What is Local SEO and Why is it Important For Your Business?


  • Published on May 8, 2024
  • Last Updated on May 16, 2024
A woman smiles in front of a laptop displaying local search results. Text beside the image reads

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    Local SEO aims to position your business higher in location-related search results, particularly those with maps on the results pages.

    Within the broader industry, it’s common to hear “local SEO” broken out into its own category separate from traditional or broader organic search optimization. However, local SEO focuses on optimizing for keywords, topics, and results pages with a local intent.

    Understanding Local Intent

    Intent in SEO refers to what users expect to see or find when they are searching. In the SEO industry, professionals typically categorize intent into four different buckets: navigational, transactional, commercial, and informational.

    These buckets help SEO professionals understand which content to write and which content to position to rank higher for any given term.

    When a search term also has a local intent, Google has determined that users expect to see results from local sources and/or businesses close to them or where they are searching for.

    How Local Intent Works

    A keyword such as “backpacks” typically has commercial intent but no local intent, as users expect to see product information only.

    A Google search engine results page for the phrase "backpacks." The page shows ads for eight different backpacks at the top, while below it, the organic results for backpacks are showed in rows of four products.
    A search for the phrase “backpacks” has no local intent but is purely commercial. Search results pages show products and online stores, but no maps. Most stores are larger retailers or manufacturers.

    On the other hand, the term “backpack stores” has a slight local intent, and Google puts maps results (the “map pack” or “local pack”) above the traditional search results. “Stores” could indicate that a person wants to shop in person, or it could indicate they want to shop online.

    A Google search engine results page for the phrase "backpack stores." The page shows ads for eight different backpacks at the top, while below it, a list of three different businesses appear to the left of a map.
    If a user adds the word “stores,” it shows a map as the top organic results, with a broad geographic area.

    And if a user searches for “backpack stores near me,” the local intent is explicit, so the map pack will show businesses closer to the user’s location.

    How Google Determines Local Search Intent

    Google uses countless data points to determine ranking and what information to display on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Those data points include:

    • Searches for specific locations, such as neighborhoods or landmarks.
    • Informational keywords related to a specific place, particularly questions about a given location.
    • Commercial keywords / terms related to an in-person or local business.
    • Certain common phrases “near me” added to a search term
    • The phrases added to the end of search terms:○ “[search term] near me”
      ○ “[search term] in [location name]”
      ○ “[search term] next to [location name]”
      ○ “[location name] [search term]”
    • From user engagement data on search engine results pages, just as clicks on locations pages or on business profiles.
    • Current user device and location.
    Google's home page with "digital marketing" entered into the search bar." Related terms appear below the search bar.
    The terms highlighted in red have explicit local intent, while those highlighted in blue have implicit local intent.

    Which Businesses Benefit the Most from Local SEO?

    Nearly half of all search results contain local intent, with 29% of all Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) showing a local pack. Ranking at the top of these results – and inside the local pack – establishes credibility and can lead to more business.

    Unlike SERPs without a local intent, where you can rank higher but fail to get your audience to your site, local keywords tend to lead to local website traffic.

    An AI-powered search for "food virginia beach." The top result is "Waterman's Surfside," showing a seafood dish in a thumbnail image next to a link to its Google Business Profile. The restaurant has an average 4.6 stars on Google with more than 10,000 ratings.
    Even with the switch to AI-powered local search, Google Business Profiles continue to play a large role for restaurants. Here, the Google Business Profile for a Virginia Beach restaurant is shown alongside directories on Yelp and TripAdvisor.

    The importance of local SEO to your digital marketing strategy depends on how people find you and how likely those people are to become customers or clients.

    Read More: What Marketers Need to Know About AI Search

    According to Search Engine Land, the businesses that benefit the most from higher ranking for keywords with local intent are:

    1. Medical Services – Regardless of whether your practice is elective services or outpatient care, drive time plays a huge factor in a prospective patient’s selection for medical services.
    2. Law Offices – Credibility matters, especially for the most common types of law searches such as “personal injury attorney” or “divorce attorney.”
    3. Dining – This should go without saying, but foodies looking for new places to eat or homebodies wanting good delivery both use maps to discover their next meal.
    4. Home Services – Search Engine Land singles out plumbers because of how often people look for DIY fixes prior to hiring a professional. But other home services such as pest control also benefit from local search strategies.
    5. Pet Services – “Pet services are highly specialized and almost exclusively in demand at a local level,” writes Search Engine Land.
    6. Real estate – Realtors have invested millions of dollars into developing robust search engines of their own to put maps on their sites. Ranking their listings and their own SERPs high on Google often forms a core part of their digital marketing strategy.
     A home listings search page on rwtowne.com. The map of Virginia Beach is on the left, with home listings on the right.
    When searching for home listings, prospective home buyers often expect to see links to geotargeted maps pages, such as this one on rwtowne.com. When searching for realtors, buyers and sellers will see a standard map pack with agent offices.

    What are the KPIs for Local SEO?

    So how do you measure success online? Let’s take a look at the primary and secondary metrics for your search efforts.

    Primary KPIs

    • Conversions and/or revenue – Whenever possible, the primary KPI for a local SEO campaign should be tied to a sale or revenue.

      If it isn’t possible from a technical standpoint, agencies will create conversions (or key events as they will soon be called) to measure user behavior. Setting a baseline and a goal to increase conversions from your local SEO efforts will determine if your strategy is moving the needle business-wise.
    • Traffic – The core of any SEO strategy is to get more people to your profile or to your targeted pages. Increases in traffic, particularly from your targeted location, are a direct measure of overall success.
    • Engagement – Retaining traffic on your site longer gives you a better chance of converting that traffic into business. Strong engagement numbers also play a key role in determining rank.
    • Business Profile Interactions – Google Business Profiles measures five different types of interactions – each of which could be considered conversions in their own right, depending on your business:
      • Website clicks
      • Phone calls
      • Messages
      • Bookings
      • Directions

    Secondary KPIs

    • Average position and ranking – This may be surprising, but ranking is a secondary KPI, not a primary KPI. This is because your audience may be searching for dozens of different topics. The goal of an SEO campaign is to rank higher in order to drive traffic.

      If you are ranking high but it’s not yielding results, it’s time to rethink what you are ranking for.
    • Profile ratings and reviews
    • Share of Voice and Share of Local Voice – These two metrics calculate your brand’s ownership of the messaging around a topic for maps or traditional results relative to your competitors
    • Organic Click Through Rates – Clicks to your website from search results divided by the number of times your site was viewed in search results. This measures the effectiveness of your meta titles, descriptions, ranking, and rich features in generating traffic from search results pages.

    What Does Google Consider for Local Ranking?

    Ranking Factors for Business Profiles in the Map Pack

    Google uses three primary ranking signals to determine which profiles to put at the top for a map pack. While the ranking signals for traditional search play a role, these three outweigh the others.

    Ranking Signal No. 1: Location

    The closer you are to an individual’s actual location or to a location they typed in the search bar, the better chance you have of ranking higher for terms related to that location.

    A map of Norfolk, Virginia, overlaid with numbers inside of circles. The numbers indicate Google ranking positions for TechArk's Google Business Profile.
    This 5×5 grid shows our Business Profile’s ranking for “digital marketing agency” over a 100-square mile area, centered at our Norfolk location. Ranking positions vary from location to location, even between distances of 2.5 miles.

    Because of this, local SEO tools will provide you with ranking data down to a tenth of a mile, which is especially important in densely populated areas.

    A screenshot from the SEO tool Ahrefs. The screen shows a preview of a results page for digital marketing agency in Norfolk, Va. TechArk's website is at No. 5, while its Business Profile is in the top result.
    The local pack’s placement on a SERP will vary. For the “digital marketing agency” in Norfolk, the top two results are business directories, with the local pack appearing below it.

    Ranking Signal No. 2: Reputation

    Getting those Google reviews matters. Aside from establishing credibility when someone finds you, a high number of positive reviews and ratings will help you to the top of the rankings.

    Ranking Signal No. 3: Relevancy

    This is where keyword strategy comes into play. Ranking high for non-relevant keywords will bring in little business (or in the worst cases), the wrong business.

    Prior to selecting keywords, your SEO agency will need to determine which searches have the map pack and where you currently rank in maps. Then, you will need to determine if you can compete for those keywords based on:

    • Your service offering
    • Keywords in your reviews
    • Your competition’s presence on maps
    • Online mentions
    • Engagement with your profile.

    Ranking Factors for Traditional Search Results with Local Intent

    Ranking in the traditional results also plays a key role in local SEO. Google looks to your website to verify what your business has to offer, including your links and your basic information.

    Here are three important ranking factors for ranking for local keywords:

    Ranking Signal 1: Citations in Local Directories / Local Pages in Major Directories

    Link-building is a core component of any SEO strategy. For local keywords, the best sources of backlinks are in the “Top 10” or “Best Of” pages for your business and location.

    Your strategy for obtaining these links will vary based on the website and the type of page. Some websites, such as Yelp and TripAdvisor, work on a ratings-based system, so getting on these pages will depend on your ability to generate positive reviews.

    Other “best of” lists will be curated by writers, so developing relationships with the publications will prove to be crucial for your list.

    A screenshot of the Best of Nashville webpage with three columns of thumbnail images next to each winner in the category of "Food and Drink."
    The Nashville Scene’s “Best of Nashville” lists include a Writer’s Choice and Reader’s Poll for each category.
     A screenshot of the Best of Nashville webpage with three columns of thumbnail images next to each winner in the category of "Food and Drink."
    The Nashville Scene’s “Best of Nashville” lists include a Writer’s Choice and Reader’s Poll for each category.

    Read more: View Our SEO Services in Virginia Beach

    Ranking Signal 2: Structured Data

    Thirteen years ago, Google partnered with search engine rivals Yahoo! and Bing to create Schema.org, which provided developers a way to link information together in a coherent and consistent “graph.”

    For local businesses, this means you can tell Google basic information about your business directly from the metadata and link that to your other online profiles.

    “@type”: “Organizaion,

    url: “https://gotechark.com”,

    “sameAs”: [“https://www.facebook.com/gotechark/”





    Ranking Signal 3: NAP signals

    If your business operates out of multiple locations, it is crucial that you create pages for these locations with basic information, such as name, address, and phone number (NAP).

    Automating your listings management can ensure consistency across your business profiles and even help you claim more referral traffic.

    Other Ranking Signals for Local Keywords in Traditional Search Results

    • Website performance (Core Web Vitals)
    • Mobile-first design
    • Accessible content and design (WCAG AA or higher)
    • Security
    • Adherence to Google’s content guidelines – Expertise, Experience, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness – for your targeted locations and topics.

    How Can I Rank Higher for Local Keywords?

    Generating the best performance out of your local SEO strategy comes down to sending strong signals to Google that your website or content is worth ranking.

    There are no shortcuts to getting to the top of the page. In general, it takes at least four to six months to start seeing results from any SEO effort. The best way to get to the top is through consistency and patience.

    What is the ROI for Local SEO?

    There is no universally accepted ROI for Local SEO work. But in general, local SEO is a lower long-term monetary investment for results than a paid media campaign. The cost of a campaign is in time.

    The amount of time it takes will depend on your website’s existing authority. If you are starting from scratch, your first SEO campaigns will likely focus on searches for your brand name and less competitive keywords.

    How Can an Agency Help Me with Local SEO?

    An agency partner like TechArk will help you in three key areas:

    • Strategy creation
    • On-page optimization
    • Off-page link-building and brand mentions

    Schedule a free consultation with TechArk today to learn how we can help you with local SEO services.