of the website, the questions begin to rise.

SCREENSHOT

That doesn’t mean that you can’t change your NAP citations, no. In case your business moves or changes address, adjust the same on your GMB ASAP and in all other third party website too.

Also, ensure that the way your business address is written on every online site that it appears is the same.

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Google will penalize you if one of your addresses shows Avenue and another one Ave. Choose one option and stick to it.

It might look “OK” to you, but it’s confusing to Google.

Fill Every Possible Data Point

Complete your profile in every possible areas.

Google loves compete business profiles.

100% completion will be the best score for any business. It improves your local search rankings.

SCREENSHOT

An 85% score might seem quite generous. However, my advice to you is to hit the highest possible score that you can – more importantly above 85%.

This is important in case you intend to rank for the most competitive keywords. Make sure that you choose the right category for your business too.

SCREENSHOT

Don’t make up your category. Rather stick to the category that Google provides within their ranking.

In addition to that, you must also make sure to add the “secondary category” of your business. This will directly influence the keywords and the searches that your business will rank for.

SCREENSHOT

More importantly, I also suggest that you fill in the “services” and “products” category places too.

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This is a great way to break down to Google what your business is actually all about. As such, it is very important.

Update Crucial Business Data

There are several business data that you need to keep updated. This info should be checked on from time to time.

Some of the info that you want to make sure are accurate include:

  • Holiday opening hours
  • Normal work days operating hours
  • Opening and closing hours
  • Basic business info

All these are important and will impact how your store ranks.

It is these same tips that contributes to very strong and beautiful reviews.

However, if a consumer drives to your store and finds the “closed” sign since you didn’t update, then expect “bad reviews” and a negative “impact” on your ranking.

Get More Genuine Reviews – Reply to Most

Avoid paid up reviews. Stick with natural reviews and reply to most of them if not all of them. It is important.

Remember that reviews like I mentioned before form parts of Google’s top ranking factors for local SEO.

While you need as many positive reviews as you can, don’t choose, rather reply to all type of reviews that you get. Whether positive or negative.

This shows a high level of care and builds trust in your business.

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Remember that you can also reply to all the GMB profile reviews on the Google My Business Profile Dashboard.

How Do I Get Reviews

There are two main things to have in mind when it comes to getting the reviews for your business.

  • Ask customers to leave reviews.
  • Make it easy for your customers to leave reviews.

To make it easy, you can always generate a review link for your customers. Take a look at how to prompt the reviews.

Method #1: Click here and enter your business name.

The links provides you with the following:

  • Business ID place
  • Place ID url section

Once you have filled the two, your customers can click on the generated link to leave reviews as.

Method #2: Use the GMB Account

Once you have logged into your GMB account

  • Locate the “get more reviews” card.
  • Click on it.
  • Generate a short url
  • Send the url to customers to leave reviews

Simple and smart!

Chapter VI: On-Site Local SEO Business Strategies

For this chapter, I want us to look at how local businesses can achieve the most out of their on-site SEO efforts.

These tips that I am going to give you are easy to use.

However, first optimized your title tags using traditional SEO tips.

Do the same to your body copy.

With that said, here is what you can do.

Unique Content – Every Location

100% unique content is power when applied to every page. This means that if your business serves a city, you should also write unique content for each location.

However,

One thing that you might not be aware of is this.

So long as you keep of the duplicate content, it is easy for you to create cool landing pages for the cities that you aren’t physically based in.

This may not be helpful for The Map Pack, since to rank here you need a GMB profile for that specific location. However, it can help you to rank in local organic results many other local keywords.

Just make sure that your services also get to the guys around that area.

A good example is a Pizza outlet that offers home-to home delivery services.

While the shop is based within a centralized area, it serves many people including guys that could be over 20 miles away.

The locations along a 20 mile or more road from the physical location of the pizza outlet are potential customer bases.

This means that this business can easily rank in both the local SEO results and also the normal SEO rankings.

Use Schema for Local SEO

When it comes down to local SEO, using schema markup is also a plus.

You can choose from the schema markup category for local businesses.

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For instance, you can easily use the schema markup to mark up the following:

  • Phone number
  • Business address

That said.

I also recommend the use of review markup schema for your business.

Having reviews stars like I mentioned before can easily turn a bad results into an awesome ranking result.

Title Tags Cliffhangers

Another technique that you can focus on here is the use of title tags cliffhangers.

It works perfectly well for local businesses.

How it works is simple too. You will start your tittle tag with a really strong statement. The statement is best when benefit-driven.

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The statement should also go beyond the title tag limit that Google has set (over 50 characters).

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This cutoff will create a much further open loop that can easily lead to additional number of clicks.

Chapter VII: NAP Citations

NAP citations is one of the most complex parts of local SEO. I suggest that you remain very attentive.

One thing that you must know about NAP citations is that they do more or less the same work that backlinks do and operate in almost the same way.

They are pretty hard to build and very integral for general development.

Luckily for you. This chapter is dedicated to building local citations in the right way.

Start With a NAP Audit

The first thing that you must do is to run a NAP audit.

This helps you to ensure that your NAP data is 100% consistent in every place that they will appear including the third party websites and local listings, directories, and GMB profile.

While there are seral citation tools that you can use to do the NAP audit, personally I recommend the use of Loganix and WhiteSpark.

Whichever tool you choose to go with, make sure you have the following.

  • Updated NAP for your business
  • Historic NAP info – for search and update

The tool that you choose should scour the internet and give you specific results on an easy report.

Correct or Update NAP Citations

Now that you have the report of all your NAP Citations. The next thing is to update the citations to suit the current NAP citations. This should eventually create the consistency that you need.

So correct all the citations that you can.

  • Change the citations on GMB, Yelp, and any other platform.
  • Correct citations that someone else has changed.

NOTE: Updating one after the other can be tough. That’s why you should use the following types of tools.

  • Yext
  • Bright Local

However, for the citations that are on other people’s websites – and require manual change, you’d have to reach out to the websites owners on a personal basis. Draft a simple and friendly email and let them update your NAPs for you.

Find NAP Citations and Link Opportunities

Now that you have built your vital NAP Citations – you can do that on

  • Angie’s List
  • Yelp
  • GMB
  • FourSquare

The next thing that you must do is to find your link citations and link to the opportunities. These should provide you with the best MAP Pack rankings which can create a real boost.

In case you want to find the citations and link opportunities, the best thing that you can do is to check out the Link Intersect feature that are provided in Ahrefs.

How to Use Link Intersect

Link intersect is designed for link building. However, it also works for the citations too.

All you need to do is to take two to three competitors and slide them onto the link intersect tool.

You can also do the same with any local business – not necessarily the direct competitors.

The next thing you get a report with listings of the sites that have been linked to the competitors.

Now go through the results to find opportunities that you can use for citations.

Don’t worry about links here. The main thing is to get your NAP on their page. A link is a bonus.

“Steal” Competitor NAPs

Not literally stealing the NAPs – no!

The thing is you can use the same tool that you used for NAP audit to get competitor NAP details.

You can then use the same tool to find places where their NAPs have been mentioned online and in turn squeeze yours in.

This should work far much better than the use of the Link Intersect. A citation tool doesn’t need a link to show up and that’s easy to work with.

Chapter VIII: Local Link Building

There is no difference between local link building and the link building strategy for the non-local websites.

However, this process is better and much more result oriented since local businesses are tied to specific cities and locations.

As such, they enjoy lots of unique backlink opportunities that the non-local businesses aren’t able to suck into.

Let me show you some of the most powerful local link building tips.

Tap into Other Local Businesses

Local businesses know each other. They have personal relationships with each other.

This relationship can form a strong strategy for the most important backlinks that you can start from. So list every niche and respective company that you know locally.

From distributers, wholesalers, supplies, contractors, to general products and services outlets, make sure that you list all of them.

Next.

Scout their pages and identify places where your link would make sense. You can then talk to the business owners to get a link. Credibility is very important at this stage.

Go with Local Chamber of Commerce

One of the easiest links that you’ll ever get is that from your chamber of commerce.

Here is an example of the chamber of commerce link

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How you get your company listed will depend on the terms and conditions that the chamber sets. Some might require annual fees to get listed.

Other chambers might require you to give a talk about a niche related topic. Nonetheless, such links are pretty important. As such, you must really focus on getting them.

Sponsoring Local Events

This could be part of your corporate social responsibility. Whatever the case sponsoring local events you’ll easily end up with a link on their website.

This is because most local events often have a page that will link to their sponsors or even supporters.

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Remember, you don’t have to give a straight support in financial aid, no.

You can offer:

  • Beverages
  • Pizza stands
  • Branded t-shirts
  • Printed flyers

Focus on Local PR

Provide stories and features to local newspapers and other local news sites. You can also call them for coverage during anniversaries and other related events.

Just give them a heads up a few days before the event goes down.

However, if going with local new channels proves difficult, you can source for local stories through these opportunities.

  • Twitter
  • Facebook

Just run a brief background of what you are doing and allows the interested parties to offer their details a possible coverage/ invite.

Chapter IX: Local SEO: Advanced Tips and Strategies

Finally, I’d love us to finish this ultimate guide with other additional advanced tips for local SEO.

These tactics will give you the best results. They may not replace the NAP building tactics or the GMB optimization but they’ll easily leave you with better ranking.

Here is what they are:

Thumbtack Suggest

This like Yelp Suggest or Google Suggest is a great tool that you can use to get some cool keywords that you can always optimize around.

Once you type a specific root word, the tool gives you plenty of suggestions that you can easily work with.

Embed Google Map

Another thing that you can do is to embed a Google map on your “about” page. This gives better emphasis of your presence on a given location.

  • Just find your business on Google Maps and you will be ready to go.
  • Once you do that, go to the little “drop-down” menu on the top left corner of your screen.
  • Now click the part marked “share” to embed the map.
  • You will receive an embed code that you can use to embed map on your directions page.

Use Location-Focused Keyword

Use this type of keyword above the fold. It is a great way that can often help so much with local organic rankings. You can use the location-focused keyword on your title or page headline. You don’t have to highlight it.

Rather wrap it up with the H1 tag.

Location-focused keyword will allow the website visitor to understand within the shortest time possible that your business serves the area or the location where the visitor is searching from.

Title Tag – Double Dip

This works like a charm. It is an old fashioned approach that enables you to optimize the title tag of your home page around 2 to 3 keywords.

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This is smart since most local businesses will often get few links to internal pages. As such you will realize that the backlinks of most local sites often point to their home page.

This means then that you have to try and get as much as you can from your home page. By optimizing the page around many related keywords.

Optimize Meta Descriptions

At this point you should optimize your meta descriptions for the local searchers. By doing this, you will easily boost your organic click-through-rate.

NOTE: You can use Google ads to get some of the most compelling description copy. It is simple and easy.

Let’s Hear From You

Now let’s hear from you.

Let me know what I have left out.

Which is the best strategy that you intend to focus on?

Why do you want to use the same strategy that you have chosen?

What else do you suggest that can be of help?

Let’s share the ideas and work together.

It is easy when you leave a comment with our comment section.

Otherwise good luck and share it with your loved ones too.

Meta

Get the ultimate guide on Local SEO. We have the most definitive guide for you to work with. Simple and smart.

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