Written by Jason Hennessey –
Local SEO is a smart skill set to master, especially if you have a local business.
All local businesses – from law firms to restaurants to retail stores to beauty salons – can benefit from local SEO.
Why? Because Google is one of the top platforms people use to find local businesses.
Whether you’re doing local SEO for yourself or someone else, here are some easy and free ways to learn local SEO from scratch.
Learn Local SEO As A Beginner
The following steps are just the beginning when it comes to learning local SEO, but it’s always best to start with the basics.
These are the building blocks from which you will learn and refine your local SEO skills.
Then, it’s mostly a matter of practice, experience, and patience.
1. Start With A Website
Your website is the primary testing ground for your local SEO strategy.
Some strategists even start with a basic “burner” website they can afford to “break” to test their SEO skills in the beginning.
Whether you have WordPress, Squarespace, or any other CMS (content management system), you should be able to start optimizing your website according to SEO best practices.
These best practices include:
- Optimizing your website content with local and non-local keywords.
- Writing unique title tags, meta descriptions, and page content.
- Optimizing your website site speed and mobile experience.
- Tracking your traffic with analytics tools.
- Optimizing image sizes and image alt text.
- Adding internal links to relevant content.
- Publishing new, engaging content.
- Scanning for and fixing technical SEO issues.
2. Learn SEO Tools
Most SEO tools can be used for local and “regular” SEO because they quantify how many users are searching for a particular keyword, how much traffic a website is getting, and other metrics that apply to most websites.
Learning these SEO tools is one of the best things you can do when starting to learn local SEO.
Most tools have their own guides and even courses – look out for these, so you can learn how to use SEO tools directly from the source.
3. Optimize Your Content
SEO tools will help you discover the keywords users are searching for to find websites like yours.
Once you learn how to use these tools — and then find keywords based on search volume, competitiveness, and relevance — you can begin to optimize your content.
Optimizing your content means determining a target keyword for a page or post, using that keyword and related keywords throughout your content, and writing content that satisfies what users are searching for.
This applies to both local and non-local businesses.
4. Try Your Hand At Off-Site SEO
“Off-site” SEO refers to any SEO activities that occur off of your website.
Most commonly, this means link building, directory outreach, PR, and similar.
Once your website is optimized to the nines, you should aim to increase your website’s trust factor with valuable backlinks.
This can be done by marketing valuable content to other businesses, reaching out to blogs, running PR campaigns, submitting your business information to directories, and more.
Off-site SEO is very important for local businesses, so you will learn more about this in the following resources and courses.
There are a few skills that every business owner or strategist should strive for when it comes to learning local SEO.
Some are practical, and some are “softer” skills that make doing local SEO easier and more enjoyable.
Even with all the tactical SEO tools and tricks you’ll encounter, you’ll eventually learn that creativity goes a long way.
Many business owners will learn the basics, but creative problem solving makes all the difference.
You will need creativity to:
- Uncover new keyword sets to target.
- Think up engaging content ideas.
- Come up with creative link-building strategies.
- Leverage partnerships and relationships to improve your SEO.
- Optimize your content for conversions, not just clicks.
- Reach more users with content marketing.
- Overcome SEO challenges with ease.
Don’t underestimate the value of creativity and problem solving!
You might have heard that SEO is a long game.
Often, this is true.
SEO can take a while to generate results, especially if you operate in a competitive market.
This is where patience comes in handy.
Know that your hard work may not pay off right away.
And know that this is normal.
Much of what you do in SEO will lay a solid foundation that will pay off later. It may be invisible initially, but doing things the right way (not taking the shortcut) will ultimately lead to your success.
Set a benchmark when you first start and then see how much your site grows over time – celebrate even the small wins!
In SEO, “Content is king.”
Content is what users read when they get to your website.
It’s what users interact with on social media.
And it’s the text or video that ultimately convinces a customer to buy from you.
Content marketing skills like email marketing, social media content, video marketing, and blogging can help drive results for your website.
You will be better suited to create great content and generate more views across multiple platforms.
In this case, a background in content marketing will serve you well.
While website development is not a “must-have” skill for SEO, it’s definitely beneficial.
People with at least a bit of web development experience may find optimizing a website and applying technical SEO fixes easier.
Consider taking a basic web development course or reading online guides about managing a website.
At the very least, you will learn common terms that apply to website and SEO.
Beyond that, you may learn a bit about coding, technical implementation, mobile development, and more advanced skills.
Data And Analytics
Every strategist and business owner should learn the basics of data and analytics.
For most, this means being able to interpret data from Google Search Console and Google Analytics.
Some of the most common metrics to know are:
- Search/keyword position.
- Conversion rate.
- Bounce rate.
- Organic traffic.
- Direct traffic.
- Referral traffic.
Knowing these – and how to find them in your chosen analytics tool – will help you track the success of your SEO and marketing efforts.
Want to learn local SEO for free?
Fortunately, there are tons of online resources available for beginners. We have rounded up a few of our favorites!
- Local SEO For Beginners: Getting Started – Search Engine Journal shares its beginner-friendly guide to local SEO, from the very beginning, to more advanced tactics.
- Local SEO: The Definitive Guide to Improve Your Local Search Rankings – A massive resource for learning local SEO. This guide includes best practices, expert strategies, tools, tips, and so much more.
- Local Search Marketing & Local SEO Strategy, Tips & Guides – A comprehensive roundup of local SEO strategies, tips, and guides. Look here if you want to find many local SEO tactics all in one place.
- What Is Local SEO & Why Local Search Matter – Get started with what local SEO is and why it matters. The better you understand the philosophy behind local SEO, the more prepared you will be to develop a successful SEO plan.
- Local SEO | SEO Resources For All Skill Levels – Moz – Moz is a great resource for business owners and SEO strategists alike. Here, they share resources for all skill levels.
- Local SEO: The Complete Guide – Ahrefs – Ahrefs is an industry leader in SEO tools. Here’s a robust local SEO guide, plus some tips for how to use Ahrefs to improve your local search strategy.
There are many, many SEO courses available. That said, not all courses are created equal. Here, we are sharing some of the top local SEO courses – all free!
Local SEO Resources
Having worked primarily with law firms, local SEO is near and dear to my heart.
That’s why I write about it often at Search Engine Journal!
Here are a few additional local SEO resources, straight from my column at SEJ:
Learn Local SEO From The Best
Many online guides, courses, and webinars teach local SEO from scratch. But, the real magic of local SEO is in the hands-on experience.
That’s why I say “learning from the best” means learning from your own experience, mistakes, trials, and strategies.
The best way to learn what works for your website is to try different tactics, track the results, and adjust your strategy according to your learnings.
This is where the skills of Creativity and Patience come into play.
Your own creativity will inspire your strategy, and patience will ensure you are invested in the results. They will pay off!
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