If you’re in the SEO industry or are a business that uses local SEO, then you’ve probably heard some of the statistics: almost 60% of local searches result in same-day visits, 77% of smartphone users contact a business after looking for local information, and 70% of customers are more likely to use a local business that has a social media profile.

They prove the importance of local search engine optimization, but what they fail to express is how difficult it is to maintain your rankings in an ever-changing local landscape. Recent algorithm updates, increased competition, and changing consumer trends mean you’ve always got to be on your toes. Let’s look at how to rank for local keywords, how local SEO has gotten more complex, and why investing in proper campaigns is becoming more important as time goes by.

Note: 88% of consumers trust online recommendations as much as personal ones. So simply maintaining your online profiles across social media and local directories is worth it before we even get into local organic strategies.

Algorithm updates

The most recent Google algorithm update, Possum, changed local results to weigh location more heavily. Each update is refining what it takes to show up on the search engine results page, and you need to be aware of what has changed after each major one.

Greater competition for less space

Google introduced the “snack pack” not too long ago. While there used to be 7 results at the top of the SERP, there are now merely 3. When you couple this with the fact that more and more businesses are taking advantage of local marketing efforts (SEO’s value as a whole is expected to reach $80 billion by 2020), it means greater competition for fewer spots.

How to get ahead in the local search game

Local SEO is constantly changing, but there are still some proven ways to stay ahead and maintain a top ranking. Of course, the foundation of great rankings is great service, but when it comes to SEO, there are few things that you should keep in mind:

  • Google My Business- The importance of claiming yours and getting the profile set up right can’t be understated. My Business signals account for nearly 15% of local rankings alone.
  • Locally focused content- Locally focused content is not an option. Long-form, highly informative, and city-based content is key to ranking. Topics could be news, trends, or local promotions depending on which industry you’re in. You need to write things that locals are looking for.
  • Business citations- One key component of all SEO is backlinks. Backlinks are simply links from other places on the web to your site. It adds legitimacy to your business and serves as for other companies to “vote” for you. Using local directories like FourSquare, Yelp, Angieslist, or even your local chamber of commerce will help build you a link profile that will add some ranking juice to your website.
  • Reviews- As we said before, 88% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations and the majority of people read reviews about online businesses before they buy. You need to convince your customers to tell others about how they feel. Start running promotions, giving incentives, and encouraging people to spread the word!

Ranking for keywords in your locale is not as easy as it used to be, and takes constant monitoring, refinement, and adaptation. However, there are some proven ways to rank for local keywords that you should take advantage of.