2021 Guide to Local SEO

Driving traffic to your website or brick-and-mortar location is done through SEO for local businesses.

In this article, we will be discussing:

  • What is SEO for local businesses
  • SEO vs. local SEO
  • Why local SEO matters for businesses
  • Local SEO ranking factors
  • 9 tips to optimize local SEO for 2021

Let’s look at how SEO will drive more traffic to your business.

aha! delivers measurable SEO results

What is Local SEO?

Local SEO is very similar to traditional search engine optimization (SEO). The main difference is that traditional SEO targets national or global results, while local SEO helps businesses rank in local search results.

SEO vs. local SEO: Local SEO Map-Pack

There is a distinct feature of local search results known as the local SEO 3-Pack or Map-Pack.

When people conduct local searches, like “HVAC Contractor Wayne NJ” or “hvac contractor near me,” Google returns a local SEO map-pack.

What is the Google Map-Pack?

When a local search is performed, Google offers a list of the 3 local businesses that best match the search query. These results are known as the local SEO map-pack, appear at the top of search results with information pulled directly from your Google My Business (GMB) account (more about this below).

Map Pack-MAX-7

Why does SEO for local businesses matter?

Having a website does not mean people will find it. Sure, if someone put in the name of your business you are likely to be found. But when someone is searching for the products or services you offer, that is when you need to show up in results. If you have a storefront, or provide services to a local area like an HVAC contractor might, you need to rank near the top of the search engine results page (SERP). This allows people to find you and become customers. This is what makes local SEO a great investment.

In 2021 What Factors Impact Your Ranking?

So now you have a basic understanding of what local SEO services are, let’s look at how it works.

The thing we like to keep in mind is that the way Google looks at search is that the customer is the person doing the search. The searcher may not be buying from them, they may not click on an ad (which makes Google money), but they need to make the person doing the search happy. The best way to do that is return the best possible results based on what you are looking for and where. If the results they return are poor, or irrelevant, then the searcher my switch to Bing, and that is bad for Google.

There are a number of factors that impact where your website appears in the local search results. The three top factors are:

  • Relevancy: Does the website offer the product or service the searcher is looking for?
  • Location: Is the business located close to the searcher?
  • Reputation: Is the local business reputable and well-know?

Let’s look at how you (or we) can optimize your website to rank locally.

Our top 9 local SEO tips to help you rank

The goal for 2021 is to increase the relevance, location and reputation signals that Google picks up on. These will help you get to the map-pack and increase your revenue.

  1. Create a Google My Business account
  2. Increase the number of Reviews from local customers with Google and Facebook
  3. Be active on social media
  4. Ask established local businesses to provide back-links to your business.
  5. Build local citations
  6. Perform a local keyword research
  7. Optimize your content for voice search
  8. Create content that is location-based
  9. Ensure that your website mobile friendly

I know this is a lot to take in, but let’s break down each item on the list a bit more.

Create a Google My Business account IMPROVE THE LOCATION FACTOR

Before anything, claim your Google My Business (GMB) listing. If you did not create it, Google did it for you. If you search for your business by name on Google you will find the listing, if there is one.

If within that listing, you see the question “Own this business?” as shown below, click on it! Here you can tell them you own the business and take steps to claim or take control of the listing. You can ten make edits, corrections and changes.

Without having this listing, your chances of raking are significantly reduced. This will allow you show in Google Maps, Google local search results, and the Search Knowledge panel (the box about your company like the one on the right).

To get the best possible results you want to optimize your listing.

GMB claim lising
MaxAir GMB2-8

You’ll also want to optimize your listing to get the best results. We will cover this in more detail in an upcoming article.

  • First, verify that you own the business
  • Make sure that all information about your business is accurate. This includes information about your products and services, location, hours, and payment methods accepted
  • Upload your logo and photos to give people an idea as to who your business is.
  • Get more reviews and respond to every one of them, good or bad.
  • Share regular posts about product updates, events, and special offers
  • Use the Google listing to share events, specials, and product updates here to boost your SEO.

Hopefully it is now more clear as to how critical it is for you local SEO efforts, and the success of your business, by claiming, and optimizing your Google My Business listing.

Increase the number of Reviews from local customers with Google and Facebook IMPROVE THE REPUTATION FACTOR

This can be easy or challenging, but either way you need to get reviews from your local customer base. Good reviews are considered social proof that you are reputable. Please do not try to “buy” reviews by offering a reward for providing one, they do not like that and can ding you.

The best way to earn reviews on Google is to Create a link to help customers find and review your business. You can send this in an email and even put the link on your website. Then it is important to respond to every review. Thank the folks offering a good one, and apologize to those that provide negative ones, offering to address and fix the situation (if possible). Responding lets google, but more importantly your potential customers that you are engaged and care.

Get reviews anywhere you can like Facebook, but you can ask people to provide a review on social media, your site, and third-party review sites.

Reviews impact SEO rankings for local businesses and responding to reviews boosts your trustworthiness in the eyes of leads. So, earning reviews is essential when it comes to SEO for local businesses.


Stay active on social media IMPROVE THE REPUTATION FACTOR

There is no direct correlation between social media and your SEO ranking, but social media does bolster your SEO strategy and conversions.  Social media allows you to:

  • Increase your online brand awareness
  • Direct traffic to your website and blog
  • Earn backlinks from local influencers
  • Earn and respond to more reviews
  • Increase trust with potential customers
  • Helps develop client relationships that lead to sales

Getting started with social media for your local business, you can easily create profiles on sites like; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

Here are a few thoughts on what you can post on social media

  • Your local SEO content and blog posts
  • Local news and industry updates
  • Updates about community events
  • Use polls and quizzes to engage potential customers
  • Links to buy

Ask established local businesses to provide backlinks to your business. IMPROVE THE LOCATION FACTOR

Local content is a great way to earn backlinks from other local companies with great reputations. The number, and the quality of these backlinks to your site boosts your site. If you and these companies are part of the local Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary or Lions Club, or similar organizations you can write an article and offer it to these other firms to put on their site. Be sure there are links to your site in the article. Of course reciprocity is always a good idea.  You can also reach out to bloggers in your market, magazines, and industry leads to have them write (and link) about you.


To improve the In addition to the GMB listing you can easily create similar local citations on sites like these:


As with your GMB listing make sure to provide as much detail as you can. Make sure that your business address is EXACTLY the same as your GMB and all other listings, including your website. It is also important that you provide a description of your business, and a link to your website.

Now we know that this is not easy stuff, but that is why we are here. Contact aha! to learn how we can boost your raking for you.

Do local keyword research IMPROVE THE REPUTATION FACTOR

Successful SEO campaigns are centered around keyword research. Unfortunately, many of our clients know the terms in their industry and only provide those when offering what they think the keywords should be.

Our research goes well beyond that. You need to determine what people are typing into the Google search bar to get to your kind of business. These words are often not what you would think. We also want to consider long-tail keywords.

Long tail keywords are phrases that contain several words. This makes the search more specific than a single keyword would be. For example “breathable running socks for sale” is a four word longtail keyword. “Running Socks” is a short tail keyword. Long-tail keywords are usually 3-4 words, but there are no real rules around it.

Good keyword research will uncover phrases and keywords that your local customers may use that are different than phrases used elsewhere. For example, the word “Soda” is fine for New York, but in the south they call it “Pop.” If you are selling pop in NYC, you won’t get far, but selling soda won’t be an issue.

Some tools that might be helpful in doing your keyword research are: KeywordTool and Ahrefs. These tools will provide insights into metrics like monthly search volume, cost per click, and competition, so you can choose the keywords that are most valuable for your business.

When you are researching, you should focus on long-tail, local keywords. Long tail keywords also make the search intent, the reason someone searches a given phrase. “Wayne restaurants” is much different than “Great Thai food in Wayne, NJ.”

As you see if you understand why they are searching you can create content that will help you local SEO efforts, improving your chance of ranking highly.

Prepare for voice search IMPROVE THE RELAVENCY FACTOR

Voice search is fast becoming dominant. Perficient reports that 55% of users use voice search to ask questions on their phone. 39.4% of U.S. internet users operate a voice assistant once a month at a minimum. It is not just mobile phones; it is all on many of our connected devices. In fact, over 49% on Google Home and Amazon Echo users find voice search indispensable.

One strategy that we have found works is to create a page, or content on your site, with a headline that poses an often-asked question. Then just after the headline, provide a very clear and relatively brief answer to the question. Then use the rest of the page to further elaborate on the subject. This strategy makes the Google’s ranking algorithm really happy.

When doing a voice search the question usually starts with those 6 questions every 5 year old loves; “Who,” “What,” “Where,” “When,” “Why,” and “How.” One way to answer these questions is to make a FAQ page and begin each question with these adverbs. When providing the answers make them sound like part of a conversation, since they will be read back to the searcher.

Many voice search optimization strategies overlap with local SEO tactics, so you can save time and money by optimizing your site for voice and traditional search.

To the right is the result of the search “Where to get Italian food in Wayne, NJ”

Itslian search 2-1

Create location-based content IMPROVE THE LOCATION FACTOR

Once you have completed your keyword research, you need to write the content that will help you to rank locally. If you create location-based pages and blog posts you can:

  • Demonstrate that you are the local area authority
  • Target local keywords
  • Rank near the top of local search results
  • Share local industry news and events
  • Keep searchers in the know about important business updates
  • Encourage purchases from local customers

If you have multiple locations, create unique content so local searchers can find the location closest to them.

Make sure your site mobile responsive IMPROVE THE REPUTATION FACTOR

More than half of online traffic comes from mobile devices. So, you’ll want to make sure your SEO for local business strategy includes responsive design.

With Google’s mobile-first indexing, responsive design is more important than ever for making sure your local business ranks at the top of search results.

Responsive design ensures your content displays correctly, no matter the device someone uses to access your site. This means people who use mobile phones or tablets will enjoy the same great experience as desktop users.

Not only does responsive design impact your local SEO rankings, it’s also necessary for boosting conversions.

By 2021, more than 70% of U.S. ecommerce sales will come from mobile devices. If your site isn’t optimized to provide a great mobile experience, shoppers will waste no time hitting the back button.

If you want to reach and convert local customers, you need to implement this SEO for local business tip.

But how do you know if your site is mobile responsive? Start by entering your URL into a tool like Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.

mobile friendly-11