Local businesses once relied on word-of-mouth, but online search is gradually overtaking it. Rather than ask their neighbors, Americans ask the internet instead. Almost half (46%) of Google searches are made by people looking for local stores and services. Close to ninety percent of Americans search for a local business at least once a week. 58 percent search for one every day. Moreover, 72 percent of the time, searchers choose a business within five miles of their location.

The implications are clear. If they want to survive, neighborhood businesses need to know how to create a local SEO strategy. Local SEO has huge benefits. It not only boosts relevant traffic, it also:

  • Reduces Ad Costs
  • Raises Visibility
  • Increases Web Authority

In short, businesses with a local SEO strategy bring in more customers and more money. Ultimately, the goal is to break into the Google Three Pack, also known as the Google Local Pack or the Google Snack Pack.

These are the first companies listed in the user’s search results, the businesses Google considers to be the closest and most capable of fulfilling their request. As a result, they receive an extraordinary number of clicks. In order to rank in the top three, companies need to throw up a lot of pertinent signals, such as:

Geo-Targeted Keywords

In order to compete at the local level, businesses need to incorporate local keywords into their website and social media. Work in as many variations as possible, wherever possible. Besides hashtags and web copy, include them in URLs, page titles, and meta descriptions.

For example, a store in New York City would not only need to include “New York,” but also the borough and neighborhood where they’re located. Local nicknames or descriptions (e.g. Upper West Side, SoHo, Lower Manhattan, Midtown) are immensely helpful as well ‒ anything customers might punch into Google to report their location.

Google My Business Profile

Because most people look for businesses on Google, setting up a profile on their website naturally improves search rankings. The process is simple and straightforward.

  • Create a Google Account. Operates like a standard Google account. Select “To manage my business” from the drop down when signing up.
  • Create a Business Profile. A basic business profile is simply a place on Google Maps. Enter your business name. If the search bar populates, then your profile already exists, you just have to claim it. If it doesn’t populate, click “add missing place” and enter your information (business name, address, etc.).
  • Request a Google My Business Account. Go to Google.com/business and provide your name, address, website, phone number, and business category. If you deliver, specify the delivery area.
  • Claim Your Business Profile. Claiming your business profile connects your business profile to your Google My Business Account. This allows you to reply to reviews, post updates, upload photos, accept online orders, display in-store products, list hours, analyze local search performance, and incorporate new keywords into Google.
  • Verify Ownership. Once you’ve claimed the business, Google will contact you for proof of ownership. After you’ve supplied the requisite information, you’ll receive full control over your listing.

Register with Online Directories

Google is popular, but it isn’t the only place people look for local businesses. TripAdvisor, Yelp, Moz, City-Data, Hubspot, FourSquare, and Angie’s List also receive a lot of traffic. The local Chamber of Commerce is another good option. These not only draw in customers, they also create a larger digital footprint, which increases rankings on major search engines.

Local Optimized Content

Blogs allow businesses to talk about products and services, but they’re also an opportunity to discuss local events, figures, and locations, incorporating plenty of geo-specific keywords in the process.

Localized Landing Pages

Businesses with multiple locations need separate landing pages for each one. Each page should be optimized for the area where they operate. Besides local keywords, each site should list the location’s address, phone number, and hours, not to mention testimonials from neighborhood customers.

Consistent Address & Contact Information

Even if a company operates multiple locations, each location’s address and phone number needs to be consistent in every directory where it’s listed. Google can’t direct customers to a business if it doesn’t know where it is. If the location has changed, go through and update its information in every database where it appears.

Customer Reviews

Reviews boost rankings because they separate good businesses from bad ones. The more positive testimonials a business has, the more likely Google is to recommend it to local users. No business can break into the Three Pack without them.

Fortunately, good reviews are easy to get. Businesses that provide a good product or service attract them without any effort. However, in order to be truly competitive, businesses need to boost reviews as high as possible. Request them:

  • In Person
  • Via Text
  • Through Email
  • On Your Website
  • On Social Media
  • On Receipts & Invoices

Framing the request as a favor (e.g. “If you’re happy with the meal and service, please consider leaving a review. It would really mean a lot to us. Our business depends on customer feedback.”) incentivizes customers to pull out their phones and share their experience.

Mobile Optimization

In 2021, over sixty percent of searches were made on a mobile device. Around thirty percent of those searches were for local businesses and nearly eighty percent led to in-store sales. Mobile optimization is, therefore, a crucial component of any local SEO strategy and factors heavily into rankings.

Every site in the Three Pack is mobile optimized, as is every other website scrolling down. In fact, mobile search is growing so quickly, it’s unlikely businesses will be able to compete on any level (local, national, or global) without a website built for mobile users.