The majority of all businesses are local. From a quick search, I found that there are over 27 million businesses in the US as of right now. Of those businesses, around half are local, though the numbers are sparse in that regard, due to chain businesses and multi-locations sole proprietors. Just to give you an idea, there are a lot:

  • Grocery Store
  • Handyman
  • Retail
  • Chiropractor
  • Pest Control Company
  • Accountant
  • Marketing Agency
  • Equipment Company
  • Restaurant
  • Mechanic
  • Church
  • Electrician
  • Hair Salon
  • HVAC Co
  • Dentist
  • Car Dealership
  • Hotel
  • Bar
  • Optometrist
  • Local Photographer

You get the idea.

All of these businesses need SEO done in order for their potential customers can find them online. A simple “service + city” search will bring up TONS of results, so it’s imperative to show up on the first page of search engines like Google, preferably in the #1 spot.

Which brings us to Local SEO.

This post won’t go into all the nuances and technical aspects, but it will cover all the basics. Here’s a great Local SEO guide that covers it more in-depth if you’re interested.

What is Local SEO?

SEO is simply making your site better for search engines so they’ll place you higher in the search engine result pages (SERP’s). Local SEO is this, but for a certain geographical area. You see, Google has a slightly modified algorithm when searching for a business that it deems “local”. For example, if someone in Boise, ID searched for “Boise Plumber” it would only make sense to show results from local businesses, not one in California or New Mexico. The first thing that pops up in this specific keyword search is the ads at the top. This is where businesses can pay per click to be shown at the top of Google through their marketing platform, Google Adwords.

This can provide some quick clicks and results, but since it’s a bidding system, it can be quite expensive to run.

Next is the local map pack, which looks like this-

And last but not least, you’ll see organic results.

As you can see, some of these results represent actual local companies, others are review sites and national directories like Yelp and HomeAdvisor. To be able to compete with these behemoths, you’ll need some real local SEO to outrank them.

We’ll be talking about both ranking in the maps section and ranking organically, whose algorithms are interconnected now. The more you do, the better chance you’ll rank in both.

Google Business

Get a Google Business Listing. It’s a cakewalk – just go to google.com/business/ and follow the instructions. Once it’s verified, your listing will show up in Google Maps, and if you fill everything out correctly, has a chance to rank in the top three, which is shown to all who see the front page for a given search. If you only have one location, use your homepage as the URL. If you have more than one and have built out location pages, use that URL.

Citations

Citations are simply places online where your business should be found. Not only can customers find you if they’re looking on that site, but it also signals so Google that you’re who you say you are. There are tons, but for example:

  • Yellow Pages
  • InfoGroup
  • Yelp
  • Avvo (for Lawyers)
  • Angie’s List
  • Facebook
  • Superpages
  • Apple Maps

This also includes any local or industry directories that are relevant to your business. Fill them out as completely as you can and link them to your site if they allow it.

Locally Relevant Content

This is completely in your control. All the content on your site needs to be relevant. If you own a hair salon, you probably shouldn’t be blogging about fishing or carpentry unless there’s some kind of direct tie-in. Local events, industry news, and company announcements are great. Try writing once a week until you build up a good amount of content. Within the text of your articles, link to your other pages, posts, and anything else you deem relevant.

In this regard, the more personal, the better. Even if you’re not attracting thousands of visitors a month to your blog, it’s still a great signal to Google that your site caters to and cares about a certain locality.

Backlinks

This one takes some doing, and can be kind of confusing, so it may be worth finding someone who will do some custom white hat link-building for you. Backlinks are like little upvotes to your site, showing that people care about it and that it’s legit. The more high-quality sites that link to yours, the better your chances of exposure are. Here are a few ideas to do this:

  • Guest Posts- reach out to sites, bloggers, or other businesses and ask to write an article on their site that links back to yours
  • Meet ups- any meeting with other business owners can form an alliance where you can ask them to recommend you on their site
  • Create Local Buzz- if you hold a contest, a crazy deal, or something out of the ordinary, local news stations may reach out to you (or you to them) and link to you in their articles
  • Local Awards- many cities have business awards and post them once a year – apply to as many of these as possible. They may link to your site.

Reviews

Local businesses should strive to get as many good reviews as possible, and respond to each of them (whether good or bad). Customers want to know that you’re professional, and unfortunately the first thing people see are your reviews. Read the guidelines for each site for which you want to gather reviews, some have stricter policies than others (Yelp is among the most strict and can penalize your listing). There is some debate whether there’s a direct or indirect link between local rankings and reviews, but either way, it’s a good practice!

On-page Elements

Here’s another thing that’s completely in your control. Include your Business Name, Address, and Phone Number in the footer of your site so that Google will see that it’s legit. Here are some more checklist items to research and implement:

  • Implement Schema markup
  • Meta Titles/ Descriptions
  • Add Keywords where appropriate
  • H1’s/H2’s/etc
  • Put a couple reviews up and link to the reviews sites
  • Use real pictures of you and your biz

Hopefully you learned a bit from this “noob guide” and have lots of ideas to make your competitors cry themselves to sleep at night.