Local SEOWhat Are Local SEO Services?

If you’re a marketer or website owner in 2017, you have to care about SEO.

Search engines are the first place many people go when they’re looking for, well just about anything. Being one of the websites that shows up when someone is looking for what you sell is extremely valuable. That’s no less true when you run a local business with a physical location – many people turn to Google to figure out where to go when they head out to do their shopping.

Investing in SEO services is therefore necessary, but finding a reputable SEO firm can be a challenge. Bad SEO tactics can actually hurt you, since many of Google’s updates are designed to penalize spammy SEO practices. And if you’re specifically interested in reaching local customers, SEO requires a different approach for you than for national businesses. Doing it wrong can cause a lot of waste and slower results.

Recommended WordPress Hosting

How Local SEO is Different

The best way that local SEO is different is that it’s less competitive. You can target local search terms that far fewer businesses are competing on and only have to worry about getting in front of people within a certain geographic radius, instead of everyone in the country or world.

Helping your case further, for search terms that Google assumes suggest that people are looking for something nearby, the search results prioritize businesses located close to the searcher’s location. So anyone searching for “dance studio” or “restaurant” will see local results on the first page, even without putting their city or zip code into the search bar.

All of this works to your advantage, but it doesn’t mean local SEO is a cakewalk. You will be competing against everyone else in your area that sells similar products or services to you and possibly some online businesses that target customers from anywhere. There’s a whole set of tactics specific to local SEO that any firm you hire needs to undertake to keep you competitive.


Checklist: What to Look for in Local SEO Consultants

When you’re looking for local SEO services, there are a few things to keep an eye out for to make sure the firm or consultant you consider is the real deal.  Use this list as a basic checklist to ensure they know what they’re talking about.


1. They understand the differences between local and national/international SEO.

Someone who approaches local SEO in the same way as they do SEO for any other client would be doing you a disservice. Make sure they talk about the strategy they’ll use for your SEO in a way that makes it clear that they understand your focus is local and that the steps they’ll take will reflect that.


2. They have a strategy for targeting Google’s 3-pack.

Possibly the most important component in local SEO is Google’s 3-pack. These are the results that show up above organic results underneath a map that includes the locations of relevant results.

As valuable as showing up in that number one organic spot is in Google, for local businesses, snagging a spot in the 3-pack is even more important since it’s what searchers will see first when they start to look at the results. If an SEO firm you’re considering doesn’t mention the 3-pack, that’s a bad sign.


3. They talk about directories.

One aspect of local SEO that doesn’t factor into broader SEO as much is directory listings. Anyone offering local SEO services should talk about the importance of getting your business listed in as many local directories as possible. They may talk about NAP (name, address, phone number)– the acronym local specialists use to describe the importance of including all three of those in your listings and making sure each is consistent across all sites.


4. They discuss the importance of mobile.

A focus on mobile is important for all SEO, but it plays an even bigger role in local SEO. Think about it. People on the go or about to head out often whip out their phones and perform a search to decide which shops, restaurants, or other businesses to hit up while they’re out. When you think of it in that context, it’s probably not all that surprising that 70% of mobile searches lead to action.

That means you definitely want to show up when people in your area are performing relevant searches on mobile. Make sure any local SEO services you consider treat mobile optimization as a top priority.


5. Content with a local focus is included in their strategy.

Content marketing should be included in any good SEO strategy, including those for local businesses. The trick with using content marketing effectively for local search optimization is making sure your content includes plenty of topics with a local focus.

For real estate agents, that can mean writing about the different neighborhoods of the city. Landscaping companies can include posts about native plants that grow well in your city’s climate. Whatever you sell, a good SEO agency should help you figure out topics to cover in your content marketing that have local relevance.


6. They share ideas for encouraging customer reviews.

One of the trickier parts of local SEO is getting customer reviews. You can’t force reviews to happen – customers have to be willing to provide them of their own accord. But there are strategies you can implement to help encourage more reviews. Local SEO strategists understand the importance of reviews and will often have suggestions for techniques to help you get more of them.


7. They don’t promise a #1 spot.

This advice isn’t specific to local SEO services, but it bears mentioning nonetheless. The biggest sign that a SEO consultant isn’t entirely trustworthy is if they promise to get you in the top spot on Google.

The way Google’s algorithm works is such that no SEO expert can reasonably guarantee that – unless it’s for an irrelevant search term no one cares about. Legitimate SEO experts understand the limitations of what they can offer and don’t overpromise.  They’ll give you a realistic idea of how much time SEO takes and what the challenges are to making progress. But if they know what they’re doing and you keep up with local SEO for the long haul, you will make progress over time and see more customers from it.

Did you know HostGator provides local SEO services? Get your free consultation today.

Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.