Local SEO: The Definitive Guide

This is the ultimate guide to local SEO in 2019.

In this new guide I’ll show you:

  • How to rank in the 3-pack
  • How to build NAP citations
  • How to optimize your GMB profile
  • Lots more

Let’s get started.

Local SEO: The Definitive Guide

Chapter 1:Local SEO Basics

Local SEO Basics

In this chapter we’ll cover the basics of local SEO.

First, you’ll see interesting data that proves that SEO is a must for any local business.

Then, I’ll show you how The Map Pack works… and the best way to track your Map Pack rankings.

What is Local SEO?

Local SEO is the practice of optimizing a local brick and mortar business for location-based keywords, such as “locksmith New York”. Local search engine optimization includes optimizing the business’s website as well as their Google My Business profile.

Why is Local SEO Important?

I’m not going to throw a bunch of random stats at you.

But I do want to briefly show you a few fascinating statistics to highlight just how huge SEO is for local businesses.

46% of all searches in Google have “local intent” (Search Engine Roundtable).

46% of all searches in Google have "local intent"

“Near me” searches have grown 150% faster than traditional, local-based searches (Google).

"Near me" searches have grown 150% faster than traditional, local-based searches

29% of all Google SERPs contain a local pack in the results (RankRanger).

29% of all Google SERPs contain a local pack in the results

74% of consumers that search for something local on their phone visit a store that day (Google).

So it’s clear that local searches make up a huge chunk of the SEO world. And if you can get your local business in front of these searches, there’s a good chance they’ll be walking through your door a few minutes later.

The Map Pack

The Map Pack (also known as “The Local Pack”) is a set of 3 local business results… with a map of their locations pulled from Google Maps.

The map pack

For example, when you search for “Barber Boston”, Google has a Map Pack at the very top of the results.

Google Search for "barber boston" with map pack

With the “normal” search results underneath it:

Google Search for "barber boston" – Normal results

I’ll show you how Google ranks businesses in The Map Pack later in this guide. But for now, just keep in mind that The Map Pack has its own algorithm with its own set of rules.

Sure, some ranking factors (like backlinks) can help you rank in local and traditional organic results.

But others (like NAPs) are pretty much only important for ranking in The Map Pack.

One thing I should point out:

Google doesn’t only show local results for keywords that contain a specific city or state. If Google thinks that your search needs a set of local results, they’ll show it to you… even if the keyword isn’t obviously local.

For example, when I recently searched for “gardener” in NYC, Google gave me a Map Pack.

Google Search for "gardener" while located in NYC

This is important to keep in mind as you do keyword research for your local business. Yes, you want to optimize for “store + city” keywords.

In many cases, the generic “store” keyword without a location gets more search volume than the “store + city” version.

With that out of the way, let’s see how to track your local SEO rankings.

How To Track Map Pack Rankings

One of the first steps in any local SEO campaign is to benchmark where you’re at.

Specifically, you want to see where you rank in The Map Pack. And track your Map Pack rankings over time.

Pretty much every rank tracker on the planet has Map Pack tracking.

Local rank trackers

The issue is that, with local SEO, where you’re searching from is HUGE. In fact, the Map Pack results can be completely different from one mile to the next.

For example, let’s say someone searches for “coffee shop” on 72nd st and 2nd avenue in NYC.

"coffee shop" NYC search – Location A

Those results are going to be super tailored to where that person’s standing.

In fact, that same search performed a few blocks away can bring up a completely different site of Map Pack results (or the same results in a different order).

"coffee shop" NYC search – Location B

if you only track your local rankings from a single location (like “New York”), you’re only seeing a small sample of where you actually rank in the real world.

Which is why you want to get super granular with your local rankings. That way, you can see where you rank across your entire city or local area.

I recommend a tool called Local Falcon for this kind of detailed Map tracking.

Local Falcon homepage

But there are others, like Local Viking, that do pretty much the same thing.

Anyway…

The first step is to choose your business name (Note: this feed comes directly from Google Maps. So to use this tool, you’ll need a Google My Business profile already set up).

Local Falcon entering business name

Then, choose a keyword you want to check your rankings for.

Local Falcon entering keyword

Finally, choose how specific or broad you want your rank tracking to be.

For example, here’s a 5-mile (8km) rank tracking radius.

Local Falcon – Setting up search radius

It’s set up with a 7 x 7 grid, which gives you a great idea of where your business ranks across this entire area.

(This grid can go right up to 15 x 15, if you really want to see the edges of where you might rank).

Then, it’s time to check the rankings.

After the tool does its thing, you end up with a visual interface that shows your rankings for each geographical position:

Local Falcon search results

As you can see, you get a nice interactive map that shows where you rank in lots of different spots throughout the city.

As you can see, rankings are best on the outskirts of the city… and get progressively worse as you go downtown.

Local Falcon search results highlighted grid

This isn’t necessarily a problem. It could be that a competitor has a location that’s more centrally located than your hotel. So for someone searching from that location, Google considers the competitor a better fit.

That said, you should use the tool to find spots where you “should” rank well… but don’t.

For example, you can see that this local paving business ranks #1 in the far north of the city… except for one spot.

Local Falcon search results – Highlighted top row

So in that case, you’d want to click on the result to see who is outranking you:

Local Falcon rankings for certain spot

In this case, a competitor is ranking #1.

But if you’re not satisfied with the #2 spot, check out the competitor’s address in their listing. That way, you can cross-check where they are physically located on this map.

Competitor location on Google Maps

And when you put the competitor’s location on the rankings map, you can see why you’re having trouble cracking the #1 spot.

Competitor location on Local Falcon search results

The simple explanation is that this search location is MUCH closer to the competitor. So it makes perfect sense that Google would want to make this competitor the #1 result.

Local Organic Rankings

If you’re a local business, The Map Pack is the place to be.

That said:

You don’t want to completely ignore the traditional local results.

Yes, the local organic results usually show up BELOW the local pack.

Google search for "pizza boston"

But don’t let that fool you into thinking that it’s “Map Pack or nothing”. Because most local searches have an insanely strong commercial intent, it’s totally worth ranking in the local SERPs too.

And, unlike Map Pack results, the local results are basically the same for any Google SERP.

So to optimize your site for local organic rankings, you want to use your keyword in your title tag, in your URL… and all the traditional on-page SEO stuff.

Basically, everything covered in this video:

Plus: backlinks 🙂

Actually, the only unique thing about local organic rankings is how you track them. Remember: “store + city” only make up a fraction of all local searches.

So in addition to “Boston barber”, you also want to track your rankings for keywords like “Barber” and “Barber near me”.

For example, if you wanted to track rankings for “barber near me” for people searching in Boston, you just need to specify the location in your rank tracking tool of choice:

Ahrefs adding keyword with specific city location

And if you want to get a better idea of where you rank around town, you can track your rankings for that same keyword across lots of different spots.

Ahrefs adding keyword with multiple locations

Chapter 2:Local SEO Keyword Research

Local SEO Keyword Research

In this chapter I’m going to show you how to find keywords for local SEO.

Fortunately, local SEO keyword research is basically a “one and done” process.

Unlike a blog, you usually don’t need to keep finding new keywords all the time.

That’s not to say keywords aren’t important for local searches. They definitely are. But in most cases, all you need to get started is a short list of keywords that people use to find your local biz.

Yelp Suggest

This works the same as Google Suggest.

Type in a keyword that someone in your area might use to find your business…

Yelp search for HVAC near Boston

…and check out the suggested results.

Yelp results for HVAC near Boston

What’s cool about Yelp is that they sometimes show you keywords that don’t contain the term you typed in.

For example, if you search for “Japanese”, they also suggest “Asian Fusion Food”.

Yelp results with Asian fusion suggestion

Very cool.

Google Suggest

Google Suggest can also work well for local searches.

The only thing to keep in mind here is that the local search has to be something that potential local customers are gonna search for.

For example, if you type in “HVAC”, you get this list of suggestions:

Google suggestions for "HVAC" search

Outside of “near me”, these keywords aren’t a great fit for local SEO.

But when you add a local term, like “HVAC B”, you start to see keywords that you can use.

Google suggestions for local "HVAC B" search

Local Voice Searches

According to Google, 20% of all Google searches done on mobile are now voice searches.

20% of all Google searches done on mobile are now voice searches

20%!

The main difference between voice and keywords searches is that voice searches tend to be longer and use natural language.

For example, take a local keyword like “gluten free pizza brooklyn”.

Gluten free pizza Brooklyn

Well, that same search done via someone’s voice will probably be more like: “gluten free pizza in brooklyn that’s open right now”.

Gluten free pizza in Brooklyn that's open right now

As far as I know, there aren’t any tools to help you find voice search keywords. But it’s something to keep in mind as you go through this process.

GKP “Start With a Website”

The Google Keyword Planner gives you search volume data for specific geographic areas.

Keyword Planner – Local results for "boston web design"

So if you already have a bunch of keywords and want to pick the best of the bunch, this feature is helpful.

But if you’re on the hunt for NEW keywords, I recommend using their “Start With a Website” feature.

Just pop in the homepage URL of one of your competitors:

Keyword Planner – Start with a website search

And Google will suggest a bunch of keywords based on the terms that show up on that page.

Keyword Planner results for "boston barber exchange" website

Chapter 3:Local SEO Ranking Factors

Local SEO Ranking Factors

Now it’s time to dive into how local SEO actually works.

Specifically, I’m going to briefly cover the most important local SEO ranking factors…

…and a few tips on how you can optimize for them.

Let’s get started.

Google My Business Profile > Your Website

Last year Moz ran its annual "Local Search Ranking Factors Study".

And they found that the #1 ranking factor for ranking in the map pack was your Google My Business Profile.

Local pack finder ranking factors – Google My Business

Your local business website is still important. The content on your page and the links pointing to your site play a role in your Map Pack rankings.

But for your business to rank #1 in The Map Pack, your GMB profile needs to be on point.

(Which is why I dedicated an entire chapter of this guide, Chapter 4, to optimizing your GMB profile).

NAPs are HUGE

NAP (Name, Address and Phone number) citations are another key local SEO ranking signal.

NAP citations are places where your name, address and phone number are all listed out.

Brian's bagel shop – NAP citation

Why is this important?

Well, Google uses NAPs to confirm that all of your business info is correct. And the more often they see NAP citations for your business, the more confident they are that your address is where you say it is and that your phone number is correct.

NAP citations influence Google rankings

This is why you want to get consistent NAP citations on as many reputable websites as you can.

Online Reviews

Moz’s local ranking factors study also found that “Review Signals” played an important role.

Local pack finder ranking factors review signals

Specifically, they state that negative reviews on your GMB profile can hurt you. And that Google probably also uses reviews on 3rd party sites (like Yelp) too.

So yeah, getting positive reviews can help you (assuming that you don’t incentivize folks to leave reviews or ask in bulk). And negative reviews can hurt you.

According to one panelist that participated in the study: “ Reviews (along with an owner’s response) show that consumers trust a business, and trust is a foundational factor in ranking.”.

Which means that replying to reviews, even negative ones, can help your local SEO efforts.

"Normal" SEO Still Applies

With all that said:

Google’s traditional ranking factors still 100% apply to local.

In fact, Google confirmed that your rankings in the organic SERPs impact your local rankings:

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

Which means: the higher you rank in the organic results, the higher you’ll rank in The Map Pack.

Which is why creating content, optimizing your pages and building backlinks is still SUPER important for local SEO rankings. Especially for competitive industries (legal, dentistry, etc).

Chapter 4:Google My Business

Google My Business

Now it’s time to optimize your Google My Business profile.

Like I mentioned in the last chapter, your GMB is HUGE for ranking in the local results.

So if you want to get the most out of your GMB, this chapter is for you.

Keep Everything 1000% Consistent

When it comes to GMB, consistency is HUGE.

Not only should everything you enter into the GMB match your website, but it should also match your NAP citations around the web.

GMB and your website should match NAP citations from around the web

When Google sees that your business info is consistent in your GMB, on your website and 3rd party sites like Yelp, they say: “OK, this business is legit. And their local info all matches up.”

Google says the business is legit

But when your local business has one address listed in their GMB and another on the website, that’s a huge red flag to Google:

Addresses that do not match will be flagged by Google

So if your business changes their name, location or phone numbers, it’s important that the new data gets updated ASAP. And that includes citations on local business directories.

I also recommend double checking that your business’s address is written out the exact same way on your GMB profile and everywhere else it shows up.

Make sure your address is written out the exact same way

Google doesn’t like it when one address says “Avenue” and another version uses “Ave.”.

This kind of thing won’t stop the mailman from delivering your Amazon package. But it’s a confusing signal for Google.

Fill In Every Data Point You Can

Google gives you a score for how complete your profile is.

Google My Business – Completion score

But in my experience, this score is REALLY generous. You can get a really high score just for covering the basics.

So I’d use their score as a baseline. But if you want to rank for competitive keywords, you probably need to go above and beyond.

The main thing I see people miss out on is category selection.

Google will force you to choose a top level category that describes your business.

Google My Business – Primary category

And the category you go with has to match a category they already have (you can’t make up your own category).

Google My Business – Primary category selection

That said: lots of people forget to add in secondary categories. These secondary categories directly impact the keywords and searches your business can rank for.

Google My Business – Additional categories

While you’re in there, I also recommend filling in the “Services” and “Products” tabs:

Google My Business – Add services and products

This info tells Google what it is that your business is actually selling. So it’s super important to fill this stuff in.

Keep Crucial Business Data Updated

Double check that your opening hours, holidays and other basic business info are all accurate and up-to-date.

This kind of thing may not directly impact rankings.

But when someone drives to your restaurant, only to see a “Closed” sign, you can expect a bad review from a hangry person.

So you want it to be second nature that when opening hours change, that change is also made inside Google My Business.

Get More Reviews (and Reply to Any That Come In)

As I mentioned back in Chapter 3, reviews are one of Google’s top local ranking signals.

Needless to say, you want as many positive reviews as you can get.

That said:

Whether a review is positive, negative, or in-between, I HIGHLY recommend replying to every single review.

This shows potential customers (and Google) that you care.

Just look at the difference that this reply makes:

Owner reply on Google customer review

If you’re considering visiting India House, the reply takes a lot of the bite out of that negative review.

And you can reply to your GMB reviews inside the Google My Business dashboard.

Google My Business – Reply to review

When it comes to getting reviews, there are two things to keep in mind:

  1. You need to ask customers to leave reviews (most happy customers won’t without a little prodding)
  2. You need to make it SUPER easy for them

And one of the best ways to do both?

Send customers an email with a review link.

There are two ways to generate a review link:

Way #1: Head over to this page and enter your business name.

Place ID Finder

This will give you the “Place ID” for your business.

Then, add your place ID to this URL:
https://search.google.com/local/writereview?placeid=

So using the example above, the URL would be:
https://search.google.com/local/writereview?placeid=ChIJ-x3_Q8d544kRkvCvAv2dNqY

And when you click on the link, it prompts the user to leave a review.

 

Way #2: Login to your GMB account and head over to the “Get more reviews” card.

GMB – Get more reviews

Finally, generate a short URL that you can send to customers.

Very cool.

Chapter 5:On-Site SEO For Local Businesses

On-site SEO for Local Businesses

In this short chapter I’ll cover a few ways that local businesses can get the most out of their on-site SEO efforts.

So once you’ve optimized your title tags and body copy with the traditional on-page SEO approaches, it’s time to tap into these strategies specifically designed for local small business websites.

Write Unique Content for Every Location

You probably already know that you want to write 100% unique content for every page on your site.

So if your business serves Boston and Brookline, you want the content for each page to be completely different.

Write unique content for every location

But what you may not know is that, as long as you avoid duplicate content, you can create these sorts of landing pages for cities that you’re not physically based in.

This obviously won’t help you rank in the Map Pack.

(You need a GMB profile for that location for that)

But you can totally rank in the local organic results for lots of different local keywords. And as long as you serve folks in that area, the traffic will convert well too.

For example, this roofing service has pages optimized around “Brockton” and “Natick”.

Roofing service locally optimized pages

The best part? They’re not located in Natick OR Brockton.

Roofing service – Location

Yet they rank in the local SERPs for both of their target keywords.

Roofing service local ranking in Google

How to Use Schema For Local SEO

When it comes to local SEO, Schema markup is more of a “nice to have”.

That said, there’s an entire category of Schema markup for local businesses.

Schema – Local business markup

For example, you can use this Schema to markup your address and phone number.

I don’t think Google relies on Schema that much for Map Pack rankings (after all, they have all of this data already in your GMB). But if you’re confident that you can implement it correctly, there’s nothing wrong with using “LocalBusiness” markup on your site.

That said:

One type of Schema that can definitely help is review markup.

Like any SERPs, review stars can turn your boring result into an eye-catching Rich Snippet.

Eye catching rich snippets

(Note: Google stopped supporting review snippets for “LocalBusiness” and “Organization” schema types. But you can still use review schema for content, tools, recipes or other content on your local business website)

Use Title Tag Cliffhangers

I picked up this technique from Facebook Ad guru Nicholas Kusmich.

And I’ve found that it works GREAT for local business sites.

The idea here is that you start your title tag off with a strong, benefit-driven statement.

Use strong, benefit-driven statements for title tags

Then, make sure the statement goes beyond Google’s title tag limit (currently 500-600 pixels or 50 characters).

Make sure your statement goes beyond Google's title tag limit

This cutoff creates an open loop that can lead to more clicks.

Backlinko reader Andrew Holland recently used this technique on his local agency site.

Andrew Holland title tag cliffhanger in Google

And he told me that this tactic led to a significant increase in his organic CTR and rankings.

Chapter 6:NAP Citations

NAP Citations

Now it’s time to transition into one of the most challenging parts of local SEO: NAP citations.

NAP citations are like backlinks: they’re super hard to build. But super important too.

And in this chapter I’ll show you how to build local citations the right way.

Run a NAP Audit

You want your NAP data to be 100% consistent everywhere.

On your website.

On your GMB profile.

On business directories.

Basically: any place that mentions your business online.

There are a million citation tools and services out there. I personally recommend WhiteSpark and Loganix. But like I said, there are quite a few options to choose from.

That said:

No matter what tool or service you use, the most important things you’ll need to have before you start are:

  1. The current, up-to-date NAP for the business.
  2. Any historic NAP info (that way, you can find and update outdated citations).

With this information, the tool you use will scour the internet for NAPs. And you’ll get a report like this:

Whitespark – NAP report for Loews Boston

Fix and Correct Incorrect NAP

Now that you have a list of citations, you want to find NAP citations that aren’t correct or consistent.

Whitespark – Incorrect and missing NAP for Loews Boston

(For older businesses that haven’t done an audit before, you can expect A LOT of citations that need a fix or update).

So once you have a list of NAP citations that need updating, the next step to correct as many as you can.

In my experience, incorrect NAPs fall into two different categories:

  1. Citations you can change (for example, your NAP on Yelp).
  2. Citations someone else has to change (for example, a mention on a local resource page).

For the first category, updating these one-by-one is a giant pain. Which is why services like Yext and Bright Local exist.

Yext and BrightLocal NAP services

For citations that need a manual change from someone else, you’ll need to reach out one-by-one with targeted, friendly outreach emails.

Here’s an example:

NAP citation fix outreach email

Find Citation (and Link) Opportunities With Link Intersect

After you’ve built citations at Yelp, FourSquare, Angie’s List, and the other usual suspects, what’s next?

In my experience, your best citation opportunities come from local sites. Local citations are super relevant citations that can give your Map Pack rankings a real boost.

And because you’re reaching out to folks in your local area, your outreach conversion rate is usually going to be insanely high.

Question is:

How do you find these local citations?

I recommend checking out the Link Intersect feature in Ahrefs.

Ahrefs link intersect feature

As the name suggests, this feature is designed for link building. But, as you’ll see in a minute, it definitely works for citations too.

In fact, you can sometimes “double dip” and get a link and citation from the same place.

With that, here’s the step-by-step process:

First, take a batch of 2-3 competitors and pop them into the tool:

Ahrefs link intersect input websites

Pro Tip: You don’t always need to use direct competitors here. Any businesses in your area can work. After all, they’re also building citations from local business directories.

Then, you’ll get a report that lists all the sites that have linked to the competitors you used in step #1.

Ahrefs link intersect results

Finally, sift through the results to find citation opportunities.

Citation opportunity for McMahon Plumbing on Nextdoor

Link opportunities:

Link opportunity for McMahon Plumbing on neponset

Or both:

Citation and link opportunity on hotwater

I don’t recommend worrying too much about nofollow links here. Remember: the main goal here is to get your NAP on the page. If you get a link (even a nofollow one) that’s a bonus.

Reverse Engineer Competitor NAPs

That same tools you use for NAP audits can also be turned against your competitors.

All you need are their NAP details, you’ll get a comprehensive list of all the places they’ve been mentioned online.

Whitespark – NAP report for McMahon Plumbing and Heating

In my experience, this approach works better than Link Intersect. With a citation tool, the results don’t necessarily have to have a link to your competitor’s site to show up.

These tools will show you straight up NAP listings, like this:

McMahon plumbing and heating NAP on MyZipPlumbers

Other Local Businesses

Most local businesses have relationships with other businesses in their local area.

Even though you’ll probably need to tap into cold email outreach at some point, I recommend starting off by building links from people that you already know.

So I recommend listing out every:

  • Distributors
  • Supplier
  • Wholesaler
  • Contractor
  • Neighboring business

That you have any sort of relationship with.

Then, look for a specific page on their site where a link to you would make sense.

(This is the step a lot of people overlook)

For example, this paving contractor has a page that links to some of their favorite distributors.

Claypave distributors page

Your Local Chamber of Commerce

Your local Chamber of Commerce is one of the easiest links you’re ever going to get.

Here’s an example of a Chamber of Commerce backlink:

Chamber of commerce backlink

How you get listed depends on the Chamber. Some require an annual fee. Others make you keep up your membership every year.

Either way, because these links are super relevant, they’re usually worth whatever hoops you need to jump through.

Plus, you almost always get a NAP with your link.

Chamber of commerce NAP

Pro Tip: If you want to get a Chamber of Commerce link that’s actually contextual, consider giving a talk to the local Chamber. If you’ve read this far, you already know more about local SEO than 90% of local businesses out there. So you could give a talk on local SEO… or anything that businesses in your area would want to learn more about.

Here’s an example:

Chamber of commerce contextual backlink

Sponsor Local Events

It’s a fact:

Most local events need sponsors.

And if you can sponsor a local event, you’ll usually find yourself with a nice link on the event’s website.

For example, this local non-profit circus has a page that links to their supporters:

Circus Starr sponsors page

And your support doesn’t have to be straight cash. Run a pizza place? Consider donating a stack of large pepperoni pizzas. Are you a printing company? You can offer to print up flyers. You get the idea 🙂

Local PR

Local newspapers and local news sites are STARVING for stories.

And if you do anything remotely interesting (like an anniversary event or “grand re-opening”), you’ll probably find yourself with a beat reporter covering it.

Local newspaper mention

The only catch is that you need to give the news sites a heads up at least a few days before your event so they can prepare. Plus, you can help them write up the story with background deets before the event even happens.

Now:

If you don’t want to go through the hassle of an event, you can also be a source for local stories.

The best way to find these opportunities?

Twitter.

The two search strings that have worked best for me are:

  • “Looking to speak to” + “city”
  • #journorequest + “area”

For example, when you search for “Looking to speak to” + “Boston”, you can see that there are TONS of great PR opportunities.

Twitter results for "looking to speak to" Boston

And now it’s time for the last chapter…

Chapter 8:Advanced Local SEO Tips and Strategies

Advanced Local Tips & Strategies

Let’s finish off this guide with a bunch of advanced local SEO tips, strategies and tactics.

None of these tactics will replace good ol’ fashioned NAP building or GMB optimization.

But they can give you a nice little rankings bump.

Thumbtack Suggest

This is yet another way to find local keywords to optimize around.

For example, when you type in “Cleaners”, it gives you a handful of suggestions:

Thumbtack search suggestion for cleaners

Including a bunch of super specific terms PERFECT to create landing pages around:

Thumbtack search – Hot tub cleaners suggestion

Embed a Google Map on Your About Page

This is a great way to really emphasize to Google that you’re located in a specific place.

All you need to do is find your business in Google Maps.

Giordanos pizza on Google Maps

Then, hit the little dropdown menu in the top left corner of the screen. And click “Share or embed map”.

Giordanos pizza "Share map" feature

This will give you an embed code.

Finally, embed that map on your site’s contact or directions page.

Giordanos pizza embedded map on page

Use Your Location-Focused Keyword Above The Fold

In my experience, this single tip can HELP a lot with local organic rankings.

All you need to do is make sure your local-focused keyword shows up at the very top of your page in a headline.

Something like this:

Local keyword in headline

And I recommend wrapping that title in an H1 tag.

That said:

This is more for UX signals than straight up on-page SEO.

Why?

When a local searcher lands on your page, they need to know that you serve their area within 2 seconds.

And when they see a headline like this, they’re probably going to go back to the search results to find a business that’s 100% focused on their city.

Generic headline example

On the other hand, a headline like this makes someone say: “Great. They serve Boston. I’m definitely in the right place.”

Boston landscaping company local headline example

The Title Tag Double Dip

This is an old-school SEO approach that still works really well for local businesses.

All you need to do is optimize your homepage title tag around 2-3 keywords.

For example, this local business’s homepage is optimized around “san diego kitchen remodeling” and “bathroom remodeling san diego”.

Business title tag optimized around local keywords

And they rank in the top 5 for both:

SERP rankings for RemodelWorks business

This works in the local world because most local businesses get VERY few links to internal pages.

From analyzing link profiles of the local sites I’ve worked with, I notice that 90%+ of a local site’s backlinks tend to point to their homepage.

Which means: you need to squeeze the most value out of your homepage. And optimizing it around several different related keywords is one of the best ways to do that.

Optimize Meta Descriptions for Local Searchers

It’s no secret that your description is a GREAT way to improve your organic CTR.

Unfortunately, I see a lot of local businesses with keyword-stuffed descriptions like this:

Keyword-stuffed description in SERP

#facepalm

Instead, I recommend going with this formula:

Meta description formula

Pro Tip: Use Google Ads to find compelling description copy. After all, this copy is proven to get clicks (otherwise, they wouldn’t use that copy in their ads). So you can’t go wrong by using some of their copy in your description.

For example, when I search for “hotel new york”, I notice that 2 out of the 3 ads use the terms “save” and “price guarantee”.

Use Google Ads for description copy

These terms would be PERFECT to use in your page’s description.

Now It’s Your Turn

Conclusion

I want to give a shout out to Backlinko readers Joshua Ballard and Andrew Holland for helping me put this guide together.

Now I’d like to turn it over to you:

Which technique from this guide do you want to try first?

Are you going to find keywords with Thumbtack suggest?

Or maybe you want to optimize your local description.

Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below right now.

315 Comments

    1. How many hours of work went into this Guide? Once again an impressive, highly useful chunk of information. I’m amazed and almost wish I still had a physical location (rather than simply a Web presence) so I could take advantage of your wisdom Brian.

      1. Thanks Bryan. I don’t keep close track. And we have a team of people work on every guide (I do the writing. My team does pretty much everything else). But between outlining, writing, design, coding, visuals, screenshots… it’s probably around 40-50 hours.

      2. This article is so both helpful and timely. I live in the rural Midwest and am helping small businesses in small and medium sized towns with online promotion. There is no one else here to help these businesses with SEO and my sister-in-law and I have a waiting list of clients wanting our help. I’m going to share this article with potential new clients so they can be informed about things they can do (like GMB) while waiting for us to work on their websites and social media.

  1. Brian I am a seasoned successful entrepreneur who now wants to apply his ‘wisdom’ to other peoples’ businesses. I am developing a ‘business consulting’ website to address my prospects of ‘people who need advice’ .
    Is there application for me to target Local Search even without a store front (meetings would be at their premises or other venues).
    Any other comments/suggestions to perfect my site for conversions?

    1. Thanks Michelle. Yup, in the SEO it’s super important to stay up to date with what’s going on. This is a new post so it was easy to include new material. But I also try to keep older stuff updated.

    1. Thanks Romain. That wouldn’t be a bad #1 ranking. I’m gunning for “local SEO” with this guide. It will probably take a while.

      1. As someone who has read all the page 1 articles for the term “local SEO”, I see this getting to the top 3 fairly quickly.

        As with all of your articles, this one did not disappoint. I haven’t heard of Local Falcon before and I’m really liking their pricing model. Definitely plan to add that one to the toolbelt.

        Thanks for educating us with a great, easy read. Cheers!

    1. Thanks David. You’re right: the rate of change in the SEO world has been speeding up. 2020 should be super interesting.

  2. Review snippets were removed in October from LocalBusiness & Organisation schema that Google deemed as self-serving.

    How would a business manage their GMB listings if they had two brands at the same location?

    1. Thanks Oliver. I didn’t necessarily mean to use review snippets for LocalBusiness & Organisation schema (I meant in general). But it’s kind of confusing how its written. I ned to change that.

      Good question. It’s OK for multiple businesses to share the same address. But there’s usually a suite # or room # that’s unique for each business that’s at that location (like a mall).

  3. Awesome read Brian. Really nice to see confirmation of some of the SEO stuff I’ve been implementing on recent campaigns, and nice to know I’m on the right path with pushing hard for GMB optimization.

      1. As usual a super post Brian 😁 GMB seems to get updated quite often with platform updates. What was once working or was an option you could use seems to disappear pretty quickly. Consistency is key between GMB and NAPs often the most common stumbling block for businesses when taking GMB steps. We updated our local guide only a few months ago. Covering things a bit differently than you do (but its the same stuff essentially) I have to say I am drooling over yours, its much clearer and easier to understand! back to the drawing board for ours?! 🤫 not sure if I should add the link into this comment or not so you can decide? (https://www.valendigital.co.uk/blog/guide-to-local-seo/) I guess you can always take it out.

        1. Thanks Alexzander. I actually think your guide is solid. Lots of actionable stuff and it’s clear that you guys have a lot of experience with local SEO.

          1. Thanks for the compliment Brian coming from a MASTER like yourself that means a lot 😊 hope that info helps businesses to use GMB and NAPs effectively without making all the common mistakes!

  4. In regards to going over the title tag limit of 50 characters for cliffhangers, is there any chance your rankings would be penalized because of it?

    1. Hi Ryan, I haven’t seen Google say anything that long titles tags could be considered being black hat. There’s nothing shady about it. Especially considering how often title tag lengths in the SERPs change, it would be tough for Google to go after sites for having title tags that are “too long”.

      1. First, thanks for a great post Brian.

        Ryan, I sometimes create a longer title with the expectation that Google will format it according to the search. No issues recorded to date.

  5. Thanks for thèse great advices on local SEO. Optimizing the headlines is a vert smart way to add the town/ neighborhood and get quality traffic nearby. I also agree that local PR can help a lot in getting your business in the jungle. Again! Thanks for your great article. It is really helpful. Thanks Brian!

    1. Hi Sarah, you’re welcome. Absolutely: local PR is a super underrated local SEO strategy. Unless you live in a huge city like NYC, local newspapers and blogs are desperate for stuff to write about. So as long as you do something remotely interesting, you’re good.

    1. Thanks Davis. I know GMB posts can help your listing stand out. But I haven’t seen any study that shows that it helps with map pack rankings. Can you send me the source for that?

        1. Ehh this is iffy. Posts make the listing look better which can increase CTR. I believe LocalU has proven it no longer (if ever) has a direct impact on rankings.

          That said, if you use GMB websites when you do a post it will auto add it to the GMB website which may help.

  6. All what you say make a lot of sense…
    everytime you add a city in the search you might appear in local search actually… pretty powerful for local business.

  7. Wow! Just Wow! Brian, this is so informational. I want to try GMB first, and I will try all other local SEO tips. The guide is easy to understand. Ps bookmarking this page for reference.

    1. Thanks Charity! I appreciate that. The entire Backlinko team put a ton of effort into this guide. So it’s nice to hear that you’re getting so much value from it.

  8. Brian,
    This a fresh local guide SEO 2019… with tons tips and ideas…
    But Ranking GMB coming more difficult because only 3 places available in Google Pack…
    Anyway good job thanks Brian.

    1. Thanks Manoj. Local SEO was actually the #1 most-requested topic that the Backlinko community wanted me to cover. It’s about time I got around to it 😂😂😂

  9. Great post Brian!

    I actually started at an agency that specializes in dental marketing. They have dominated the niche and been doing Local SEO & Marketing for over 25 years.

    I thought you really covered the topic of Local SEO well!

    Since I started running my consultancy Ratynski Digital (we specialize in Local SEO) I’ve picked up a few tricks and tips along the way.

    Here are a few things to add:

    1. Don’t go too crazy with categories. Google puts the most weight on your primary category and adding too many categories (especially if they aren’t relevant can actually hurt you)

    2. Take advantage of the questions and answers section in GMB.

    3. Front load your location specific KW in your title tag if possible.

    4. When your doing link building with your neighboring businesses, also see if you can’t do some sort of shared promotion for each other! Even something as simple as a flyer in each other’s stores can make a drastic impact!

    Let me know if you’d like anymore, but I hope those help your readers!

    1. Hi Alex, thanks man! Good stuff here. I wish WordPress had a “pin comment” feature like YouTube so I could pin this to the top of the comments section.

  10. Thank you Brain! Local SEO is a challenge for us because of our global service. But love your content and I personally learn so much! I always forward your content to my team!

    1. Hi Johnny, you’re welcome. For lots of businesses, you don’t need to worry that much about local SEO. It’s only important if you have a physical location in a city and serve people that live in that city (plumbers, dentists, web design agencies, etc.)

  11. This is a super awesome guide. In my experience, one thing that will also help in boosting the rankings in local maps is when someone will create backlinks with their anchor and in place of URL they can use their Google My Business Profile link with the exact location. This would also help in pushing the results in Google Maps Ranking. I have experienced it many times.

  12. Hey Brian,
    I love your stuff and your article.. yes.. i do invest the time to read the entire thing,
    I wanted to provide feedback about this one.
    I feel it’s just scratching the surface and altho it’s long and there is lots of info, it walks around the subject and not really providing actual tactics and actions to win 3 pack ranking.

    I would love to see an article that actually has a strong actionable strategy for 3 pack ranking,

    1. Hey Eldar, thanks for your feedback. Yeah, it’s tough to cover everything there is about local SEO (including tactics) in a single post. It’s kind of like trying to cover “normal” SEO in one post. You can cover a lot but there will always be missing bits and pieces.

  13. So overwhelming what you’ve created here. Many dear THANK YOU.
    I would like to download it as a PDF and print it out. Is there a possibility to get the text as a PDF file ?

  14. Brian, I came here expecting something great, unfortunately, I left disappointed.

    I was suspect when you said citations are huge. Huge would be an overstatement. At one time they were, yes. Perhaps back in 2014. They are becoming less and less important, and definately aren’t huge.

    I had to stop reading when you (or your team) said:

    Google doesn’t like it when one address says “Avenue” and another version uses “Ave.”.

    I mean honestly, do you seriously believe that with how smart Google is, they don’t know that ‘Ave’ is the same as ‘Avenue’?

    Some of your stuff is amazing.

    This one lacks research, and knowledge into local SEO.

    No dates on any comments or the post, so I assume this is a post from 2014 when citations were a big deal.

    Brian, here’s a tip: focus first on the user, second on Google. (ADD DATES to comments/the blog post, people want to know if they are reading comments or an article from a year ago or a week ago)

  15. Woah! mind == blown.

    Great Guide Brian. This is so informative. Although the content is too broad but I believe you will be creating guestographic for this too to share.

    This can be a huge lead magnet if available as a ebook too. Gonna try out every single tip.

    1. Hi Nico, you’re welcome. Nice! Yup, this a great thing to send to clients. It shows how much work and expertise goes into local SEO.

    1. Thanks Joshua. One of the cool things about local SEO is that there are lots of little tactics that can make a massive difference. So it was fun to write this one up.

  16. Great article. Place ID finder is new for me and I just tried. Amazing. I used to say my clients to search my site and give reviews. Most of them go to Facebook and give review there. Google reviews does not come first in their mind. Thanks again 🙂

  17. Again such an incredible post by Brian Dean. This post has opened my mind to bring my GMB optimization to the next level. Already my site is ranking on the top three of GMB but it will help in the sustainability of my site ranking in GMB.
    Thanks, Dean!
    Waiting for an in-depth post of BERT like Rank Brain.

  18. Definitely the most thorough and actionable local search guide out there. I’ve done most of these things earlier in the year for two brands through a month of piecing together different strategies from various blogs. Don’t do that. Follow this.

    1. Hey Jeff, thank you! That’s exactly why I put this guide together. There’s honestly nothing groundbreaking here. It’s more to have everything you need in one place.

  19. This is another great post Brian! I’m going to email this to all of our clients, they NEED to read this first to understand what I’m trying to sell them. Great ice breaker!

    1. Nice! This post should help most clients better understand the work it takes to rank local businesses in the 3-pack. It’s no joke!

  20. Thanks a lot for sending an email with a heads up about this article, Brian! It came at exactly the right time, as I’m currently trying to improve my site’s SEO after gradually slipping from the #1 spot to somewhere around #4 or #5 in the last couple months.

    I have a question about the ‘title cliffhanger’ idea if you don’t mind.

    It seems that title and meta description are displayed differently on a mobile phone than on a desktop computer. For instance when checking on my PC, the title of my site creates a cliffhanger (does not show completely and you see the …. dots), whereas the meta description is displayed fully. On my phone however, the situation is reversed. Title shows fully, but meta description creates a ‘….’ cliff hanger.

    What would you suggest is the best way to handle this? Prioritize how it looks on mobile searches or desktop searches? Is it best if only the title creates a cliffhanger while the meta description is displayed fully? Or is it ok or even better to have it in both? Your input would be immensely appreciated.

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Aldo, to answer your question: you’re 100% right. The display pixels that Google uses is different on desktop and mobile. So you can either create a title that’s long enough for both, or optimize for the device that your target customer uses most (mobile in most cases).

  21. Excellent article! I never cease to learn great tips and come out with tactics I want to try after reading your articles. Thanks, Brian!

  22. Thank you so much Brian Dean for sharing your knowledge related to Local SEO.

    But one question I want ask to you….

    There are many Youtubers who says “You must include keywords in your business name.”

    For example:-

    If I want to rank (GMB) for keyword ‘scuba diving in goa’ and my business name is ABCD (suppose) then my business name should like ‘Scuba Diving In Goa – ABCD’

    So what you think?? Please reply as soon as possible.

    1. Thanks Rishu. You definitely don’t need to do that. It might help a little but but it’s not required. I see plenty of businesses rank in the 3-pack without having a keyword in their business name.

      1. Can I add here that it’s much better to use your business name consistently than to add keywords in GMB. I used to correct spammy listings but it actually improved their rankings! Just use one name and get it on as many websites as possible.

  23. Thanks for this Brian – great stuff as always! And good to see the Andrew and Joshua from STW community pitching in.

    Just to point out in the “Run a NAP Audit” you reference “GMG Profile” – I’m guessing this should be “GMB”..?

    Cheers
    Nigel

  24. Of course, this already ranks on page #2 for “local SEO”, despite being published mere hours prior to this comment. I will say, domain authority does kick butt when it comes to rankings!

    Good job Brian – a lot went into this, I can tell. Quite a lot missing when it comes to advanced tactics around map embeds, though.

    1. Thanks Ivan. You’re right: a lot of work went into this guide. It’s not 100% comprehensive, but I’m happy with how it turned out.

    1. Hi Scott, no worries. Lots of people have asked me for local SEO content over the years. So I decided to put everything I knew into this guide.

    1. You’re welcome, Pat. They definitely do for local SEO rankings. Not as sure that they look at reviews for “normal” SEO.

  25. Brian Dean sets the “Gold Standard” for SEO…
    I see so much more here than the obvious (“local seo guide”)…
    This looks to me like an anchor for “skyscraper content”…
    This looks to me like a basis for Authority Branding…
    Bookmark this page and share it (with people you want to help).
    Thanks @backlinko and Brian Dean

  26. Your blogs and videos on Youtube both are awesome and very detailed.I have been following your blogs and videos for quite a while now, All I can say is I have learnt do much from you and I am constantly trying and implementing it.Your reply will surely make my day ! Keep doing great.

  27. At the top you’ve mentioned that near me searches are on the up, but the source cited is from 2017 and Ive got a feeling (could be wrong) that they’ve levelled out or gone down. Check Google Trends!

    1. Thanks Jack. They may not be on the rise because they’re becoming the norm. Either way, still a big shift in how people search.

  28. Awsome article Brian! I am interested in what is the best way to run a multilingual website? Should I put articles in a subfolder depending on the language they are in or should I just post them on my site and Google will figure out everything else by itself?

  29. I’m loving the local link-building, Brian. That’s something I haven’t tapped into very much with my clients. It takes some extra effort, but that’s the kind of personal attention that can move a business up in the rankings. I always look forward to my emails from you!

    1. Hi Gabe, absolutely. Once you get the basics down, local link building (and citation building) are usually what makes the difference between making it in the map pack or not.

  30. Really excellent, Brian. I too am so glad to be on your List. I was not aware of Local Falcon (very reasonably priced) and the “Place ID” technique blew my mind! I didn’t know about that.

    1. Hey Michael, no worries. Happy to help. Local Falcon is definitely a little rough around the edges. But it works super well.

  31. Awesome as usual Brian!

    1. I have no proof this works but I Thumbs Up all reviews.
    2. When you enter your Q&A, be sure you Thumbs Up the Question and then start the answer with FAQ: and then Thumbs Up that after you have entered the answer in.
    3. Try to get reviews on Facebook too because that populates into the Knowledge Panel as Reviews from the Web. So do Houzz, Angie’s List, Cistomer Lobby and Thumbtack.

    1. Thanks Andrea. I especially like the Facebook reviews tip. Google reviews and yelp get all the attention. But as you said, Google uses it for the Knowledge Panel so it’s clearly something that they pay attention to.

  32. Brian, you just saved me! I’m doing a Webinar next week to more than 150 professionals about local SEO and you’ve provided us with some fresh new insights! You’re timing for me is amazing and I’ll be excited to share this with the community.

      1. Thanks Brian. Do you have any insights or advice on the new Services section of GMB and adding custom services? I’m working with some highly competitive professional services industries like business attorneys and IT service providers where CPC’s are extremely high and organic SEO is difficult. Local SEO are real opportunities for these companies and I’m trying to disect how best to use custom services in GMB.

  33. What a tremendous effort. Very useful article. Recently a had a few leads that made contact without visiting my website… So I think this is increasingly important. I wil bookmark this page. Thanks Brian. This asks for a proper Dutch translation 😉

      1. It is certainly not the vast majority, but I find it striking. The first time it happened I was a little surprised because I had assumed that he had read my website …

  34. Awesome Local SEO guide Brian! Definitely enjoyed the Advanced Local SEO Strategies as well. Keep up the great work mate and we are looking forward to implementing some of these strategies ASAP.

  35. Great post, very informative for local SEO. Definitely going to put some of these like the chamber of commerce idea into use.

  36. Great Post Brian, thanks for creating a great guide, So just to confirm, by having multiple pages on a website with locations is good? But does it not make the page look messy, or is this something you can have but only direct Google to crawl them and not have them viable in the menu? Will that work?

    1. Thanks Brad. I’m not 100% sure what you mean. Ideally you want to have a separate page for each location. Is that what you mean?

  37. Brian,

    Another superb example of your work. This is the space I work in and I’ve read many explanations. Its a tough topic because there are so many variables which you have covered brilliantly.
    One spot I can disagree is that GMB DOES have a function for collecting reviews, the Shortname, but I would always recommend the example you have given and then convert it into a branded shortlink.
    The point I wanted to applaud the most was one that works above most to get into Map Packs.
    Asking your suppliers to add you as a retailer. It’s not only a fair exchange, it gets local business NAPS onto established power websites.
    It’s the least mentioned strategy on these Local SEO guides and it works.

    Love your work, the inclusion of an Australian example and always looking forward to the next post.

    Josh

    1. Hey Josh, thank you! I’m with you: supplier links are pretty easy to get. You already have a relationship with them, so it’s usually as simple as sending a friendly email.

    1. Hi Tom, probably not. It’s more for businesses with a specific location. So if you run your own shop and have a physical office there, then yes. But if you have an office at a large remax or something like that, it’s on remax to worry abut local SEO.

  38. Hey Brian,
    What an enlightening post! This is stacked with incredibly valuable information. I am looking ahead to employing the extraordinary resources you have shared. The section on local link building is a great way to strengthen local businesses for everyone.
    I am presently working for a start-up called Efortles, which aspires to empower small business owners. Currently, we offer CPA services for free, which is just the initiation of our objective to eliminate all obstacles confronting small businesses.
    I will certainly share this information with all my friends, customers and associates. Looking ahead to your next post.

  39. I have read quite a bit on Local SEO but still there was a lot that was news to me. That’s what exciting about SEO. There is always something new that can be learnt, thanks to its ever evolving nature. Thanks for sharing Brain.

  40. Great Article! I’m currently working on some local SEO resources for my clients and it’s good to know I’m on track 😉
    ONE THING: You mentioned in the Google My Business section that Google doesn’t make it easy to get reviews.
    However in the dashboard of GMB, there’s a card called ‘Get more reviews’ with an easy shortlink you can forward to customers. It sends them straight to your business review page!
    So there’s no need to worry about going through multiple steps to get your business’ place ID in a long URL 🙂

  41. Hi Brian, I’d be interested on seeing what you think on creating multiple GMB profiles with a different address. For example the physical location of my removalist client is not very important, but local SEO and appearing in the 3-pack is absolutely essential for them. They appear in the 3-pack for searches performed near their location but don’t rank well in other important locations. Would it make sense to open a new GMB location? It would be more work to manage two GMB profiles.

    1. Hi Marc, that’s a tough one to answer without getting into the details. But in general, being closer to your searcher’s physical location can help a lot. So it might be worth setting up an office downtown if the 3-pack is super important.

  42. Hi Brian,

    A well-written article on “Local SEO”.

    However, I think the local guest posting technique should have been added in the “Local Link Building” chapter.

    For example:

    If I want to rank a keyword like, “SEO course in London”, links from London, UK blogs will definitely help in my Local organic SEO rankings.

    Normal guest posting search operator is “write for us + digital marketing”.

    But for local guest post we can use the following:

    site:.uk write for us + digital marketing

    This way I can get blogs from the UK (local blogs for the guest posts).

  43. If my business has multiple locations, would you recommended that the pages for each of the locations have the location-specific phone number and address? Both locations have their own GMB.

      1. So different headers (with phone#) and different footers (w/schema address). Sorry didn’t clarify… it was late when I read this.

  44. Fantastic guide Brian. Very well organized and excellent job on the visuals!

    Expanding off of the citations I would make sure to submit the business NAP info to the primary data aggregators like Acxiom, Infogroup, Localeze, and Factual.

    Citation updating is critical. Businesses that lease retail space often don’t know to check what business previously occupied the space. The old business NAP information will likely be all over the web and this needs to be updated or removed.

    1. Hey Chris, great tips there! I especially like the leasing tip. It makes sense that there would be lots of old NAPs floating around with the previous business’s info.

  45. This will help me a lot because currently working on a local seo project.
    I will let you know the results. By the way love the new format of the article 🙂

  46. Nice Post on local SEO, for me it is a complete guideline to promote your local SEO. In the end you clear my confusion on the description and got good idea to make the best description. Thanks Brian

  47. Incredible guide Brian! Quick question. When you look at your keyword’s Google Local Pack position from a city level e.g. San Francisco, CA and not a zip code level, when would someone see the result from a city level? I’ve tested the SERPS from both aggregate city location and specific zip code locations and the results vary widely

    1. Hi Gabby, that’s why a tool like Local Falcon is super important. It helps you see how the results change depending on where you are in the city.

  48. Hey Brian quick question again.. doesn’t Google consider multiple location landing pages as thin and doorway pages – even if they contain unique content?

    1. Hi Gabby, not if the landing pages are unique and not auto-generated. Just look at Zillow or other sites like that. They have (literally) millions of location-based pages.

  49. Awesome guide as usual Brian!

    Question: what about the importance of photos in the GMB?

    Question 2: what about local businesses/freelancers/consultants servicing an area but working from a home address?

    1. Thanks Marcus. 1. I don’t think photos directly impact rankings. But they’re good to have for your Google maps listing. 2. I’m not 100% sure about that, but I think you can use your home address. Might not want people showing up at your house though 🙂

  50. Brian- I am following you for years now-Thank you for all your emails!

    In regards to Local Falcon -this should be for advance local SEO people.
    To offset proximity (shortest location to searcher) -you need to increase visibility (more reviews/answers+ create your own FAQ and include relevant map landmarks (look to see what google maps is displaying arround the desired location -and inlcude those in your FAQ./localpage/contact page.

    I do hope you understand.

    Anyway -on my end creating more reviews+citations did the trick.
    Also i created backlinks towards the google maps listing and gmb profile.
    Another step to link your contact page to the GMB is to add a button/link for the short url -review page.

    Once again -kudos.

    Can you share how you offset the local listings results from local falcon?
    Thank you

  51. Amazing post Brian,

    After read this article, one question came in my mind i have added all the information on GMB instead of is it good also add on Rich snippet for enhancing rank.

    Kindly suggest

  52. Hey Brian, great guide as always!

    Just two quick questions:

    1) I saw you can hide your business address in GMB. So users won’t see where you business is exactly located. Can this impact your rankings?

    2) Is it possible to rank a local keyword (in the regular SERP, not in the 3-pack) if you don’t have a location based business? Let’s suppose I’m a personal trainer in NYC but I don’t have a gym, I just work as freelancer. Do I have any chance to rank for “personal trainer in NYC”?

    Thank you! 🙂

    1. Thanks Fracesco. Glad you enjoyed it.

      1. I wouldn’t recommend that. In most cases, you want Google and users to find you. That’s kind of the point!

      2. It definitely is. In fact, it’s an untapped strategy that I’ve been playing around with.

  53. Hi Brian, another excellent content as always from you, however this time I have a suggestion for you, that you may consider adding, under CHAPTER 4: Google My Business, you are talking about sending invites to customers with a review link, your review link technique is also good, but Google has made it a lot easier now, all we need to do is send this: https://g.page/(yourgmbshortname)/review for example mine is https://g.page/akashseo/review I hope you will add this, thank you!

  54. Hello brian,
    Before, i had listened that the local optimization affects the global ranking. And, i was afraid of doing local seo to my site because my site provides web designing service to a gloval audience. You now maid me clear.But, i still has a concussion: Can i do local seo on blog site which doesnt provide any service??😊

    1. Hi Suraj, you really can’t do local SEO on a blog. Or for services designed for a global audience. Local SEO is really for local businesses that serve a city or region.

  55. Hi Brian, I would like to share one more thing. Adding Products and Services in your Business listing. I have tried this for one of my clients and the Map Views are increased after adding services and products in the GMB listing.

    1. Hi Brian, First THANK YOU for this guide – loaded with actionable tips and takeaways – and love the amazing & insightful content you develop!!!

      Have a question which I hope is relevant to your readers and this conversation.

      For local SEO, how much attention should we pay to link authority. For example, let’s say my company sponsors a Little League team that has a partners/sponsors page. One of the benefits of being a sponsor is an external link to our website, however, it has low domain authority. It is a genuine league and absolutely a legitimate website, just not authoritative.

      Do we still want the link?

      Appreciate all of your time!

      1. Hi Jon, link authority is super important for local SEO. That said: “authority” isn’t just how authoritative the linking site or page is. It’s also how relevant that website is. So getting a link from a small, related site can help.

  56. Hey Brian, I found something really different here … Am from India, we are targeting people in north america. Is it possible to target that region through Local SEO?

    1. Hi Bala, it’s possible to optimize for North American keywords. But for local SEO, you need to have a physical presence in the area.

  57. Hi Brian,

    Thanks for sharing the amazing article, your article always helps me to learn new seo stuff easily.

    Keep it up!

  58. Hey Brian!
    Great post, very usefull. But I can’t find one thing. What about “service areas” in GMB? We want our clients to find us locally, but we also work across the country (Poland). So if we want to make Local SEO right, I need to put only our city and nearest area in “service areas” or we can ad “Poland” also there?

    1. Thank you. There’s really no way to optimize for local SEO nationally. Obviously, you can optimize for “normal” SEO this way. But for local SEO you need to have a fairly specific service area.

  59. Great guide as usual, Brian. And I can attest to the value of Yext: it’s been a while since I’ve done local SEO, but it was a HUGE help back when I did.

    Local SEO has become more competitive over the years, but with so many businesses clearly “doing it wrong” (usually not even thinking about it), it’s still a massive opportunity. Many mom-and-pop shops could see a real impact to their business by putting in even just a few hours of work on it.

    1. Hey Kyle, thank you! You’re right: local SEO was always competitive. But with the 3-pack, it’s either rank in those 3 spot or you’re pretty much invisible.

  60. Great Content as Always Brian!!
    I’m doing SEO now for a local gardener and cleaner. As they don’t have a real office at first I added their home address to GMB and to their webpage: http://www.serviciosbrl.com
    After thinking about it, I removed it from GoogleMyBusiness and I added areas of service. But in the webpage you can still see the original address.
    Question: For non-office service based local services like this one. How should we treat NAP info. I don’t know if keeping the address in his webpage is helping or penalizing them. What other things should I consider? Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Juan, thank you. You definitely want to get some sort of office setup for them. Having a consistent address is important. So if they’re not OK with using their home address (which is understandable), then I’d get an office for them in the city.

  61. Great Stuff Brian!!
    I was totally puzzled how to increase my local ranking and finding the complete guide is also too difficult. This is the reason why I Love Reading Backlinko Blogs.
    Thanks Brian for sharing!!

  62. Awesome Brian! GMB has been sending good traffic to our site. By the way, there’s a new way to do Google reviews with g.page/GMB-shortname/review

    Do you recommend to put a contact form on every service page?

    1. Thanks Cheefoo. Yes, I would put a contact form on every page. You can never make it easy enough for people to sign up and become a lead.

      1. Thanks for the advice. I would thought so, to make things easier for the visitors.

        On the other hand, I guess putting a button on every service page to link to a standalone contact page might turn away some due to additional loading speed.

  63. Great post once again Brian 🙂

    Looking for some insight around unique content mentioned in Chapter 5. I’ve seen large sites that have thousands of locations but each local page on their site is for the most part duplicate content. They simply swap out the address info and phone number.

    I haven’t come across any of these sites being penalized or anything for the local searches I ran…

    So my question is, what is your recommendation for businesses that have 50+ locations? 100% completely unique content for each page? Or just slight variations where the page is basically 25% unique content? Or is it ok for larger businesses with many locations to get away with just swapping the address and phone number? Interested in hearing your thoughts.

    Btw, nice Simpsons reference with the address 🙂

    1. Hey Chris, thank you! You’re right: there are plenty of sites that generate thousands of local versions of basically the same page (like Zillow). They can get away with it. But a plumber or landscaper may not be able to. For 50-ish locations, I’d still try to write 100% unique content. Any more than that and it’s not practical. So that would be more of a 75%/25% situation.

  64. Incredible post, Brian! I’ve been doing some of this already, but there’s so much here I’ve never heard of before. As always, thanks for taking the time to research and write such quality content!

  65. Adding blog articles about your staff’s favorite places in your service area cities is also a great help. These can be restaurants, parks, family fun places, etc. Go one more step and create a Google Map with driving directions from your office to those locations and embed that map on that related city page.

  66. Hey brian i have question. For business with multi location, how should the NAP be done? should i place 2 google maps on the website and 2 address? Will it be the traffic be diluted? thanks

    1. Hi Leo, it depends on the situation and how many locations there are. But in most cases, you want a different GMB for each location. If you have lots of them, you can use the bulk location management feature.

  67. Hey Brian, super informative and valuable article as always, thank you very much for everything you do giving all especially for free.

    If I may ask one question please. One of my local clients does heating repair but is an onsite technician and don’t want anyone coming to his house so he does not list his house number in the GMB, only the street number.

    My question is, as long as the address showing is consistent in the NAP, would not putting his house number in the address affect his local rankings please? Thanks, regards, Mike.

    1. Hi Mike, good question. I understand your client’s concern. But Google does want an office address for every business. If you look at it from their point of view, it makes sense: they don’t want to send searchers to people’s houses. Or rank listings that don’t have a full address.

      1. Got it, thanks. If I may, this tutorial mentions the increasing value of “near me”. I belong to different SEO forums and had asked this question “should we add the words near me at the end of a keyword a few times in the content?”.

        Some said yes, use near me, near you or whatever sounds natural. Others have said it’s a waste of time doing so as google with display whatever it wants when a searcher either types the keyword with near me in it or chooses near me from the google suggest. So my question is which of the two options above is correct please or what would YOU do? Thx.

  68. Thanks for taking the time to provide all this info. so that others can learn and make the web a better place for all!

    In your opinion, which automated location data management service is the best for changing and updating NAP info. ? In your response, please explain why you feel a particular service is best.

    Are you aware of any independent review websites that rate all automated location data management service vendors that allow one to easily update NAP info.?

    1. Hi Eric, You’re welcome. I haven’t worked with an citation service in a while so I don’t have any to recommend. And I’m not sure about review sites (maybe check out clutch.co. That’s the closest thing I know of to what you described).

  69. Great work Brain! Simply the best local SEO guide out here. In our project experience, we are seeing sometimes that a business from far away place shows in a local 3 pack, but a nearby business does not show; a business with 200+ reviews are down on #30, while the one with 25 reviews is in map pack 3. is there any tool that can “plugin” all businesses in to see difference?

    1. Hey Jason, thank you. Not that I know of. The issue is that there are hundreds of ranking factors that go into map pack rankings (including lots of “traditional” SEO stuff, like links). Plus, rankings differ a lot depending on the keyword. So there’s too many variables for any one tool to take into account.

  70. This guide was very helpful and I was impressed with myself for how much I was already doing on my own. I run a small Accounting Firm in Wellington, Florida and I am looking to drive more traffic to my website. I took some notes and I am going to spend time tomorrow on optimizing my website and looking into some of the tools and tips that you recommended. Also, would a comment on someone’s post/article count as a NAP if I included my details?

    Thanks

    1. Hi Eric, you’re welcome. I wouldn’t comment with citations unless it makes sense for the comment. In my opinion, it’s not worth the risk of getting your site penalized. Plus, Google puts a lot more weight on citations that are in context on relevant pages.

  71. Awesome post Brian! So Helpful. Your content has been extremely valuable to my business.

    If I want to use a service to help ensure my NPA’s/directory listings are in order, what do you recommend. I’ve used Yext in the past but abandoned it.

  72. I tried almost everything for the website local ranking, above me is not even have back- links but ranking for my target keywords. Still observing that what i should change and then your thinks article came . Thanks Brian You are Chamapion

  73. Hi Brian!
    Thank you for such an awesome guide! Happy I made it tonight’s reading!
    I do have one question though that I am hoping to get clarification on. Both my business and my #1 competitor have excellent Yelp reviews- and tons of them. My competitor has taken most of their Yelp reviews and copy/pasted them into a dedicated “Review” page on their site. These are not embedded, but literally copied the exact review verbiage from Yelp and pasted on to their Review page. This page is now ranking for hundreds of key words! All based on the copied Yelp review verbiage. This competitor also ranks #1 in Map Pack. So, is this a good idea? To copy/paste Yelp reviews onto your website? I was afraid this would be considered duplicate content and get penalized by Google. Any thoughts on this?

    1. Hey Jessica, you’re welcome. Hmmm, I’ve never actually seen that strategy before. Like you said, copying and pasting duplicate content won’t help you rank (unless you add a lot of unique stuff as well). But this sounds like a clear exception. I doubt these copied reviews are helping their Map Pack rankings because Google doesn’t put a lot of stock in reviews that a website posts about themselves. But it is ranking for lots of different keywords.
      I’d have to see the site to give a more informed take.

  74. Hello Brian,

    Its really nice and informative stuff but still i have query with me. what shall we do once we have finalised 1 main keyword. Can we use keyword in GMB company name or where we can target it?

    which option do you suggest from following as GMB title.

    1. Company Name
    or
    2. Company Name + Keyword
    Or
    3. Company Name + Keyword + City

    and if you say 1st option is best there where else can we tarted keyword except Description?

    1. It depends on the business. I wouldn’t overthink this. If the business is called “X”, I wouldn’t add a keyword to the business name just for SEO.

  75. I am looking at this wonderful write up in two ways.

    1. I can use the ideas listed for the betterment of my domain
    2. I shall reiterate the same type of write up for my clients to let them influence their audience.

    Apart from this, digital marketing is the only industry which reveals (with happily) the secrets that helped. This local guide is an absolute eye opener.

  76. Hi Brian, this guide is a gold mine for local SEO.
    I have a question rock in my mind when it comes to Local SEO:
    We are doing export business and our target clients are in foreign countries, but foreign clients also search like this “clothes factory in China” in Google. So in this case, should we also do Local SEO to optimize this type of search intent?

    By the way, keep up your great works!

    Cheers,
    Andrew

    1. Hi Andrew, I wouldn’t worry about local SEO in that case. Local SEO is more for cities/states vs. entire countries. For a keyword like that I’d focus more on traditional SEO.

  77. Thanks Brian, Joshua, and Andrew for crafting this guide.
    I will be using this tool to share with my clients.

    Also, I’m excited to try out a new meta description inspired by what was written in this piece!

  78. My little church was almost impossible to find on Google, but when we updated our website, Google My Business, and started getting Google reviews, we’re now one of the most visible churches in our community!

  79. Hi Brian!

    I so much enjoy reading your articles, and I wonder how you do the backgroundcolor change for the different chapter headers, where you have a chapter heading, a graphic and soem text. Is this a wordpress plugin or is it custom coded?

  80. Great post again Brian.
    Thanks for introducing Localfalcon tool.

    You have not discussed anything about Google Posting, Instant messages & new features like followers.

    Will you be able to update the post with those tips as well.
    Thanks.

  81. Hi, I haven’t quite got to the end of the post – there’s a lot to take in so I’m just having a break – but I just wanted to say that this is absolutely fantastic. Thank you so much for providing the information, I can’t wait to implement the tips!

  82. Thank you, Brian, for sharing so useful tips on Local SEO! As always you over delivered!

    Could you please advise on how much usually agencies charge for Local SEO services, what is the price tag?

  83. Great read and useful tips!
    Question: I don’t see the “Get more reviews” card anywhere on my GMB accounts. Is it maybe something not everyone has on their accounts??

    “Login to your GMB account and head over to the “Get more reviews” card.”

  84. This is the best detailed guidelines i have ever read on the internet. Thank you Brian Dean for this spectacular and indepth guide about local seo. I’ll definitely try your tips.

  85. Awesome tips on Local SEO Brian, especially enjoyed and learned from the On-Site SEO section and the Advanced Strategies. Well done sir! Looking forward to implementing some of the tactics mentioned.

  86. Hi Brian,

    nice summary of local SEO strategies. I agree with all of your points (and rank for competitive terms like SEO consulting in munich on #1 – written in german “SEO Beratung München”), there is only one controvers issue not mentioned:

    – How does google treat real visitors to your store?
    – Or how does Google treat the “show me the route” function (sorry, I usually read it in german 😉 )?

    I guess these values are really hard to game, and Google may use it. Whats your option?

    Cheers
    Max

    1. Hey Max, I haven’t seen any data on these two factors. Do you think they track actual store visits in the local SEO algorithm?

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