What do you do when you’re looking for something in your city? You Google it, of course.

Unless you haven’t looked at Google since 2005, you know that the search engine now provides geo-targeted results. If you look for a business, Google uses your location or keyword to bring you the most relevant options.

This is what marketers refer to as local SEO.

It caters to digital natives who go online to find businesses (or other services) in their geographic area.

Local SEO is distinct from standard SEO because it has its own requirements. What is the importance of local SEO for your business? Keep reading to find out how tweaking your online presence could help you beat your offline rivals.

What is Local SEO?

Forty-six percent of all Google searches aren’t interested in the top overall results; they want the top, local results. Google needed to cater to that need, and local SEO was born.

Local SEO boosts your business’s rankings in location-based searches. It makes sure that your business shows up on pages of customers searching in your city (by keyword or by geo-location picked up by Google).

Why is Local SEO Important?

It’s one thing to search for “Italian restaurants.” It’s quite another to enter “Italian restaurants in Philadelphia.”

The difference is in intent.

Local SEO is critical for your business because it puts your business in front of customers with the intent to visit or buy. Almost all (95 percent) smartphone owners use local search on their phones. When they do, they call a business 61 percent of the time and visit 59 percent of the time.

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You don’t want your rival to show up on the list while you’re left out. Moreover, being left out of the local search is as good as not existing at all no matter how many general SEO points you score.

Principles of Local SEO: Aiming for the Three-Pack

The most coveted local SEO target is the Google Maps 3-pack.

The Google Maps 3-pack is a mobile-first method of displaying search results to customers searching on their smartphones. It is the Google Maps and mobile search version of the first page of Google.

Getting listed used to be simpler because Google previously highlighted a 7-pack. But the search engine claims that people only called or visited the first three results, so it shrunk its search offerings.

How do you make it into the most actionable spots?

By following these five local SEO optimization principles.

1. Verify Your Google My Business Page

Your first step on the road to local SEO success is to build your Google Business page.

The set-up process begins online, and it usually requires an address-verification process to complete. Google sends a postcard to your given address. You then enter the PIN written on the postcard into your profile.

Google may also ask to verify your phone number and email.

Why wait for snail mail? Google wants to make sure that it provides the correct information to its customers. Nobody wants to drive to an Italian restaurant in Philadelphia only to find that it’s actually a laundromat.

Remember, incomplete profiles aren’t going to rank well. So doublecheck your name, address, and phone number for typos and inconsistencies (NAP).

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2. Choose Your Categories

At the bottom of your Google Business profile lie the business categories that apply to you. You choose the groups that best represent your business, and Google then uses those categories to sort your business.

Optimizing these categories requires specificity. Are you an Italian restaurant in Philadelphia? You want to select the restaurant category.

However, “restaurant” doesn’t provide the most accurate description of what you offer. You are an “Italian restaurant,” so choose that option. Additionally, if you focus on pizza, you might also select “pizzeria” because it opens up more audiences. You’ll grab people who want lasagna, but also people who might have otherwise gone to a Pizza Hut.

3. Choose Your Photos Wisely

Your photos are another component of a complete profile, and they will set you apart from competitors who don’t yet understand the power of local SEO.

Businesses with photos get 35 percent more visits than those without.

You need a minimum of three pictures:

  • Logo
  • Cover photo
  • Photos of your business

Use the same kind of photos you’d post on your Instagram or your website. Show off your best side, but don’t use the space irresponsibly. Google encourages customers to upload their photos, too. If the two sets tell different stories, it might warn new customers off.

4. Update Your Website

Your Google My Business page is vital for the search result itself, but you still need to climb up the ladder to reach the 3-Pack. That involves ensuring your website’s local SEO is above board.

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You’ll want to optimize your title tags, headers, content, meta description, and URL to link your site with your geographic search. Location pages are also a great idea because they’re easy to crawl and adding a Google Map to your location page gives you bonus points.

5. Spread Your Influence

Your name and contact details need to appear more than twice for you to beat your competition.

Making sure your details are up-to-date with local directories that inform map data is just as necessary. Each entry should contain the same information in the same format.

If your address is Beech Street, you need to write Beech Street on each entry. Writing Beech St could confuse your listing.

You’ll also want to appear on other websites. Start with your local Chamber of Commerce, who will give you a high-quality external link. But don’t forget to ask for other partners to link back to you.

For example, if you sponsor the local Little League, have them include your link on their site and send links from their social media.

Get More People Through the Door with Local SEO

Local SEO is essential because people want location-specific search results and they’re willing to act on them.

If you don’t show up on a local search, you’re handing over customers directly to your competitors.

Do you have what it takes to make it into the illustrious Google 3-Pack? We think you do. Get in touch for a free local SEO consultation and watch your digital traffic turn into real foot traffic.