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Chapter One:What Is Local SEO?

SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” SEO is the ongoing process of driving quality traffic to a website while increasing brand visibility through non-paid, “organic” search results.

Local SEO is a division of optimization that emphasizes a strategic approach to developing online visibility for local brick-and-mortar businesses. In other words, it's the process of ensuring that your online presence is fully optimized so that your business can be displayed to your target audience at the exact moment they are searching for your product or service.

For local businesses, this means someone searching who is currently, or will be, in the same area as your business. When conducting a localized search, the searcher’s expectation is to view results that are nearby. Search engines have come a long way and now make distinct decisions to display local results when appropriate.

Consider the example of someone searching for “coffee near me.” This is clearly an individual looking to grab a quick cup of coffee in the area. Contrast that search phrase with someone actively searching for “best cappuccino recipe.” This type of search is globally oriented and does not trigger local results to appear.

Optimizing for local search involves traditional SEO efforts including, on-page optimization, link building and content creation. But, it also adds a localization factor that involves diligent consistency and optimization of local search signals across major search engines.

These localization signals involve Google My Business (GMB), citations, reviews, prominence and personalization efforts.

We’ll dive deeper into the key ranking factors in the next chapter.

How Local SEO Works

To really understand local SEO, you’ll need to gain an understanding of how search engines determine exactly which results to display.

How Search Engines Display Results:

Consider this: you’re in a new city, looking to grab a quick bite to eat before your next event.

You pull out your phone and search “best restaurants near me.”

When you enter that term in Google, a lot happens before the results display.

First, Google checks historical information it has stored about you: things like previous searches, cookies, personalization, etc.

Next, they’ll determine the location you’re searching from. This can come from your IP address, wi-fi connections, or in this case, the GPS data from your phone.

After that, Google will attempt to understand the intent behind your search. “Best restaurants near me” is a pretty straight forward inquiry. So, Google will display the most prominent restaurants that immediately surround your search location.

Boom! It all happens in an instant.

Local SEO is all about making sure Google has the necessary information to match your business to users searching for the products and services you offer.

Types of Search


This style of search happens when a user provides a complete picture of what they are searching for. A contextual search occurs when a search is conducted from the same location that is used within the search query.

i.e. A user located in Buffalo, NY searches for “Mexican restaurants in Buffalo, NY”


This search occurs when Google needs to deduce what the searcher is interested in finding. The search may include mixed signals and require an assumption of the user’s needs.

i.e. A searcher located in Buffalo, NY queries “Mexican restaurants in Las Vegas”

Google will infer that the user is looking for a list of Mexican restaurants in Las Vegas even though the searcher is located in Buffalo, NY.


As search algorithms improve and Google gains a deeper understanding of the intent behind searches, users are able to search faster - this form of search is becoming one of the most popular ways to search, especially on mobile.

i.e. A user searches for “Tacos”

In this case, the user omits location information and Google needs to use any available data to determine what the user is looking for.

Relevance, Distance & Prominence

According to Google, “local results are based primarily on relevance, distance, and prominence.”


Factors how closely the business matches what the searcher is looking for.


Looks at the proximity of the business to the searcher’s location. Google will use any available information they have on the user to determine their approximate location and display results nearby.


Refers to how well-known a business is online and offline. Businesses that are considered prominent in the offline world will receive preferred placement. These can include famous places, landmarks or popular stores that are familiar to many people.

But, prominence also refers to the information that Google has collected across the web, which is where local SEO comes in. The search engine references websites, links, reviews, citations and SEO best practices to determine the validity and importance of each search result it displays.


There are complex algorithms and hundreds of factors that impact local search results, but understanding the basics will help set the foundation for successful optimization. Next, we’ll take a closer look at some of the more impactful local ranking factors.

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