Search engine optimization, or SEO, is one way to drive traffic to your website or brick-and-mortar business. These days, you can’t do without it.

Don’t take our word for it–numbers don’t lie and the numbers say that over 60% of searchers use the information in local ads.

What does that have to do with SEO?

This ultimate guide to becoming a local SEO expert will not only answer that question but also teach you how to apply local SEO tactics to realize your marketing strategies. Keep reading to start succeeding at local SEO.

What is local SEO?

If SEO is search engine optimization, then local SEO means implementing those tactics on the local level.

When SEO first became a viable practice, many experts would just stuff keywords into page content and build their own directories to generate links. It was easy to forget search engines have multiple stakeholders.

They don’t just need to please the companies that rank on their SERPs (search engine results pages) or purchase advertising. They discovered that none of that means anything if the end-user isn’t pleased.

So search engines began to shift and change. They altered their algorithms–complex mathematical equations that determine where in the SERPs your website is ranked.

They focused on delivering the results the end-user wanted.

At the same time that these shifts were taking place market-wide, smartphones were emerging and taking over. Data networks got faster to meet a new need: Mobile browsing.

Users began searching not only from their home or office computers but from their phones. Suddenly, local search grew in importance.

Consumers who work far from home, users who visit friends and family, and searchers who need to find a restaurant no matter where began using one phrase that changed local SEO.

This phrase is “near me.”

When this happened, local SEO stopped being a supplementary tactic and started being a necessary one. Search engines realized that not only was this transition necessary but it also allowed for more accurate results because someone in New York wouldn’t see results for restaurants in San Diego.

Precise results were available if the average local SEO expert knew what to do.

In this changing marketplace, local SEO came to encompass the following:

  • Name, address, and phone (NAP) listings
  • Backlinks
  • Geotagging
  • Reputation building

Now that you have an understanding of what local SEO is and how it came to be a crucial part of SEO, stay with us throughout the rest of our guide to learn more about these tactics.

We’ll show you, for each one, what it does and why it’s important. We’ll cover how to implement it and measure its success.

Become a Local SEO Expert: NAP Listings

We’re starting with the local SEO tactic that is the easiest to implement. It also happens to be one of the most important.

In this section, you can become the expert on NAP listings and everything your company needs to do from implementation to measurement.

What do NAP listings do?

We mentioned briefly above that NAP listings provide your business’s name, address, and phone number to searchers. That’s the end-user benefit.

They also provide a benefit to search engines by creating what are known as citations. Before you balk at the word, we’re aware that often a citation is considered a negative.

Restaurants might be given citations for health code violations. Drivers might receive speeding citations.

But in the world of SEO, a citation is a good thing. It’s a note of recognition.

That brings us to why NAP listings matter.

Why are NAP listings important?

And if all of your citations are current and consistent, this is a message to search engines that you take your local SEO seriously. These types of citations can positively affect your ranking on search engines.

Does ranking on SERPs really matter?

Yes, absolutely. If you want proof, 75% of users only look at the first SERP page.

A local SEO expert knows and accepts this, and strives to get ranked on that first page using NAP listings, among other tactics.

Now that you understand the importance of these listings, we’d like to help you implement this tactic for your own company.

How can you implement NAP listings?

While it’s true that many existing NAP listings and other citations are created without your seeking them, there are actions you can take to ensure they work to your advantage:

  • Ensure that your NAP data is correct on your website.
  • Search for your business and submit requests to correct any misinformed listings.
  • Incorporate schema coding into your website to make your NAP listings more accessible for users.

The first suggestion is the easiest to implement. On your contact page, in your website footer, and in any sidebars or menus, you’ll want to make sure that you list the most current NAP data.

You might wonder about multiple locations. You should list the addresses for all of your brick-and-mortar locations in the footer of your website.

By conducting searches for your business, you can find citations that might point to your NAP data. If any of the data is outdated, you should contact the directory manager or webmaster to provide up-to-date information.

Finally, adding schema to your site can make NAP data easier to use for end-users. Doing so tells search engines that you care about what they care about–providing for those stakeholders.

Schema coding is a type of code inserted into the backend of your website. The result is that your website can display cards or interactive data for search engines.

Schema allows users easy access to phone numbers (click to call) and to directions to your locations. If coding is new to you, you might want to enlist the help of your IT team or, if you don’t have one, a web design team.

Once your NAP listings are set up, you’ll want to know how to measure their success. Continue on to find out more.

How can you measure the success of your NAP listings?

What good is it to implement a new tactic if you can’t measure its results? Where your bottom line is concerned, such a scenario would not do.

The truth is it’s difficult to measure how successful citations are. This doesn’t mean you should avoid NAP listings and other citations.

One way to measure the success of your NAP listings is with a search engine. Search for your address or phone number, and see where you rank.

For more accuracy, exclude your site from the search results. Make note of where your data ranks at the start of your campaign and every few months after you begin.

Become a Local SEO Expert: Backlinks

Now that you have NAP listings under your belt, let’s move on to something a bit more difficult to obtain–backlinks. Keep reading to learn about what backlinks are, why they matter, how to get them, and how to measure their success.

What are backlinks?

As with any SEO element, understanding what backlinks are is as crucial to using them successfully as is understanding how to get them. A backlink is a hyperlink from another website that leads to your website.

Let’s look at an example. Company A makes shoes and Company B makes socks.

On Company B’s website, there is content that reads “these socks are best worn with cross-training sneakers.” On this page, “cross-training sneakers” is linked to Company A’s website.

It’s a backlink.

Backlinks themselves are quite simple, but they can offer significant benefits.

Why do backlinks matter?

Think of a backlink as a digital recommendation. In the example above, Company B’s website is telling search engines–and users–that Company A’s website is worthwhile.

If Company B is a highly-ranked site, then this backlink can boost Company A’s rankings. With higher rankings, Company A is visible to more users on SERPs, as well as being more visible to users reading Company B’s website.

Imagine Company A gets backlinks like that on multiple sites like Company B’s website. The benefits would only grow.

How do you get backlinks?

If backlinks have seemed simple so far, don’t worry. Getting them isn’t always so easy–at least not from sites that rank well. Years ago, when SEO was a newer practice, there was something called Google PageRank.

PageRank would tell you how influential another website was, and if you got links from that site, your rank would improve. Naturally, people started selling backlinks.

As soon as this happened, their worth declined. A local SEO expert knows to balance backlinking with other tactics since it’s not as important as it once was, thanks to the misuse of this tactic.

However, it’s still an important piece of local SEO, and the best way to get a great backlink is the same way referrals and recommendations have been obtained for decades, if not longer.

Research competitors and build relationships with other companies serving your niche.

How can you measure backlinks?

Getting great backlinks may be difficult, but measuring them is relatively easy. One way to measure their success is with campaign tracking.

Basically, you’ll use a tool like Google’s URL Builder to track the efficacy of your backlinks over time. While backlinking isn’t a practice you should ever give up on, tracking can help determine which backlinks are serving you best.

Become a Local SEO Expert: Geotagging

Geotagging is a simple way to boost your local SEO results because it requires little effort on your part. It’s a great way to get your feet wet in the world of local SEO.

What is geotagging?

Remember when we talked about the development of local SEO at the beginning of this guide, and we mentioned people stuffing their websites with keywords? That practice evolved into tagging.

Tagging is when you include a keyword in, for example, a title tag. The title tag of a page is the text that displays as a link in SERPs, and in the tab the user sees at the top of their browser.

Geotagging is when you include, along with that keyword and your brand name if your brand is recognizable, a location term. For example, if you’re Company A and you make shoes in Atlanta, a title tag for your cross-trainers page might look like this:

Company A Cross-Training Sneakers | Atlanta, GA

That “Atlanta, GA” at the end of the title tag tells users and search engines alike that you’re targeting local business. Geotags can also appear in content and blogs.

Why is geotagging important?

Since a geotag tells users and search engines not only that you care about local business, but where you’re located, it’s a crucial piece of data.

It can mean the difference between ranking on a local search and ending up several pages back on the SERP.

How do you implement geotagging?

Implementation of geotagging is simple. In the backend of your website, you simply find the title tag section in the code and enter in what you want the tag to be.

We recommend keeping it to 75 characters or less.

To include geotagging in your content, we recommend inserting it into header text and body text. Don’t overdo it though–readers and search engines are smart and don’t need to see your city dozens of times to know where you are.

How do you know geotagging is working?

A local SEO expert will put the search engine to good use and search for the keyword and location to see where your site ranks.

Keeping track of this information can show growth over time for that geotag and, bonus, for that keyword.

Become a Local SEO Expert: Reputation Building

In the fourth and final tip to help you be a local SEO expert, we’re going to look at reputation building. This can be a tricky area, but also a fun one to implement.

What is reputation building?

Have you ever wanted to try a new restaurant? What’s your first move–do you drive there and taste the food or do you look up a review?

What about movies? Cars? Services?

Reviews and testimonials are important, and are a major part of reputation building. Other parts include:

  • Timely and considerate customer service
  • Social media usage
  • Content

We’ll discuss each of these in more detail soon as we look at how to build a solid reputation for your brand.

Why is reputation building important?

We mentioned some examples above of when you might seek a review before making a purchase. It’s becoming more and more popular, with 90% of consumers reading reviews before buying.

But what can it do for local SEO? Search engines understand positive and negative reviews just as people do.

The more positive reviews you have, the more your ranking might improve.

How do you build your reputation?

So how do you get there? One of the best ways a local SEO expert can build a reputation is to ask for reviews.

Another way to inspire customers to want to leave reviews. One method is to provide stellar customer service.

Users love to tell other users about their experience. Give them something great to say.

Social media can provide a venue where users can leave feedback and interact with your customer service team.

Great content can also generate positive feedback, both in comments on content like blogs and in social media posts. Content also has the added ability to prove that you are an industry authority and expert.

How can you measure your reputation?

As a local SEO expert, this is one of the easiest data sets to collect. By examining review sites, social media, and feedback coming in directly from customers and clients, you can determine if your reputation is thriving or just surviving.

And, now that you’re a local SEO expert, you know how to take steps to improve your reputation should it need a boost.

Managing Expectations as a Local SEO Expert

SEO changes, and it can sometimes change rapidly. For example, Google often updates its algorithms, sometimes without warning.

A local SEO expert will keep tabs on expected algorithm updates in order to prepare ahead of time. Keep in mind also that SEO results take time.

Good SEO is not an overnight fix. Keep working at these tactics, keep measuring them, and you’re more likely to see success than if you buy guaranteed fast results.

Even local SEO experts still have questions. If you do, we invite you to contact us today.