Becoming a Triple Threat: How to Win at Local SEO

local seoBy Alex Darling

I am a sucker for musicals. Wicked, Hamilton, Les Misérables… if you can name it, I have probably cried watching it. In the world of musicals, there are people known as triple threats – performers who are stellar at dancing, acting, and singing. Judy Garland is a classic example, though my favorite triple threat is Idina Menzel. If you want to be a star performer in the world of musicals, you almost have to be a triple threat. Because there is so little room at the top, and because the competition is so steep, you don’t get the luxury of specializing.

Local SEO shares some of these characteristics. The competition in local search is steep, and in many cases you are fighting over a small number of spaces in the local pack. In order to be a star performer in local SEO, you need to succeed in three key areas: proximity, prominence, and relevance. Let’s go over those here:

Proximity: Are You Near Me?

Whether your customers are looking for home care, moving services, or model airplanes, they want a business near them. Google doesn’t want searchers in Seattle to see your Cleveland-based business, because those searchers won’t get any benefit from it. To avoid this, Google highly prioritizes businesses close to where their users are.

The best way to achieve proximity is… to be near your customers. That might sound disappointingly obvious, but it’s something you should be aware of when you move offices. Moving from an expensive downtown Cleveland office to a surrounding suburb may sound appealing if you want to save money on rent, but local is absurdly competitive. A move like that can seriously hurt your local rankings – and by extension, your lead flow.

Prominence: Are You Popular?

Google wants their users to find the best possible businesses around, so they put a lot of effort into identifying which businesses their searchers will like the most. This means you need to be popular, or at least look popular, if you want to succeed in local search. Compared to the hard cutoff of proximity, prominence is much more like a sliding scale. Here are the most common digital signals we recommend focusing on:

  • Citations: Just getting your business out there is useful. Make sure to broadcast your name, address, and phone number to local listing aggregators online.
  • Reviews: Getting reviews in Google should move the needle the most for you, but reviews in other places also help. Bear in mind that you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket
  • Links: Links are a strong ranking signal, but they can be difficult to get. Having a strong presence in your community and working with local businesses is a pretty good way forward on that front.

Relevance: Are You Doing What I Need?

Google takes an interesting angle when it comes to relevance. The basics are pretty obvious: Users looking for cleaning companies should see cleaning companies, while users looking for locksmiths should see locksmiths. But there is a level beyond that.  As a quick example, try searching for these 3 search phrases:

  • “moving companies”
  • “local moving”
  • “moving company near me”

You should notice that not all of the results are the same. Even though these three queries are similar, the results can differ pretty significantly. In some cases, the local pack is the first thing you see, other times it’s stuffed underneath half a page of search results. The #1 position might be taken by a local listing aggregator, but it also might feature a local mover’s website.

There is no simple solution when it comes to achieving relevance. Making sure your business is relevant to all the different search phrase variations is one of the biggest challenges we tackle on a daily basis here.

Wrapping it all Up

I want to emphasize that none of these categories are individually going to win the game for you. If you want to succeed in local search, you should be a triple threat. If you specialize in just one of these, you are at risk of getting knocked off your perch.

Big shout out to the folks over at Local SEO Guide who have been talking about this for quite a while. If you’re interested in some tongue-in-cheek discussion of local search, you should check out their blog. (P.S. to Dan Leibson & Andrew Shotland – you guys should blog more often!)


About the Author
Alex Darling is a digital marketing specialist. His specialties include technical SEO and process automation. He likes singing, board games, and spending an unhealthy amount of time on reddit.

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