What is Local SEO and How Do I Use Keywords?

What is local seo?

SEO, or search engine optimization, (we will get to local SEO in a minute) used to refer to strategically placing keywords within website html code. Sometimes, in the early days of Google, this would mean “stuffing” keywords into meta tags in the html header of a webpage. 

After awhile, the stuffing practice became useless as Google began ignoring meta tag keywords and began focusing algorithms on the actual webpage content. However, soon, webpage builders started stuffing content with keywords (now words or phrases) in the effort to rank higher in search results.

Then the Google algorithm updates came in earnest. I won’t go through each update and what they targeted in this post, but each progressive Google update does keep focusing on one thing – giving good, quality, relevant webpages (content) recognition in search results by ranking them higher. Google wants users of their search engine to find the best and most relevant content.

each progressive Google update does keep focusing on one thing – giving good, quality, relevant webpages (content) recognition in search results by ranking them higher

Search Results Personalization

At some point, Google decided to “personalize” search results – meaning they gave different users differing results even though they use the same search word or search phrase. A good easy-to-understand example of this is users in each country. It may be that a user only wants to focus on content in their country and in their language, but Google assumes this is the case and produces results based on that assumption.

So, for local SEO, let me start by saying that on page keyword optimization that helped websites to rank in the past is only a very small part of what is now required to rank locally. Now, you need to look at many different aspects of your website, which we will cover. (It really should be called local digital marketing.)

Search Results for GeoLocation

Local search results are a personalization of results based on user location and type of search. If you use the keyword “security” by itself, you may get results from local service companies (usually just the map section) that handle security services based on your location (IP address of your computer or geolocation of a mobile device). But, you will most likely get results from across the country and worldwide with articles on security guards to national security to national chains to online stores that talk about or sell security of all types.

However, if Google does not know your location, then you will only get results for national or worldwide – no local results and results that may not be relevant to your search.

So, Google does help narrow down results based on what past users (like you) have considered relevant – based on whether or notf Google has determined your location.

But, if you search for something more specific, like: “security service Toledo Ohio”, then no matter where you are located, you get results narrowed to security service shops located around Toledo, Ohio – shops actually near you (if you were not actually located in Toledo) or national results or world results are not included in results. 

If you were to change it up just a little again and search for “security service near me”, then you will get very pinpointed results based on your actual location – most all other results are thrown out.

Now, it helps to understand this (all the above) when trying to figure out where you rank for local results. You need to ask yourself, what is my search keyword? Or better yet, what keyword (or phrase) are my customers searching for where my business is relevant. 

Remember: your website nor your business ranks in Google search… EVER! >> Your webpages do.

You need to look at each webpage.

Are your customers searching for “security service”? – where do your pages rank for that search phrase?

Are you customers searching for “security service near me”? – where do your pages rank for that search phrase?

Or are they searching for “home security”?? Wow, how many other possible phrases (keywords) might my customers be searching for?  This is vital to be able to rank in search results.

Number one on the things you can do to rank in local search is:

#1 Be clear on what keywords you are trying to rank for, write content for it and be sure it is relevant to your business.

This means you will want to write content that focuses on each keyword, In the above example, this might be “security services” and “home security” – but it may also include “business security”, “security systems”, “home security systems”, “security cameras”, “home fire alarms”, “security alarms”, “home security alarms”  – you get the idea.

So, how do you know what your customers are searching for? Without some of the keyword tools that professionals use, this may be just guesswork on your part – what keywords make sense. There are keyword tools such as Google’s Keyword Planner that can be helpful, but this means you need to sign up for a Google Adwords account, the only way to have access to this tool.

Let’s be clear on this:

You cannot rank in local search results for a keyword that you do not have content written about.

Relevancy in Search Results

You will also have a difficult time ranking for a keyword that is not relevant to your business. If your business name was Johnson Home Security and your other service pages were about home security, but you decided you wanted to rank for “phone system”, something unrelated, then don’t expect to rank well for that keyword.

Google looks at relevancy, things that go together and make sense. Keyword research and how they are relevant to your business is crucial.

All of the above suggestions about “keyword use: are crucial to ranking in local search. The following, keyword placement and tags, are less important but do help with Google understanding relevancy of your content.

What not to do

Now that you have some idea about using keywords, how do you implement them in your content? There is one thing you do not want to do for sure… do not stuff keywords. Google penalizes content and websites that do this. 

If you wrote an article about home security and every sentence in your content included the phrase “home security” – not only would it be annoying, but the article is probably not going to be helpful to readers and Google will see all of this – the stuffing, poorly written, and how users click away because it is annoying and not helpful

This should also tell you that what you want to write about is what helps the reader, what answers questions they have. The more helpful and detailed, the better the content.

But, there are critical placements for keywords. To rank, you need to place keywords in the right places and often enough in the content so that Google knows what your article is about. It is a balanced approach for keyword use in content on your website.

None of this is easy. There are many tools that can help which professionals use – some are good and some are bad. One I can recommend off the cuff is Yoast SEO, if you are using a WordPress install. Yoast makes sure you have lined things up the best way possible with respect to keywords.

If you are not using WordPress, then things become more difficult. You will have to manually make many changes that plugins like Yoast or RankMath do for you.

Basically it breaks down this way… 

  • Meta tags (not so useful anymore)
  • Titles
  • Subtitles
  • Meta description
  • Link or slug
  • Images

Meta tags are the old way that SEO used to work, keyword meta tags (not used anymore – Google ignores them because they were abused) 

Description meta tags , which Google stills examines. Google will see your content without using the description meta tag – but it can’t hurt to do this and certainly could help. Just use a short description summary of what your content is about using the keyword your content is based around. Do not stuff this (or anything) with the keyword – using it once is enough.

Titles – usually the first thing on your page or post. Using the keyword here is important because it allows Google to know what the content is about.

Subtitles – again, don’t overuse the keyword, just use it as it would come naturally or words that are relevant to the keyword.

Hyperlink text (also called slug) – using the keyword here is helpful. Google looks to see if the link text is related to the rest of your content on the page.

Images or No Images for Best Search Results

Use images in your content. Why? Because readers like images and they see the content as being more helpful or nicer to read. That will signal to Google that your content is helpful and relevant. When you do use images, it doesn’t hurt to put the keyword into the alt text tag or the description. This is not a major factor, actually very minor,  but can be helpful.

What Should You Absolutely Be Doing for Best Search Results?

So, what is very important about using keywords that you should absolutely do? 

Always make sure that your content is all about the same subject and that subject is your keyword.

If you were to use the keyword “home security”, but your article went into details about kitchen faucets, than Google will see that and it would signal that something was not right with your content. Your keyword, your titles, your descriptions, and your content should all line up and be closely related.

For content, the more closely related the content, tags and keyword are – and the more helpful and relevant the content is to the reader who has searched for the keyword – then the more this will signal Google that this is the case and the higher your page will rank.

You need to manage all of this and it is not easy. Pages (content) need to be created. They need to  be written correctly and structured correctly and marked-up correctly – all based around what your customers are searching that is also related to your business and also is information that is helpful to your customer. Wow, that is a lot.

Be specific. If your business is home security, that is not specific enough of a topic. You can have a page on home security in general. But you may also need pages for more pinpoint topics, like: home security cameras, home door security, home window security, etc.  The topics need to answer questions your readers are asking, like: what’s the best way to secure a window in a home?, what’s the best way to secure a home wirelessly?, or what is the best home security panel to use?

Your page, your content, your article – needs to be detailed and helpful. And this generally means it needs to be long. Short content is rarely helpful because it is not detailed enough – or, at least, that is how your readers see it. How long does it need to be? Statistics have shown that content of  1500 words or longer are important. The longer, the better. Longer, detail oriented and helpful content means two things; the reader stays on the page longer (a positive signal to Google); and the content is more likely to be shared (a HUGE positive signal to Google).

Dos that mean that having one long, helpful, detailed page on my website is enough? No way.

You need many pages. Why? Google doesn’t just look at individual page content for ranking a page. It also looks at the entirety of the website and its’ relevance, overall helpfulness, its’ trustworthiness, and its’ overall “authority”. This authority is passed off to all pages.

Who would you name as the authority online if you wanted encyclopedia-type of information?  Wikipedia.org, of course. How about prescription drug information? WebMD.com And Google knows this because users have told them this by how they react to the information on these websites.

You want your website to reflect as much authority as you can garner for what you do. This overall “authority” is passed off to your pages. Pages also gain “authority”, if seen by Google to be helpful and when they start ranking,  which also can be passed off to other pages. 

The more helpful and relevant pages you have, the more that users will tell Google this is so (via algorithm), and the more your website will gain authority. More authority means better ranking… period. 

This means a lot of pages. The recommendation is at least 15 but probably more like 25 to 30 pages is what you should look at writing. What!!

That is too much, you say to yourself. We can’t possibly come up with that much to write about.

Ok. ok. For local websites focusing on local services and local search – you probably want at least 5 solid pages of helpful information that are not just short descriptions of your services (service pages).

Of course, the more pages you can come up with, the better.


Looking back through what we covered on this page; researching keywords, writing content, implementing SEO tactics, and managing everything to be sure Google sees it as all related – well, that takes time. 

It is work and it does take time and effort. But, that effort does pay off. By doing all that has been described, you will see results. You will see your rankings improve – maybe not #1, but rankings will move up.

Keep in mind, there are other things (factors) you must do in addition to keywords and content to rank well, which are covered in other articles. You also need to know that it is hard to rank when any particular factor is left out and ignored – keywords and content in particular.

What is the shortcut? Isn’t there a quick trick to ranking without doing all this? Can’t there be a way to fool Google algorithms and get better ranking in search results?

The answer is no, not anymore. The algorithms Google uses have becomes good at what they do (not perfect by any means) and they do a good job at weeding out the weakest and less helpful information. And that is the way we want it, right? 

Even if we did figure out some trick or hack, it wouldn’t long before Google would figure it out and plug up the hole. Where would your ranking be then?

So, buckle down, put in the effort, and build the right way. Your web page ranking will improve as will your business – the whole reason you have a website in the first place.

Now, if you don’t have time to build, or lack the expertise or knack for building and marking up webpages, then we can help. Check out our services and don’t hesitate to ask for a free consultation or get out Free LOcal Search Report. We would be happy to talk about your options.


Scroll to Top