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What is Local SEO and How Can You Improve Your Local Rankings?

Illustration of a folded, paper map with a local shop in the center symbolizing being found through local SEO.

My backyard used to flood every time it rained. One good storm would leave inches of water that pooled right outside the patio, leaving a sloshy muddy mess. If it rained more than one day in a row, I became the owner of my own personal moat. It was mosquito heaven.

After trying to ignore the problem, finally something had to be done and I started doing research (aka I started Googling).

Turns out, there was a fairly simple solution. I didn’t need to move, I just needed to have a French drain installed.

I didn’t know anyone else who ever needed this service, so I specified my search query to “French drain installation” to see what would come up. That’s how I found a reliable business nearby who could provide the service I needed.

The business I found directly benefited from something called local SEO.

Search engine optimization means implementing practices that organically increase a business’ ranking on Google and other search engines. The primary goal serves to drive more traffic to the website and increase converting customers. Standard SEO tactics include keyword research, backlinks, making sure your website is mobile friendly, writing quality content, and more.

If that’s the case, then what is local SEO?

This approach is geared towards improving the organic rankings for searches in a specific area. Local SEO benefits brick-and-mortar businesses as well as businesses that serve a specific geographic location.

Businesses that operate solely online like, like Amazon for example, won’t benefit from local SEO.

Whole Foods on the other hand, an Amazon-owned business, can take advantage of local SEO. When someone searches for a grocery store in that area, Whole Foods will appear.

Open up a new search browser right now and type in the words “grocery store” and see what comes up. You don’t have to include the words, “near me” or “in Atlanta, GA” to get local results. You also aren’t going to spawn the definition of a grocery store as the first hit.

Instead—as long as your location is turned on like most consumers—then you should automatically see a list of the 3 closest grocery stores to you right at this very moment.

To the right of the list, you’ll notice a map that showcases those three locations as well as additional grocery stores nearby.

This is called the Google Map Pack and it’s where you want your local business to appear.

Once consumers land on the Google Map Pack, most people won’t even scroll beyond it, they will simply scan the list, check out the map, and then walk or drive to the business they choose (which you want to be yours).

The example extends itself to other businesses as well.

People who are new to an area, whether they just moved or are on vacation will use this precise search to find the businesses they need, whether it is a grocery store, doctor’s office, pizza place, or nail salon.

Whether you are a big franchise with multiple locations across the country or a single-location mom-and-pop shop, you need local SEO as part of your strategy.

Your business can improve your local rankings with the following strategies:

  • Work with the Google algorithm to ensure you appear in the local rankings and in the local map pack results.
  • Claim and manage your Google business listing. This means taking ownership of your business on local listings and ensuring that your business name, address, and phone number are accurate and consistent. You also want to make sure your hours of operation are updated. No one wants to show up at a Chinese restaurant only to discover they are closed on Mondays (speaking from personal experience).
  • Build local landing pages for each of your locations. This is especially important if you are a franchise or multi-location business to ensure each location is found locally.
  • Make sure your website features quality content that contains your geographic area. Simply include the city and state where you are located, or where you provide your services.

Let’s return to the original example. When I typed in “French drain installation” to Google, you may be surprised to hear that the Google Map Pack was not the first thing to appear. That’s because in this instance, I wasn’t looking for a brick-and-mortar store. Most likely this was going to be a mobile business, but I needed to make sure they were close enough that they would come to me. Google felt the need to provide me with other answers, all of which were ultimately helpful for my research.

  • The first item displayed a paid ad. Interesting, but not what I wanted.
  • The second item showed a video from Home Depot that illustrates how to install a French drain. I actually did click on that to see if this was a worthwhile DIY project. Thanks, but no thanks. In less than two minutes I was right back on that Google search page.
  • The third item featured “People also ask” with relevant questions like “Can I install a French drain myself” and “How much does it cost to install a French drain?” which is also something I was curious about.
  • Finally, I came upon the Google Map Pack. A map with a list of businesses near me that provided the service of installing French drains.

I clicked through all of the websites. I read each review, all of which were solid and overall positive. By the end of it, I discovered each business featured pretty much the same service with comparable reviews. They all seemed capable and well-recommended.

Do you want to know how I picked the business that ultimately installed my French drain?

I chose the one that was closest to my house.

And I am not even kidding.

That is the power of local SEO.

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