Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

This is the ultimate guide to local SEO in 2021, Do you want to rank your local business in Google, Bing, Apple Maps, and other local search engines? You’re in the right place. 46% of all Google searches are local.

Yet 56% of local retailers haven’t even claimed their Google My Business listing.


Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

Unclaimed Google My Business:

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

For those of you that are unaware, claiming and optimizing your Google My Business listing is the cornerstone of local SEO. If 56% of businesses haven’t even claimed their GMB listing, well, I doubt they’ve done much else…

But while claiming your Google My Business listing is a good starting point, there’s ,uch more to local SEO than that.

Now it’s time to Learn Local SEO In 2021

Learn Local SEO In 2021

  • What is Local SEO?
  • Google’s Local VS Organic Results
  • Local SEO Keyword Research
  • Local SEO Ranking Factors

What is Local SEO?

Local SEO refers to the process of ‘optimizing’ your online presence to attract more business from relevant local searches. These searches take place on Google and other search engines.

That last point is an important one—this isn’t just about Google.

People search for local businesses using various search engines… Google, Bing, Yelp, Apple Maps, etc.

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

However, Google has an estimated ~87% market share (in the US, at least). Which means that most people are using Google to search for local businesses.

For that reason, this guide will be roughly 80% focussed on optimizing your local presence on Google.

Google’s Local vs Organic Results

Snack Pack Results

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

Organic Results

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

Notice that there are two distinct sets of search results:

  • The “snack pack” results”
  • The “regular” organic results

I’m sure most of you are familiar with regular ol’ Google search results.

But what the heck are “snack pack” results?

Google Snack Pack is a boxed area that appears on the first results page when a local online search is made through Google’s search engine. The Snack Pack box displays the top 3 local business listings most relevant to the search enquiry. (Source)

According to one study, 33% of clicks go to the local “snack pack” results, with 40% going to the regular organic results.

Key takeaway: it pays to rank in both, which is where local SEO comes in.

Don’t forget that local Google searches are performed from many different devices and apps.

Here’s the same “coffee shop near me” search on mobile, in the Google Maps app, and in Google Assistant

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

I’ll show you the secret of optimizing for all three of these apps (and any other Google apps) in one fell swoop later on in the guide

You need to get the basics right.

That means making sure that your website is optimized for mobile visitors, as 61% of mobile searchers are more likely to contact a local business if they have a mobile-friendly site.

Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool to check this.

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

You also need to make sure that your website doesn’t look like total garbage.

Note: don't use too many advertisements and banners is very bad for the speed of your site, if you use pop up ads to generate your income, it's STUPID 80% of people all over the world really hate pop up ads

Read our tips:

Chapter 1. Local SEO Keyword Research

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

In this chapter I’m going to show you how to find keywords for local SEO. Fortunately, local SEO keyword research is basically a “one and done” process. Unlike a blog, you usually don’t need to keep finding new keywords all the time.

That’s not to say keywords aren’t important for local searches. They definitely are. But in most cases, all you need to get started is a short list of keywords that people use to find your local biz.

1. Yelp Suggest

This works the same as Google Suggest.

Type in a keyword that someone in your area might use to find your business…

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

check out the suggested results.

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

What’s cool about Yelp is that they sometimes show you keywords that don’t contain the term you typed in.

For example, if you search for “Japanese”, they also suggest “Asian Fusion Food”.

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

2. Google Suggest

Google Suggest can also work well for local searches.

The only thing to keep in mind here is that the local search has to be something that potential local customers are gonna search for.

For example, if you type in “online marketing”, you get this list of suggestions:

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

Tips: Use the Keywords Suggestion Tool we recommend

3. Local Voice Searches

According to Google, 20% of all Google searches done on mobile are now voice searches.

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

The main difference between voice and keywords searches is that voice searches tend to be longer and use natural language.

4. Google Keyword Planner

The Google Keyword Planner gives you search volume data for specific geographic areas.

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

So if you already have a bunch of keywords and want to pick the best of the bunch, this feature is helpful.

But if you’re on the hunt for NEW keywords, I recommend using their “Start With a Website” feature.

Just pop in the homepage URL of one of your competitors:

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

And Google will suggest a bunch of keywords based on the terms that show up on that page

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

This saves a lot of time, as there’s no need to do this manually using Google.

5. Check Competitors' Keywords

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

Google is very good at understanding search intent, which is probably why the average #1 ranking page will also rank in the top10 for nearly 1,000 other relevant keywords

For example, when I look at the Organic Keywords report in Site Explorer for a local Sheffield plumbers website, I can see that they rank in the top 10 for a bunch of related terms.

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

Looking at the these keywords for your competitors will uncover other relevant long-tail and related searches.

But this is just one competitor. So here’s another trick…

Use Content Gap tool to see extract common keywords for multiple competitors at once.

Just paste in a bunch of competitors, leave the “at least one of the targets should rank in the top 10” box checked, and hit “Show keywords.” You should see something like this:

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide


Do this for similar businesses in other, larger areas (e.g., a big city) to uncover keywords that may also be relevant in your area, which your local competitors may have missed.

For example, when I performed a Content Gap analysis for some London-based plumbers, I spotted keywords like “blocked drains london” and “drain clearance london.”

Neither of these variations come up for local competitors, so there may be some low-hanging fruit in the Sheffield variations of these keywords. I.e., “blocked drains sheffield,” etc.

Chapter 2. Local SEO Ranking Factors

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

Local SEO Ranking Factors:

  • Google My Business signals
  • Bing Places
  • Apple Maps
  • Link signals
  • On-page signals
  • Citation signals
  • Review signals
  • Behavioral signals
  • Personalization
  • Social signals

1. Google My Business

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

Google My Business listing is what appears at page-right when customers search for your business on Google. An adjunct to your website, this profile lets you present customers with all your important business information.

Fully complete your GMB profile to maximize your success with local SEO. The example below shows a sample profile.

Here’s a checklist of things to add to your GMB to optimize your local SEO:

  • Verify your listing
  • Select your business category
  • Include a few relevant keywords in the GMB title
  • Provide a functional, crawlable website link
  • Post accurate hours of operation
  • Post an address (especially important for snack pack, which ranks proximity as a search factor).
  • Place a map marker
  • Add an area code to the phone number
  • Include photos

GMB profiles with more reviews, more replies, and greater time online will receive a better ranking.

2. Bing Places

Next up—Bing Places.

This is essentially just Bing’s equivalent of Google My Business.

Is it as important as GMB? No, not at all. Bing only has a 7.81% market share in the US. Which means it’s about 1/10th as important as completing your GMB profile.

But as it only takes a few minutes to set up your profile, it’s still something you should do.

And as you’ll see in a moment, there’s a reason it pays to complete your GMB profile first. 😉

To get started, go here and hit “Get started.”

Check That You’re Not Already Listed!

First up—make sure your business is not already listed on Bing Places.

(I can’t stress the importance of doing this enough.)

To do this, go to Bing Maps and start typing your business name in the search bar. If you’re already listed, you should see your business appear in the live search results.

Let’s try this for Paul’s Meats—a stunning butcher’s shop near my old house.

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

Looks like he’s already listed.

If you find this is the case for your business, view the full listing, then hit the “Is this your business?” link in the bottom of the listing. (Yes, they couldn’t have made this any smaller!)

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

You will then be redirected to a page where you can claim/add your business—it will be partially pre-filled.

Step 1. Select Business Type

Next up—select your business type and location.

Here are your choices for business type:

  1. Small of medium business (1–10 locations)
  2. Chain business (more than 10 locations)
  3. Online business (no physical locations)
  4. I manage business listings on my client’s behalf

For the purpose of this guide, I’ll assume that you’re a small business with 1–10 locations.

If you do run a chain business, hit option #2—Bing will walk you through what you need to do.

Now something magical will happen—there will be an option to import data from Google My Business.

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

If you’re already verified on GMB, do this. Not only is it a time-saver, but it will also reduce the probability of mistakes.

If not, enter your business name and location (I recommend entering a ZIP code) as normal.

Bing will then search for your business. But as we already checked this in step #0, it shouldn’t find it. So hit the “Create new business” button.

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

Step 2. Enter Your Basic Information

Now you will need to enter your business name, address, website, etc.


If you imported your data via Google My Business, this should already be done for you.

As with the Google My Business listing, you should copy-paste the data from your spreadsheet to ensure that it remains consistent with other listings.

There’s also the option to hide your address from the search results.

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

You should check this box if you work from home or use a virtual office.

Step 3. Choose a Business Segment & Category

First things first, if you’re a “healthcare professional or doctor,” tick the special box—that’s you done for the “business segment” part.

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

Otherwise, hit the “browse” button and select one of the 11 available business segments. Select “I don’t know” if you’re unsure.

Then choose the category/categories that your business falls into.

Bing’s list isn’t as extensive as Google’s. But unlike Google, you can choose multiple categories (up to 10) here and then select a “primary” category later in the process.

I recommend hitting “browse” to bring up a modal window, then searching for an appropriate business category there. It displays categories and subcategories in a more logical manner.

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

Don’t go crazy here. Just because you can select 10 doesn’t mean that you should—just pick the ones that are truly appropriate for your business. This is usually one or two categories, in my experience.

You can then select a primary category from the categories you selected

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

Finally, add a short description for your business—sprinkle your keywords throughout, but don’t overdo it.

Step 4. Add Phone, Website, Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, and TripAdvisor links

Paste in your phone number from your spreadsheet—again, this ensures things stay consistent.

Bing also displays social profile links in their Knowledge Graph panel (or whatever Bing calls it) when people search for your business.

Here’s an example for Starbucks:

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

So if you have them, add them.

If not, you can always add them at a later date.

Step 5. Add Photos

Here are Bing’s guidelines for photos.

You can add up to 10.

3. Apple Maps

Apple’s iPhone has a 32.9% market share in the US—that’s ⅓ of all smartphone users, or tens of millions of people.

Now, if you’re anything like me, you probably use Google Maps over Apple Maps.

But there are two important things to keep in mind:

  • Millions of iOS users still use Apple Maps, as it’s the default maps application on iPhone. Apple is pretty secretive, so I couldn’t find any up-to-date stats on the number of iOS users who use Apple Maps. But, as it’s the default maps application on iPhone, I’d be willing to bet that it’s the majority of iOS users, which is millions of people.
  • Apple Maps is built into Siri and Spotlight searches. Ask Siri for directions and Apple Maps will open. Same goes for Spotlight searches. Latest stats show Siri is actively used on more than half a billion devices. That’s a lot of people!

Bottomline: if you’re doing local SEO, you should claim and optimize your Apple Maps listing.

You can do that here. Then follow this guide to optimize your listing.

4. Links

Much like general SEO, links are an influential signal for local SEO. The more links arriving to and leaving your page, and the more authoritative these links are, the better your ranking will be.

Link-building is a primary technique for improving your local ranking. Here are some factors to consider when establishing strong link signals to your business:

  • Inbound link authority: This is the most important ranking factor because it tells Google that other people find your site valuable. Tools like Ahrefs, Moz, Backlink Checker let you check your backlink profile.
  • Inbound links from locally relevant domains: Google assigns local relevance to links from nearby sources. For example, an inbound link from a community center would be a valuable local link.
  • Link quantity: The more high-authority links your site acquires, the better it will rank. If your content is top-quality, guest blogging and affiliate networks can help you generate large numbers of quality backlinks.
  • Link diversity: Since Google’s Penguin algorithm, search engines have begun to factor a variety of backlinks. To be most effective, links should be acquired in an organic fashion from a multitude of sources.

5. On-Page Content

The third most important local SEO factor is on-page content. You should avoid keyword stuffing and focus on sharing relevant information as needed.

Here are some ways to boost your content’s local SEO score:

  • GMB page: The title and content of your GMB page must be relevant to local users.
  • Page title: Include your main keywords here.
  • Header tags: The H1 header indicates the topic of a web page. Place keywords here to signal relevance to readers and search engines.
  • Meta description: This 150 character description of your page appears beneath the page title on search engines. Use it to furnish users with key information about your business.
  • Local relevance of content: To be locally relevant, content should reference the area surrounding your business. This can be in-content links to local sites or referring to local areas of interest.
  • NAP footer: Your NAP (name, address, phone number) should be in the footer of every page. Make sure this matches your GMB profile, and load this structured data into Schema to ensure it’s read by Google.


6. Citations

Citation signals are concerned with how well your company’s information can be verified by other online sources. Citations may come from other businesses, review sites, or social media platforms.

Say your bike rental business shows up on Tripadvisor, as shown below.

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

Google’s web crawlers will find your site data — NAP, for example — listed on Tripadvisor and give you a bump in the rankings. The more times your site details show up across the web, the more credible your site will appear — and the better your local SEO will be.

Here are some factors to consider:

  • Citation consistency: If the data in your citations differ between sites, Google might interpret this poorly and diminish your local ranking.
  • Citation authority: More authoritative sites will provide more beneficial citations. For example, web directories like FourSquare and Yelp have high authority, as would newspapers and government offices.
  • Citation relevance: If relevant domains in your geographic area post your business details, such as blogs or churches, you get an uptick in SEO.

7. Reviews

According to Statista, 84% of consumers trust online reviews from other consumers as much as personal recommendations. Naturally, search engines also consider online reviews a signal for local search.

Review signals impact the snack pack more than the organic local search results. To improve your reviews, ask users for honest and productive feedback. Point customers to the “Write a Review” button in the snack pack, as seen in the GMB from Renegade Brewing in Denver.

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

These testimonials help to establish your credibility.

Ultimately, the authority of the review signal will determine its weight. Feedback posted on third-party review sites will increase your exposure, drive referral traffic, and lend legitimacy to your business.

8. On-Page Behavior

How people interact with your site will affect your rank on Google. User behavior is available to site administrators via the Google Search Console. The key behavioral signals to attend to are:

  • Click-through rate: This is the frequency with which people click your link in search compared to competitors. The more people clicking through, the more relevant your page appears to search engines.
  • Bounce rate: This is how often people arrive at your page from the search results and leave immediately. A high bounce rate indicates that your content isn’t relevant, resulting in a lower ranking.
  • Time on page: If people browse your site and find value, they will stay for longer. Images, content quality, and page organization are instrumental in helping users consume more content.
  • Mobile clicks-to-call: Google interprets a call from the mobile search results page to be a clear signal of relevance. According to research by Google, more than 40% of mobile searchers use click-to-call.
  • Directions to business clicks: Search engines figure that if people travel to your business right after feeding it in search, the business must be trustworthy.

9. Personalization

As search engines evolve, businesses must keep pace. While the specifics of Google’s algorithm remain a mystery, it’s clear that everyone receives different search results based on their browsing history, cookies, and location. Personalization is the x-factor in local SEO, but an important one nonetheless.

Making your site mobile-friendly is essential to securing good standing for local SEO. If your site performs poorly for mobile users, search engines will downgrade your site and people will turn elsewhere for a better user experience. The Venn diagram below shows the intersection between location-based information and SEO — all of which is mobile-relevant.

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

You can also tweak your mobile strategy to accommodate voice search. According to Search Engine Watch, mobile voice searches are 300% more likely to be locally relevant than text searches. These queries often come in the form of a question or a “near me” search, so personalize your keyword strategy by including these long-tail keywords of your local users.

10. Social Media

The way social media signals impact local SEO is unclear. However, social proof is definitely a factor that search engines consider when ranking your website.

Simply, the more people that engage around your brand on social networks, the better your local SEO will be. Here are some social signals to monitor in relation to local search:

  • Growth of social media followings
  • Number of brand-related shares, likes, retweets, etc. on social media
  • Number of brand-related mentions on social media
  • Number of reviews on your social media pages
  • The age of your Facebook page
  • Completed biography on social media
  • Consistent NAP information


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Chapter 3. Advanced Local SEO Tips and Strategies

Let’s finish off this guide with a bunch of advanced local SEO tips, strategies and tactics. None of these tactics will replace good ol’ fashioned NAP building or GMB optimization. But they can give you a nice little rankings bump.

1. Thumbtack Suggest

This is yet another way to find local keywords to optimize around. For example, when you type in “Cleaners”, it gives you a handful of suggestions:

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

Including a bunch of super specific terms PERFECT to create landing pages around:

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

2. Embed a Google Map on Your About Page

This is a great way to really emphasize to Google that you’re located in a specific place.

All you need to do is find your business in Google Maps.

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

Then, hit the little dropdown menu in the top left corner of the screen. And click “Share or embed map”.

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

This will give you an embed code. Finally, embed that map on your site’s contact or directions page.

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

3. Use Your Location-Focused Keyword Above The Fold

In my experience, this single tip can HELP a lot with local organic rankings.

All you need to do is make sure your local-focused keyword shows up at the very top of your page in a headline.

Something like this:

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

And I recommend wrapping that title in an H1 tag.

That said:

This is more for UX signals than straight up on-page SEO.


When a local searcher lands on your page, they need to know that you serve their area within 2 seconds.

And when they see a headline like this, they’re probably going to go back to the search results to find a business that’s 100% focused on their city.

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

On the other hand, a headline like this makes someone say: “Great. They serve Boston. I’m definitely in the right place.”

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

4. The Title Tag Double Dip

This is an old-school SEO approach that still works really well for local businesses.

All you need to do is optimize your homepage title tag around 2-3 keywords.

For example, this local business’s homepage is optimized around “san diego kitchen remodeling” and “bathroom remodeling san diego”.

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

And they rank in the top 5 for both:

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

This works in the local world because most local businesses get VERY few links to internal pages.

From analyzing link profiles of the local sites I’ve worked with, I notice that 90%+ of a local site’s backlinks tend to point to their homepage.

Which means: you need to squeeze the most value out of your homepage. And optimizing it around several different related keywords is one of the best ways to do that.

5. Optimize Meta Descriptions for Local Searchers

It’s no secret that your description is a GREAT way to improve your organic CTR.

Unfortunately, I see a lot of local businesses with keyword-stuffed descriptions like this:

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

Instead, I recommend going with this formula:

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

Pro Tip: Use Google Ads to find compelling description copy. After all, this copy is proven to get clicks (otherwise, they wouldn’t use that copy in their ads). So you can’t go wrong by using some of their copy in your description.

For example, when I search for “hotel new york”, I notice that 2 out of the 3 ads use the terms “save” and “price guarantee”.

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

These terms would be PERFECT to use in your page’s description.

Final Thoughts

I’m know that’s a lot to take in but, seriously, follow the advice above and I guarantee you’ll be ranking better than 99% of your competitors.

Just remember that you also need to track conversions as best you can (call tracking, contact form conversion tracking, etc.). Otherwise, you will have no clue if your local SEO efforts are actually translating into leads, customers, and ultimately, more revenue for your business.




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Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide

Learn Local SEO In 2021: The Definitive Guide


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