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Local SEO: How To Outrank Your Competitors on Google

Local search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of optimizing your online presence to attract traffic from searches in your geographic location. It is critical for small businesses, especially home service providers that provide services to homeowners in a certain area, as local searches account for 46% of all Google searches. However, it has become more competitive to rank by location as more and more businesses recognize the need to optimize for local search.

Local SEO: How To Outrank Your Competitors on Google

The Local Pack

The Local Pack refers to the search engine results page (SERP) feature that includes a map and three listings related to your query with their NAP data (name, address, phone). The Local Pack appears in almost 30 percent of all first-page SERPs, making it the most frequently-displayed SERP feature.

local pack of three HVAC companies in Minnesota
Businesses affected by the Local Pack are those that service a particular location, including plumbing, repair, or delivery services; and local businesses, such as restaurants, medical practices, or salons.

While your ideal goal should be to rank as high as possible in the Local Pack for your location, it has become more difficult in recent years. Google has slowly taken away prime spots from local businesses on the first page of the SERPs by decreasing the number of results in the Local Pack from seven to three.

search engine results page highlighting the local pack and their relation to the organic results

The Local Pack appears in the top spot in the SERPs and usually provides the user with all of the information they need, causing users to overlook the organic results below and give the top three businesses all the traffic. So, it’s pretty important to do all you can to compete for a spot in the Local Pack.

How Google Determines Local Rank

Local results are based primarily on the following three factors.

black and yellow map pin
The distance between the search term and the location term used in the search query. If the user doesn't add a location keyword in their search, Google will use the user's current location.

four yellow puzzle pieces, three of which are connected
How relevant the listing is to what the user is looking for. This is why it's important to have accurate and detailed information on your website.

boxy exclamation point with with five white circles down the middle
The prominence of a business in the community. Google takes information from across the web to understand how well-known a business is and also tries to reflect places that may be more prominent in the offline world, such as famous museums and landmarks. Other elements such as Google reviews and organic search ranking also factor into local results.

Google uses a combination of all three of these factors to determine a user’s search results. For example, if the Google algorithm determines that a business that’s farther away is more likely to have what the user is looking for, it will rank higher than a business that’s closer to the user’s location.

RELATED: How does Google ranking work?

How to Optimize Your Site for Local SEO

Location-based SEO, also known as geo-targeting, is critical in order to rank for your geographic location.

Claim your Google Business Profile & Bing Places For Business listings

A Google Business Profile is a free method for businesses to optimize their SEO strategy and improve their local ranking. Although it’s important for all businesses to have a Google Business Profile, it can be most beneficial for small businesses.

Hoist Google Business Profile
The first step to optimizing a Google Business Profile is to claim and verify your business. Business owners can then update their website, hours, location, and contact information. Managing a Google Business Profile profile includes posting regularly, answering user’s questions, and responding to Google reviews.

Bing Places for Business is a similar feature on Microsoft’s search engine, Bing. Like Google, business owners can update their information and add photos to enhance their profile. However, unlike Google Business Profile, a Bing Places for Business listing doesn’t include the capability to create posts or manage user’s questions and reviews.

Make sure your NAP is visible

To make it easy for users and search engines to find you, set up your NAP. This stands for name, address, and phone number. This should be included as crawlable HTML text on your site. The most common location for the NAP is in the header or footer.

Hoist Footer

The NAP should be consistent throughout the web to further verify the information Google has about your business. Users don’t only search for businesses on Google. They also use Facebook, local directories, and other search engines, so the NAP on your site should match what’s on all of these sites as well. Inconsistencies will confuse Google and result in a poor user experience, negatively impacting your ranking.

Optimize meta descriptions, titles, and headers

Each page’s title, meta description, and content should be optimized for the local area. Title and meta description tags are HTML elements that you can customize to reflect the content of your webpage.

The headers in the content of each page should include location keywords, such as the city, state, or neighborhood.

If you have multiple locations and want to rank in each location, create separate local landing pages for each.

Optimize for mobile

Man sitting at a table using a Mobile device
Google has informally stated that over half of all mobile searches have local intent. According to 99firms, the number of mobile searches for local businesses grew by over 250% between 2017 and 2019.

A mobile-friendly site will better the user experience and make it easier for users to read reviews, find location information, and contact your business.

Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to determine how easily a visitor can use your page on a mobile device.

Solicit reviews

5 yellow stars
Reviews affect your ranking. Google sees reviews as endorsements for your business, stating that “high-quality, positive reviews from your customers will improve your business’s visibility.” Do your job well so that people rave about you online.

Earn backlinks

Inbound links present a powerful opportunity to boost your local SEO. Links allow Google to further verify your company’s credibility and help raise your domain authority.

One way to research backlink opportunities is to use the Ahrefs Link Intersect Tool. This is a free tool that will allow you to discover what sites are linking to your competitors and not you. The more credible sites that link to your competitor, the higher they are likely to rank. Use this information to seek credible links for your site as well.

Get involved

Local websites that link back to your site are some of the best links to earn.

Earn Local SEO Links Infographic

Outrank the Competition

It is crucial to be aware of your competition and know how they’re performing online.

Provide exceptional experiences

Although SEO is important, the business that ultimately excels at user experience and customer service is likely to always come out on top. This can't be faked with keyword stuffing or other poor SEO tactics.

Hire an agency

If you genuinely care about ranking well in your area, consider working with a digital marketing agency.

Ready to chat about what we can do to get your business in the local pack?

Contact Hoist

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