Local SEO has dominated the landscape for the better part of the last few years, meaning it’s becoming more and more challenging to rank for keywords relevant to your specific service areas.

The basics of local SEO (getting listed on a few directory sites; claiming your Google My Business page) used to be enough to rank high. Now, it seems all of your competitors understand and practice these basics, making it really difficult for you to inch your way up the search engine results pages.

Just as importantly, however, is the fact that local search ranking factors have changed significantly over the last few years. It’s now far more complex and challenging to rank for local search keywords.

So what can you do to help boost your local rankings? Here are some of the most important factors that influence local search visibility, including recent changes Google’s implemented that have had a huge impact on what constitutes as “current local SEO best practices.”

The importance of that Google Local 3-Pack and Maps

Not too long ago, Google showed seven local business listings in the Google Local Pack. But recently, that pack was reduced down to 3 (and soon to be 2, with one paid-for spot). Fewer spots mean more competition.

As a result of this change, it’s more important for your local business to expand your SEO strategies by:

  • Optimizing your Google My Business page
  • Adding localized content to your website
  • Getting listed on online business directories and citation sites
  • Getting a good amount of positive reviews on Google and other third-party review sites

Each of these factors will improve your chances of being featured in that coveted 3-pack spot. Let’s break them down even further.

So what about Google My Business?

google-local-businessWith the constant state of flux of Google Plus, it’s easy to misunderstand just how important your Google My Business page is. Google takes this piece of digital real estate very seriously, to the point where they’ve devoted an entire team to helping you Get Your Business Online. They’ve even teamed up with local city Chamber of Commerce offices to run workshops to show businesses how to claim their Google My Business page.

When claiming your Google My Business page, make sure to include as much information as you can, including uploading your logo, including pictures of your business or products, including your business hours, types of payments accepted, as well as a keyword-rich business description.

Create local content for your website

If you want to rank high locally, you have to put local content onto your site. Simply put, this is non-negotiable.

Local content means writing blog posts that feature news, local events, and activities going on in your city and surrounding cities; promotions or specials you’re having at a particular business location, creating city-specific pages and more.

Ideally, you’ll write posts that hover near the 1,000-word mark.

Citations/directories

Sites like Yelp, Foursquare, Citysearch and others are a great way to get backlinks to your local business website. Many of these sites have high authority in the eyes of Google, meaning listings on these sites often times show up in top search results.

When it comes to citations, make sure that the NAP (Name, Address, and Phone Number) information is correct and consistent across all of your entries.

Depending on how many directories you’re a part of, managing your listings can be overwhelming. One way to increase efficiency with this task is to use an aggregator service like Infogroup, Neustar, Factual, or Axciom.

Get those stellar reviews

Online reviews are the Holy Grail of local SEO. Not only do these reviews correlate with higher local rankings, but they also help convince prospects that you’re worth doing business with.

How do you go about getting more online reviews? Honestly, you just ask.

When you ask a satisfied customer or client to leave an online review, be as helpful as possible by providing the exact URL of your preferred business review site (such as Google, Facebook, Yelp, etc.). It’s a good idea to have a variety of reviews on different sites.

Here’s a pro tip: Don’t ask customers in one lump push to leave reviews. Review sites might see a sudden influx of reviews as suspicious. Instead, drip out these requests.

Last but not least – always stay on top of changes

Rarely does a month go by without Google making some type of algorithm change that dictates local SEO best practices. While many of the tips above are solid strategies to use no matter what, knowing the latest out of the Google camp will ensure you make the most of your SEO efforts and see the best possible return on your investment. Stay ahead of the curve and subscribe to our newsletter below to get the latest in SEO delivered right to your inbox.