Local SEO is a key consideration for businesses that want to be found in the top listings of the local search results. Though they may sell products or services to customers all over the country or world, there is something powerful about capturing the local market. And many businesses do operate on a local level rather than a global one. Service professionals, doctors, dentists, lawyers, mom-and-pop shops, etc. are all examples of businesses that deal primarily with local customers.

Too bad local SEO isn’t as simple as optimizing a few keywords for local searches. The search engines are constantly updating their algorithms to bring users the most accurate and relevant search results, so businesses have a big responsibility in managing local SEO. Luckily, there are a few tried-and-true ways to conquer your local market and rise above the competition – at least when it comes to local searches. The service you provide is all up to you!

1. Research Local Keywords

Choosing the right keywords to include in your content is extremely important, especially in a local sense. You have to consider that your mobile audience is likely to be on their mobile phones and probably in a bit of a rush. They aren’t going to take the time to plug in a bunch of different keywords and review the listings. They’ll use basic but location-based keywords such as “Belmar NJ lawyers near me” or “window cleaners in Belmar NJ.” Using the right keywords ensures that your business will come up in the local listings.

So how do you determine which keywords you should be using? You’ll have to do your research. Some of the tools you can use include the Keyword Planner Tool, Google Trends and Wordstream. For more information about identifying the best local keywords, check out this helpful post from Hubspot.

Once you have a list of quality keywords that have high search volumes, it’s time to add them to your site. Your site should be optimized for these keywords so that they can be used naturally in title tags, meta descriptions, header tags and page content. Avoid overstuffing the keywords or jamming them into content that doesn’t look natural. The last thing you want is to be penalized by Google for being spammy.

2. Complete Local Places Profiles

The most popular local business directory listings are Google+ Places, Yahoo Local and Bing Places because they show up at the top of the search results. But there are many more listings that are relevant, and you’ll want to claim your profile and make sure that everything is consistent and updated. Many local profiles are not optimized properly.

So what are some of the things you should look for? Start by filling out all of the information about your business so that none of the fields are empty or incomplete. Make sure that your address, phone number and other contact information is accurate. Upload a few photos or videos from your business, and sweeten your business’ description using some of your keywords.

Here are the top 20 places where your business should be listed online. Start at the top and work your way down.

3. Encourage Online Reviews

Most popular local business pages allow reviews to be posted, and these reviews help you rank better. Plus, the reviews show up in the listings so people can get a quick idea of your reputation. When customers are in a hurry and want a trusted professional, these reviews mean a great deal. If someone is searching for a local plumber and one is rated at 4 stars, another at 2 stars and another with no reviews, which business do you think the person will call?

You may be wondering how to get reviews. The best way is to ask for them. Sometimes customers need a little encouragement, and it’s okay to ask them to leave feedback on your local profile. Include the link on your business card, receipt or invoice with a small note kindly asking them to rate their experience.

It’s best to ask customers to leave a review when you suspect they have had a good experience, but don’t try to influence the reviews. Honest, truthful reviews are best. If a customer leaves a negative review, take the time to respond in a calm, apologetic way and offer a sensible solution. This will speak volume to other customers and is a far better way than getting defensive or mean.

4. Build Out a Link Strategy

When it comes time to build links into your website, remember that more isn’t better. The best type of link is a natural link, and you get these links by contributing regular content to your blog.

Provide readers with useful information about your industry, including interesting facts and statistics and step-by-step tutorials. This way, readers will share your blogs with others on social media, and possibly include your link in their own work for reference. By doing this, you build your link and social signals. The search engines love this, as it’s another way to show that your site is quality and authoritative.

5. Engage Regularly on Social Media

A final way to conquer local search results is to be active on social media. Some of your most loyal followers will be local customers because it’s to their benefit to know what sales, promotions and events are currently running. Plus, customers enjoy supporting local businesses that give back to the community.

Develop a presence on the most popular social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+, providing that they fit with your business and audience. You may find it better to establish your business on Pinterest or Instagram rather than Twitter, for instance. You be the judge. Either way, choose a few social networks that you will be on, and keep customers updated with new products, promotions and giveaways.

Local SEO is a work in progress, especially since the algorithms are always changing. But if you follow the above five tips, you automatically have a great start on capturing local customers through the local listings.