The History of Local SEO

Local SEO (search engine optimization) is a digital marketing strategy that focuses on increasing a business’s visibility to attract local customers in location-based online searches. Local search engine optimization is important for local and regional businesses because it helps them engage with potential customers in their area at the precise moment they're searching for their products or services.

By effectively implementing local SEO strategies such as optimizing Google Business profile SEO, local keyword targeting, and acquiring local citations, businesses can improve their online visibility and drive foot traffic to physical locations – ultimately increasing sales in their local community. 

Person using a magnifying glass to focus on a web search bar, symbolizing online search and the history of local SEO

The Early Days of Local SEO

Before local SEO, companies relied on traditional methods such as word-of-mouth and print advertising to increase sales. In the beginning, the internet was not yet a dominant force in guiding customers to local services or products. Businesses' online presence had limited influence on attracting local customers, with physical storefronts relying on traditional marketing efforts to capture the attention of the local customer base.

With the evolution of search engines, digital marketing, and the emergence of local SEO strategies, the digital landscape underwent a huge transformation. This allowed businesses to significantly enhance their visibility with local search ranking factors that connected them with potential customers in their local area. By the mid-2000s, local SEO started to dominate local markets. and the Advent of Business Lookup Websites

With its comprehensive business listings, provided a valuable avenue for businesses to enhance their visibility and connect with potential customers. Moreover, the platform's adaptation to search engine optimization (SEO) further underscored the importance of online visibility for local businesses in an increasingly digital landscape. played a pivotal role in bridging the gap between consumers and businesses during the transition to online business lookup platforms. The advent of business lookup websites marked a significant milestone in how individuals and organizations access information about companies. They provided powerful search functionalities, enabling users to find detailed information about businesses.

Local Search Boom: Smart Phones Connect to the Internet

Before wireless networks improved and smartphones became increasingly capable of delivering a seamless and efficient internet browsing experience, the digital landscape relied heavily on desktop and laptop computers for internet access. Online activities were predominantly carried out on these devices. This lack of internet connectivity “on-the-go” limited the ability of local businesses to effectively reach and engage with potential customers in their local area. As a result, local businesses encountered barriers in leveraging digital channels to attract local customers and compete in the evolving digital marketplace. 

With the widespread adoption of smartphones and better wireless connectivity, users gained the ability to search for information and services while on the go. This led to a surge in local searches, as people used their phones to find nearby businesses, restaurants, and other points of interest.

The Rise of 'Near Me' Queries in Local SEO 

The rise of "near me" queries in local SEO has been a significant trend over the years. The prevalence of these search queries reflects evolving consumer behavior, particularly the increasing reliance on mobile devices and the desire for localized, immediate results. Individuals are now more inclined to conduct searches with the "near me" modifier to find products, services, or businesses close to their current location.

Google data and numerous industry surveys have shown these location-based searches have experienced huge growth and are reshaping the way businesses approach their SEO strategies. Mobile searches containing "near me" combined with phrases like "can I buy" or "to buy" surged over the last few years. This emphasizes the growing importance of catering to mobile users seeking immediate purchase options in their vicinity.

The Genesis, Growth, and Shift of Local Search Results

Google's search algorithm has undergone significant changes over the years, reflecting the evolving needs and behaviors of users. Initially, Google primarily relied on Yellow Pages and business listing websites to provide local business information. However, as the demand for more comprehensive and user-centric local search results grew, Google began to prioritize review websites in its search rankings.

Google's Map Pack feature, which displays local businesses directly on Google Business and the Local Map Pack on search results was introduced to make it easier for users to quickly find and interact with local businesses.
Initially, the Map Pack displayed up to 11 businesses, but over time, Google has reduced this number to 7 and then to 3 businesses listed. This change was made despite the high demand and interaction rate for the Map Pack, suggesting that Google is expanding its local advertising options.

As a result, local businesses may face increased competition for visibility in the Map Pack and they may need to consider alternative strategies to reach potential customers, such as optimizing their Google Business profiles and running local search ads. Undergoing a comprehensive SEO audit is a great way to find out if you’re local SEO is performing as well as it should. 

Infographic calling out's SEO expertise and SEO audit offering

Integrating Local SEO with Google Maps 

Google Maps has completely changed the way people search for local businesses. Simply open Google Maps and search for what you're looking for. This has had a major impact on local SEO. Businesses that want to be found by potential customers need to make sure that they're listed on Google Maps and that their listing is accurate and up-to-date.

There are several ways to optimize your presence on Google Maps. These include:

  • Claim your business listing: This will allow you to manage your listing and make sure that it's accurate.
  • Add photos and videos: Photos and videos can help your business listing stand out. 
  • Write a detailed description: This is a great opportunity to tell potential customers about your business, include relevant keywords and information about your products or services.
  • Encourage reviews: Reviews are a great way to build trust with potential customers. Encourage your customers to leave reviews on your Google Maps listing. Reviews and ratings are an important local SEO search ranking factor; online reviews help local SEO rankings by providing current and valuable information about the business.
  • Respond to reviews: Make sure to respond to reviews, both positive and negative. This shows potential customers that you're engaged with your customers and that you care about their feedback.

Google Business Profile: A Historical Overview

Google Business Profile, formerly known as Google My Business, has undergone several transformations since its inception in 2005. Here's a brief overview of the Google Business Profile SEO evolution:

  • 2005: Google Local Business Center: This platform allowed businesses to manage their online presence, including their location on Google Maps.
  • 2009: Google Places: In 2009, Google Places emerged as an extension of the Local Business Center, providing businesses with more robust features such as reviews, ratings, and photos.
  • 2011: Google + Local: This marked a significant shift by integrating Google+ social media profiles with business listings, allowing businesses to engage with customers on a deeper level.
  • 2014: Google My Business: Introduced in 2014, this consolidated all of Google's local business management tools under one platform. It offered a comprehensive suite of features, including insights, analytics, and the ability to manage multiple locations.
  • 2021: Google Business Profile: In 2021, Google My Business underwent a rebranding and became Google Business Profile, reflecting the platform's focus on helping businesses build and manage their online presence, rather than just being a local businesses directory.

The Rise of Mobile Voice Search in Local SEO 

Mobile voice search has become increasingly popular in recent years, with more people using voice assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant to search for information on their mobile devices. This trend has significant implications for local SEO strategies as it changes the way people search for local businesses and services.

One of the key consequences of the rise of mobile voice search is the increased importance of optimizing for local search results. When people use voice search, they often use natural language and conversational phrases, rather than typing in specific keywords. This means that local businesses need to ensure that their websites and online listings are optimized for these types of queries, including using relevant keywords and phrases in their content and metadata.

Another important consideration for local SEO in the era of voice search is the importance of providing accurate, up-to-date information about your business. This includes ensuring that your business name, address, and phone number are correct and consistent across all online platforms, as well as providing detailed information about your products or services, hours of operation, and customer reviews.

Name-Address-Phone (NAP) Consistency: Enhancing Local SEO

Maintaining consistent NAP (name, address, phone number) across online platforms is essential for local SEO as it establishes trust with search engines and ensures accurate information for potential customers. Tools like Moz Local, Semrush, and Yext have streamlined the process of updating and managing NAP data across multiple directories, enhancing local SEO performance, and minimizing discrepancies that could negatively impact a business.

Yext's Impact on Local Search Visibility

Yext is cloud-based software that provides location data management services. Yext's impact on local search visibility is significant, as it enables businesses to maintain accurate, complete, and consistent listings across directories, review sites, and social networks, ultimately contributing to improved local SEO performance and increased online visibility.

Tracking and Automation

Analytics and tracking tools play a crucial role in refining local SEO by providing valuable insights into customer behavior, keyword performance, and local search trends, enabling businesses to make data-driven decisions and optimize their online presence for better visibility and engagement within specific geographic areas. It also streamlines tasks such as monitoring local listings, citation management, and review tracking, allowing businesses to maintain consistency and accuracy across various platforms while saving time and resources.

Best Practices for NAP Consistency

To ensure consistent and accurate NAP information, businesses should:

  • Regularly audit their online listings across directories.
  • Update information promptly for any changes.
  • Utilize reputable tools like Yext or Moz Local to manage NAP data.

Additionally, implementing a standardized NAP format and educating staff members about the importance of maintaining accurate information can further contribute to ensuring consistency and reliability across online platforms.

Industry-Specific Local SEO Strategies

Different industries leverage local SEO uniquely by tailoring their strategies to suit the specific needs and behaviors of their target audience. For example, a restaurant might focus on optimizing for "near me" searches and food-specific keywords, while a healthcare provider may prioritize local service area targeting and patient reviews. Understanding these industry-specific nuances is crucial for businesses to effectively optimize their local SEO efforts and enhance their visibility within their local communities.

Major Google Updates Impacting Local SEO

Google algorithm updates have significantly impacted local SEO. Here are the most impactful updates:

The History of Local SEO

The Future of Local SEO

Local SEO will undergo significant change as AI and AR technologies continue to reshape consumer behavior and interaction with local businesses. AI-powered voice search and chatbots will play a key role in shaping local search queries, highlighting the importance of optimizing for conversational and long-tail keywords. Augmented reality (AR) is expected to transform local engagement by enabling immersive experiences, requiring businesses to integrate AR-friendly strategies into their local SEO strategies to drive foot traffic.

Dominate Local SEO with

Local SEO has evolved tremendously over the last few years. Its importance for modern businesses cannot be overstated. As an expert digital marketing company, knows how to improve your local search rankings and online visibility. We use a systematic approach to improve keyword rankings and push your business to the top of search results. Whether it's a special project or ongoing effort,’s search engine optimization services are here to solve your toughest challenges and help you dominate local SEO!

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About Author

Shawn Griffin
Shawn has been with since 1999 in a variety of roles. Currently, Shawn is part of our digital marketing and content team. In addition to editing and producing written company pieces, he produces copy for clients and he also helps to produce our radio and TV spots. He wants to make sure everybody knows that it’s truly a collaborative effort – between many, including the people he’s worked for during the past 20+ years!

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