What is local search optimization? Local search optimization refers to the practice of optimizing a website for search engine activity related to a small geographical area like a state or city. While local SEO has similarities to national SEO, there are a number of differences.

The Different Types of Local Searches

Let’s start by reviewing the different types of local searches and results that occur within search engines:

  • Keyword Only – Keywords without a city name rely more heavily on traditional organic ranking factors, although in some cases they can still include local results. Examples of this would be a website designer or divorce attorney.
  • Keyword + Location – Keywords that include a city name rely more heavily on true local ranking factors and will most likely pull from local listings like Google My Business or Google+ pages. An example of this would be Sydney vacation spots or Sydney plumber.
  • Mobile Based Searches – Keyword searches performed on mobile devices can produce very different results than that of desktop computers. A desktop and a mobile phone search can have completely different results for the exact same phrase which confuses and frustrates a lot of marketers. Such search inquiries and results can occur with or without a geographical phrase added to the search term.

The Most Important Ranking Factors for Local Search Optimization

First and foremost, do not forget that what applies to national SEO will apply to local SEO. Local SEO differs in certain areas because certain ranking factors (reasons search engines position a given website high in search) will carry more weight than that of national based search inquiries and results.

Here are the most important ranking factors to consider when optimizing for local search:

  • On-Page Optimization: Just like in national search, the authority of a businesses’ domain (website address) and keyword focus within the content matter greatly. The difference with local search is that the presence of key NAP (name, address and phone number) contact information on the website becomes critical. This information should be placed in the header or footer so it displays on all content pages and posts. Notice this does not require stuffing your content or headers text full of local phrases. That is a very old school SEO tactic that needs to go away. What is important here is to use a phone number that includes an actual area code so the search engines can associate this area code with a given website’s local area.
  • Inbound Links: Just as with national SEO, local SEO relies on both quantity and quality of inbound links to local businesses’ websites from external sites.
  • Google My Business & Google+: These social media profiles should have accurate and optimized categories and relevant keywords in business descriptions. Those factors will influencer search just as the proximity of a business’ address to where the search is being conducted will too.
  • External Directory References: The availability and consistency of NAP (name, address, phone number) on other third-party local business directories is also important. Example business directories for local searches would include Yelp, Angie’s List, Manta, Foursquare, Merchant Circle, TripAdvisor, and Internet Yellow Pages.
  • User Behavioral & Mobile Usage: User behavioral and mobile usage are both considerations. Examples of such factors include user click-through rates from search, check-ins, and user calls to a business.
  • Search Personalization: Search personalization includes results provided to users based on what is most relevant to their interests or located closest to their physical location.
  • Reviews: The quantity and diversity of online reviews and rankings will also influence local search optimization efforts. These user reviews would be positive reviews from real users on legitimate websites.
  • Social Media Signals: Google+ authority, Facebook likes, and Twitter followers provide additional influence in determining local search performance.