Dominate Local Search Results: Best Practices for Local SEO and SEM

Dominate Local Search Results: Best Practices for Local SEO and SEM

August 25, 2023
(Reading time: 7 - 14 minutes)

Are you looking to boost your business’s visibility in local search results? Want to attract more clients in your area? Then it’s time to dive into the world of Local Search Engine Optimization (Local SEO) and Local Search Engine Marketing (Local SEM). 

Search engines like Google play a crucial role in providing information about local businesses. Having a strong presence in search engine results pages is essential for reaching potential clients.

Local Search Engine Optimization focuses on optimizing your website to rank higher in local search results, ensuring that your small business appears when prospects search for local products or services. On the other hand, Local Search Engine Marketing utilizes paid search advertising to target a specific local audience, placing your small business front and center with search engine ads. Combining these powerful strategies allows you to take your business to new heights and outshine the competition. 

In this article, we will discuss local search engine optimization and search engine marketing best practices for local small businesses.

What is Local SEO?

Local SEO refers to the practice of optimizing a website to improve its visibility and ranking in local search results. It focuses on targeting clients in specific geographic locations who are searching for local businesses or services like yours. Local SEO is crucial for small businesses with physical locations or those that cater to a specific local audience, such as service area businesses. It helps businesses appear in the Google Local Pack, which is a search result feature that displays relevant local businesses to users.

You can see an example below:

Google Page Fishing Charters 3-Pack Example

What is Local SEM?

Local SEM refers to the practice of using paid search advertising to promote a business’s products or services to a local audience. It involves running targeted ads on search engines like Google, Bing, or Yahoo, specifically designed to reach users in a specific geographic location.

Local SEM is an effective strategy for businesses that operate in a specific area or cater to a local client base. It allows your small businesses to reach potential clients who are actively searching for products or services in their local area. By targeting specific keywords, demographics, and geographic locations, businesses can increase their visibility and attract relevant local traffic to their website or physical store.

Google Page Fishing Charters Sponsored Example

How do SEO and SEM work together?

SEO and SEM are complementary strategies that, when executed correctly, can drive more traffic and conversions to your website. Effective SEM ads entice users to click, while strong website copy provides relevant information and encourages conversions. To align your SEO and SEM strategies, it’s important to optimize your page copy and ad copy with the same local keywords. When the landing page copy is consistent with the ad copy, it provides a cohesive user experience, resulting in more time spent on your website and higher conversion rates. Creating a positive experience for SEM audiences also improves quality scores and lowers cost-per-click, which are positive SEO ranking signals. 

Why are Local SEO and SEM important?

Both Local SEO and SEM increase the visibility of local small businesses among their target audience - people who are looking for local information or businesses like yours. With a significant percentage of consumers using search engines to find local information, it is crucial to have a presence in search engine results pages (SERPs) and rank well for keywords related to your business. 

Don’t take my word for it; look at the data:   

  • 18% of local mobile searches end with a sale within a day (Source: Think With Google)
  • 60% of Americans search for local products and services on their smartphones and tablets. (Source: Localogy)
  • 50% of searches performed on mobile phones look for information, such as a local business location. (Source: Think With Google)
  • 78% of local searches result in offline purchases. (Source: Neustar)
  • 71% of respondents say they search for the location of a business online to confirm that it exists before accessing the brick-and-mortar location personally. (Source: Search Engine Land)
  • 97% of searchers look for local businesses online. (Source: Bright Local)

By prioritizing SEO efforts and strategic SEM options can give your small business a significant boost in Google search results, leading to increased visibility and potential clients. 

Top 6 Local SEO Best Practices

To increase your chances of appearing in the Google Local Pack and improve your organic rankings on the SERPs, you can optimize your website, online listings, and overall digital footprint using these six local SEO best practices:

Optimize Social Platforms and Local Directories

In addition to maintaining a strong presence on Google, businesses can submit their information to local directories and update their social media profiles. Consistency is key regarding business information such as name, address, and phone number (NAP) across all listings. Inconsistencies can confuse potential clients and negatively impact search engine rankings. Popular platforms and directories to consider include Facebook, Yelp, Best Business Bureau, Foursquare, and Yellow Pages. Having accurate and up-to-date information on these platforms can boost your brand’s visibility and generate backlinks to your website.

Top Local Directories

  1. Google Business Profile: Google Business Profile (GBP), formerly known as Google My Business (GMB), is one of the most important directories to list your business on. It allows you to create a profile that appears in Google search results and maps. It’s free to join and offers various features to showcase your business, such as contact information, photos, and client reviews.
  2. Yelp: Yelp is a popular online review platform that allows users to find and review local businesses. Small businesses can showcase their products and services, respond to client reviews, and interact with their target audience. Yelp offers both free and paid options for businesses.
  3. Bing Places for Business: Bing Places for Business is a directory provided by Microsoft’s search engine, Bing. Creating a listing on Bing Places can help your business appear in Bing search results and maps. It offers similar features to Google Business Profile and is free to join.
  4. Facebook Business: Facebook Business is a platform that allows businesses to create a profile, interact with clients, and promote their products and services. Creating a business page here can increase your online visibility and engage your target audience. Facebook Business is free to use.
  5. Yellow Pages: Yellow Pages is an online directory that allows users to search for businesses based on location and category. You can increase your visibility among potential clients by listing your business on Yellow Pages. Yellow Pages offer free and paid options for businesses.
  6. Foursquare: Foursquare is a location-based social networking platform that allows users to discover and review local businesses. It provides information about various businesses, including their address, contact details, ratings, and reviews. Foursquare offers free and paid options for small businesses to claim and enhance their listings. The paid options, such as Foursquare Ads, provide additional advertising and promotion features to reach a wider audience.
  7. Better Business Bureau (BBB): The Better Business Bureau is an organization that focuses on promoting trust and integrity in the marketplace. It provides ratings, reviews, and accreditation for businesses based on client feedback and their adherence to ethical business practices. The BBB offers a directory where consumers can search for trustworthy businesses. While the BBB does not charge businesses for basic listings, they offer accreditation programs with associated fees that provide additional benefits and credibility. 
  8. Angi (formerly Angie’s List): Angi is a platform that connects consumers with local service providers in various industries, such as home improvement, landscaping, and professional services. It allows consumers to browse and read reviews, compare quotes, and hire trusted professionals. Businesses can create profiles and receive ratings and reviews from clients.
  9. City Search: CitySearch is an online city guide that provides information on local businesses, including reviews, ratings, and contact details. It covers various categories such as restaurants, hotels, shopping, and entertainment.
  10. YellowBot: YellowBot is an online local search directory that allows users to discover and review businesses in their area. It provides contact information, ratings, and reviews for various businesses, helping users make informed decisions. Businesses can claim their listings and engage with clients through reviews and responses.

Remember, having a strong online presence across these platforms can significantly benefit your business by increasing visibility, engagement, and reputation.

Claim Your Google Business Profile

Google Business Profile (GBP) is a free tool that allows businesses to manage their online presence on Google. Claiming and optimizing your GBP profile makes it easier for potential clients to find you and learn about your offerings. It’s essential to provide accurate and detailed information, including NAP, website URL, and hours of operation. Additionally, you can enhance your profile with photos, holiday hours, service radius, FAQs, and product/service details. 

To claim a Google Business Profile, follow these steps:

  1. Visit Google Maps: Open your web browser and go to the Google Maps website.
  2. Search for Your Business: In the search bar, enter the name of your business and click on the correct listing that appears.
  3. Click “Claim this business”: Once you’ve selected the correct listing, click on “Claim this business” to initiate the claiming process.
  4. Sign in to Your Google Account: If you’re not already signed in, you’ll be prompted to sign in to your Google Account. Make sure to use the account that you want to associate with your business profile.
  5. Choose Verification Method: After signing in, you’ll need to verify that you’re the owner or authorized representative of the business. There are several verification options available:
    • Video Verification: Video verification is Google’s preferred method now and requires you to upload a video of your business. 
    • Postcard Verification: This is one method for verifying a Google Business Profile. When you request postcard verification, Google sends a postcard through the mail to your business address with a unique verification code.
    • Phone Call Verification: Some businesses may have the option to verify their Business Profile over the phone. If this method is available to you, you can request verification, and an automated message will provide you with the verification code. To verify by phone, ensure you can answer your business phone number when prompted and enter the code.
  6. Complete the Verification Process: Once you’ve chosen your preferred verification method and received the verification code, follow the on-screen instructions to enter the code and complete the verification process.
  7. Manage Your Business Profile: After successfully claiming and verifying your business profile, you’ll have access to the GBP dashboard. From there, you can update and manage various aspects of your profile, such as business hours, contact information, photos, and posts.

Remember, keeping your business information accurate and up to date on your Google Business Profile is important. Regularly check and update your profile to provide accurate information to potential clients.

It is also essential to actively manage and respond to reviews on your GBP, as reviews play a critical role in local SEO. Responding to positive or negative reviews shows that you value client feedback and helps build trust.

Improve Your Website’s SEO Health

Search engines prefer websites that provide a positive user experience. To improve your website’s SEO health, focus on enhancing user experience, optimizing HTML tags, and addressing on-page and technical SEO errors. Best practices include removing duplicate content, implementing proper HTML tags, and fixing missing metadata or broken links.

You can explore various SEO monitoring tools like SEMrush, Moz, and Ahrefs to assist you in optimizing your website and adhering to local SEO and SEM best practices. These tools offer features, functionalities, and reporting options to help you stay on top of your SEO game.

Optimize Website Content

Focus on optimizing your existing content for search engines. Follow SEO copywriting best practices and include local keywords in heading tags, body copy, meta titles, and meta descriptions to increase visibility in local search results. Conduct competitive SEO analysis to identify additional keywords you can target to outrank your competitors. Remember, providing valuable content that aligns with local searchers’ intent can position your business as a credible source and encourage future engagement. 

Create New Content

Regularly adding fresh and relevant content is important for SEO. Conduct keyword research to understand search volumes, user intent, and geographic-specific keywords. Based on this research, create valuable content such as FAQ pages, in-depth blog posts, and industry news articles. By sharing your expertise for free, you establish credibility and increase the likelihood of users reaching out to your business in the future [1]. 

Add Local Business Schema

Schema markup is code that you can add to your website to help search engines understand your content better. You can provide important business information such as NAP, services, pricing details, and more using schema markup. Local Business Schema focuses explicitly on businesses serving a local area. Organization Schema, on the other hand, provides details about your business or organization as a whole. Implementing schema markup can enhance your website’s appearance in search engine results and improve relevancy.

For more information on different types of schema markup and how to implement them, refer to the Google Developers guide on schema markup.

4 Key Local Business SEM Best Practices

In addition to SEO, implementing effective SEM strategies can further enhance your online presence and attract local clients. Here are four key local business SEM best practices to consider:

1. Conduct Thorough Keyword Research

Keyword research is essential for understanding potential clients’ language and search terms. Using tools like Google Keyword Planner, you can identify relevant keywords, assess competition levels, and estimate the cost-per-click (CPC). Keyword research should guide your SEO and SEM strategies to ensure targeted advertising and optimization efforts.

2. Optimize Google Ads Location Settings

When running Google Ads campaigns, adjust the location settings to target users in specific geographic locations. By refining your location targeting, you can ensure that your ads are displayed only to users within your intended market. This helps maximize your budget and avoid wasting ad spending on irrelevant audiences.

3. Structure Your Ad Groups and Campaigns by Location

Breaking down your campaigns and ad groups by location allows for hyper-relevant targeting. Creating separate campaigns for different locations or service areas can tailor your ad content to specific regions and improve ad relevance. This strategy mainly benefits businesses with multiple locations or diverse service areas. Additionally, organizing campaigns by service lines ensures the delivery of localized content to users when they land on your website.

4. Use Ad Extensions to Your Advantage

Ad extensions provide additional information within your Google Ads, making them more informative and appealing to potential clients. Extensions like sitelink extensions and callout extensions allow you to share local business details or highlight unique selling points. Location extensions enable your business to appear in the Local Pack maps, displaying your physical location to users searching for nearby businesses. Leveraging ad extensions can improve your ad visibility and attract local clients.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, local SEO and SEM are powerful strategies that can significantly enhance your online presence and attract local clients. By optimizing your website, leveraging local directories, and utilizing social platforms, you can improve your visibility in search engine results and reach potential clients who are actively seeking products or services in their local area. The data supports the importance of local search, with a significant percentage of consumers relying on search engines to find local businesses. By prioritizing SEO efforts and implementing strategic SEM campaigns, you can increase your chances of appearing in the Google Local Pack and achieve higher rankings. Remember to claim your Google Business Profile, manage your online reputation, and actively respond to reviews. 

Additionally, optimize your website’s SEO health, create valuable content, and utilize schema markup to improve your website’s visibility. Incorporating these local SEO and SEM best practices will help you establish a strong online presence, attract local clients, and ultimately drive business growth. To learn more about how these strategies can benefit your business, contact us today to discuss your specific needs and goals.

Chad Treadway

Written by:  |  August 25, 2023

Chad is a Partner and our Chief Smarketing Officer. He will help you survey your small business needs, educating you on your options before suggesting any solution. Chad is passionate about rural marketing in the United States and North Carolina. He also has several certifications through HubSpot to better assist you with your internet and inbound marketing.

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