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How to Win at Local SEO for Free

How do you get your business to dominate Google local search results, to beat your local competitors on Google?

Update 5-Oct-2021: following the Coronavirus outbreak, the trend towards “localism” is growing. This trends sees high levels of interest in purchasing from local businesses instead of placing money with faceless corporations. Two thirds of consumers say they now prefer to buy goods and services from their own country, one survey reported.

According to, there are many dozens of ranking factors that Google and other search engines use to determine the order that sites should rank in for any given search.

Here are the most important ten. I’ve added a difficulty rating to show whether it’s easy or hard to implement these ranking factors on your website.

Factor Difficulty
City, county in landing page title Easy
Domain authority of website Hard
Page authority of landing page Hard
Quality/authority of inbound links to domain Very hard
Quality/authority of inbound links to landing page Very hard
Your business address in town of searcher No control
Quality/authority of structured citations Easy
Product/service keywords in website URL Easy
Click-through rate from search Medium
Town, county in landing page h1/h2 titles Easy

Let’s totally ignore the non-easy factors, because we have four ranking factors that are a doddle to implement on any website for free.

Town, county in landing page title

Make sure you put your town and county in the landing page title for your site’s homepage (or the page that you want to rank for). So if you’re a Surbiton electrician for example, make sure you have both Surbiton and Surrey in your landing page’s title.

Quality/authority of structured citations

Citations are mentions of your company’s name and address on other websites. These are much more important than most people realise. Make sure that the sites who are listing your business are high quality and authoritative. How do you find high quality sites to list your business on? First of all do a search for business in your area: e.g., “surbiton businesses”. Look at the sites which are listing local businesses and make sure you’re listed there provided that they are good quality, well-maintained and up-to-date sites.

If you find yourself listed on low-quality, foreign, spammy or out-of-date sites, do your best to get your business removed as these citations can be damaging. Here’s another great resource for the local business ecosystem for the UK. Check out these sites and get yourself listed. (Many of these sites are partners with each other so you may not need to list on all of them).

Product/service keywords in website URL

If you can, use a URL with your product and service in the domain name, e.g.,

However if you prefer to use your brand name in your domain name, create pages which contain the product and service keywords in the URL, e.g., # Create a page like this for each location that you service.

Town, county in landing page h1/h2 titles

Make sure that you also mention your local service areas in the main headings on your pages. h1 and h2 titles are the most important, so ensure you’re using these properly – again your web software is your friend here – don’t just use a bigger or bolder font for titles, make sure you are properly using headings.

Take a NAP

Your Name, Address and Phone Number are really important in local search. It’s vital you choose one format and stick to it. Don’t use multiple formats to list your business on multiple websites, unless you have multiple branches. For example, don’t miss out your county on one website, and include it in another.

This Is not the same as
Brilliant Beauticians Ltd 26 Victoria Road Surbiton KT6 4JL UK Brilliant Beauticians The Old Post Office 26 High Street Surbiton Surrey KT6 4JL

Google and other search engines look at your citations and if you have different formats across the web, they may choose one you don’t like. It can be difficult to get Google to update your NAP to one you like.

Local and national presence

It’s so easy to forget the obvious but many business still omit to list themselves on major directories, perhaps in the mistaken belief that potential customers no longer use online directories to find local businesses. Make sure your NAP is present in all the main directories and networks. Here’s a list of popular business directories and networks for the UK:

  • Checkatrade
  • Checkaprofessional
  • Ratedpeople
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Google+
  • Twitter

Google My Business

Go to Google My Business and claim your Google+ page. Again, make sure your NAP is in your official format.

Getting into the snack pack

The “snack pack” or “three-pack” is the list of three local businesses that Google thinks are the most important for a local search. It’s really important to be listed here if possible, but usually you can only expect to be listed for your primary location. It’s unusual to appear in the snack pack for more than one geographical location, unless you have very little competition in those areas.


Reviews are becoming more and more important for customers, and those “gold stars” in Google search results really result in higher click-through rates for your business. Gold stars in the organic search results are given on the basis of reviews received either through Google+, Google My Business or a licensed review service such as, Feefo, TrustPilot. Your site needs to display the reviews in a way that Google can read which involves adding a snippet of code to your site.


Local search domination is not so difficult provided you have the basics covered. Make sure your name, address and phone number are consistent across all your citations online.

Google yourself regularly to ensure that your citations are up-to-date and accurate. Ensure you use strong local headings in your page titles and page headings.

List yourself in all the major search directories. And aim to get great reviews from a reputable review service.

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