What Is Local SEO?

Local SEO 3 pack

Local SEO (search engine optimization) involves optimizing the internet presence of businesses with physical locations or service territories to increase online visibility, which results in real-world foot traffic, sales, leads, and calls.

Phew, that’s a mouthful, but every piece of that definition matters. In fact, we could easily expand that definition, but RicketyRoo thinks it distills the core of local SEO. Definitions often include mentions of rankings and traffic and keywords—all that good stuff. We don’t disagree. But most fundamentally, local SEO is all about improving a business’s web presence—on their website, in search engines, and in other prominent places across the web—ultimately to increase revenue. 

With the bottom line in mind (show me the money!), let’s get into the nitty-gritty of why local SEO matters, how it works, and what you can do to improve your local web presence. 

Does Local SEO Really Matter for My Business?

To put it simply: yes, absolutely, affirmative—local SEO matters for any business with a local presence. 

Whether you are a nationwide brick-and-mortar retailer, a home services company with a service territory, or a small mom-and-pop shop, local SEO is important for your business.

Here’s the bottom line (wink): If you neglect local SEO, you are losing prospective leads and customers every single day. 

Perhaps you have a steady stream of referrals, an excellent reputation, the perfect location in the perfect niche, and a host of other local marketing efforts. That’s all great. But if you ignore your web presence, especially on the local level, you’re missing out where most people look for their next purchase: the worldwide (yet local) web, particularly Google.

  • 98% of consumers used the internet to research local businesses in 2022 (BrightLocal)
  • 76% of people who search for something nearby on their phone visit a related business within a single day, and 28% of those searches result in a sale. (Think with Google)
  • In 2024, 81% of consumers look at Google reviews to inform their purchases. (BrightLocal)

With the vast majority of today’s consumers looking to their phones for guidance on which plumber to call, which store to visit, and which restaurant to dine at, getting found in prominent places online matters as much as ever. If your business is buried off the first page of Google or missing from Maps, you’re losing out on clicks, calls, and conversions. 

Paid Search or Local SEO?

If you’re considering SEO for your business, you’ve probably also considered paid ads, or pay-per-click advertising (PPC). Should you invest in SEO or PPC? If you can, do both! 

Generally, it’s said that SEO takes the long view, and PPC provides quicker results. That’s kinda true. You sometimes accomplish a lot in local SEO in a brief period. And even though PPC promises quick results, with the traffic quality (for example, time on page and conversion rates) of PPC clicks, you won’t always get the bang for your buck you hoped for. On the other hand, developments in paid search, like Local Services Ads, make ads appear a bit more natural. 

One thing is certain: running SEO and/or PPC campaigns is an investment in your business that, when done right, can provide excellent ROI.

Wanna learn how we doubled the year-over-year revenue goal for a local business like yours?

How Local SEO Works

Local SEO is more complex than people give it credit for. What you see in Google Maps and organic search results is the output of complicated algorithms and an interconnected web of relationships across the local search ecosystem. To keep things (somewhat) simple, we’ll focus on Maps and organic results.  

Local Pack and Maps

Making a statement on the map matters, even when we conduct plain ol’ Google searches. As you can see below, searching for kitchen remodeling in Pittsburgh returns a local pack (sometimes referred to the “map pack” or “local 3-pack”) above the organic results.

Local 3 Pack + organic results in local SEO

If we search for “thai food near me” with our location set to Pittsburgh, we’ll get another map pack, this time zoomed in a bit on the downtown area.

Local pack for thai food near me
Local pack for thai food near me

So whether users search in Maps or not, getting on the map matters. How do you get there? Well, first of all, a Google Business Profile (GBP) is an absolute must. From there, Google ranks local map results based on three factors: relevance, distance, and prominence.


How well does your listing match what someone is searching for? 

You don’t see hoagie joints (heroes and subs for the uninitiated) coming up for a Thai search or electricians popping up for the kitchen remodeling query. Google is good at sorting through information. Taking full advantage of your GBP, ensuring your website comprehensively (yet concisely!) describes all aspects of what you do, and acquiring links (votes of confidence) from topically and locally relevant websites can all help Google and users know where you fit best.


How close is your business to a searcher’s location?

You very likely won’t see businesses in Dallas ranking for Austin queries. They’re in the same state, but Google knows that users don’t want to drive 3 hours to Dallas for a service they could easily find in Austin and vice versa. Assuming you opt into location services, Google will know where you are searching from, even if you don’t tack a location onto your query. 

Depending on the competition in your local market, you may be able to show up in more places than not. And if your business delivers a truly superior product and people are regularly passing up (e.g., driving by, walking past) similar businesses to get to yours, you might also have a shot at ranking in spots beyond your neighborhood. 


How well-known is your business?

Google uses a variety of factors to determine prominence. Links and mentions on other websites, especially those related to what you do (topically relevant) and where you do it (locally relevant) are like important votes signaling to Google that your business deserves more attention. You’re pretty much all set if you’re a famous landmark. If you’re not a world-renowned museum or international brand, you can still establish prominence by the quality and quantity of your reviews and the links and mentions from other relevant, authoritative sources pointing to your website or brand.

Organic Search

The organic search results are more like “traditional” SEO—just localized to wherever a user is searching or wherever Google believes they are conducting their search. The relevance, distance, and prominence factors matter here, too, but in this case, the organic results are about your website rather than your GBP. There is absolutely a symbiotic relationship between your GBP and your website, but here we’re talking about sending the right kind of signals on your website so you get picked up for queries that drive business.

For example, consider setting up location or local landing pages to drive conversions wherever you conduct business. Pages like these will help you establish local relevance, distance, and prominence for organic search results. 

RicketyRoo Pro Tip: Ensure you have a Google Business Profile wherever you have an actual physical presence. Even if you’re location isn’t open yet, setting up a GBP with an opening date will allow you to get traction before you even open. And if you’re setting up location pages, you can link from your GBP to those location-specific pages to improve the performance of your local pages in search results. 

Is Local SEO the Same As “Regular” SEO?

Local SEO and “traditional” SEO overlap a lot. We can consider local SEO a subset of SEO in general. Whereas SEO focuses on web presence and rankings apart from location, local SEO drills down to draw clicks and conversions in specific locales. Local SEO shares many principles and concepts with general SEO but with additional local factors that influence location-specific search engine results pages (SERPs). 

7 tips for better local SEO

Wondering whether you can improve your local SEO? Absolutely. Local SEO demands skill and expertise, but anyone can improve their local SEO performance with simple best practices. And if you need help with the trickier local stuff, we’ve got your back on that too. 

1. Maximize your Google Business Profile 

Optimizing your Google Business Profile sounds simple enough, but you’d be surprised how many businesses don’t make the most of their listings. 

The easiest thing you can do is enter complete, accurate data on your GBP. Fill out as much as possible. Include relevant images. Write a compelling, clickworthy business description. Ensure you are taking advantage of all your GBP offers, including posts and regular responses to reviews. 

2. Conduct local keyword research

You can infer local trends from national data, but looking at local keyword data will undoubtedly improve your chances of being found for the right reasons. Prominent tools like Semrush and Ahrefs work just fine for explicit local keywords (when the location is explicitly stated, e.g., kitchen remodeling pittsburgh) but aren’t so stellar for implicit local keywords (when the location is left of f of the query, e.g., kitchen remodeling). Semrush does offer local keyword volumes, but it’s a bit cumbersome for serious research.

RicketyRoo Pro Tip: If you can access Google Search Console and Google Keyword Planner, you’ll have a better chance at determining how your local audience is searching and what you ought to optimize your content for. If you already have a website, setting up Search Console will show you how users are already getting to your website in organic search. If you pay for PPC (or know somehow who does!), you can access local keyword data straight from Google. You’ll get wide volume ranges if you can’t access an Ads account. 

3. Optimize your website pages

If you have some background in SEO, you know the drill: title tags, meta descriptions, H1s, keyword optimization. If you want to know more about how you can optimize your content for maximum topical and local relevance, our very own Amanda Jordan has created a location landing page checklist just for you. 

Location Landing Page Checklist

4. Land relevant listings and citations

Listings and citations still matter. They may not boost your rankings like they once did, but citations and NAP listings still help establish the relevance and prominence of your business.

  • Get listed on data aggregators
  • Locate and get added to the top directories that are topically and locally relevant to your business
  • Ensure your name, address, and phone number (NAP) are consistent across your listings

Don’t spend too much time and money on renewing aggregators and adding citations, but do consider landing accurate listings where feasible for your business. 

5. Build local links

Citations are great, but topically and locally relevant backlinks can take things to the next level. Using tools like Ahrefs or Semrush, identify where your competitors have links and look for opportunities. Try sponsoring local charities, nonprofits, and events, or even create a scholarship. Get creative with building links. 

Interested in learning more? Check out our guide to local link building.

6. Ask for and respond to reviews

While Google frowns upon paying for reviews (duh!), there ain’t nothing wrong with asking. Regularly request reviews from your customers and respond to every single one, positive and negative alike.

To get a nice and tidy link for review outreach, go to your Google Business Profile and select “Ask for reviews.” 

Ask for reviews link on Google Business Profile

You’ll then get a link like this that will take a user straight to your GBP to leave a review. 

Copy reviews link on Google Business Profile

That link will take anyone who clicks directly to a review option.

Customer review form on Google Business Profile

Email it, text it, post a QR code, or use a QR code on your business cards. Make it as plain and simple as possible so your customers leave reviews.

7. Practice good business

This is an online tip for the offline world: be a good business. Deliver a quality product or service. Don’t cut corners. Honor your customers. Genuinely solve their problems. Do those things, and you’ll already be on your way to solid local SEO performance. Sure, there are signals you can tweak to squeeze out a little bit more SEO juice, but if people like your business and repeatedly patronize it, that’s a huge signal in and of itself.

Remember that prominence ranking factor? Google actually has a patent that assesses the quality of a business based on how far people are willing to travel to visit that business. By spying on us all of the time (ahem) conducting research based on our opting into their services, Google is able to mimic the real world online via user behavior. If folks are bypassing your competitors to get to you, that’s gonna positively impact your rankings. Or if they’re passing you up in favor of a local competitor, that’s an opportunity to assess how you can deliver a better product. 

Local SEO Tools

You can accomplish a lot without tools, but resources are available to amplify your local SEO strategy, some even being free. Here are a few we recommend:


Local tool What it does Why we like it
Moz Local Moz helps you manage citations and aggregators in a cinch. Quickly get your NAP listings sorted—and a lot more. Moz offers a lot of powerful tools at a solid price point, and you can accomplish a lot with just a few clicks.
BrightLocal or Whitespark Whitespark and BrightLocal are excellent choices for discovering and landing competitor citations. Both also have a robust suite of features for all things local. Both BrightLocal and Whitespark offer essentially everything you might need for effective local SEO.
Screaming Frog The Screaming Frog SEO Spider is an indispensable tool for auditing your website. Screaming Frog crawls up to 500 URLs on a site for FREE. That’s plenty of auditing power for a lot of local websites.
Google Alerts Google Alerts emails you whenever Google discovers new content on the web that matches the search terms you set. Unlinked brand mentions are an excellent source of backlinks. With Alerts, you’ll never miss an opportunity!
Ahrefs Ahrefs essentially does everything, but we recommend it here as a go-to tool for backlink auditing and research. Easily check your site or competitors’ sites to identify backlink opportunities and land some low-hanging links.


Check out “5 Local SEO Tools Everyone Should Be Using” for a rundown of these tools and more

Optimize the Entirety of Your Business for Better Local SEO

Just like there is no magic bullet for a successful business, there is no secret sauce for local SEO either. Successful local SEO depends on a host of real-world and online factors that you can’t always directly control. 

If you’re a business owner, or if you have direct operations influence, there are some things you can control, however. 

  • Focus on pleasing your customers and gladly solving their problems
  • Be kind, courteous, and respectful
  • Deliver a superior product at the right price point
  • Go the extra mile to build your brand and demonstrate that you truly care about your community
  • Treat your audience the way you’d like to be treated

By optimizing your business, you’re already boosting your local SEO performance. 

If you are already practicing good business and are looking to take your local SEO to the next level, RicketyRoo can help. We help generate more revenue for businesses like yours every day. 

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Blake Denman

Blake has more than 14 years of local SEO and paid search marketing experience. He founded RicketyRoo in February 2009. Outside of running RicketyRoo, Blake enjoys spending time outdoors with his wife and Goldendoodle, June, hiking throughout Central Oregon.
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