What is Local SEO?

Many small businesses such as medical practices, beauty salons, restaurants, and auto repair shops serve a local clientele. As such, their websites should attract local visitors. After all, if you run a beauty salon in Des Moines, you certainly don't need to attract a flood of visitors who live in Los Angeles, New York, or Miami. Local SEO is used to optimize a website's location so that the site ranks well for the designated community in the search results.

Local SEO can be a complex, ongoing process. Fortunately, there are a few things that your small business can do right away to start helping search engines understand your location. Use the tips below to get started.

How to Get Started with Local SEO

1. Localize Your Website

Let's start with your website. Is your location information buried on the Contact Us page -- or missing completely? Let's rectify that. Start with the Contact Us page and make sure to include: 

  • Your address, city, state, and ZIP code  
  • A Google map pinpointing your location 
  • A local phone number 

Next, add your city to your home page title, preferably alongside a descriptive phrase for your business. For example: Acme Haircutters | San Diego Beauty Salon. It's not a bad idea to mention the city in the content of the page, but take care not to overdo it with your keywords.

2. Get Listed

Your business may already be listed in local directories. But if you are unsure where you are listed, then find out and claim those listings. Preexisting listings may be based on old records, and thus inaccurate, making it important to claim and correct them. Whether editing an existing listing or starting from scratch, make sure to take full advantage of the listing by filling it out completely and linking to your website. A few popular directories to start with include:

  • Google Places 
  • Google My Business 
  • YellowPages.com 
  • Yelp 
  • Local.com 
  • CitySearch 
  • Merchant Circle
  • Yahoo! Local 

Getting listed with these sites can help small businesses in two ways. First, users of those sites will have a better chance of finding you. Second, when you include links to your website in these directories, search engines may take notice and rank your site higher as a result. 

If you are managing multiple locations, then it might be worth considering services like Moz Local to help ensure your online business listings are consistent across the web. 

3. Encourage Reviews

Customers may already be reviewing your small business on review sites such as Yelp and Google, making it important to claim your listings so that you are both aware and able to respond appropriately. Not only that, you'll want to encourage reviews. Let your customers know how much you value them and encourage them to share their experiences with others. 

Reviews on Google, in particular, are especially valuable. For example, enter a local search phrase such as "your city, dentist" into Google. Notice that big block of local search results complete with starred reviews? These reviews are pulled directly from Google and they're prominently listed. 

Local SEO takes time and expertise, but it is worth the effort.


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