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If you’re a blogger or a business owner with a digital presence, you’ll certainly be familiar with search engine optimization (SEO) and its importance to your online success. Without local SEO, you have limited ways of being found by prospective customers on the internet.

However, are you also familiar with local SEO and how it can help you be more visible in Google search results? Continue reading to find out what local SEO is and how it can benefit your business. But first, learn how Google works and ranks its search results.

How Does Google Work?

Every time you search for something on Google, it goes through a number of website signals, also known as ranking factors, to come up with a list of sites that best match what you are looking for. 

Unlike many people believe, Google doesn’t scour the entire internet for each search you make. Instead, it checks the Google Index, which is a stored copy containing all the sites it has discovered.

To create this index, Google uses programs, or “spiders,” to crawl the web and look at content on each page of a website. 

When web content gets crawled, it subsequently gets stored on Google’s servers which then builds the index. The spiders are constantly working and crawling billions, if not trillions, of pages online at a mindblowing speed. This way, Google can ensure that its index remains current and updated at all times. 

How Does Google Rank Search Results?

Algorithms are processes that help Google rank thousands of sites in seconds. Every time you search for something on Google, the algorithm goes through the index to come up with a list of sites that provide you with the information you are looking for.

These sites are then ranked based on prominence, relevance, and popularity. 

To determine whether a site matches what you are looking for, the algorithm uses a number of on-site and off-site factors. The list it comes up with is then ranked by prominence based on multiple on-site and off-site factors.

Those sites the algorithm considers as the best match for your query get listed at the top of the search results. 

One way to ensure you appear on the top of search results is through SEO strategies, including SEO keywords, backlinks, and more. If you find that your site doesn’t come up on the first page of Google searches for relevant keywords, you may have to go back and optimize your page.

One key factor to keep in mind when working on optimization is local SEO.

What is Local SEO?

Local SEO refers to the optimization of a website to increase its traffic and boost brand awareness from local searches. Finding local keywords, optimizing a business’s Google My Business profile, and building “NAP” citations are all key elements of local SEO. 

An example of local SEO is you being at work and looking for a place that can deliver food to your office. You may search for “Chinese food delivery” on Google.

Instead of providing you with a list of all Chinese food delivery services on the internet, Google comes up with a list that is relevant to you. That means it will show you Chinese food delivery services that are near you in its local search engine result pages (SERPs).

Now, if you are at home and searching for the same term, Google will show you a different set of results, close to where you live. That’s because you will want to get a delivery service near you.

Why is Local SEO Important?

When Google built its search engine, it assessed user behavior and found that people who are looking for specific types of businesses (like restaurants) want results near them.

This prompted Google to program its algorithm to take a proximity factor into account, meaning Google considers your location when you conduct a search for a local keyword. You don’t even need to include your country, city, area, or terms like “near me” to receive local results. 

When people were still primarily using desktop computers, local searches were still limited. Now that most Google searches are done on mobile phones, local SEO has become more important than ever, playing a huge role in the success of any business that offers products or services to a local market. 

In fact, you may be surprised to learn that 46% of all Google searches account for local ones. In addition, 76% of users who try to find something local on their mobile phones end up visiting that store on the same day. 

This means that local searches are a significant part of SEO. So if you optimize your business listing online, you can increase your foot traffic and sales and get more reviews, which in turn will help your search engine ranking and lead more customers to you.

How Does Local SEO Work?

SEO for a local Google search functions similar to that of a regular Google search. Any time a user searches for something, Google goes through its index to provide the results that best match the person’s query. However, with local SEO, Google uses a unique set of ranking signals that include: 

  • Where a person is searching from
  • The business’s Google Maps star rating
  • Whether the company has a Google My Business listing
  • The keywords used in its Google My Business profile
  • Overall opinion of online reviews
  • The keywords used in online reviews
  • The number of “check-ins” at the business 
  • The number of social media shares 
  • NAP citations

What Are NAP Citations?

NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone number. NAP citations are all the places that list your contact details (name, address, phone). They are incredibly important because Google checks them to confirm your business information and ensure it’s correct. 

That means, the more often Google sees NAP citations for your business, the more they can confirm your business address and phone number. In other words, NAP citations increase Google’s trust in your business. 

One of the ways to work on this is to get as many consistent NAP citations as possible on reputable websites. Furthermore, positive online reviews – not just on Google but on 3rd party sites – also play an important role.

People trust customer reviews and often base their buying decisions on them. 

Remember never to offer incentives to customers in exchange for a positive review as you may end up getting penalized by Google.

Your best bet for garnering positive reviews is to provide a great customer experience and send a review request link to the customer within 24 hours. Always respond to all reviews, both positive and negative ones, to improve your local SEO. 

In addition to the local SEO ranking signals, traditional ranking factors still apply. Things like valuable content, optimized websites, SEO keywords, and backlinks are all essential to improving your local SEO ranking. 

Run a NAP Citation Audit 

NAP citations are similar to backlinks, equally important, and not easy to build. Before anything, you should run a NAP Audit that ensures your information listed on all sites is 100% consistent. Check all sites that list your business, including: 

  • Your website
  • Your Google My Business profile
  • Business Directories
  • Local listings sites

If you’re not sure which sites list your information, use digital citation tools like Loganix or WhiteSpark. Once you have a list of all the sites, check whether your NAP information is updated and accurate. 

Fix and Correct Incorrect NAP

Once you have a list of NAP citations and checked all of them, you need to fix incorrect ones. It’s not uncommon for older businesses to come across lots of incorrect NAP information online that require an update. 

You’ll either be able to change NAP citations with incorrect information yourself or will need someone else to do it for you. If you only have a few to fix, you can do them one by one.

For a long list of citations that need fixing, you can use a service like Bright Local or Yext. 

As for those citations that can only be fixed by someone else: email each one of them and ask if they could kindly fix the incorrect information.

Check Your Competitors’ NAPs Through Reverse Engineering

Did you know that you can take the same tools you use for your own NAP audits to snoop on your competitors? Simply get their NAP details and use a citation tool to check all the sites that mention them online.

Results typically show up even without a link to your competitor’s site.

Final Thoughts

Today’s consumer primarily conducts Google searches on their mobile phone, which returns local results based on the proximity to the searcher. To rank high on Google’s local searches, make sure to use local SEO keywords, optimize your Google My Business profile and build NAP citations just as outlined in this guide.

As a result, you can expect to increase your foot traffic and, with it, your sales and profit.