How Does Local SEO Work?

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Local SEO is the method of optimizing a local business for location-specific organic search engine results, map listings, Google My Business, Bing Local and other local-specific search engine results. The basic idea of how this is accomplished is a mixture of traditional SEO tactics with proximity, local citations, online ratings, and specific local on-page optimization.

Traditional SEO Tactics

The traditional SEO tactics used are also used in local SEO. The difference is in how certain optimization processes are carried out. One example would be in regards to keyword research. With local SEO, you will want to make sure that the keywords that are being used are delivering local results. You wouldn’t want to spend all of your time and effort optimizing a page for local search when local results aren’t displayed. Getting backlinks to your site is a fairly standard practice in SEO. With local SEO the backlink strategy might be a little different in that you would want to give more weight to a location page.


The entire basis of local search is matching users with local businesses that are near them. Nobody in Florida who searched for “pizza delivery” wants results for a pizza delivery company in Main. Thus, proximity plays a very important role in local results. If your business doesn’t exist in the area of the search, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle to show up in the SERPs.

This does not mean that a local business website cannot show up on local results for a city that it’s not in. It is usually much more difficult to do so though. The further away from your business’s location, the more difficult getting good placement on local SERPs.

Local Citation

Another significant ranking factor is the consistency of your NPA, which stands for “Name, Address, and Phone”. You will want to be sure to use a consistent business name, address and phone number when adding your business to any directories and websites (including your own website).

The reason for this is that if you mix business names or contact information across different websites, it is difficult to know what information is accurate. Imagine that your Google My Business address is “123 Address Way” but your website states that it is “345 My Address”. Which one is correct? These inconsistencies show low trust in the accuracy of your information. Thus, your local ranking will be negatively affected.

Often, as a business moves or if it’s NAP is entered incorrectly, a local business citation cleanup will be required to maintain consistent information across the Internet. Ideally, a website owner will monitor for changes or mismatched business information so that any corrections can be made as soon as possible.

User Ratings

The popularity of a business and the opinion of its customers is important to the trustworthiness that business. This is why one important factor is user ranking. Both quality and quantity are important as one shows that your establishment is a popular choice and the other shows that your customers had a positive experience. Unfortunately, it’s all-too-common for a business owner to misrepresent their business ratings and reviews. This can, in the long term, wreak havoc on local SEO.

A word of warning when dealing with ratings: Do not review your own business. Do not pay for fake reviews. Do not have your employees review your business. This is a surefire way to get penalized by a search engine. It’s a bad practice. Just don’t do it.

So, what do you do if you get a negative review? The best thing a business owner can do when dealing with a negative review is to offer a helpful and positive response. Own the mistake and offer to help. Your future customers are more concerned about how you react to problems than the actual problems themselves. If you’re in business long enough, negative reviews will happen.

On-Page Signals

As with traditional SEO, optimizing a local business website does have some very important on-page SEO considerations. Three of the most important factors that are specific to local optimization are the site-wide NAP consistencies, proper location pages, and schema markup. All of these circle around one very important factor: where your business operates and what it does. The former is arguably more important than the latter. This is because, in my opinion, your website should already outline what your business does. So, these three signals are more about where you are. Search engines are usually smart enough to match the two together.

Site-wide NAP

Having your business’ name, address, and phone number consistently cited on your website tells a search engine where you’re located. When you mix this with off-site local citations and proper backlinks, you’re building a web of authority for your company.  Extra credit for wrapping your NAP in schema markup. Most websites simply add the name, address and phone number in the footer of each page.


Matthew Post

Beginning his career as a website developer and SEO in the late 90s, Matthew Post takes a data-driven approach in SEO and CRO. In 2018, he co-founded SEM Dynamics to focus on his passion for assisting local businesses increase their reach.

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