Local SEO: The Complete 2024 Guide To Improve Rankings

For many local businesses, their main focus is marketing. Search engine optimization (SEO) often gets overlooked as just another aspect of marketing, receiving minimal attention and resources.

However, this scenario is common across businesses throughout Australia, but it shouldn’t be the norm. SEO deserves its own dedicated team and budget because it plays a crucial role in driving organic traffic and enhancing the digital experience for customers.

Nevertheless, standard SEO practices might not be very effective for businesses with physical stores or those serving specific geographic areas. In such cases, the primary goal is to attract local customers to visit or contact the business. Therefore, investing time and money into attracting website visitors from distant locations would be inefficient.

Local SEO - The Complete 2021 Guide

That is where local SEO steps in, and the great thing is, it’s the most precise and efficient method to leverage search engines for enhancing traffic and sales for your local business. Local SEO stands out as one of the top tools at the disposal of local businesses. Whether you operate a service area business or a brick-and-mortar store, local SEO can significantly expand your business and draw in more customers.

In this comprehensive local SEO guide, we cover everything you need to know about local SEO and how you can enhance your online presence.

Table of Contents

What is Local SEO?

Local SEO, short for local search engine optimization, is all about improving a website’s online visibility to draw in more potential customers from local searches. When it comes to local search results, search engines like Google analyze various signals including local content, links, profile listings, and social media pages. Given that Google dominates with a whopping 94.7% market share of search engine searches in Australia, it’s clear that most folks rely on Google when seeking out local businesses.

Local searches are searches combined with a location attached, such as:

  • Bathroom Renovations Newcastle
  • Blinds Newcastle
  • Cafe near me
  • Doctor near me
Google search for cafe near me on mobile
Google search for ‘cafe near me’ on mobile


Local SEO is instrumental in enabling businesses to advertise their products and services directly to local customers who are actively seeking them out. Unlike standard SEO practices, local SEO incorporates a geographical aspect, such as “plumber Sydney,” tailoring the optimization process around specific locations.

It involves establishing and strengthening signals and relevance within a particular geographic area. Whether you operate a brick-and-mortar establishment or a service-based business, implementing an effective local SEO strategy can significantly enhance your business’s visibility and success.

How Does Local SEO Differ from SEO?

The main contrast between SEO and local SEO lies in their target audience: local SEO hones in on a specific geographic location. Its primary goal is to present your products and services directly to potential customers within your local area. While local SEO employs similar strategies as regular search engine optimization, such as creating quality content and building links, it places a particular emphasis on your region.

Consider your own search habits—do you often include a city or town name in your search queries, like “curtains Newcastle”? By focusing on the pertinent region for your business, local SEO helps Google and other search engines associate your business with that specific geographic area.

So, do you require SEO or local SEO? Typically, local SEO is most beneficial for businesses catering to specific regions or those with physical locations. Think of plumbers, painters, builders, and local shops—all of these local businesses aim to appear in localized Google search results.

What are the Benefits of Local SEO?

With 97 per cent of consumers looking online to find local business information, the importance of local SEO can not be overemphasised. Furthermore, 50 per cent of people who did a local search on mobile went to a physical store within one day. With 18% of local mobile searches leading to a sale within one day!

Local searches are on the rise, comprising 46% of all searches conducted on Google, indicating a significant trend toward local intent. Over the past two years, there has been an astounding 900% surge in ‘near me’ searches. Google recognizes that when consumers seek out a local business or service, they often include specific location identifiers such as city names, towns, or postcodes. For instance, rather than simply searching for “blinds,” users might specify “blinds Newcastle,” signaling their preference for blinds stores in that particular area.

The surge in local searches is largely fueled by the widespread adoption of mobile devices, with 89% of Australians now utilizing smartphones—an increase from 88% in 2017 and 84% in 2016. Mobile users leverage their devices to search for products and services on-the-go, with 78% of local searches on mobile devices resulting in offline purchases.

Taken together, these trends underscore the importance of incorporating local SEO into your digital marketing strategy. To establish dominance in your local geographic region, it’s crucial to implement a comprehensive local SEO strategy to ensure potential customers can easily find your products or services when they search.

But before delving into the implementation of your local SEO strategy, let’s first explore the Local Pack.

What is Google's Local Pack?

When you’re browsing Google, you’ve probably come across one of the most significant features of local SEO—the Google Local Pack. This is the boxed section that pops up at the very top of the search results page whenever you make a local search using Google. In the Local Pack, you’ll find the top three local business listings that are most relevant to your search query.

Below is the local pack that results from a search of ‘bathroom renovations Sydney’

Google Local Pack vs Organic Results
Google local pack results for search term ‘bathroom renovations Sydney’

These results can be incredibly helpful to the user as they can find relevant and highly rated businesses near them and see opening hours, phone number, reviews and location. According to one study, 33% of clicks go to the local pack results, with 40% going to the regular organic results.

Everything that is shown within the local pack results comes from the Google My Business profile of the business. More on this later.

Before You Get Started on Local SEO

Before diving into any SEO efforts, it’s crucial to ensure that you have the fundamental elements in place. Start by conducting a quick evaluation of your website.

Firstly, check if your website is mobile-friendly. Since Google switched to mobile-first indexing last year, it primarily indexes your mobile site rather than the desktop version. You can utilize Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool to assess your website. Given that 61% of mobile searchers are more inclined to reach out to a local business if they have a mobile-friendly site, it’s essential not to stumble at the initial hurdle.

Additionally, make sure your website isn’t so outdated that it’s painful to look at. Keeping your site up-to-date is crucial for maintaining a positive user experience and ensuring it remains visually appealing to visitors.

Google Does Not Like An Outdated Website

If your website looks like this, it won’t matter if you rank #1 for every term you want, no one is going to contact you when your website is older than they are.

We would also recommend against using Google My Business free website builder. Though Google says:

We’ll help you create a beautiful website to impress and engage new customers – and establish your business online“, it is definitely not designed to optimise for SEO.

In a review of the service in 2017, Search Engine Land found that there are quite a few negatives from an SEO perspective. Including:

  • One-page site, no option to create additional pages.
  • No ability to add custom page titles and meta descriptions.
  • No Google Analytics integration.
  • Lacks the ability to add Local Business Schema (more on this later).
  • Cannot add alternate text to images.
  • Cannot add additional call-to-action buttons. (Source)

In addition to these issues, despite being developed and hosted by Google they also fall down on a page speed test.

Google Business Site - Slow Page on Lighthouse Audit
Mobile PageSpeed Insights audit thanks to Hamish Wyatt

The key problem here is there is no way you, the business owner can address any of these speed issues. Your ability to control and improve your website is greatly limited.

If you are interested in undertaking more advanced local SEO strategies, testing your website speed is a great place to start. These three resources provide a great insight into area’s you can improve the speed performance of your website:

Happy with your website? Now you can get started with local SEO!

Start Building Your Local SEO Strategy

After establishing a fantastic website that caters to your potential customers’ needs, the next step is to drive traffic to the site. To achieve this, focus on the following areas to develop your local SEO strategy.

1. Google Business Profile

Google Business Profile (formally Google My Business – GMB) is your first step to improving your local SEO.

Google Business Profile is a free and easy-to-use tool for businesses and organisations to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps.


According to Moz, a Google Business Profile is one of the top local ranking factors for both local pack and organic results. This is hardly surprising when 46% of all Google searches are local. Yet amazingly 56% of local retailers haven’t even claimed their Google Business Profile listing.

Unclaimed Google My Business Listing

As of February 2022, you will now need to create, claim and edit your Google Business Profile directly on Google rather than the soon to be defunct Google My Business page or Google My Business app.

You will most likely be familiar with the outcome of a Google Business Profile listing – a branded Knowledge Panel:

Google My Business Branded Knowledge Panel for Merewether Surfhouse
Branded knowledge panel for Merewether Surfhouse


Your Google Business Profile showcases details you provide, such as business information, contact details, services offered, and operating hours. However, it also includes features beyond your control, like Q&A sections and Google Reviews.

Once you’ve set up your Google Business Profile, don’t just leave it. It’s essential to regularly update and maintain it to ensure accuracy. Up-to-date and accurate information significantly enhances the experience for potential customers. Additionally, the Insights section of GMB offers valuable data on your profile’s performance. According to Databox, GBP Insights provides insights into how customers discover your site and is a favored feature among experts. Continuously monitoring these metrics can help inform decisions on how to leverage this platform effectively.

WORD OF WARNING! – Don’t go and create multiple Google Business Profile listings for an address that your business does not operate from. It won’t help you rank.

Google states “Listings on Google Business Profiles can only be created for businesses that either have a physical location that customers can visit, or that travel to visit customers where they are.”

2. Local Citations

A citation refers to an online mention of your business, typically featuring your business name, address, and phone number (NAP). These mentions commonly appear in online directories or business listings, with Google Business Profiles being just one example.

Citations hold significant importance in local SEO as they assist search engines in confirming the existence of your business. When your business is cited in credible sources with accurate and consistent information, it signals to search engines that your business is legitimate.

Obtaining citations from reputable national business sites or local business directories can enhance your business’s chances of ranking in local search results. According to Bright Local, 68% of consumers indicate that they would cease using a local business if they discovered incorrect information in local directories.

It’s worth noting that some refer to NAPW (Name, Address, Phone Number, Website) or NAPU (Name, Address, Phone Number, URL) citations. Having the website link from a reputable website can provide additional value as it offers extra information to search engines, validating your business.

Citations can be categorized into two types: structured and unstructured.

Structured Citations

A structured citation is your business information (NAP) typically appearing in a business listing. Any business listing directory where you can submit your business details and get a citation are structured citations. Example of sites in Australia for structured citations include:

  • Yellow Pages
  • Sensis
  • Local Search
  • Facebook
  • SuperPages
  • HiPages
  • OneFlare

Here’s an example of a structured citation for a plumber in Wollongong on Local Search:

Structured Citation on Local Search Australia

Unstructured Citations

An unstructured citation is more likely to be the result of press, social media and blogs. Any citation where your NAP is shown but is not displayed in a structured format.

Here’s an unstructured citation example for new Sydney restaurant XOPP on goodfood.com.au:

Unstructured Citation from goodfood.com.au for new Sydney restaurant XOPP.

Building local citations is key to your local SEO strategy. However, if your business has been around for many years, there is a risk of incorrect information being listed across your citations without you even knowing. If your citations are not regularly updated and cleaned up it can negatively impact your local SEO.

Whitespark has a good list of the 30 best local citations in Australia to help get you going.

3. Online Reviews

Customer reviews have a greater impact on acquiring new customers than many businesses realise. In a 2019 local search study from Seer Interactive, they found:

  • Ratings and reviews can be the difference-maker when it comes to breaking into the local pack.
  • Businesses that do not respond to reviews tend to rank lower

These findings are not surprising when Google recommends businesses should:

interact with customers by responding to reviews that they leave about your business. Responding to reviews shows that you value your customers and the feedback that they leave about your business.

And Google again:

high-quality, positive reviews from your customers will improve your business’s visibility and increase the likelihood that a potential customer will visit your location.

You shouldn’t just chase ratings and reviews for the sake of the algorithm though. Reviews matter beyond straight optimisation.  Research shows that ratings and reviews are vitally important to how consumers make decisions:

  • 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
  • 66% of consumers stated many online reviews make them trust a brand online.
  • Buyers require an average of 40 online reviews before believing a business’s star rating is accurate.
  • 86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses
  • Having five reviews results in purchase likelihood increasing by a factor of almost 4.
  • Negative reviews stop 40% of buyers from wanting to use a business.

Responding to reviews

It’s clear that Google values your responsiveness to customer reviews on your Google My Business profile. It’s essential to respond to both positive and negative reviews to demonstrate to both your customers and search engines that you’re actively engaged, regardless of the feedback’s nature.

Reviews shouldn’t be viewed as a one-way street of information. Businesses should recognize them as opportunities to further connect with customers. Remember, online reviews and review platforms are public, so it’s crucial to keep this in mind when crafting your responses. While positive reviews are fantastic and can be maximized for their benefits, negative reviews can also be managed to mitigate their impact. Maintaining a robust online reputation is crucial for successful local SEO strategies.

How to Respond to Positive Reviews

Thank the customer – Show gratitude for using your business and taking the time to write a review.

“Thank you greatly for your kind review Karin, Your feedback is greatly appreciated”

Be specific – Don’t make it feel like a canned generic response if the person mentions something specific in the review highlight it.  This adds a more personal touch that customers will appreciate.

I will pass on your kind words to our fitter Matt”.

Keep them coming back  Don’t let the customer think, you don’t want them anymore. Always ensure you let me know you are there to help. Give them a reason to come back.

“If we can be of any further assistance please don’t hesitate to contact our team”

Positive review response example
Positive review response example from Westfield Sydney

Negative Reviews

Ignoring negative reviews isn’t an option, as it can actually make the situation appear worse. When faced with a bad review, the best course of action is to respond promptly. Keep in mind that your response isn’t solely for the benefit of the reviewer—you’re also communicating with potential customers who may see your response. Therefore, craft your response with this broader audience in mind.

How to Respond to Negative Reviews

Acknowledge and apologize – First up, acknowledge the customers concerns. Even if you disagree, apologize for the unsatisfactory experience and thank them for giving honest feedback.

“I’m sorry to hear about your bad experience.”

Add a touch of marketing  For anyone else looking at the review set out what customers usually experience

“We’re normally known for our exceptional customer service, and we regret that we failed to live up to those standards on this occasion.”

Move the conversation offline –  Remember the conversion is public. Don’t attempt to argue with an unhappy customer, nobody wins that battle. Instead, attempt to move the conversion offline by providing contact information for someone t the business they can discuss the problem with.

“Thank you for letting us know about your experience. We apologise that we didn’t meet your expectations. Please contact us at [phone] and we will see if we can address your concerns”.

Negative review response example

This is a beneficial response to a negative review:

Negative review response example from Westfield Sydney

Please don’t do this:

Image sourced from Local Search Forum

There are many wonderful resources on how best to get reviews that we recommend you look into.

Further resources for reviews:

Have you thought about what specific keywords you want your business to rank for? If you’re offering a dog wash service, it wouldn’t make sense to waste time trying to rank for something unrelated, like being the top local butcher.

Let’s stick with the example of your dog wash business. When people search for your services, they’ll likely include a location in their query, such as “dog wash Newcastle,” “Newcastle dog wash,” or “dog wash in Newcastle.”

Conducting local keyword research doesn’t have to be complicated. Begin by listing all the services you offer and the locations you serve. This gives you a starting point for identifying relevant keywords.

Once you have some initial ideas, leverage Google’s autocomplete feature to generate additional search suggestions. This can help you uncover more potential keywords to target.

Here is the search for “dog wash newcastle.”


We didn’t have ‘diy dog wash newcastle’ or ‘mobile dog grooming’ in our initial list – do you offer these services in your hypothetical dog wash business?

Once you determine a list of keywords, you can get an idea if they are trending up or down by entering them into Google Trends.

Google Trends for Local SEO

Repeat this process for any other location/services you offer and you start to build quite a comprehensive list of potential local keywords to target.

If you are after super keen to learn more about keyword research we can recommend the following resources.

Further resources on keyword research

5. On-page SEO

A lot of elements in on-page SEO are part of the standard SEO practices. This includes stuff like using keywords, crafting title tags, writing meta descriptions, internal linking, and optimizing page speed, among others. If you want to dive deeper, there are additional resources available on on-page SEO.

However, when it comes to implementing on-page SEO within a local SEO strategy, there are a few nuances to consider. Let’s begin by discussing how to structure your landing pages to improve local rankings.

Local Landing Pages

Local landing pages are webpages created on your site to showcase your business services in specific geographic regions. These pages are particularly useful for:

Service area businesses – For instance, a plumber based in Sydney’s CBD may also serve areas like North Sydney, South Sydney, and Western Sydney. Local landing pages help them highlight the various regions they cover around the city.

Multi-location brick-and-mortar businesses –For example, Harris Farm operates 27 physical stores across Australia. They use local landing pages to inform customers and Google about their physical locations. Additionally, they aim to rank each individual store in the local pack search results.

Here is Harris Farm’s landing page for their Bondi Beach store:


Before we go into what type of content should be included on location-based landing pages, let’s make sure you get the URL structure sorted.

Local Landing Page URL Structure

Your website structure can play an important part in determining if the page will rank for the keywords targeted. When building multiple location-based landing pages a simple URL structure is recommended.

  • yoursydneybusiness.com.au/sydney-cbd
  • yoursydneybusiness.com.au/parramatta
  • yoursydneybusiness.com.au/blacktown
  • yoursydneybusiness.com.au/penrith

Keep the URL structure clean and simple. It doesn’t need to be overcomplicated.

Local Landing Pages - What Not To Do!

Now before you go off and create hundreds of spammy local landing pages, there a few things you should learn about what not to do! According to Moz, these common pitfalls harm rather than help your chances of ranking.

Fake addresses - just don’t

You are not the smartest person in the world to think listing a bunch of fake addresses on local landing pages will help you rank. Just like in GMB, attempting to appear more local with fake addresses is against Google guidelines.

Don’t keyword stuff

Google’s Webmaster guidelines specifically state that they do not want pages with blocks of city names, postcodes and keywords.

Examples of keyword stuffing include:

  • Lists of phone numbers without substantial added value
  • Blocks of text listing cities and states a webpage is trying to rank for
  • Repeating the same words or phrases so often that it sounds unnatural, for example:
    We sell custom cigar humidors. Our custom cigar humidors are handmade. If you’re thinking of buying a custom cigar humidor, please contact our custom cigar humidor specialists at [email protected].
Don’t go overboard on the number of landing pages

It should be obvious by now but Google does not like spammy content. So unless you have a physical location in each location, there is zero need to create hundreds of pages targeting every suburb and region around your business.  Focus your efforts on creating a handful of landing pages for locations that make sense for your business.

What to include on your local landing page

Now we have sorted what you shouldn’t include on your local landing pages – what should you include? As always it comes back to high quality, relevant content. Your goal should always be to help the search engine user solve their problem.

  • Local NAP – Make sure you include the local store opening hours if it’s a brick and mortar business and the local stores’ contact details (name, address and phone).
  • Unique description of services – Take the time to write a unique description of the services you provide and how they are relevant to the location.
  • Local map of service area – A custom Google map can display your service area for the region or the location of your store.
  • Client testimonials – Demonstrate that you are already part of the local area with reviews from local clients.
  • Case Studies – Show examples of how you solve the problem people are searching for. These can either link off to an individual page or included on the local landing page.

With all this in mind, the key thing is to identify what matters to your potential customers and provide the most useful information possible.

For more tips on Local Landing Pages visit Moz

Further Resources for On-page SEO:

Your website may look fantastic and have top-notch content, but if nobody is discovering it, you’re missing out. To surpass your competitors in search engine rankings, you must establish yourself as an authority in your field. This means earning links from other reputable websites to boost your credibility in the eyes of search engines.

Backlinks, also referred to as links or external links, are hyperlinks that connect one website to another. These links are crucial for search engine algorithms to crawl websites and uncover new content. Search engines like Google utilize links to gauge the relevance of a website’s page to a user’s search query.

Google has explicitly stated that links between websites are among the most critical ranking factors. However, not all links hold the same weight. A link from a highly authoritative website carries more weight and offers greater benefits to your rankings than a link from a low-quality site.

It’s essential to prioritize obtaining a few relevant links from high-authority websites over numerous low-quality links. Reputable websites often link to other authority sites, while low-authority or spammy sites do the opposite. Pursuing low-quality links can be risky as Google may view it as manipulative link building, potentially resulting in penalties for your website.

Some common link building tactics include:

  • Quality blog content
  • Develop local resources
  • Unique research
  • Guest posting on other websites
  • Local press

Link building is not an overnight process and requires ongoing development of great content and engagement in your community.

Further resources for link building

Final notes

That is a truckload of information to get you started on local SEO.

Is it worthwhile investing the time into this? 100%. Take these steps and you will be ranking better than the majority of your local competition.

Key Takeaways

About the Author

Director and Founder at Firewire Digital. Brogan has over a decade of experience in eCommerce, SEO and Google Ads. Leading his team and clients to success on every project, Brogan is obsessed with achieving solid ROI and creating long-lasting client relationships.

Get Started Today

Let’s take your brand to the next level 📈