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Have you ever searched for gas stations near me? How about coffee shops in Indianapolis or best web designer in Indiana?

If you’ve ever wondered what goes into ranking for search terms that pertain to your specific area, you’re thinking of local search engine optimization.

Local search engine optimization is a branch of SEO that specifically focuses on optimizing a business or organization to be found locally in search results. When assessing and improving your local organic search rank position, there are five primary areas that we start with.

Keep reading to learn about the five steps to improve your local SEO ranking.

1. NAP (and we don’t mean sleep)

NAP stands for name, address, and phone. These are extremely important to keep consistent across the top-ranked directories. According to the Moz Local Search Ranking Factors, the second foundational factor to ranking well in local search is the consistency of citations on primary data sources. This means that in order to stay up on your local search results, your citations must be up to date at all times.

What is a citation?
A citation is any online mention of the name, address, and phone number for a local business.
With citations, it’s important to run reports to see your business’ performance in terms of the number of results found, the number of times all records have been cited, and more. A citation report is the easiest way to tell if all your NAP listings are consistent. In the report below, you can see how if just one part of your company is left out, the address and/or phone number can be thrown off for your entries.
After running the report, if you notice your listings are not consistent, you have two options when it comes to taking action: a paid online directory subscription service or manual re-entry. We’ve weighed the options for you below:
  • Paid service: This option has a fast result, wide reach, and easy ability to make ongoing improvements and additions. This option requires an ongoing commitment to keep it current. While a paid service is an efficient way to get the job done, once your business stops paying, the listings may return the citation to their original state.
  • Manually claim and update: This option is time-intensive, subject to human error, and involves manual monitoring. It gives you full control and doesn’t lock you into any long-term commitment service.
Additional sources on why updating your listings is important:

2. Google My Business (GMB)

Google My Business (GMB) is a free tool that allows you to manage how your business shows on Google Search and Maps including business name, location, hours, customer reviews (monitoring and replying), photos, information on where people search for you, and more.
Use our Google My Business checklist to optimize your profile. Download the checklist »
Make sure you are not creating your own categories. Instead, plan to use those already laid out for you by Google. Adding your own categories can hurt your listings, as occasionally business owners add what they think best describes their business and it tends to not be an option in Google.

To take advantage of this service, be sure you are updating and optimizing your GMB location profile on a regular basis with fields that best suit your business.

3. Facebook

While keeping your business’ Facebook profile up-to-date may seem like a no-brainer, you’d be surprised to find you may not be doing everything right. If your company has several locations and/or pages on Facebook making this a priority could improve your results.

Facebook’s local location feature is important to businesses for a number of reasons, including check-ins, search, and following. According to a study conducted in 2017, roughly 25 times more impressions happen on local Facebook pages, rather than brand pages. This is because when your business has a local page, it can carry the recommendations, reviews, and location-specific information that customers want and find relevant for their area. For example, if you are going to look up the hours to run to your local store, you’d much rather see the specific hours for the one closest to your current location, rather than a location four states away.

Setting up local location pages for each of your business locations may seem like a big task, but Facebook makes it easy by offering parent-child relationships (and a page for each location). Facebook now gives the parent page the ability to push content to the child pages, so you can create custom posts at appropriate locations.

4. Website

It may seem that the basic information on your website is successfully sharing your information with users, but there is room for improvement when it comes to local search and labeling. After all, the information page on your website means much more than just providing the location to your offices.

When getting your business to rank higher when people add the general term “near me” to their searches, your first step is making sure you are listed there. If you are established in your local area, there is a higher chance that people will be able to find you. In order to come up in the “near me” search results, you’ll want to make sure you include some localized information on your website, including:
  • A clean URL that does not include index_html, %20, or uppercase letters
  • Keywords in your page title
  • Location map
  • CTA buttons (e.g., “get directions” and “contact us”)
  • Local landmarks
  • Town lines
  • “Old school” driving directions for users to follow from any direction to get to your business
  • Subsections and/or suburbs near your location
  • A local number
  • Reviews on national services like Yelp
  • Special information like events, special offers, or popular items
  • Features at your location like free wifi, parking, outdoor seating, etc.
  • Social proof through reviews or testimonials
  • Social media widgets to display your most recent social posts or links to your social profiles

5. Reviews

Finally, one of the best ways to build credibility for your business is through reviews. Having positive reviews across the internet is an important factor with local SEO and map results. One of the most important places to house these reviews is on your Google My Business page, as these show up in local/map results.

Even if you aren’t at the top for results, having more reviews may help users determine if they will use you over other listed businesses. For example in some cases:
  • Users will often click on the listing with more reviews, even if it has a lower rating.
  • The more you get clicked on, the more you will move up in the local section rank.
Overall, you can see how local SEO is extremely important for having your business appear in a search engine’s unpaid results (search engine results pages) when someone goes to search for something locally. When assessing and improving your local organic search engine rank position, remember the five steps above and to always be optimizing and you’ll be on the road to improvement.
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This post was selected as one of the top digital marketing articles of the week by UpCity in March 2020.