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Fundamental Local SEO For Small Businesses

By December 28, 2012June 28th, 2015Search Marketing
Fundamental Local SEO For Small Businesses

Whether you’re a restaurateur, doctor, lawyer, retailer, or marketer, if you have a local brick-and-mortar business and want to attract customers to your location, optimizing your online presence for local SEO can be an important step in increasing your exposure.

No matter what your profession is, as long as you have a website and an office, local SEO is an important piece of your marketing.

But what is local SEO? If you’re interested in driving traffic to your store or location then let’s review what that is and how to optimize for it.

What Is Local SEO?

Any kind of SEO involves on-page and off-page optimization strategies such as effective keyword use, content creation and link building. But instead of targeting global search, you aim to rank for location-based queries.

If, for instance, you have a bed and breakfast in London, you must optimize your website and pages to appear in search engine results for key phrases like “bed and breakfast in London”, “London bed and breakfast”, or “London accommodation”.

Local SEO is much more targeted and will bring you better qualified traffic to your website, as well as helping to bring traffic to your store or business. Someone searching for “bed and breakfast” may be looking for one anywhere in the world. But the only searchers and visitors you’re interested in are those looking for a business in your specific geographic area.

When someone searches by geography then you want your site and business to appear at the top of their search results.


According to a collaboration of online surveys, approximately 58% of users trust local search results, while another 61% consider these relevant.

Based on these figures, you can see that being on top of search results is an important way your target customers can find you.

On the other hand, about 49% of local queries are performed without a certain business or brand in mind.

That means someone may be looking for a bed and breakfast, for example, but not a specific bed and breakfast. In that case, you want your site to appear in their results so they can become aware of your business and choose to visit it.

Get Your Business On The Map With Local SEO

If you wish to boost your ranking for local searches, you have to consider three fundamental signals. These consist of the following:

  1. Physical address – must be accurate, complete and consistent
  2. Reviews – preferably positive
  3. Number of reviews – more is better

With these factors in mind, you can start thinking over the right optimization techniques to determine which ones apply best to your trade.

The following tips can help you increase the likelihood of appearing in location-based queries.

1. Sign Up On Google Places

First, you need to have your business listed and then, you can claim the listing through mobile or mail. It is a simple process that involves either answering an automated phone call from your business phone, then entering the verification code into your listing, or receiving the code via mail.

You can set up a local listing without “claiming” it but it’s in your best interests to claim it because then you can add additional information and your business will appear far more legitimate.

Once you have claimed your business, you need to provide important details. These usually include your address, contact info, services or products, hours, types of payments you accept, website URL and other details. The more complete your profile, the better.

Since there are plenty of things that you need to know about this service, you can find in-depth information and several resources on this page.

2. Take Advantage Of Directory Submissions

You can benefit a little by submitting your company and website info to niche-specific web directories. Some customers still conduct searches on these portals, so don’t worry about your efforts going to waste.

As an additional tip, choose established and authoritative sites such as DMOZ, Yahoo Directory, and Best of the Web. These are among the leading portals that many webmasters choose for submissions.

3. Use Geo-Targeted Keywords

Simply put, these are additional search terms which you have added to your website with your target location.

Going back to our example of a bed and breakfast in London, you can use a variety of modifiers such as the city itself or your exact address. So, if your establishment is in Kensington, maybe you can create a key phrase like “Kensington bed and breakfast”. With such long-tailed keywords, you can reach more searchers who use different varieties of terms in their searches.

The best way to understand what people are searching for is to use a keyword research tool for ideas.

4. Combine Social Media Efforts

This method typically involves blogging and social networking, which are two of the top channels these days.

Through the former, you can come up with creative and informative content for your target market. On the other hand, the latter lets you interact with your local customers, helping you build a good relationship with them.

The SEO part comes in when you use geo-tags and locally targeted keywords in your posts and updates. Additionally, you can generate blog posts or profile updates that tackle events or issues in your locality.

This will give the search engines additional hooks, and provide more content by which searchers can find your site and business.

5. Come Up With Innovative Ways To Obtain Reviews

As I have mentioned before, you need positive feedback to boost the chances of ranking in search.

You have probably heard from other people who say that this is difficult to obtain. You can make it easier by starting with your previous clients who said that they were satisfied with your service. By encouraging these people to write a review for you, you can entice other individuals to check out your business. And if they are contented with your offers, you can encourage them to give comments, too.

However, it is important to note that the reviews should not come in droves. Although favorable ones are good, Google might flag it as suspicious if you get too many in a short span of time.

6. Create The Right URL

Do not just settle with Instead, localize it by using a country domain extension that corresponds to your location.

Again, given our example city, your URL can be Alternatively, you can use .za for South Africa or .au for Australia. You can learn other domain extensions by looking into this resource.

7. Be Consistent

As a final note, make sure that you submit the correct information. Any information that you submit about your business should be exact from site to site. For example, the phone number and address on your website should be exactly the same as the phone number and address you add to Google, a directory or any other service such as Yelp, right down to the placement of commas and capitalized letters. The more precise you can be, the better your chances of ranking well.


So, there you have it, seven important tips for local SEO. If you already have a bit of knowledge on basic search engine optimization, you won’t have any problem applying these ideas.

But if you feel that you need assistance, never hesitate to seek an expert. Remember, it pays to learn from a trained person than risk losing ranking and reputation by inadvertently following bad practices.

Join the discussion 32 Comments

  • Awesome article. I actually found a moped hire place yesterday using Google Maps. That’s $100 they made they wouldn’t have if they weren’t on Google. 🙂

    • Same here, Harvey – I know plenty of restaurants that I never would have visited if it hadn’t been for a pin on Google maps!

    • Emma says:

      Hi Harvey, thanks for the comment. It’s definitely one of the best parts of Google and I use it almost daily for similar reasons – very useful indeed.


  • Carol Minarcik says:

    Hello Emma, Great Article, not to often do I see SEO for local business, we are all so worried about world wide exposure….Many times when traveling I will search “Hotel LA” and my searches pop up, if people would not do this, I am sure allot of business would not be happening for them. I received value from the post, thanks.

    • SEO is really important for local business because that’s how so many of us find what we need when we’re “out and about” – need a store, hotel, restaurant, doctor? It’s all local!

    • Emma says:

      Hi Carol, I’m glad you received value from the post. I agree – I think especially when people are unfamiliar with an area, they will use Google searches to find what they are looking for.

  • Donna Merrill says:

    Hi Carol, and thanks for having Emma doing this great article. I am seeing more and more local businesses on line more than ever. It is the age of phones and more people depend on their phones to find places to eat, stay, or look for reviews. That being said, SEO is just as important for off line businesses as it is for the on line ones. I recently worked for a local business to get them noticed on the social platforms. They were in a bad location and needed the exposure. Within one year, they made it to one of the top magazines in their industry.
    All with the power of SEO and online relationships. How About That!

    • Very true, Donna. Even a business without a website or anything online should STILL make sure they have a local listing. People do an awful lot of searching, especially on mobile, for nearby places so it’s either get on board or get left behind!

    • Emma says:

      Hi Donna,

      Thanks for your response. I agree, unless a business has a large local reputation already, it’s very important for them to have an online presence (although even if a business does have a good reputation, it’s still important for it to have this exposure to bring in new customers). Congratulations on your successes with SEO, long may they continue!

  • Harry Smith says:

    You need to investigate before you decide about seo company. You can ask for money back guarantee if they fails to deliver which can ensure you for dealing the right company

    • Yes, you should be cautious whenever you hire a professional and make sure you ask questions to be sure you understand what they’re offering. The good thing about Local SEO is that any business owner can take a few minutes to begin to build a local profile.

    • Emma says:

      Hi Harry,

      Yes choosing the right SEO company is very important, hopefully you will choose the right one!

  • Adrienne says:

    Hi Emma and Carol,

    Now this is definitely an important topic. As you may know Carol, I recently moved my Mom into the condo next door to me. Well, I needed to find a structural engineer to come out and look at her house just to make sure there were no foundation problems because we had just put it on the market. I wish more business would start concentrating on local SEO because it would have made it a lot easier for me to locate a company I needed.

    The searches were so out there and even though I put in a specific location, it kept giving me all the businesses in another town. It took me forever to find someone locally.

    As we all know, it’s just as important to do this for your online business as well. Especially if you want your target audience to locate you easily.

    Thanks for this important topic Emma and I sure hope more businesses will start concentrating on localizing the search results for their customers.


    • Adrienne, I know exactly what you mean. I’m always surprised when it’s impossible to find a business anywhere online. That’s how I find what I need as a consumer, like you said, whether it’s a contractor or electrician or whatever. Having good reviews can make a huge difference. If there were two businesses doing the same thing, I bet we’d all go with the one that had good reviews. it’s not that hard to get a good local profile, and it could do a world of good for those small businesses. Thanks for stopping by and for your comment. I hope everything is working out with your mom’s new house! PS: Better tell that engineer to get online 🙂

    • Emma says:

      Hi Adrienne,

      Thanks for the comment! I’m glad you found it useful. Yes unfortunately not all businesses have realised the value of local SEO, or perhaps don’t have the know-how or time to implement it. However, we have seen a dramatic increase in many local businesses taking it up, so hopefully over time we will be able to see all local services online.

  • This is an excellent article for any brick and mortar business out there. So many owners of such businesses still have no clue about getting their acts together to be found online. They are simply foreign to anything SEO, and sometimes just have to pay someone to do it for them. Which is fine too, but as long as they do it.

    Because they are so clueless we found ourselves in situations like Adrienne mentioned above. We can’t even found them dummies 🙂

    Thank you for this great detailed info post and hope those who need it most can take advice.

    • It’s funny you said that you hope people who need it will take the advice… I think people who need the advice are probably not even online to find it! I do plenty of searching online and if I can’t find a business, it might as well not exist. It’s pretty easy to get started, especially with Google, so it’s something that local businesses should have on their resolution list! Thank you for coming by and for your comment, Sylviane.

    • Emma says:

      Thanks for your reply Sylviane, I also hope that more ‘bricks and mortar’ businesses begin implement basic SEO techniques outlined above, as we know potential customers often use Google to find out who in their local area are providing certain products or services before actually going to see them. It’s win-win!

  • I think you nicely summarized what local SEO is and why it’s important to businesses, Emma. I will add that beyond Google Places/Google+, you do need to be in several other important directories, such as Yahoo Local, Bing Local, Yelp, Citysearch, etc. We recently wrote an article on our blog regarding this, too, if anyone is interested in learning a little more. But the fundamentals listed on this page is where a business needs to start.

  • Thanks, David, and I agree that there are other places a business should be looking into for a robust local profile. There are so many options that it can seem overwhelming at first, so Google – the 800 pound gorilla for sure – is a good place to start. Thanks for sharing your post, I’ll stop by and check it out!

    • Oh, I agree with you 1000%, Carol–Google Places/Plus is where a business should begin. I think that it is the absolute most important directory that a business could be on. And if you take the time to “claim” your business’ listing, complete your business’ profile, and optimize the listing, it can be huge boost for you when it comes to search engine optimization and traffic to your website.

      • I got a bonus zero! The nice thing about Google is that they (allegedly) guard against gaming the system. So if someone tries to spam your business with bad reviews – or if you try to game it by getting all good ones – they’re supposed to notice.

        • Good point, Carol. And I’m glad that there is a system in place for things like that. But it does go to show how important reviews are, as the article mentioned. And of course, make sure that you try to get reviews on several different sites, such as Google+, Yelp, Angie’s List, and Citysearch. Reviews will help a business in several ways, one of them being in local search rankings.

  • Very interesting Local SEO! I’m loving this. Although someone once told me to specialize in my area, I didn’t really know (except on the surface) what that meant. It only meant to me to ‘advertise’ in my area. You’ve explained this in such a way that it makes perfect sense and now I get it! Eureka! Sounds so simple and I’m adding a list of keywords now to do some articles on. This works perfectly for me as I wanted to do additional work to monetize my blog, make it interesting and attract a target market in my area. Great end of the year article for me.

    • I’m glad you found this helpful, Barbara. If you’re looking for local business, then starting with Google for your business is a great way to do it. You’ll be much more likely to come up in local search that way. Good luck, let me know if you run into any questions!

    • Emma says:

      Hi Barbara, I’m happy you found these points useful, targeting your local area will greatly increase your visibility to the people who you want to attract. I wish you the best of luck in connecting with your target market.

  • Your post is an amazing introduction to anyone who is just starting to learn what local SEO is. Directory submissions can indeed be a good way to get your business and address listed in as many places as possible, but if you do it excessively it can do a lot of harm.

    • yes, you do want to be careful that you submit to quality directories so it doesn’t appear that your site is being spammed everywhere. And stay away from anything that looks like a link farm or Google won’t like it!

  • Sydney RE says:

    What are some specific seo tips for the real estate industry?

    • It would be just like any local SEO. You’d need to optimize for local keywords, depending on where the real estate is that you’re selling, create a strong social presence and if you’ve got an office, get it on Google maps.

  • Good thinking!!! Than Small business owners can easily promote their business on the web.