Search engine optimization has become such a vague phrase these days that it could refer to a variety of different digital marketing strategies. However, that also means that the best SEO firms will be able to provide you with many different services to fit the needs of your business, whether it’s social media marketing or website development.

Local search optimization may seem like it’s just another piece in that puzzle, but it’s a very important one. Here’s what you need to know about local SEO:

Local SEO: What Is It?

Local SEO is what you see at the top of a Google SERP (search engine results page) when you make a query related to a business. Results appear in an ordered list, they provide the basic contact information of each business, and a map accompanies the list to show you where each business is located.

How Does Local Search Work?

As the name suggests, local search results are highly dependent on your geographical location. Two people in two different cities can both search “winter clothing store” at the same exact time, but end up with completely different results. Google collects location information from your network connection to determine which businesses are the closest to you and the most relevant.

How Is Local Search Optimization Like Regular SEO?

Although local searches depend on the person’s physical location, each local SERP’s order of businesses also depends on factors similar to regular organic results. These factors include customer reviews, content on your website that relates to your location, social media activity, and clear (and correct!) information posted on your website regarding your location, hours, and phone number.

How Does a Business Get Onto a Local Search Results Page?

This process is complicated, and it’s why many businesses turn to SEO services for help. You’ll first have to verify your business under Google’s “Claim My Business” page and you’ll want to set up pages on social media sites like Google+ and Facebook. Next, it’s important to display your business’s contact information clearly on your website, on every single page, in the exact same spot. You’ll want to encourage some customers to leave reviews and engage with your business online. Then begins the ongoing process of “telling” Google’s search engine spiders that your business is open and relevant.

Is Local Search Optimization Really That Important?

Many businesses are surprised by how important local SEO really is. Along with email, search engine use is one of the most common online activities across the globe. Every single week, there are 645 million local search page views in the U.S. alone, and 70% of all social media users in the U.S. are connected to at least one local business.

If your business has been neglecting local search optimization recently, now might just be the perfect time to start developing a new local approach to SEO.