Local SEO: Rank Beyond Location

If you run a local business with a physical location, local SEO strategy should be starred, highlighted, and underlined on your list of priorities. If you run a local business with a broader audience, whether that audience be city-wide, state-wide, or nation-wide, this blog is for you.

Pushing the Envelope on Local SEO

At its most broad, search engine optimization tactics include keyword research and targeting, server optimizations, link-building, user experience, and so much more. Local SEO, however, laser focuses on capturing people in a specific locale and includes factors like Google My Business listings, customer reviews, and social media, to name a few.
The general practice for businesses investing in local SEO is to appear in the search results, specifically in the local pack, for a neighborhood or city when people enter search language like “tacos near me” or “dentist in Birmingham.”
But what if you’d like your taqueria to appear for searchers in Hoover, even though your shop is physically located downtown? Or, what if you’d like for Google users across the state of Alabama to be able to find your dentist office in Birmingham, since you know the people of many rural cities will need to travel for their dental needs?
When you want your business to rank beyond your immediate physical locale, you’ll have to employ some well-thought-out strategy, but we’re all about pushing the envelope.

Rank Hyper-locally

This is the most straightforward local ranking strategy—you can consider this the neighborhood level, but the size of the neighborhood will depend on how rural or populated your area is.
If you’ve got a niche business with low competition in your neighborhood, you can expect to rank pretty well for searches including products or services that you offer. Google can hyper-localize “near me” searches all the way down to a few city blocks, assuming that the search engine can find enough businesses in the area that match the query. If you’re the only taco shop in a five-mile radius, though, Google will reach farther out on the map to provide users with results when they search “tacos near me,” even if the person searching is standing right on your street corner.
To know how easy or difficult it will be for your business to rank hyper-locally, you need to know the lay of the business land—are you surrounded by competition or do you dominate? You’ll also need to keep in mind the approximate population of your area—do you operate in a rural area, small town, or a big city?
From there, you can strategize.

  1. Claim your Google My Business listing
  2. Create and claim business listings on other sites like Yellow Pages, Yelp, etc.
  3. Include hyper-local keywords in your website’s on-page content, such as the names of neighborhoods you service

Rank Locally

Zooming out, we have city level. Everything we discussed in the hyper-local category also applies here, it just inflates a bit. Your business will still be able to compete in “near me” and city searches but may have more competition, depending on your area and your business.
Here, there is also a chance that you’ll be ranking for searches with local intent that don’t explicitly include phrases like “near me” or specific city names. Google interprets the motives behind every search in determining how it will assemble the results pages, so when someone searches “taco shop,” and Google knows the location of that person searching, they might interpret that the intent behind that search is to find a “taco shop near me” and will display a local pack.
Local packs are the lists of businesses, accompanied by the map, that answer a search query. Google compiles these based on what it believes are the best businesses for the searcher in that moment, and it’ll likely be the first thing the searcher sees when they hit the results page. This is why it’s so important that your business appears here!
To appear here, you’ll need to:

  1. Know your competition in the area
  2. Analyze the way Google compiles local pack results
  3. Identify the keyword phrases that you can reasonably rank for
  4. Set yourself apart from the competition through specializing your products or services
  5. Write dynamite content for your website, optimizing for the keywords you identified in step 3

Rank Regionally

Regional ranking will include multiple cities or counties, but as we continue to zoom out, know that ranking more broadly is not ideal for every business. For some, the best practice is to focus all local SEO efforts on ranking in a small area, because that’s where the loyal, brand-aware, likely-to-convert customers are. It might not make sense to spend time and energy trying to rank in the city next door because that isn’t the high-quality, high-population area that you’ll really score business with.
For many businesses, it does make sense to rank this broadly! Especially when your neighboring cities don’t offer what you offer—and you definitely want to reach everyone who needs what you have.
To rank regionally, consider whether your business offers products or services that businesses in the surrounding cities or counties don’t. Then, ask yourself whether your business is prepared to take that step out, and whether you have the capacity to accommodate new customers and to maintain relationships in new communities.
If you can answer “yes” to those questions, then it’s time to strategize!

  1. Evaluate your competition in neighboring communities
  2. Establish the resources that your business has available for investing in reaching out to a broader audience, including monetary resources, time, manpower, etc.
  3. Follow all the strategy suggestions for ranking locally

Rank State-Wide

If your business is already partaking in all of the strategies listed above for ranking more broadly, and you’re ready to take it to the next level, it’s time (once again) to get real honest with yourself: How does your business stack up in the market? What’s your competition like, and where are they located? More importantly, are you offering a product or service that customers are willing to travel for?
Google’s local packs rarely show results on a state-wide scale, particularly with language like “near me.” This doesn’t mean that Google never shows state-wide local results or that it’s impossible to rank this broadly. From here, it’s all about authority.
Strategize to prove your authority in the field to Google:

  1. Create a killer user experience on your website, one that keeps readers for longer and offers high value through pertinent information
  2. Invest in digital tools to research your competitors, and hire professionals where needed
  3. Pursue state-wide publicity opportunities that will increase your visibility in other mediums, like TV and talk radio.
  4. If you’re serious about ranking state-wide, consider opening more offices or storefronts to reach the broader audience you’re after

All Summed Up

Ranking beyond your physical location requires you to get honest about your business, your goals, and your capacity.
Establish achievable goals, get familiar with how Google displays results for your target keyword phrases, keep tabs on your competitors, then be detailed and intentional when building your strategy—and you’ll be well on your way.
Interested in learning more? Uptick’s got a team of professionals in SEO strategy prepared to support your business in achieving its unique goals. Let’s start a conversation.

About Lance

For nearly a decade, Lance has worked with Uptick in search engine optimization in some capacity, initially building our SEO department from the ground up. His expertise in the world of optimization makes him the ideal person to keep Uptick on the cutting edge of the ever-evolving SEO sphere. A graduate of Samford University, Lance is a member of Samford University’s Entrepreneurship, Management, and Marketing Advisory Board, creating the university’s first digital marketing course. He has spoken at the Birmingham chapter of the American Marketing Association, co-hosted ‘Grow With Google’ small business events, and presented to the Birmingham and Huntsville chapters of the Public Relations Council of Alabama. Currently, he spearheads Uptick’s SEO sales, business development, and overall strategies.

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