We get it. SEO isn’t at the top of your to-do list.

Studying Google, writing blog posts, researching keywords (whatever those are)  – who has the time to do all that when you’re running a small business?

We’re not saying you have to command a digital empire, but there is some value in ranking for search queries in your area. Local city SEO improves your brand’s position on search engines when people look for businesses in their area. As a small business owner, you want to be at the top of that list when someone searches for “best [insert type of business] near me.”

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The Guide to Winning More Business Online


Let’s do a deep dive into local city SEO. I’ll explain how it works and why it’s worthwhile for small business owners. Then, we’ll wrap up with a list of tips to rank higher on search results for your city.

What is local city SEO?

Local city SEO is what you do to rank higher on search results for your city or town. Google shows these links when someone searches for “best business near me” or “best business in X location.”

Local City SEO Example

Here’s an example: Google “best dog groomer near me.” Since I live in Boston, Google automatically searches for results in my area.

local city seo result

Your results will be different if you live somewhere else. That’s because search engines will use your location to look up businesses in your area. From there, various factors will be used to determine which companies are most relevant to your search.

Let’s look at how this ranking works in the section below.

How does local city SEO work?

The key difference between local SEO and traditional SEO is the map pack. Google and other search engines display an interactive map based on your location. The map marks businesses in your area that meet your search criteria.

It looks something like this:

map pack for local city seo

Google focuses on three core components when ranking businesses in the map pack:

  1. Distance: How far away is the business from the user?
  2. Relevancy: How relevant is the business to the user’s search phrase?
  3. Credibility: How trustworthy and well-reviewed is the business?

Of course, local search strategies still apply to cities and towns. Conduct keyword research, optimize your site’s load time, and build credibility on sites like Yelp and Google.

Pro Tip: Check out this post for a complete list of factors that affect your search ranking.

In the section below, let’s review these fundamentals and other practices specific to local city SEO.

How to Rank Higher on Search in Your City

  1. Claim your business listings.
  2. Use online listing management software.
  3. Ask for customer reviews.
  4. Optimize your website for search.
  5. Respond to negative comments.
  6. Target keywords in specific locations.
  7. Stay active on your business profile.
  8. Increase your NAP citations.

1. Claim your business listings.

The first step is claiming your business listing on Google, Yelp, Bing, and other business listing websites.

Not only will this generate referral traffic, but it will also make your business discoverable on search results and map packs. If you don’t claim your profile, Google Maps won’t show your business. You won’t rank because Google doesn’t think your company exists.

If you haven’t claimed your profile on Google or Yelp, here are two helpful guides:

Pro Tip: A Google Business Profile optimization service can help you rank higher in search results.

2. Use online listing management software.

It’s easy to say you should have updated business profiles on every directory. In reality, that means staying on top of your business listings and adding more information to your profiles over time.

With dozens of online review sites, that’s difficult to do even if you have claimed each of your online listings. Small business owners don’t have time to keep up with the latest features on these apps or post regular updates. While it’s an excellent opportunity to grow your brand, it’s tedious for one person to handle independently.

Here’s where online listing management software comes in handy. Rather than updating each profile on its own, you can update them in bulk from one place. Reviews go to the same place  – the software you’re using – so you get an alert whenever someone leaves a comment about their experience.

Tools like the one below will save you a lot of time managing your business listings, keeping your profiles up to date, and helping you rank higher on search engines.

3. Ask for customer reviews.

Customer reviews build your credibility online. Google and other search engines use them to measure your brand’s customer experience. Since Google wants to provide the best results possible, it prioritizes brands with good customer reviews.

One way to get reviews is to ask customers for them. Send them an email or text after you complete a service, or ask them if they would promote your brand on social media.

You can also use this online review link generator to make it easy for customers to leave a review on your Google Business profile.

4. Optimize your website for search.

If your business is in one city or town, clarify that on your website. Ensure your contact information (address, phone, business name) is in the footer of your site and present on every page. You can also produce blog content about events, locations, or other businesses in your area so search engines know exactly where you are.

If your business has multiple locations, you’ll need separate web content for each town and city. Remember, local city SEO works off your location, so you’ll confuse Google if you put multiple addresses on one page.

Instead, create individual pages for each location in your franchise. That will let Google know you have multiple businesses, making it easier for search engines to find and rank your content.

5. Respond to negative comments.

Negative reviews suck, but there is a silver lining: they aren’t the worst for you in the eyes of search engines.

Negative reviews prove you’re real, especially when you respond to them. They’re a chance to salvage a customer relationship, and they show Google that a real person is managing your business. While you should always aim for good reviews, don’t shy away from a negative comment about your business.

Instead, look for opportunities to reconcile the situation. You might convince them to change the review, and it will show other people that you care about your customers.

6. Target keywords in specific locations.

Keyword research is the process of predicting what your customers are searching for on Google. If you know the terms and phrases (keywords) your customers are using, you can create content that targets those searches.

For example, this post is about “local city SEO.” We chose this phrase because we had a hunch you might search for it on Google. Ideally, you’ll stumble across this post and learn more about Thryv as a result.

You can do the same for your small business – but you’ll need an SEO tool like Semrush or Google Search Console. These tools tell you what phrases people search for and how often these keywords are used.

Let’s go through a simple example. If I ran a dog grooming business in Boston, I would want to rank for the keyword “dog grooming Boston.” I could use an SEO tool like Semrush to see how many people search for that term and how easy it is to rank for it.

Here’s what I got from Semrush:

keyword research for local city seo

The “volume” tells me how often this keyword is searched for, and the “keyword difficulty” tells me how hard it would be for my website to rank for that term. If we scroll down, we can see sites that rank for this keyword and where mine currently stands.

competitor research for local city seo

We can use this information to replicate sites currently ranking for this keyword. That way, we can copy what works for them but make our content unique so it stands out.

For more ways to beat your competitors in local search, check out our tips here.

7. Stay active on your business profile.

Business profiles aren’t static. You should log in frequently and treat them like your other social media accounts.

After all, you’ll have comments to respond to and information to update over time – and that’s just one way you can leverage this channel for marketing.

Another way is to post updates to your business profile. Google has a “Posts” feature that works similarly to Facebook or X (formerly known as Twitter). These posts are displayed on your listing profile and appear in the map pack when someone clicks on your business.

Google posts for online listings

Posts are useful for promoting your business’s events, sales, and news about products and services. They also show Google that you’re active online, which helps you rank higher in local city SEO. Google values social engagements and sees these posts as direct customer engagement.

8. Increase your NAP citations.

NAP stands for name, address, and phone number.

Similar to what we mentioned earlier, Google likes to know you’re real. It knows anyone can create a business profile and pretend to run a company.

So, it looks for ways to verify that your business is legitimate, and one way it does this is through NAP citations. In other words, Google looks for your business’s name, address, and phone number on the Internet.

Your website is a great place to start, but sites like Yelp, Bing, Trip Advisor, and other directories can house this information, too. That’s why it’s important to maximize your business listings and keep them updated over time so you can provide Google with multiple places to confirm your identity.

Understanding Local City SEO

It doesn’t matter if your business is located in a tiny town or a massive city – local SEO is important. It helps you keep pace with bigger brands and positions your business at the top of search results.

Use these tips to rank higher on search engines, and consider what other businesses are doing in your city. You should also look out for new online directories and monitor existing profiles. The more you update your information, the more relevant and credible your business will appear online.

The Guide to Winning More Business Online

The Guide to Winning
More Business Online

Want customers to find you online? A website is not enough.