When you're on the go and looking for a certain store or restaurant, you probably type in a search on your mobile device. At the top of the results, you see a dedicated selection of local businesses that fit your query (as long as you have location services enabled). This is called the local 3-pack, and it's exclusively made for local business visibility. Along with company names, you'll see buttons for directions, contact information, and aggregated reviews. If you can get yourself ranked here, you'll automatically get more attention, traffic, and interest for your business.

Getting ranked first for any common search query is difficult, but with local SEO, it's much easier--local SEO operates on a separate ranking algorithm, drawing in different pieces of information to produce the best results. Plus, since you're only competing with local businesses (and not nationally), you'll face far less competition for those spots. So how can you get to the top in local searches? Follow these 10 steps:

1. Perform an on-site audit to establish a strong SEO foundation. First, run an on-site audit to see how you shape up from a basic SEO perspective. Local SEO may operate on a separate algorithm, but a tidy, properly-structured site is still important. There are too many on-site factors to list here, but among the most important are title tags and meta descriptions for all your pages, ensuring an accurate, useful navigation and sitemap, ensuring Google is indexing your site, ensuring your site is mobile-friendly, including your contact information in the footer of your website, and including detailed, quality content on each of your pages.

2. Clean up your on-site NAP. This should go along with your on-site audit, but it's so important it warrants a second mention. One of the most important indicators for your site's local authority is your NAP information (name, address, and phone number). Make sure this information is prominently displayed throughout your website (such as your footer), especially on your contact page, and make sure it's both accurate and consistent--even a slight variation in spelling can compromise your rankings.

3. Clean your NAP on third party websites. Google checks with other online authorities to gather information on local businesses, including review sites like Yelp or UrbanSpoon. It's your job to ensure that your NAP information is accurate and consistent on all of these outlets--again, pay attention to things like spelling and formatting. They're more important than you might think. Reach out to these third-party information brokers to make any corrections, or enlist a professional service to do it for you.

4. Claim more local profiles for your business. Once all your current local profiles and entries are claimed, see what you can do about claiming more. The more relevant a directory is to your industry, the better, and again, make sure all your information remains as consistent as possible. For a good list of profiles to claim, see this list provided by Yext.

5. Claim all the social profiles you can (and get posting). If you haven't already, claim all the social media profiles you can for your business or brand name, and fill out your profile information completely--especially the NAP information. Knowem has a solid list of social profiles that you should claim. The more places your NAP information is, the stronger your authority will read with Google. And while you're there, start a regular posting schedule to engage your followers.

6. Establish an ongoing content strategy. Ongoing content is a basic tenet of national SEO, but it's useful for local SEO, too. If you haven't already, develop an internal content strategy, and start posting at least once or twice a week on topics you want to be known for (and topics your users need help with).

7. Write local content (and gain local PR). It isn't enough to write industry-specific content; you'll also want to write occasional local-oriented posts that include geographic keywords (such as your state or city). Some ideas to get you started include writing about a new development in your city, covering the businesses in your industry in your city, or reporting on local events that you attended or sponsored. If you can get yourself featured (and linked) in the local news, even better.

8. Earn links from external sources. Another basic element of national SEO, it's always good to earn more links from external sources with guest content or through high-quality content that attracts inbound links on its own merit.

9. Encourage local reviews from your customers. Google looks at the quantity and quality of reviews for your site all over the web, so do what you can to encourage your customers to post reviews about their experiences. You can't buy or ask for reviews directly, but you can declare your presence on these review sites to point people in the right direction. For help, see How to Get Online Reviews For Your Business.

10. Engage with your reviewers and followers. Finally, engage with the people who review your site, as well as your social media followers, directly. The more active you are in the community and the more supportive you are of your customers, the more attention, engagement, and activity your business will earn online. All of these culminate in greater domain authority, which will increase your chances of getting into the local 3-pack.

Even with these 10 steps, you must be aware that ranking highly doesn't happen overnight. You'll have to tinker with your strategy regularly, experimenting to see what does and doesn't work, and be consistent in your approach to content strategy and review management. All in all, even an intensive local SEO strategy won't break your budget or eat up all your time--so don't hesitate to put some serious effort in. When you look back on your efforts from a top slot in Google, you'll be glad you made them.

Published on: Jan 15, 2016
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