Local SEO Checklist: Small Business Owner’s Guide to better rankings

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Google My Business – Creating/Claiming and optimizing your GMB listing is a quick win. It’s free, ranks higher than your website in the local search results (maps results) and only takes about 20-30 minutes to set up correctly.

A GMB listing that is 100% complete and is updated regularly will get better rankings and more exposure than one that is incomplete or rarely updated.

You can log into your GMB listing by going to Google.com/Business. You can also download the mobile app and manage it from your phone. Bing has a similar listing service called Bing Places, you can get your free listing by going to BingPlaces.com

  1. Make sure your Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP) is correct and matches what you have listed on your website.
  2. Link to your website. If you are a single location business, link to your homepage. For multi-location businesses, link to the location page for that location on your website. Also, add the appropriate email address for each location.
  3. Categories. Be sure that your most important category is listed as your first and primary category. Add additional categories only if they are related to what you offer.
  4. Images. Google loves images so add lots of them. Add several images to each of the image categories available for your listing. Encourage customers to upload their own images to your listing through the Google Maps app on their phone.
  5. Hours. Keep your store hours complete and updated, people rely on your GMB listing for accurate store hours. Also include holiday hours if needed.
  6. Posts. This is a new feature that allows you to create mini posts for your listing. Think of it like a status update in Facebook. These posts are only live for several days but get lots of exposure so post current specials, new products and newsworthy items frequently to your listing.

Website – Technical Setup

Getting the technical aspects of your website right will make it easy for the search engines to crawl and index your website. It also makes to easier for your customers to find the information they want.

  1. Create a relevant Title Tag and Meta Description for each page you create on your website. Each page, whether a blog post or service page, should focus on a specific search term you are targeting.
  2. Be sure your website is mobile responsive. More than 50% of your traffic will most likely be mobile users.
  3. Use a friendly URL structure for your website. URL’s should look like,
    “website.com/current-specials”, not, “website.com/cat/?cid=7078”
  4. Add your Name, Address and Phone number (NAP) to your website along with your email address. Ideally, include it on every page of your website by adding it to the footer of your website if possible. If you do not service people at your business and want to keep it private, list your phone number and email address.
  5. Make your phone number highly visible on your website and clickable for mobile users.
  6. For your Contact Us page or Location pages for multi-location businesses, be sure to add your NAP+Email to every page along with an embedded Google Map of your address on each page.
  7. All locations are accessible from the homepage, either from the main menu or as locations listed in the footer of your website.
  8. Add multiple contact forms and Calls To Action buttons on your site. Make it easy to contact you from any page on the website.
  9. Use Scheme markup language for your location data. This is something you most likely will need a web developer to help with. You can go to the Google Structured Data tool to see if your website has Schema markup already.

Your Website – Local Content

High quality content on your website is important in your local SEO and marketing efforts.
Content can take many forms on your website, from blog posts, service pages, video and images. The key with creating high quality content is to follow some important guidelines.

  1. Publish original content. Copying content from other websites (without full attribution) will not help your local SEO and can actually hurt you if the search engines look at it as plagiarized content.
  2. Publish useful pages. Don’t publish junk that nobody will want to read. It won’t help your local SEO efforts and customers reading it will not be impressed. Invest the time and resources into creating good content.
  3. Stick with one website. Some people believe creating multiple websites with keyword rich domains will help their local SEO efforts. It won’t. Invest in building the authority of your main website that will rank high in the search engines and will be the ambassador for your brand.
  4. Add multimedia on your pages. Don’t just use boring text, add relevant images and even video to your pages to bring them to life and to improve the quality of your pages for both SEO and your visitors.
  5. Add a blog to your website. Use your blog to answer questions and solve problems for your customers. Use it to keep customers up to date on your latest products and services and to engage your customers. Blog posts should be 500+ words to ensure there’s enough depth and content for the search engines to find value in it.
  6. Interview people and businesses in the geographic area you serve. Add them to your blog to create location specific content for your website.
  7. Offer tips, advice and guides that are specific to the geographic area you serve.
  8. Sponsor local events, teams and organizations. Write about these sponsorships on your website.
  9. Create a location page for each location you operate. If you have a single location, create pages for the areas you serve. Use unique, high quality content for each page to avoid duplicating content and looking spammy.
  10. Use testimonials on each of your product, service and location pages. Use testimonials that are specific to each product, service or location. Create detailed About and Team pages. People want to see who they will be working with. People who visit these pages are usually trying to decide if they want to do business with you, so these are important conversion pages on your website.

Citations

Citations are mentions of your business online. They can be structured or unstructured and may or may not have an active link back to your website. A local news website mentioning your business in their article is an example of an unstructured citation. Your business information listed on Yelp is an example of a structured citation. Learn more about citation building here.

  1. Create a unique of citations for every physical location you have. Ensure that your Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP) are accurate as well as your website and email address for each location. This information should match your website and Google My Business listings.
  2. For multi-location or multi-practitioner offices, use the website URL that points to that specific location page on your website. They should not all point to the homepage.
  3. Check to make sure you are not listed on a platform before creating a new citation. Duplicate listings can dilute your citation strength and cause confusion. Check to see where you are currently listed by using this tool.
  4. There are hundreds of different citation sources available. You really only need to focus on the top 20 to get the most impact. Use this resources to find the best citations for your country and industry.

Online Reviews

Having online reviews for your business is a powerful ranking factor when it comes to local SEO. Positive reviews also act as a great conversion tool as people look to their peers to judge the quality of a business. Google aggregates online reviews from many different review sites to determine the sentiment of your customers. To get the most impact from online reviews, follow these steps.

  1. Google reviews. These reviews come straight from Google and most likely act as the single biggest ranking factor when it comes to reviews. It is also the first set of reviews most people see when they do a Google search.
  2. Be sure your business is property listed and you have reviews from popular review platforms like Google My Business, Facebook, Yelp and Yellowpages.
  3. Look for industry specific review platforms. Conduct several Google searches like how a potential customer would search and see what review sites show up on page one of Google.
  4. Be sure customers leave reviews under their own account and they do not all leave reviews from your store, Google and other review sites track IP addresses and knows where reviews come from.
  5. Understand the review guidelines for each platform before asking for reviews. Sites like Yelp are notorious for removing customer reviews if guidelines are not followed.
  6. Pace your online review. To make them look natural and to prevent your reviews getting caught in a filter, develop a strategy to get steady stream of review over time.
  7. Getting online reviews is a long term local SEO and conversion strategy. Companies that do it best develop a process of asking for reviews on a regular basis.
  8. Treat negative reviews with grace. Continually monitor review sites for negative reviews. Respond to negative reviews with respect and accountability. Explain what you have done to remedy the situation and remain professionalism. How you respond to negative reviews also important because it shows potential customers reading the reviews how
    professional you are.
  9. Respond to positive reviews and thank your loyal customers.

Social Media

Social media can be a time waster for local businesses if not done right. You will most likely need to try several different platforms to find out what works best for your business.

  1. Choose a social platform that will work for your business. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat and Twitter are the most popular social platforms.
  2. Do not try and sell directly on social media, it rarely works. Be helpful, informative and engaging when interacting with your audience.
  3. Hold contests and giveaways on social media. They are great ways to engage with your audience to to attract more followers for your business.
  4. Designate a person or persons to monitor and participate on the social media platforms you are active on. Social media is a two way conversation and requires you to be part of that conversation in order to be successful with it.

Online Advertising

While it’s not SEO, online advertising is still a very important part of your overall local marketing strategy. Online advertising allows you to reach your ideal audience fast and is a perfect supplement to a well run local SEO strategy.

  1. Create a Facebook Ad account. Facebook Advertising allows you to create a single ad account on your personal account, you can a business manager account and run ads for multiple fan pages and invite multiple people to help manage your account. You can learn more about the business manager here.
  2. Create a Google Adwords account. If you have a business where people search online to find it, Google Adwords is the perfect ad platform. It allows you to get in front of potential customers just as they are searching for a product or service like yours. You can create your Google Adwords account here. If you are unfamiliar with online advertising and want to get started quickly, Google Adwords Express might be a good option, it is built for small business owners.
  3. Create Instagram Ads. Instagram is a great brand building platform and a great way to reach a local audience. Ads on Instagram are run through the Facebook Ad platform, you can learn more about it here.
  4. Look at running re-marketing campaigns on Google Adwords and Facebook. See resources for more info on how they work.
  5. Create a plan. Both Google Adwords and Facebook Ads allow you to set the geographic criteria of where you want your ads to be shown, perfect for local marketing campaigns.
  6. With Facebook Ads, you can target people not only based on their location, but by their interests and behaviors. Having a better understanding of your customers will allow you to create laser focused ad campaigns on Facebook.
  7. With Google Adwords, you can target the search terms that people will use to find a business like yours on Google. Create a list of 15-20 search terms people would use to find your business and create your first ad campaign.
  8. While it’s easy to get started and you can set a budget for as little as $5 a day to get started, be sure to check out some of the resources below under online advertising before you create your first ad campaigns.

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