SEO & Local SEO 101

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SEO & Local SEO 101

The Basics of Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of making sure your website can be found by search engines (Google) for the search terms (keywords) that you want to rank for.

There are several factors that go into SEO beyond just the keywords itself.

Think about it; you wouldn’t be able to publish a website with nothing but the words “hair salon in Cleveland” over and over and expect it to show up in a search for “hair salon in Cleveland”.

graphic showing that keyword stuffing doesn't work
Also known as “keyword stuffing”, Google checks for this too and will ding you for overuse of keywords.

Google and other search engines consider much more than just keyword usage when ranking a website. They check how well your website is structured, links to your site from other reputable sites, your reputation, and how fast your site loads.

Search engines aim to provide search results that are the most relevant, and even more importantly, come from the most reputable sources.  Relevancy is determined by matching the user’s search to the content on your website, but determining reputation… is not as clear-cut.

Google’s page ranking algorithm is so incredibly complex that no one knows exactly how it works.  However, experts’ research has determined most of the major components though; this pie chart from Neil Patel (a few years old) estimates how much influence each component has.

Pie Chart from Neil Patel showing Components of Google's Ranking Algorithm - 70% "How others reference you", 15% "how people engage with your site", 15% "how you describe your content" ) on-page keyword usage

As you can see in this chart, the brunt of Google’s ranking is largely determined by popularity.  But, if you have to be popular to be popular… then how do you become popular?

Given that there are nearly 1,878,000,000 websites as of today (May 16, 2018), with approximately 140,000 new websites launching each day, climbing to the top of the ranks is not going to be an easy feat.  With the right keyword strategy, good content, a means to get lots of links back to your site, and a topic that’s not incredibly competitive, you do still stand a chance.

On the other hand, if your website is for a local business, you’re in luck!

Local SEO

Search engine optimization for local businesses is completely different from regular SEO.  Especially since the addition of Google My Business (GMB) listings in 2014, local SEO has a totally different set of ranking factors, and rightly so.

We can see from this chart below, from Moz’s 2017 Local SEO report, proving internet popularity isn’t nearly as important for local SEO.  Instead, factors that indicate a reputable, reliable local business carry the most weight.

Moz pie chart - Local Pack/Finder Breakdown - 2017

According to the most recent research, experts agree across the board that these are the most influential factors, in order of importance:

  1. Google My Business – Proximity to searcher, correct categories, keyword in business title, etc.
  2. Backlinks (links back to your site) – Anchor text of link, linking domain authority, quantity of domains linking, etc.
  3. A 3-way tie for 3rd place:
    1. On-page (your website’s content)  – Presence of NAP, keyword strategy, domain authority, etc.
    2. Business Reviews (on Google or other sites Google can pick up) – Review quantity, review velocity, review diversity, etc.
    3. Citations (Online business listings) – IYP/ NAP consistency, citation volume, etc.

*NAP = name, address, phone number,  IYP = Internet Yellow Pages  😉  You’re welcome!

You can read the full 2017 Local Search Ranking Factors Survey Results here.

This makes it seem a little easier to achieve a higher Google search ranking, doesn’t it?  While “popularity” is still essentially the leading factor, it’s much more achievable on a local basis.

SEO you can DIY

If there are 2 things you take away from this, it should be:

  1. Get your Google My Business listing in order, including as much information on your business as possible!
  2. Get some links back to your site (backlinks) from other reputable local websites.  Rather than “link building”, think of this as relationship building.  Be active in your community, form some good relationships, network, sponsor events, donate; if you deserve to be mentioned and linked to, then you will!  I vetted a lot of articles and this piece from Moz has the best advice on practical ways to build backlinks for your local business.
Photo of Abby Lehman Buzon, owner of The Helpful Marketer

About the Author

Abby Buzon

I'm Abby (Armstrong-Lehman) Buzon, Lead Designer & Owner of The Helpful Marketer, based in Medina County, Ohio. I got my start in marketing and website administration in 2010, became a mom in 2015, and left my day job in 2017 to begin The Helpful Marketer. I'm happier than I've ever been and I truly love what I do, so I'm here to share my story and give some marketing tips along the way!



  1. Elizabeth Orley on May 24, 2018 at 4:05 pm


    This is fabulous information for small businesses! Thank you for writing such a comprehensive article!

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