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Local SEO guide: 4 tips to stand out on local search

Local SEO guide: 4 tips to stand out on local search

Key takeaways

  • Local SEO helps brick-and-mortar businesses with local service areas reach nearby customers
  • Including local keywords in your web pages, blog posts, review responses, and other relevant content helps you rank higher in local searches
  • Build authority on search engines by earning backlinks and keeping your business name, address, and phone number updated on every online platform you use

It’s widely proven that search engine optimization (SEO) is good for business. When potential customers search for products or services, SEO helps your company show up ahead of competitors and earn more clicks. 

But for small businesses, winning a top spot on popular search engine results pages (SERPs) isn’t always easy—especially when you’re competing with established brands. 

Targeting local keywords can help you stand out and earn the attention of your target audience. Use this local SEO guide to rank higher on local search results.

What is local SEO?

Local SEO is the process of boosting your website traffic from customers in your community by improving your local search rankings, or your website’s position on locally relevant SERPs. Local SEO efforts show search engines that your business is relevant for searches with local intent—searches that include key phrases such as “near me” or a city name, ZIP code, or region. Optimizing one’s online presence helps businesses with a physical location or service area increase their visibility to local searchers.

Why local SEO matters

Searches for local businesses are some of the most common queries on search engines. In fact, 97% of all people who use search engines search online for local businesses. Local SEO can help you reach the ever-expanding number of users making local searches every day.

And since these local search results are highly relevant to their audience, nearly 80% of mobile searches with local intent (i.e., searches that prioritize location) lead to conversions—making local SEO one of the most cost-effective ways to increase sales.

At the same time, it’s easier to improve your local SEO rankings than it is for general keywords, such as “haircuts” or “doctor.” By targeting a specific geographic area, you limit competition to other local businesses instead of large, national brands. Your efforts will help you reach customers you can actually serve, as local SEO traffic comes from your own region.

Local SEO guide: 4 tips

With the right local SEO tips, you can rank high on your target search engines or SERPs to reach your ideal customers. Follow this four-step local SEO guide to get started.

1. Perform keyword research

Local SEO guide: Happy woman working at her laptop

Keyword research is the first step for boosting local SEO. When you know what your local customers are searching for, you can target those search terms in your online content.

Use free keyword research tools to brainstorm popular search terms related to your brand—for example, “day spa,” “deep tissue massage,” or “facial” for a spa business. You can also identify questions that searchers commonly ask (like “what spa treatments are worth it?”) using keyword research tools like WordTracker and Ubersuggest, which allow you to filter question keywords. This can help you rank on local voice-enabled searches since it’s more natural for people to ask complete questions aloud than to say a phrase. (For example, “Alexa, best spa treatments” feels unnatural.)

Once you’ve compiled a list of keywords and key phrases, add a local keyword modifier to your core terms. For example, “plumber” becomes “plumber near me,” “plumber Dallas,” and “plumber 75001.”

To improve your local SEO, include localized keywords wherever relevant—ideally, on every page of your website, especially your home page. You can also create dedicated blog posts and landing pages for specific locations or service areas (like the Upper East Side and Williamsburg if your business serves New York City).

In addition to on-page SEO, you can also add local keywords to the backend of your website builder—the information that communicates your site’s purpose to SERPs. Search engines use several pieces of metadata to generate rankings, including:

  • Title tags: These are name tags for each page of your website that appear on search engine result pages or SERPs. Keep title tags location-specific and under 60 characters.
  • Meta descriptions: These descriptions appear below your title tag on SERPs. To give users a preview of what your page is all about in 50-300 characters, include a brief business description, your local region, and a call to action to encourage people to visit your site.
  • Alt text: These brief descriptions of images on your site allow screen readers to describe images to people with disabilities or to all readers when images won’t load. Use relevant, local SEO keywords in your alt text when possible.

2. Claim your business listings

Local SEO doesn’t stop with your website. Next you need to establish a broader online presence to increase local visibility. 

Search engines use local citations—which are any mentions of your business name, address, and phone number (also known as NAP)—to confirm your business details. Without local citations, search engine algorithms can’t confidently suggest your business to local searchers.

One way to gain local citations is by claiming listings on popular business directories, such as Yelp. Claiming your Yelp Business Page allows you to update your business information, including your NAP details, as well as your website, business description, hours of operation, business categories, and more. Adding photos gives you the opportunity to show up on local image searches too.

Other local listings to claim and update include Bing Places, Foursquare, and Google My Business profiles. Creating social media pages with consistent, up-to-date NAP information can also help you improve your local SEO by providing search engines with more citations that confirm your location. NAP citations contribute 11% to your rankings on local packs, a visual SERP feature that spotlights top businesses in searches with local intent.


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3. Manage your online reviews

Close-up of man using smartphone and laptop

Online reviews are a key ranking factor for local searches. In fact, they make up 16% of the ranking factors considered for local packs. Positive reviews signal to search engines that your local business is active and trusted in your community. And since many customers (54%) read online reviews on sites like Yelp before making a purchase, these digital testimonials also help build trust with your audience.

To get more out of your online reviews, respond to every client in a timely and professional manner, regardless of whether they leave a positive or negative review. In one survey, 78% of online consumers said that seeing a business respond to reviews made them trust the company more.

Pro tip: Include keywords in your response where it feels natural to further improve your search engine rank.

4. Earn more backlinks

Link building involves getting other websites to link to your web pages. When inbound links—or backlinks—come from trustworthy local websites, they signal to search engines that you’re a trusted local business. Since search engines prioritize quality websites, more backlinks act as reputational references that can boost your rank.

To gain backlinks, you can guest blog on other sites, partner with other businesses, or sponsor local events, which can get your business featured on event websites and even in news articles. Start by reaching out to businesses and organizations with high domain authority—a metric that predicts how likely a website is to rank high on search engines—which you can check with Moz‘s domain analysis SEO tool. For example, local chambers of commerce and trade associations are trusted sites within the business community.

Writing valuable local content for your blog is also a great way to organically gain local links, as other sites may reference your posts in their own content (see more on getting third-party coverage for your business).

Build a strong local SEO strategy

Local SEO can help small business owners across industries stand out against the competition and attract customers in their region. Without a single marketing dollar, including local keywords in your website content can generate organic results.

Creating a broader online presence will also help search engines verify your business details, relevance, and trustworthiness. Start by claiming business listings, managing reviews, and earning backlinks. And when you’re ready to grow your online presence, put social media to work for your small business.

The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.