A Comprehensive Guide to Local SEO in 2024

All website owners must invest in their site’s SEO to attract visitors. In an age when Google rules supreme, a site that overlooks its search engine credentials will be doomed to join the millions of websites that fail to build an audience.

And if you’re a business owner, then the stakes will be even higher. At that point, the website’s SEO credentials will play a significant role in the business’ eventual success or failure.

There’s more than one type of SEO. Some businesses will benefit from ‘generic’ SEO, which means their site will pop up for web users across the country. But if you’re a small, local business, then your success will depend on how well you can show up on the results pages of people in your local area. After all, it’s those people that can become customers. Think of it this way: if you’re a small business in Richmond, Virginia, then there’s little value in web users in Boise, Idaho seeing your website. You need people in Richmond to find your website.

This is where local SEO marketing comes into play. While there’s significant overlap between general SEO and SEO for local businesses, there are some key differences that brick-and-mortar establishments must be aware of and incorporate into their marketing strategies. 

On this page, you’ll find a beginners guide to local SEO. We’ll run through everything you need to know to get started, including the importance of optimizing for local search, local SEO tips for jumping up the local rankings, and other essential strategies. And remember: if you need to know your site’s current SEO performance, then don’t forget to find out your SEO score at mysiteauditor.com

The Foundation of Local SEO

To begin, let’s answer the fundamental question: what is local SEO? You’ll likely have heard of SEO, which stands for Search Engine Optimization. That basically involves taking steps to ensure that Google (and other search engines, but mostly Google) can index your site and that it appears as high on the results page as possible.

Local SEO is the same process, just focused on a local audience. That means that your website will appear on the results pages of people in your local area — or in other words, on the results pages of your target audience.

If you serve a specific region or have a brick-and-mortar business, then it’s essential to focus on local SEO optimization, rather than ‘general’ SEO. The vast majority of consumers — some 75%, according to one study — use Google to find businesses these days, and if you can ensure that they see your business, rather than your competitors, then you may well see an increase in revenue.

In an age when more people than ever use Google before deciding which business to visit, localization SEO is essential. It’s not an exaggeration to say that local search SEO could be the difference between success or failure for local businesses; it’s that important!

There’s much to know about SEO for local search queries. But the good news is that the journey to improve your website’s SEO local listings credentials is more formulaic than magic. If you follow all the local SEO best practices and tick all the ranking factors, then you will look good in Google’s eyes. 

Below, we’ll run through the factors that businesses that want the best local SEO should keep in mind. 

Exploring On-Page Local SEO

There’s more than one way to optimize your SEO for local search. We typically divide SEO for local business owners into two categories: on-page local SEO for businesses, and off-page SEO. 

On-page local SEO refers to the steps you take to improve your SEO on your website. Off-page refers to the tactics you deploy in other parts of the web away from your website. On-page SEO would include adding target keywords to your website’s text. Off-page SEO would include managing your Google My Business page. 

Off-page SEO strengthens your website’s SEO credentials, but on-page SEO is the foundation. It’s this that’ll provide Google and other search engine websites with the essential information they need to index and rank your website. 

On-page local SEO is a pretty broad topic. It refers to anything you do within your website to optimize it for Google. There’s no shortage of things you can do to improve your website’s search engine performance from within your website. Some of the common on-page Google local SEO techniques include: 

  • Having a mobile-friendly website.
  • Linking to internal pages elsewhere on your website.
  • Having fast page loading times.
  • Having well-written, informative meta descriptions and tags.
  • Including structured data markup.
  • Adding alt-tags and descriptions to images.
  • Using header tags and formatting text correctly.

Unleashing the Power of Citations 

If you want to know how to do local SEO, then you need to know about local citations. They’re hugely influential in the world of SEO, to the point that many SEO experts believe that they’re an essential component of an effective off-site SEO strategy.

So what are local citations, exactly? They are mentions of your business address, phone number, website, and other details on third-party websites. The holy grail is NAP citations, which show the business name, address, and phone number.

Local citations can help your business in two ways. For one thing, it’ll expose your business to a broader audience. If someone’s searching for businesses like yours on FourSquare, then they can only see your information if that information is there. 

Second, they’ll likely help boost your performance on Google and other pages; there’s no hard-and-fast data regarding this, but from what experts at Google have said, it likely plays a role — and in any case, it certainly doesn’t hurt. If your business details appear on multiple high-authority citation websites, then Google is more likely to figure out that your business is real and operational, and thus be more likely to show it to its users.

Getting local citations is mostly within your control. You can — and should — submit your information to data aggregators (the big three are Factual, Neustar Localeze, and Express Update). From there, put your up-to-date information on the big core sites, which include:

  • BBB
  • Yelp
  • FourSquare
  • Apple Maps.
  • Yellow Pages.

Important to remember: accuracy counts, so make sure all your information is up to date. You may be punished otherwise!

Harnessing Online Reviews and Reputation 

You’ll know from your own internet usage how important online reviews are to the consumer decision-making process. You’ll be much more likely to visit a restaurant that has five-star reviews than one that’s stuck at 2.4 out of five.

Google knows this too. They want to send you to valuable, quality places that offer value. The search engine factors in the quality, quantity, and relevance of reviews (i.e., ones that are recent) as part of the overall SEO ranking. While it’s not as important as on-page signals and third-party links, research suggests that it’s in the top six or seven factors when it comes to local search ranking. 

The bottom line is that if you have plenty of good online reviews from the past year or so, then your small business’s local SEO will be more likely to be in good shape. Now the question is, what can you do about it? Reviews are from customers, which are largely beyond your control. You can’t make anyone leave a good review — or stop anyone from leaving a bad review. What you can do is ask your happy customers to leave positive feedback online. If they’ve loved working with you, then they’ll likely be thrilled to help improve your local small business SEO.

Social Media for Local SEO 

We could talk about the marketing power of social media without ever mentioning SEO. It’s a great tool for reaching new customers just by itself, so even if there were no small business local SEO advantages, it’d still be worth investing in your social media presence.

But happily, there are SEO benefits to having well-run, locally-optimized social media profiles. Google SERPs typically include direct links to social media pages. You can test this yourself by searching for a brand you like; you’ll invariably see a host of links to their social media pages.

You’ll have less control to localize your social media pages than you would your website, but there are still plenty of things you can do. Let’s begin with Facebook. For your business page, make sure you’re labeled as a ‘local business’ rather than a company, and be sure to fill in your full address. Facebook and Google speak to each other about these types of things, so it’s really important.

On Instagram, geotag your profile and posts. It’ll help with SEO, but it’s also just good information for people who come across your profile since they’ll know how close you are to them. 

Mobile Optimization for Local Searches

How people search for things online has shifted in recent years. Today, the majority of searches are made via smartphone, rather than a laptop or computer. And this is especially true when it comes to local searches; after all, people are more likely to search for a restaurant or coffee shop when they’re already out on the town than they are when they’re sitting at their laptop.

This is illustrated by the sharp increase in the number of searches that include ‘near me.’ People trust that their device knows where they are and can point them to businesses in their vicinity. The good news is that you don’t necessarily need to do anything overly special to boost your mobile search credentials. Most of the heavy lifting is done by Google, which knows where the user is located. If you’ve taken every other step on this page to boost your small business local SEO, then you’ll likely benefit from local searches.

With that being said, it can’t hurt to throw in a few ‘near me’ keywords in your website copy. And just while we’re talking about your website and smartphones: make sure that your site is mobile-friendly. It’s essential in this day and age, and no excuses for it not to be.

Local Link Building Strategies

Link building is one of the most effective ways to boost SEO, and has been for a long time. It effectively works like this: you get ‘backlinks’ from other websites around the web. This means that your website (or a page on your website) is hyperlinked on another site.

You might receive direct visitors who click the link on the other page. But the real value is the SEO benefit. Google sees that another website has linked your page, and gives you an authority boost in the process. 

It’s good practice to have a link building strategy regardless of whether you’re targeting local SEO or general SEO. You’ll get a lot of benefits regardless of where in the world your backlink shows up (a Richmond bakery that receives a backlink in Idaho would still be valuable, for instance). But if you can get a link on local websites, then all the better. Sites that showcase local events, news, and businesses would be a good place to start.

Local business directories are also a good place to look. They’ll be a general one for wherever you’re based that includes all businesses, and there could well be specialist directories too (for example, if you run a restaurant, then a hospitality directory). Being listed on those sites is an easy way to acquire authority backlinks. 

The Role of Voice Search in Local SEO 

Voice search has been around for a long time, but it wasn’t popular until a couple of years ago. And today, more and more people are using their devices to make voice searches. Some 60% of U.S. consumers have used voice search, and that figure is rising each year. 

People are more likely to use voice searches for local searches than general searches for one obvious reason: they often make these searches when they’re unable to use their hands, such as when they’re driving. And when they’re driving, they’re more likely to be looking for places in the local area.

So how can you optimize your SEO to sweep up those increasing number of voice searches? It’s all about incorporating keywords that include natural-sounding searches. People search differently when speaking. When they’re typing, they would search for ‘shoe shop near me.’ When they’re talking, ‘what’s the best shoe shop in [place name].’ You don’t have to make all of your website copy conversational, but it can help to have some phrases in there. 

Tracking and Measuring Local SEO Success 

All SEO strategies need to be closely monitored for their effectiveness, and that includes local SEO strategies. Most marketing campaigns need a little tweaking every now and again until optimal performance is achieved. 

Local SEO success depends on receiving clicks from people in your vicinity; visitors from the other side of the country, while welcome, will not be valuable. There are a host of tools you can use to see where your visitors are coming from, as well as measure your SEO performance and ranking. If one area isn’t performing as well as it could, then make some changes and see what happens. You can get a full SEO report from MySiteAuditor, which will outline any technical areas and see how well your website performs against a particular keyword. 

Overcoming Challenges and Pitfalls 

All of the local SEO strategies we’ve outlined above are relatively straightforward. Some you can do in a single day, while others, such as link building, take time. But still, they’re largely within your control.

There are a few things that may well be beyond your control that negatively impact your local SEO ranking, however. For example: you can hope for positive reviews, but you can’t stop negative reviews. If you only have a couple of mixed reviews on your Google page and other platforms, then endeavor to increase your rating. Asking your customers to leave a positive review can help with this. There’s also value in actively responding to negative reviews, outlining your own point of view while remaining professional.

You may also be penalized if incorrect business information appears online. Some, such as your Google My Business page, are within your control. Other third-party pages will be under the control of someone else. Keeping your information updated on citation services is a good strategy, as is writing directly to webmasters when you find incorrect details. 


There’s no avoiding the fact that local SEO is hugely important for local businesses. With competition more fierce than ever, it’s essential that businesses of all sizes invest in their local SEO credentials. As we’ve seen, there are plenty of ways to elevate this aspect of your digital presence. If you take all the tips outlined above, then your SEO ranking will improve over time. 

If you still have questions about local SEO, then be sure to check out the handy local SEO FAQ page we put together. You can also get additional help with your website’s SEO by getting a free 10-day trial at MySiteAuditor.