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How to Learn Local SEO: Skills, Reading, and Courses

Local SEO is a smart skill to master, especially if you have a local business.

Any local business – from law firms to restaurants to retail stores and beauty salons – can benefit from local SEO.

Why? Because Google is one of the main 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 of 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 main testing ground for your local SEO strategy.

Some strategists even start with a basic “burner” website that they can afford to “break” to test their SEO skills at first.

Whether you have WordPress, Squarespace, or any other CMS (content management system), you should be able to start optimizing your website for SEO best practices.

These best practices include:

  • Optimizing your website content with local and non-local keywords.
  • Single write title tags, meta descriptions and page content.
  • Optimize your website speed and mobile experience.
  • Track your traffic with analysis tools.
  • Optimization image sizes and image alt text.
  • Adding internal links to relevant content.
  • Publication of news, engaging content.
  • Research and resolve technical SEO issues.

2. Learn SEO tools

Most SEO tools can be used for local and “regular” SEO, as they quantify how many users search for a particular keyword, how much traffic a website receives, and other metrics apply to most websites.

Common SEO tools like Semrush or Ahrefs can help you research keywords and competitors, analyze backlinks, and optimize your content.

Learning about these SEO tools is one of the best things you can do when you start learning local SEO.

Most tools have their own guides and even courses – look them up, so you can learn how to use SEO tools straight 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 start optimizing 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 matches what users are looking for.

This applies to local and non-local businesses.

4. Try Off-Site SEO

“Off-site” SEO refers to all SEO activity that occurs outside of your website.

Most often, this means link building, directory distribution, public relations, etc.

Once your website is optimized anew, 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.

Offsite SEO is very important for local businesses, so you’ll learn more about it in the following resources and courses.

Recommended Skills

There are a few skills 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 local SEO easier and more enjoyable.


Even with all the tactical SEO tools and tips you’ll come across, 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:

  • Discover new sets of keywords target.
  • Invent interesting content ideas.
  • To find creative link building strategies.
  • Leverage partnerships and relationships to improve your SEO.
  • Optimize your content for conversionsnot just clicks.
  • Reach more users with content marketing.
  • Overcome SEO Challenges with ease.

Don’t underestimate the value of creativity and problem solving!


You may have heard that SEO is a long game.

Often this is true.

SEO can take some time 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 build a strong foundation that will pay off later. It may be invisible at first, but doing it the right way (not taking the shortcut) will ultimately lead to your success.

Google Search Console and Google Analytics are great free tools you can use to track your progress.

Set a benchmark when you first start, then see how much your site grows over time – even celebrate small victories!

Content Marketing

In SEO, “content is king”.

Content is what users read when they come to your website.

It is what users interact with on social networks.

And it’s the text or video that ultimately convinces a customer to buy from you.

Content marketing skills such as email marketing, social media content, video marketing, and blogging can help drive results for your website.

You will be in a better position to create great content and generate more views across multiple platforms.

In this case, a training in content marketing will be very useful to you.

Website development

Although website development is not a “must have” skill for SEO, it is certainly beneficial.

People with at least a bit of web development experience may find it easier to optimize a website and apply technical SEO fixes.

Consider taking a basic web development course or reading online guides on running a website.

At the very least, you will learn common terms that apply to website and SEO.

Beyond that, you can learn a bit more about coding, technical implementation, mobile development, and more advanced skills.

Data and analytics

Every strategist and business owner needs to learn the basics of data and analytics.

For the most part, this means being able to interpret data from Google Search Console and Google Analytics.

Some of the most common metrics to know are:

  • Prints.
  • Clicks.
  • Search position/keyword.
  • Conversion rate.
  • Users.
  • Views.
  • Rebound rate.
  • Organic traffic.
  • Direct traffic.
  • Reference traffic.

Knowing them — and knowing how to find them in your analytics tool of choice — will help you track the success of your SEO and marketing efforts.

Online reading

Want to learn local SEO for free?

Fortunately, there are tons of online resources available for beginners. We’ve rounded up some 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 Improving Your Local Search Rankings – A massive resource for learning local SEO. This guide includes best practices, expert strategies, tools, tips and more.
  • Local Search Marketing and Local SEO Strategy, Tips, and Guides – A comprehensive roundup of local SEO strategies, tips, and guides. Look here if you want to find many local SEO tactics in one place.
  • What is local SEO and why local search matters – Start with what local SEO is and why it matters. The better you understand the philosophy of local SEO, the better 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. 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 on how to use Ahrefs to improve your local search strategy.

SEO courses

There are many, many SEO courses available. That said, not all courses are created equal. Here we share some of the best local SEO courses – all free!

Local SEO Resources

Having worked primarily with law firms, local SEO is close to my heart.

That’s why I often write about it in Search Engine Journal!

Here are some 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 the ground up. But the real magic of local SEO is 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 based on what you learn.

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!

More resources:

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