Local SEO: The New Beginner’s Guide (2020)

by Nikita Shevchenko

Here is the new Local SEO Guide for beginners that works great right now.

From this guide you will find out:

  • How to create and optimize a GMB profile
  • How to rank in the top of the Map Pack
  • How to create local-friendly content
  • And much more

Let’s dive in.

Local SEO 101

In this section I will tell you about local SEO basics.

You will find out what local SEO is, why it is so important, and what are the major differences between local and traditional types of SEO.

Let’s get started.

What is Local SEO?

Local SEO is the process of optimizing one’s local business website to attract organic traffic, improve brand awareness, and increase quality leads from local search.

The common local SEO practices include:

  • Google My Business profile creation and optimization
  • On-Site optimization for “local signals”
  • Publishing geo-targeted content and building local backlinks
  • NAP Citations acquiring
  • And more

The Importance of Local SEO

Let me be honest with you:

If you run a local small or medium business you NEED to do local SEO.

For starters, there is a huge part of internet users who search for things that relate to their local area.

Specifically, 46% of all searches in Google have “local intent” (Source).

the number of google searches with local intent Local SEO

And what is even more interesting from business perspective is that…

74% of consumers that search for something local on their phone visit a store that day (Google).

the number of local users that visit the store that day Local SEO

Google Voice Search is exploding right now.

Only the stats you see above make it obvious that local SEO is absolutely necessary for any local businesses that want to rank high, bring traffic with quality leads, and beat the competition.

Now, you probably wonder:

What is the principle difference between local and traditional SEO?

Let’s find out.

Local SEO vs. Traditional SEO

Local and traditional types of SEO are quite different.

They serve different purposes and the biggest ranking factors in these areas are not the same.

Let’s check the table below that highlights the main differences between them.

Local SEOTraditional SEO
Main GoalRank high for local-intent queries and get into The Map PackRank high for industry-related keywords and increase website traffic
Keyword ResearchLocation-BasedCompetition and Search Volume-Based
Top Ranking FactorsContent, RankBrain, BacklinksGMB Profile, Local Backlinks, Reviews
Google Algorithms UpdateMedium to Small ImpactBig Impact
Consistency vs. DiversificationNAPs and Categories should be consistentKeywords anchor text should be diversified
FreshnessFreshness of reviews is importantFreshness of content is important

As you can see, local SEO differs a lot from the traditional SEO.

Let’s move to the most important ranking factors you need to optimize for if you want to be on top of the local SEO game.

Top 5 Local SEO Ranking Factors

This section covers almost everything you need to know about Local SEO ranking signals.

Specifically, I am gonna show you the five most important ranking factors in Google’s local search a how to optimize for them.

Let’s dive right in.

We will begin with some interesting facts about local SEO ranking signals.

One of the recent local search studies has revealed that optimized Google My Business profile remains the most important influential factor out there.

But there are some more crucial factors you need to consider:

local seo top ranking signals

Let’s see how you can optimize for some of the most important local search signals out there.

Starting from…

Ranking Factor #1: Google My Business (GMB)

As I’ve already mentioned in this guide, the optimized GMB account is super important for local SEO.

You need it 100%!

And the first thing you should do is to claim your business listing in Google.

Step #1: Create a Google My Business Account

Head over to Google My Business website and click on “Manage Now“.

gmb start account Local SEO

You will then need to click on “Add Your Business to Google

add to your business to google Local SEO

Type in the name that represents your business.

gmb business name Local SEO

Next, choose the category that your business fits in.

gmb business category Local SEO

Choose whether you want to add a physical location or not. (Depends on your business type)

gmb physical or digital location Local SEO

Fill in the exact address information.

Note: It is very important that you use a real location that you can mention in other listings and websites across the web later.

gmb business address Local SEO

Make sure you can spot it on the map.

gmb location selection Local SEO

Leave additional contact details.

gmb contact details Local SEO

Mention if you serve your clients outside the location you previously mentioned.

gmb outside location Local SEO

If you did everything right, you will get this message:

gmb finish Local SEO

And, of course, you will need to verify your business location by mail.

gmb verification Local SEO

Wait for the mail from Google and finish the verification process.

And you are all set!

You will now be able to start optimizing your GMB profile.

We will begin with beefing it up.

Step #2: Make it 100% Complete

You have done pretty well so far.

  • Your company name – check
  • Your physical address – check
  • Your business phone number – check

Let’s go even further and get 100% score on your GMB profile.

  • Your company website address. If you haven’t claimed a domain name, you can do it on NameCheap.
  • Your company email address. Ideally, it should be catchy and represent your brand.
  • Opening hours. The clear outline for your business operating hours.
  • Payment methods. Provide various options for your clients.
  • A full description of your business. Make it keyword-rich and on point.
  • Photos and videos. They should be professional and support your branding.
  • Appropriate categories. There is only one primary category in GMB. The other nine are additional. Google allows you to select up to 10 categories for your business. Be very strategic with their selection.
  • Keyword placement. You need to use the right set of keywords that relate to your industry and business model. Later, in this guide, I will show you how to do keyword research for local SEO.

Additionally, Google makes it easy for you to finish setting up your profile.

You can see exactly what you need to do to improve your score via Google My Business dashboard.

Step #3: Consistency

Consistency is key when you work with GMB and optimize for local SEO.

Here are the two things you should keep in mind:

First, the information you put in your GMB profile should match the information on your website 100%.

Specifically, your business name, your business address, and your contact details.

Second, this information should match other NAP citations on the internet as well.

Let me repeat that again, because it is REALLY IMPORTANT:

Make sure that the information you put in your GMB profile 100 % matches your website, and other NAP listings.

Let’s now move to the next step.

Step #4: Updates

This step is pretty straightforward.

Anytime there are any changes in your business physical location, contact info, name, or other data you put in there you need to update your GMB account ASAP.

Note: It also applies to other business listings.

Step #5: Reviews

This step is vital!

In order to make your Google My Business profile truly successful you need to get many positive reviews from your clients.

How to get positive reviews?

  • Provide high-quality service to you clients
  • Always strive for excellence
  • Underpromise and overdeliver
  • Ask for reviews (do not beg and insist)

GMB is done!

Now, let’s move on to the next important ranking factor in local SEO – User Experience.

Ranking Factor #2: User Experience (UX)

There are a lot of things to consider when it comes to User Experience with local business websites.

Let’s check some of the most important UX elements and how you should approach them.

  • Mobile-Friendly Website. Your Mobile SEO should be on point. One of the best ways to assure that your business website is mobile-ready is to install a premium responsive WP theme. I use GeneratePress and recommend it to you as well.
  • Page Loading Speed. It should be as fast as it gets. Fast websites have better UX and higher conversion rates. (Nobody likes to wait, right?)
  • Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). This will allow your customers to enjoy safe website browsing and secure payment process.
  • Click-through rate (CTR). It is huge. The higher your organic CTR the more visitors (and conversions!) you will get. Improve your headlines, meta descriptions, and work on your brand recognition.
  • Pages Per Session. Encourage users to check other website pages by putting inbound links in the article text. High PPS number shows Google that your website is worth ranking high.
  • Bounce Rate. Decrease bounce rate by providing value and actionable tips in the content.
  • Dwell Time. Increase time spent on the page by creating a simple article outline and including visual elements.
  • Call-to-Actions (CTAs). Use CTAs as your driving force to generate leads for your business. Website visitors should know exactly what actions you want them to take.

Ranking Factor #3: NAP Citations

NAP citations are your business Name, Address, and Phone Number which are all listed out in one place.

nap citation Local SEO

Google uses your business NAP to confirm that all of your business info is right and up to date.

They are very important for your local business growth and local search rankings.

In a nutshell, you need to:

  • Be consistent with NAP citations. Use the same information everywhere across the web.
  • Run NAP Audits consistently. They will help you stay consistent and reputable.
  • Fix Wrong NAP. Anytime you see that your nap info is wrong you need to contact the guy in charge and ask to correct it.

Also, it is very important for local SEO to find NAP citation opportunities, or places where you can add you business NAP info.

It will send a strong signal to Google that you business is legit and recognizable by other business across the web.

So how do you find places where you can place you business NAP info?

Try Reverse Engineering!

First, use one of the following tools:

  • Loganix
  • WhiteSpark

Next, use you competitors NAP citation and see the places where they were mentioned.

Finally, reach out to website owners and ask them to mention your business NAP on their websites.

That is it!

Now, let’s take a close look at another crucial ranking factor – Backlinks.

Ranking Factor #4: Local SEO Link Building

Backlinks are equally important for local websites as they are for non-local websites.

And the cool thing for you as a local business owner is that on top of some usual link building techniques you can utilize some other strategies that work great for local businesses.

Let’s take a look some of them.

Personal Network

It can probably be the fastest and easiest way to build some quick backlinks for your local website.

You may start from:

  • Chamber of Commerce
  • Licensing bureaus
  • Vendors
  • Resellers
  • Trade associations
  • And other affiliates

Sponsorships And Partnerships

Does your business provide help for other businesses?

Make sure the guys that represent those businesses put backlinks to your website on their pages.

Do you partner with other local businesses?

Ask them to mention your services and put a couple of links that point to your website.

Guest Blog Posting

This techniques works great with local and non-local websites.

First, find local websites that accept guest posts.

Use this search string:

“Keyword” + Guest Post + “Your City Name”

Next, check the writer’s guidelines and write your article.

Finally, send it to the editor and make sure you include a couple of backlinks to your site.

Nice, let’s move on to the last factor on this list that is VERY important for local businesses – Good Reviews.

Ranking Factor #5: Positive Reviews

If you want to encourage people to buy your products and use your services you need to get good reviews.

One study found that even a one-star increase can help boost your business revenues by 10%. (Source)

How to get positive reviews?

As I’ve already mentioned above, you should:

  • Provide high-quality service to your customers and clients
  • Deliver excellent results
  • Aways try to underpromise and overdeliver
  • Encourage your clients to leave reviews (do not beg and insist)

These were top 5 ranking factors you should care about if you want your local business website to rank high in search.

Now, let’s take a look at the real-game changer – The Map Pack.

The Map Pack (3-pack)

In this section you will learn almost all there is to know about The Map Pack.

Specifically, I will show you:

  • What The Map Pack is
  • How exactly it works

Let’s begin.

What is The Map Pack?

The Map Pack (also known as “The Local Pack” or the “3 pack,”) is a set of three local Google-Maps-based results showing the top-ranked local businesses.

google map pack Local SEO

See Where You Rank In The Map Pack

To begin your first local SEO campaign you need to know where to start.

I suggest you start with monitoring your current ranking position.

You can use special tools like:

  • Local Falcon
  • Local Viking
  • BirdEye

You will be able to see your ranking positions based on your location:

local viking map pack ranking position Local SEO

This information alone will be enough for you to find the weak spots and start acting.

Local Organic Results

Organic local search results(that are shown below the Map Pack) are very important for your local business as well.

To rank high within local search results you basically need 3 things:

  • A high copywriting level
  • Modern On-Page Techniques
  • High-Quality Backlinks

(I share all of this information here on NikitaShevchenko. So stay tuned.)

In the next chapter, I will show you how to do keyword research with your local competitors in mind.

Local SEO Keyword Research

In this section, I will show you how to find profitable keywords for local businesses.

In fact, I am going to reveal to you the same local keyword research strategies I use to bring local organic traffic to my clients’ websites and grow their revenue.

Let’s see what you can do.

Google Suggest method

Google suggest method can be a great option to find some nice keyword ideas for your local blog content.

local seo keyword research google suggest method Local SEO

Google Trends

Google trends is an incredible free tool that can show you some of the most popular and trending topics depending on the location.

google trends interest over time graph Local SEO

It is really handy when you are in a time-sensitive industry.

Google Local Voice Search

Take a look at this stats from Google:

20% of all Google searches done on mobile are now voice searches. (Source)

20 percent of searches in the google app are done by voice Local SEO

So you totally need to keep voice search in mind especially when it comes to local SEO.

The best advice I can give you for coming up with good keywords for voice search is to use natural language.

In other words, use the terms we normally say in real life but not their written versions.


Instead of the best barber in LA, try the barber who cuts hair fast in LA.

Yelp Suggest Method

Yelp is packed with lots of data and keyword variations that you can use for you local content marketing.

yelp suggest Local SEO


Everyone knows this website as one of the best place review websites.

However, it can also be a great place to look for some awesome keyword ideas.

Just take a look at the description below:

tripadvisor business description Local SEO

Find the most eye-catching phrases your customers might look for and place them in your content.

Now, we can go to the next chapter of this guide.

There I will show you some of the most important elements a successful local business website should have.

Local On-Site SEO

It takes a few extra steps to optimize your local small business website.

On-Page SEO works great on all websites but there a couple of more tricks you can do to assure that your website can rank high in local search.

Let’s see the on-site optimization techniques that are applicable to local business websites.

Location Pages On Your Website

If you have multiple brick and mortar locations you should create location pages.

Location pages will show your potential clients:

  • NAP info
  • Operating hours,
  • Promotions and sales information
  • Testimonials
  • Unique store description

About Page + Google Maps

It would a great idea if you also add your business location on Google Maps in About Page.

Google has a special page with clear instructions for setting it up.

Clickable Phone Numbers

This step is very important for UX.

Since most of the visitors, you will see on your website are using mobile devices you need to make all phone numbers clickable.

Quality testimonials

You can get them from your happy customers and clients.

You can also get them from your business partners and industry experts.

Do not hesitate to brag with them here and there.

Add Schema Markup

Schema markup provides clear and structured data for your website.

In other words, it helps search engines better understand your website content.

And as a great bonus, you can get a featured snippet in Google SERP.

a rich snippet with review stars Local SEO

You can use RankMath to implement Schema Markup.

Let’s now see how you can use content marketing to dominate local search.

Content Marketing for Local Businesses

Content Marketing can take your business to the next.

It will help you gain rankings, build trust, and get new customers.

That said, traditional content marketing and content marketing applies to small local businesses differ a lot.

Let’s see what kinds of content fit best for local SEO purposes.

geo-targeted content

When writing blog posts, you need to make sure to mention local city and neighborhood names across them.

You also need to include the neighboring towns’ and cities’ names with unofficial terms that only local people tend to use.

Use the latest copywriting techniques to resonate with your audience.

Success Stories

Success stories and case studies work amazing for local businesses.

They showcase your expertise.

They also prove that you are capable of doing your business.

Local News and Events

Covering local news and events will help you provide valuable information to your clients and improve your SEO.

Consider writing about:

  • Elections
  • Fairs
  • Upcoming community event
  • Local events
  • Local expert interviews

In the next chapter I will show you some of the best social media platforms you can utilize to grow your local business.

Bonus Chapter #1: Local Business SMM

In this bonus chapter, I will show you how you can use local SMM to boost your business exposure.

Local SEO and Local SMM are simple made for each other.

One compliments another and it is one of those cases when 1+1 = 3.

Let’s find out how you can use social media marketing to increase your local business chances for success.

YouTube Marketing

If you want to expand you local business, YouTube is the place to start.

For starters, it is the world’s second biggest search engine after Google. (Source)

And it is also great for authority establishment and brand exposure.

The guys from BeardBrand are nailing it on YouTube:

beardbrand youtube channel Local SEO

Use YouTube for showcasing your experience and expertise and brand establishment.

It is the best way to build trust with your audience because they can see your face all the time.

Instagram Marketing

Instagram is growing exponentially!

It is a great platform for business owners of sizes starting from Coca Cola and finishing with your local drug store.

You can share quality photos with captions under them.

You can also show some behind the scenes content that is HUGE for trust establishment.

Facebook Marketing

There is no need to remind you how big Facebook is.

There is a place for any kind of business you can imagine.

And Facebook Ads perform surprisingly well!

Bonus Chapter #2: Top Local SEO Tools

In this bonus chapter, you will see some of the best local SEO tools you can use for your marketing campaigns and future projects.

The best part is that most of them are not really expensive and you will not have to break the bank to be able to afford them.

Let’s get to the list.

1. Whitespark Local Citation Finder

It is a nice tool that can help you discover where to list your business online based on your competitors’ citations.

It can also help you track all your listings across the internet, plus monitor your citation growth over time.

2. Screaming Frog

The Screaming Frog SEO Spider is a small desktop program that can crawl websites’ links, images, CSS, script, and apps from an SEO perspective.

It helps me with my websites’ Technical SEO.

I can also use this tool to optimize my clients website and make them rank higher in search.

3. Local Falcon

With this tool, you can find any local rankings on the map, across an entire city. 

It is one of the best local rank trackers to compare search results.

4. Moz Local

This awesome local SEO tool has the following features:

  • Location data management. You can engage with clients to share news and offers.
  • Real-time profile management. You can update your location data on partner sites instantly.
  • Data cleansing process. You can ensure your location data is clean and consistent
  • Automated duplicate deletion. You can delete duplicate content effortlessly.
  • Review management. You can see what your customers say about you.
  • Deep Google & Facebook integration. You can gain valuable insights from your Google and Facebook.
  • Social Posting. Track your social posting stats and publish your posts at the right time.
  • Activity feed & notification alerts. You can stay informed about updates and interactions.

5. Ahrefs

With this incredible tool you can:

  • Optimize your website
  • Do site audits
  • Analyze your competitors
  • See what your customers are searching for
  • Learn from your top-performing content
  • Track your ranking progress
  • And much more

6. Buzzstream

It is a web-based software that can help marketers promote their products, services and content to build links, buzz, and brands.

You can also research industry influencers and manage your relationships with them.

7. BrightLocal

BrightLocal is a local marketing platform that puts you in control of SEO, business listings, and your business online reputation.

It is trusted by numerous marketers and it is built by local search experts.

Now you know exactly how to do local SEO.

You can start implementing the steps from this guide .

I have a quick question for you:

Which part of Local SEO do you personally struggle with?

Leave your thoughts and questions in the comment section below.

Also, add me on LinkedIn or follow me on Instagram, I share some useful stuff there 😉

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