Local SEO Marketing Guide for Small Businesses

So if I live in Toronto, and really wanted the best strawberry ice cream I could find on a hot summer day, why would I care that an ice cream shop in Brazil carries 10 of the best strawberry ice cream flavours (even though strawberry cheesecake does sound good). It might be nice to know if I was travelling to Brazil, but what if I wanted the ice cream right now? 

Local SEO can do wonders for your business websites. But how does it work? Check out our guide to local SEO to get your optimization underway today. 

What is Local SEO?

Local search engine optimization is the process of optimizing a service, business or product for a search query that is location-specific. Search engines, like Google, identify a user’s location based on their IP address if they are on a desktop and geolocation if they’re on mobile. 

The search engine then uses this information to display results that match the user’s location. Like when you do the “ice cream near me” search, you expect the search engine to give you places to buy your ice cream within close proximity to where you are. 

Why is Local SEO Important for Small Businesses?

Optimizing your business for local search queries will improve your visibility on a search engine’s results page, therefore bringing you more clients.  

Going back to our ice cream shop example, if you put in “ice cream shop near me” you will not get the best ice cream shops in the world, or just the big chain ice cream shops – you will get the local ice cream stores in the area. That is why local SEO is so important to implement in a marketing strategy for small businesses. 

Big chains dominate the online world and take a good chunk of customers from smaller local businesses. Local SEO helps the smaller guys compete by giving them more of a presence on the web. It’s the small business’s opportunity to come up at the top of the SERP purely based on location. If you really want to make an impactful presence for your business try Moz Local.  

In addition, Google reports that from 2017-2019 there was a 900% increase in the search “near me”. This proves that people are constantly searching for convenient places to shop, and big chain stores don’t always offer the same level of convenience as a local shop. 

Understanding Google Local Search

Local Google search results are based primarily on relevance, prominence, and distance. These three factors will have a significant impact on your local business ranking. 

Local search rankings will favour businesses that have relevant, complete, and accurate information. This makes the small business easier to match with their corresponding queries. Use the attributes below in order to stay relevant: 

  • Physical address of brick and mortar store
  • Business phone number
  • Category 
  • Attributes


As you can imagine, distance will consider how far each search result is from the location used in the search bar. Prominence is the measure for how well a business is known and based on Google’s crawled information about a business. This includes links, articles, directories, and other information across the web, including the Google My Business page. 

Businesses can upload their information, including name, address and phone number, to the My Business listing to make it easier for the search engine to identify. Ensuring a complete Google My Business listing should be one of the first steps in your local SEO strategy. 

Local SERP Features

Local SERP features are similar to a regular search engines results page, but they are specifically geared towards location-specific search queries. Here are a few examples of ranking factors that will show up on a local search engine results page. 


  • Localized organic results refer to the results – that were not paid for by the business – that come up in the local SERP, based on relevance in relation to the user’s search query. For example, if someone types in “Italian restaurant” in the search query, and “IL FORNELLO” came up as only a 5 min drive – this would be the localized organic result. 
  • Local pack results pertain to the keywords that Google notes as having local intent. For example, ‘thick crust pizza in Toronto’ or ‘thick crust pizza near me.’ The search engine’s result page will have a local pack consisting of three physical locations that Google deems most relevant to that keyword.
  • Local finder results make it easy to find businesses that are nearby by offering results within a small geographic area or service area. It provides users with a map along with a list of the local businesses in the area – offering an easy-to-use, clear visual. 
  • Google business profile allows you to manage your online presence across the entire Google platform. Your GMB should be optimized with the correct category selection, an in-depth ‘about’ section and accurate questions and answers for the best results.

Representing Your Business on Google

Google’s My Business Profile is your small business’s first online impression. It highlights the essential information about your business so that the user can get a sense of your small business quickly. 

You can add things like a business description of products and services, photos, posts, reviews, and Q&A’s. You can even add more personalized features like order bookings, offer delivery/pick up options and more. Optimizing this business page will help boost visibility for local searches and should always be a part of your company’s online marketing strategy. 

How to Optimize Local SEO Ranking Signals

Here is a checklist of pointers that will help improve your SEO ranking factors to boost your small business’s visibility online.  

1. My Business Profile/Categories

The first step you need to take in optimizing your local SEO ranking is to create a My Business Profile with Google (description mentioned in the paragraph above). Remember that everyone wants to see a picture of a place before they actually go there. So make sure to take a lot of good-quality photos and upload them to your My Business Profile.  

Also, make sure to update My Business categories. My Business categories describe what your business is about to both search engines and users. Choosing the right category for your business will have a large impact on your relevance in the search results for the local pack and Google map searches, so choose wisely. 

2. Online Directories

Adding your business to an online business directory will also help with your ranking while reaching potential customers at the same time. An online directory is a catalogue of websites that are grouped together based on categories. Google’s My Business Profile is an example of an online directory but there is also BOTWAboutUs, Blogarama, Bing Places, Yahoo, and more. 

3. Google Maps

If you really want to make the lives of your customers really easy ( and that should be your #1 goal) is adding Google Maps to your website. It makes it so much easier for them to access your location, rather than making them memorize the address and type it into Google themselves.

By adding the map directly to your page, you give them quick access as well as lessen the risk of the user going back to Google and having other businesses pop up. Just remember to always think NAP (name, address, phone number). This information needs to be 100% accurate and the same across all Google SERPs and directories for the greatest benefit to your local SEO campaigns. 

4. Review Sites

Online reviews heavily influence people’s buying decisions as well as boost local SEO performance. People are always looking for recommendations. By listing your business on the right review sites, this will give first-time customers a reason to try your small business, while improving brand awareness at the same time. Check out Google’s policies to ensure you are aligning with the proper protocol on reviews. 

5. Social Media

Creating business pages on different social media platforms has multiple benefits to your local business. Although it does not directly affect your SEO ranking, it does have significant indirect impacts if you use the platforms correctly. For example, you can choose a local social media influencer to promote your small business to people who live in the area. 

Additionally, if you have a consistent flow of localized content, this will indicate that your posts are useful to your target audience. Publishing localized content should be a practice done for your website along with your social media accounts. 

6. Mobile Friendly

Keep in mind that a lot of people need information when they are out of their homes, meaning they will be looking for local search results on their phones. As a small business, you want to make sure you optimize your website for mobile use so that when people are searching for local businesses they don’t get frustrated going to your website for answers. 

A best practice to follow is to use a bigger font because you are working on a smaller screen. Use photos sparingly when possible, again, you have a smaller space so you don’t want to clutter it. Making sure your load times are quick is another important factor, especially if your potential customer is on the go and in a time crunch

7. Optimize Structured Data Markup

In the world of SEO, structured data is the markup that helps search engines understand how to interpret and display the content. Schema markup is the data vocabulary used to do this. 

There are different types of Schema markups, local businesses, recipes, articles, events are a few examples. Once you add markups to your site the search engine will gain a better understanding of your business site and the product or service you provide and could showcase this information in a rich snippet. 


The better your local search visibility, the greater your sales can be. Just like you need the right SEO tools to improve your search rankings, you need the right software to cover your business finances. Try QuickBooks Online for free today to discover how financial tracking and reporting can help your business! 

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