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Dominating Local Search in 2024 – All-in-One Guide to Improve Your Local Rankings

If you’re just getting started marketing your business online, the biggest challenge is knowing where to focus your efforts – and for many local businesses, their natural instinct is to appeal to their local audiences. But when they Google their service or product locally, they don’t find themselves. Why?

The internet is not what it used to be. Today, in 2024, Google looks at hundreds of factors, both on and off-site, each with its weight or value, to determine whether your content is relevant enough to display in search results.

When a user types a search phrase into Google, the engine checks the pattern of various website signals (ranking factors) to return a list of websites that match the user’s search as perfectly as possible.

Beware and take notice

You might not know that Google does not perform live searches of the entire internet whenever a user types something into the search bar. Instead, it searches through a stored copy of all the sites it discovers (indexed), a copy called the Google Index.

Sporadically, Google uses “spiders” to crawl the web. The spiders start on a single page, then follow the links on that page, scanning and crawling the content on the next pages, and so on. As your web content gets crawled, it’s stored within Google’s servers, building up its index.

The “spiders” crawl at an unimaginable rate, consistently crawling trillions of pages quickly to ensure that Google’s index is as up-to-date as possible. New sites and connections are discovered quickly, which might give your new content an initial boost within search. But this boost doesn’t last – and what do you do then to push your way to the top of local search?

Local SEO is unique and follows its own rules

After carefully analyzing user behaviour over trillions of searches, Google concluded that users seeking certain types of business require results to be within their immediate area. This is why Google’s local search algorithm includes a proximity scale. It tells us that Google considers location when searching for certain keywords, and it will still work even when a user does not include a location, city or “near me” in their search.

However, local search, in this way, is limited to desktop computers with a fixed IP address. The recent growth in mobile internet access throws a spanner in the works. Google is not always sure where you are, meaning local SEO has become crucial to local businesses offering local services or products.

Google Maps is separate

Local map businesses and locations are displayed within the standard Google organic search listings, with separate algorithms powering the main Google search results for local rankings. You should take advantage of this as a business because you can be shown twice. If a user ignores map listings through local SEO and optimisation, you can also appear at the top of search results.

google maps image

Steps to take to find yourself in local search results

In an ideal world, you’ll want to hire a local SEO company, which can help take your business to the top of local search. As local keywords are less difficult (scored by competition), local SEO is not as expensive as you might imagine. This is because it requires less effort than more competitive keywords or national searches. View costs here, or get a quote.

If you’re not ready to partner with a digital agency that can boost your traffic and conversions simultaneously and want to try getting your website to rank alone, here are the basic steps you need to take…

Where to begin

Localised content and local link popularity are two main factors here. Creating the local content is easier, especially if you know all the factors to include. However, getting local links is where many people or businesses fall short. Acquiring links is difficult, so guest blogging became popular many moons ago.

However, today, many businesses have only three options:

  1. Spend large amounts of money for link placement through the local press (online content advertising).
  2. Submit their website to local directories for free (most of the time), however, these links are not as powerful.
  3. Acquire a bunch of links from websites like Fiver or Fat Joe, which are not always the best quality and, if not managed correctly, can cause more damage than good.

Oftentimes, this is why working with an SEO agency is better. They understand link strength and how to manipulate it correctly for success.

Start with your keyword research

Sometimes, learning your keywords can be simple – other times, you’ll want to stay away from your logic and perform research into what your customer Googles around your product or service. For example, suppose you’re an estate agent or property management company. In that case, you’ll want to appear in a search for “property management company in [location]”, but what about “property management [location]” or property management costs [location]?”

people ask google image

  1. Start by getting your keywords. Use tools like Ahrefs keyword explorer to discover the most popular searches around your product. You can use Google for free if you don’t want to pay for Ahrefs. Look at the top-asked questions and suggested searches to see what users Google.
  2. Next, look at where you’re based. For example, your business might just be in Guildford, but you’ll want to extend your radius by 10 miles to pick up customers within the local vicinity. So you’ll want to create pages like Property Management Surrey, Property Management Guildford, Property Management Woking, etc. Each page will need to be optimised for their keyword. If you have branches across the UK, you’ll need pages per location nationwide. Website structure and hierarchy will be essential for making this work.

google suggested keywords screenshot

Then, perform a local SEO audit

Once the fundamentals are achieved, you’ll want to assess your local SEO. At the same time, once you’ve completed your local pages, you’ll want to monitor this frequently to see how Google is responding to your content and if what you did works. It’s important to know that SEO is ongoing. Even if you’re number 1 today, you might not be there next week Remember, just because you take your foot off the break, doesn’t mean your competitors will.

Tools to use for your local SEO audit:

Write localised content

The content and copy on your website are huge factors and have been since the early days of Google’s traditional algorithm. Never shy away from the cost; Google likes tables and faces, so don’t be afraid to show your face or create graphics, which Google can rank in its image search (see the example below).

VC SEO offer

Within your content, here are some other rules and inclusions you’ll want to follow:

  • Postcodes, links to directions and maps and other location-based factors like Google My Business, citations and reviews.
  • Google Maps, your address, parking information, contact details, access information, opening hours

Not sure what to write? Looking at the top-ranked competitors on the first page can give away the secret – look at their content and site and pinpoint why Google has ranked them.

Building local landing pages

You’ll need to optimise your local pages with title tags, meta descriptions, categories, alt tags, etc., and ensure a logical structure and URL. For example, you’ll want to create parent and child pages. In this case, Property Management Surrey would be the parent, and Property Management Guildford would be the child. Don’t understand this bit? Imagine your website is a family tree or website structure; you don’t want everything at the top; you want to build a sturdy structure with dedicated sections (see the image below).

website hierarchy image

Optimisation check-list for your local pages:

  • Interlink within your site – link your location pages from the menu, homepage, and other areas where it makes sense. At the same time, make sure to interlink within them to the important pages on your website (but make sure the links make sense). At the same time, you’ll want external links to credible sources to support your content; for example, this might include local government sites or councils. Linking within your site assists with your website hierarchy and architecture and is important to distributing page authority and ranking power.
  • Your image titles and alt tags contain the keyword or are keyword-related.
  • Your metadata (title and description) contains the keyword.
  • Your content is human-generated and free from spelling errors.
  • You’ve assigned a category or tag to the page.
  • You’ve submitted your pages to Google Search Console.
  • You have used H1, H2, H3 etc in your piece.
  • Your page is perfectly designed and optimised for mobile.
  • Your page is fast and responsive.

Local SEO tools that companies will use to help you on your journey

While it might sound extensive, location-based factors like having a Google Local or My Business account, local citations and review signals, and localised content and pages are all considered in how your website is ranked. If you want to use Google’s full power, you must dedicate time to keyword research focused on your local audience, build citation links, manage your business listing, and create content on your website regularly. If you ever need any help, you know where we are.

Read next: How to make your small business SEO work.

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