Local optimization continues to be a top priority in the SEO world. According to HubSpot’s 2021 State of Marketing Report, half of all businesses said localization was a top tactic for the year, taking second place to using strategic keywords (71%). Local SEO even beat out mobile optimization as a key priority for the year. Investing in local search optimization can have immediate effects on your business. You can use local search to drive customers to your business and increase your revenue. However, SEO still seems like an enigma to many business owners. Working with Google, Bing, and other search engines can be intimidating and confusing at times. Fortunately, healthy SEO practices never die. Follow these tips to improve your local search footprint and increase your chances of driving organic traffic to your website. 1. Show that you're a Local Business Even without knowing anything about SEO, you can take action to show up in local search. The first step is to show search crawlers—more importantly, your customers—that you are local. Invest in a local phone number with the market’s area code. If you don’t have one, look into Google Voice. Display your business’s name, phone number, and address clearly on your website. This information is known as NAP (name, address, phone number) in the SEO world, and it’s a great way to drive home the localization of your business to customers and search engines. You can also get creative with ways to highlight that you are a local business. You can incorporate your city into your tagline, like “Milwaukee’s best plumber,” or in your content through localized categories and pages. These subtle techniques will provide localized relevancy for your site to search engine crawlers as well as users who land on your website. 2. Update Your Google and Bing Business Accounts Your Google My Business (GMB) Account and Bing Places for Business are 2 profiles that you absolutely must have if you want to truly optimize your business for local search. It will provide information about your website, hours, parking, and COVID-19 safety options. The team at SEMRush created a Google My Business guide to claiming your address and getting set up. Getting set up is only the first part. Follow these steps to keep your listing current and useful: \tKeep up with your account! Answer customer questions quickly and update your hours if they change for holidays like the 4th of July. \tAudit your account frequently. Evaluate your GMB and Bing Places account quarterly to see if you need new photos or information to help customers. \tStay on top of new features. For example, Google frequently adds attributes to boost your business profile, including labels for LGBTQ+–friendly and a Transgender Safe Space. Along with Google and Bing, you can and should use other local business profiles relevant to your industry, such as Yelp. The more platforms you use for your local footprint, the better. 3. Target Local Keywords A large part of search optimization is letting search engines know who you are and what you do. If you are trying to target local terms on Google, then you need to let their website crawlers know that you operate a small business in a specific area. Evaluate your content to make sure you are using the right keywords. Examples include doughnut shops in Portland, hardware stores near me, and local florists. The good news is that you don’t have to guess the best keywords to use. There are plenty of free resources to use to guide your keyword research. You can also invest in paid tools for more advanced features. 4. Build Local Terms Into Your Meta Titles and Descriptions Your website might have SEO options that you can use to increase your visibility. If you use WordPress, Yoast offers a free widget to target specific keywords. There are tabs within Squarespace to fill in SEO information before you publish a post or page. Two key terms that you will come across are meta titles and meta descriptions. These fields tell search engines what your content is about, and the right keywords can help you rank well locally. Try to incorporate your keywords into your meta descriptions and titles. Your SEO tools might offer tips on meta description length, keyword placement, and other options to improve your content. 5. Engage with other local small businesses The internet is made up of connections, with billions of websites interlinking to each other constantly. This “web” of links is one of the most important parts of SEO because it sends signals to search engines about relevancy, quality, and recency of pages. In fact, if you spend 3 minutes researching SEO tips, you’ll find “links” to be one of the most important factors mentioned. As a small, local business, you should look for opportunities within your community to get and give links. The websites that you link to should be relevant to your industry and your location. Similarly, the websites that link back to you should reflect your market. Brainstorm ways to grow the number of links pointing to and from your website with a local focus. For example: \tReach out to local newspapers to cover your grand opening or product launch. These online publications can link back to your website. \tWrite blog posts about your area. These can range from recommendations to seasonal advice. Link to other local businesses and blogs. \tGet engaged in the local community. By sponsoring events and organizations, these groups might link back to you. \tFix any broken links on your website. These include links to external pages that are no longer live and internal pages that have been changed or removed. Once you feel comfortable creating internal and external links, move on to more advanced link-building strategies to boost your local SEO. 6. Focus on User Behavior Search trends are based on real-life factors that affect consumers, and the pandemic is the perfect example of this. According to insights published on Think With Google, the pandemic changed the interests of consumers and how they behaved. Searches for home improvement skyrocketed in 2020, along with people seeking out DIY repairs. On a general level, search terms with the words “low budget” increased over 200% globally year-over-year. Google frequently publishes insights on user behavior. Follow these reports to understand what your users want. Not only can you target important keywords (like “low budget lawn care” if you operate a landscaping service), but you can also understand the needs of the people buying from you. Your consumer is the core of your local SEO efforts It’s easy to get caught up in the technical aspects of search optimization; however, you aren’t trying to beat Google or other search engines. You are trying to connect with customers. The goal of search engines has and always will be to provide the best and most relevant results to its users—so focusing on providing that instead of trying to game the system is the best long-term approach to local SEO. You don’t need to become a master of search engine algorithms to create positive customer experiences. Instead, focus on the problems your customers face and brainstorm ways to solve them. This will help you get noticed ethically and effectively.