The Why & How of Optimizing for Local Search

With 92% of people searching online for local businesses, it’s not hard to see why optimizing for local search is so important. If you’re a small or local business, points out HubSpot, “what makes your business tick is your local community, whether on the town, city, county, or state level.”

Google’s new local algorithm update, Pigeon, “has taken local search to a whole new level of specificity and accuracy” says Neil Patel.

Echoing Patel’s statement, Entrepreneaur’s article, Why Local SEO is About to Become Even More Important adds:

“Since Google’s fan-named “Pigeon” update in 2014, the importance of local SEO has grown, leading many entrepreneurs to focus on their strategy despite going years without considering a local tangent to their inbound marketing campaign. Others, who already practiced regular local optimization strategies, saw the update as an opportunity to increase their efforts even further.


These moves are savvy…but the ride isn’t over yet. Over the next few years local SEO will become even more impactful and more useful for businesses.”

Author and Entrepreneur, Jason Dembers, tells us why:

Google Favors Local Businesses

Google has been known to exhibit some favoritism toward newer, smaller, more agile companies. Even though Google’s ranking mostly has to do with brand history and authority, the company also aims to give search engine users what they want, which often translates into focusing on fresh, sharp, popular brands.

Additionally, Google wants to enable small-business owners who have limited resources with the potential to break new ground. As you may know, Google has long provided free tools, such as Analytics, Webmaster Tools, etc.,to help new business owners increase their online visibility. Because Google cares about local businesses, Pigeon is most likely just the beginning of updates focused on local search.

More Customized Search Results 

Google is all about giving people individualized results. While its anticipative and customized search features are somewhat limited at this time, the search engine is already capable of generating specific results based on the user who is searching. So, as long as you’re logged into a Google account, your search history and geographic location will determine the type of results you see.

As Google becomes more sophisitcated and consumers demand more customized results, the importance of local optimization will continue to grow along with it.

The Popularity of Mobile and Wearable Devices

The percentage of searches via mobile devices has grown exponentially with each passing year, and most mobile searches are performed on the go. With the emergence of wearable devices (think Apple Watch), on the go searches will become even more frequent as search needs take on more immediacy.

That being said, searches based on proximity will grow increasingly popular, and local searches will be focused on more specific locations, instead of just regional or neighborhood-based searches. Essentially, wearable devices will prompt enhanced geographically relevant information, while erasing more and more limitations between our digital and physical worlds.

Increasing Competition

With millions of new sites being created each year and thousands of new businesses becoming impressive and intimidating enterprises, search visibility is decreasing in many ways. Google features, like Knowledge Graph, are taking over search engine results pages, while long-established, heavyweight brands are dominating national searches.

As a result, business owners are trying to find smaller target niches where they can gain more relevant visibility. Since optimizing locally is one of the best ways to accomplish this, local SEO will continue to increase in importance as competition grows more fierce.

Local Search Optimization in 6 Steps

While local search engine optimization can seem intimidating to most business owners, Local Marketing Institute says it can be boiled down to six basic steps, as outlined in their helpful infographic below.

First, you need to determine if your business qualifies for local search. According to Local Marketing Institute, “If your business serves customers face-to-face at your location or your customer’s location, then your business qualifies for local search.”

Now it’s just a matter of following these 6 steps for local search optimization:

  1. Gather and prepare your key business information
  2. Update local business data providers
  3. Claim & optimize local business listings
  4. Make sure your website is optimized
  5. Actively solicit and manage customer reviews
  6. Regularlly check reviews and listings


ComScore estimates that roughly three billion search queries contain local terms every month.  Furthermore, Kelsey Group indicates that 70% of online searchers use local search to find offline businesses, and HubSpot cites that 30% of all Google searches are for local information.

With millions of new sites being created each year and the popularity of mobile devices pushing the boundaries of modern shopping capabilities, consumers have more buying options available to them than ever before. Add to that Google’s algorithm updates for local search and you get some pretty fierce competition for online visibility. This means you need to make sure that online users can find your business quickly when browsing for information.

Luckily, the Local Marketing Institute offers some good advice for tipping the scales in your favor. Just follow the local search optimization tips in the infographic above to improve your online visibility and Google rankings.


Sherene Funk is the author of the contemporary romance Autumn in Your Arms and two small business e-books. She is a voracious reader who owns more books than she can ever read in this lifetime. A graduate of Brigham Young University, she worked in advertising for many years before moving to her current writing position at Rain Retail Software. She researches non-stop to see what successful retailers do and loves to share what she learns with small business owners.

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