Are you looking for better ways to rank your business locally on Google? In this guide, we would see a comprehensive local SEO checklist for 2020 to help you get started.
Local SEO plays a vital role in the growth and success of any small business. Local SEO helps small businesses promote their products and services to local customers.
Local SEO is especially important for businesses that do not have a marketing budget for advertisement. Instead of spending a ton of money on ads, you can use local search to generate leads and start driving sales to your business. In fact, four out of five customers use local search to research information before making a purchasing decision. What this means is that if your business is not optimized for local search, you would be missing out on a ton of potential customers.
To help you get started with local SEO, we have curated this extensive local SEO checklist. At the end of this guide, you should understand how to optimize your business and start ranking locally on Google for your chosen keywords.
Let’s dive into the local SEO checklist
1. Register your business with Google My Business
When local residents search for terms and keywords related to your business, you want your business to be the top result on Google search.
Why should you bother with listing your business on Google?
Google has reported that 46% of searches have local intent. Despite this report, most people have failed to take advantage of the fastest way to get your business on Google. There are many benefits that come with claiming your listing on Google My Business.
Benefit 1: You show up on Google Map searches
One of the factors customers take into consideration before making a purchasing decision is the proximity of the business to their location. They use it to narrow down brands that are close to them and also find directions to business locations.
By simply listing your business on Google My Business and inputting your correct location, your business would start to show up on Google Map searches.
For example, if you are a pest control business, showing up on Google maps would help customers find you faster.
Benefit 2: Show up in Google’s local 3-pack result
The local 3-pack on Google search result pages can boost your rankings and online visibility significantly. By creating a free Google My Business listing, you can increase your chances of showing up on Google’s local 3-pack search result. Showing up in Google’s local 3-pack result can increase the number of clicks you get by 700%.
Benefit 3: Earn the trusts of your customers
Reports have shown that brands that show up in Google result as seen as 2.7% more trustworthy by customers. Your business benefits when it pops up in the Google search result. Customers would trust a brand more when they can find details about it (like company address or contact details) when making their research.
Creating your Google My Business profile is very easy to do. It only takes a couple of minutes. Depending on your industry and the number of similar businesses in your area, your business should start showing up in search results in no time.
Tip: When filling up your Google My Business listing, make sure you fill out all the required information. Google would give you a score to show how complete your listing is. The higher your score, the higher your chances of ranking. So, aim for a score of 100.
2. Optimize your products and services with the right keywords
If you want your prospective customers to find you easily in local searches, you need to have the right keywords on your pages so that you can boost your website traffic.
Conduct keyword research
The first step is to identify the keywords you want to rank for. You can use a search engine optimization tool like SEMrush to identify the keywords you want to rank for on your product pages and blog posts.
When choosing the keywords you would rank, these are some things you should put into consideration:
- Relevancy: the keyword should be relevant to the product or service that you offer
- Search volume: you would want to target keywords that have a sizable number of monthly searches
- Keyword difficulty: some keywords are difficult to rank for. If you are just starting out and have a low domain authority target keywords with low keyword difficulty to increase your chances of ranking.
It is also best practice to understand your target audience. When you have a good idea of the buyer’s persona you would be able to predict their interests and the kind of questions they would search regarding your product.
You can visit niche forums and social media channels like Reddit and Quora to identify the kind of questions your customers are asking.
Another way to increase your chances of ranking is by targeting long-tail keywords.
Long-tail keywords are those three and four keyword phrases that are very, very specific to whatever you are selling. When a customer uses a highly specific search phrase, it usually means they are ready to make a purchase.
This is an example of long-tail keyword search results
While the search volume for long-tail keywords is low, they can pile up and make up a significant amount of website traffic.
Spy on your competitors
If you want to outrank your competitors on search engines, you would have to find out which keywords they are ranking for. SEMrush is the perfect tool to spy on your competitors and see what keywords they are ranking for.
Tip: You might want to check our SEMrush Vs Ahrefs Vs Moz Vs SpyFu comparison posts to find out the best keyword tool for your business.
3. Reference your business location in key parts of your site
A top local SEO best practice is making sure that your homepage or any other page that shows your product or service should reference your location. The point of this local SEO checklist is to help local customers find you faster. Adding your location to your website pages would serve as a hint to Google’s algorithm.
These are five key places you should add your location to on your website:
If you have multiple business locations, it is important that you add your location to each URL page.
For example, if you have three ice cream stores across New York, you can create three different pages with three URLs for each of them. For example:
Tip: Ensure that each of the pages has distinct contents. Don’t just copy and paste the same copy on each landing page. Google penalizes websites with duplicate content. Having duplicate content on your website can reduce your local search rankings.
Also, if you sell a product that is very competitive, it would make sense to take a hyper-local approach — i.e, you use the location of the town or suburb that your business resides. But if you have a less competitive product, you can cast your net wide and use your state or country as your location. This would allow more customers to find you.
Many businesses find it difficult to leverage social media to increase their rankings on search engines.
If you have been using online marketing, I am sure that you must be using Facebook and Twitter as your main social media marketing channels. If you are in the B2B space, you might also be leveraging LinkedIn. However, there are several other social media channels that businesses can use to improve local SEO and boost their positioning in search engines.
Let’s look at some ways to do that:
Snapchat local SEO strategy
You can use Snapchat On-demand Geofilters to select the geographical parameters that you want the geofilter to reach when creating a new post. These filters work best for businesses that want to create local brand awareness or when you want to promote a local-specific business event.
Tip: Snapchat does not create web content, so to leverage these filters for local SEO, you should reach out to local press and PR agencies to promote the event and the Snapchat Geofilter in the process.
As the event gathers traction and attention, people would start linking to your site. These backlinks would increase your website credibility over time, which would increase your chances of ranking on Google.
Quora local SEO strategy:
Quora is a Q&A site where anyone can ask a question and get answers. You increase the visibility of your local brand by answering questions that are related to your brand and industry on the website.
Answering questions on the website can help you grow a following and also increase your authority on the platform. You can also drive more traffic to your website by answering questions on Quora. The key is to deliver value. Do not use Quora as an advertising platform; be a user. Try answering questions asked by other users to the best of your ability.
The best part of Quora is that answers written on the platform are also searchable on Google search results.
5. Ask your customers for reviews
“Local search engines love online reviews for one reason: Consumers love online reviews.”
In this digital age, online reviews play a vital role in deciding which products and from whom customers buy from. In fact, 93% of customers say that their purchasing decisions are affected by online reviews.
Here are some reasons why online reviews are important:
- They improve your rankings in local search engines
- They affect which search results get clicked on
- They affect customer purchasing decisions
Additionally, according to MOZ’s Local Search Ranking Factors Survey, online reviews are part of Google’s ranking factors. The survey showed that online reviews make up 10% of how Google decides to rank search results.
Here are some ways to get online reviews for your business:
- Set up your profile and claim ownership of your business on review websites like Yelp. Review websites like Yelp attract dedicated users who have left over 155 million reviews online. When customers leave reviews of your business on Yelp, the results show up when your name is mentioned on Google.
- Depending on your industry, you can give customers incentives to leave a review. Tip: If you are going to give out incentives, make it clear to the customer that the incentive is just a thank you for their feedback and not a payment to give you a positive review.
- Incorporate reviews into your business process. Train your team to ask for reviews after every successful project or service. You can include reviews as an optional step at the end of your thank you page or after a customer has just completed payment for a product on your store.
6. Submit your site to local directories
Submitting your business website to local directories can improve your site’s local SEO, visibility, and rankings in search engines.
There are three key ways local directories would help your site’s ranking:
First, when Google indexes the directory entries, it may show the directory entries on the top 5 results in the SERPs if the directory is reputable. The keyword here is reputable. Do not just submit your site to any local directories. Ensure that it is a directory that gets attention from Google.
(SERP – Search Engine Result Pages)
Second, some directories would give you a do-follow backlink. Most of these directories have high domain authorities, so getting a backlink from them might improve your site’s performance in search engines.
Third, people who visit the directories regularly would get to know your business. Local directories are a simple but effective way to attract new customers.
Here is a list of 100 best online directories you can list your business.
Tip: When submitting your web address to online directories, make sure it is the same everywhere. Using different URL addresses might raise red flags and even confuse the search engine algorithms.
7. Use Schema’s markup
Schema is a foundation for markup data that makes it easy for search engines to understand location-based structured events like addresses, phone numbers, dates of events, reviews, and much more.
The goal of schema is to help search engines understand and display data better. It is the foundation of schema that is used to create Google search engine result features like Rich Snippets, video carousels, and more.
Schema is very effective in helping many small local businesses appear at the top of search results through Rich Snippets, carousels, and answer boxes that are generated by this markup. Businesses like small eateries, bakeries, call centers, and more can use schema markup to help generate rich snippets for their business and compete for the top spots on search results.
Note that Google has a set of structured data guidelines to ensure that your markup is not spammy. For example, make sure that your markup aligns with the intent of the user of the page; i.e, don’t markup a page intended for a lawyer with a markup that is intended for a doctor, and vice versa.
There is a type of schema called ‘geographic markup’. Adding it to your website would help search engines know the location of your business. This schema type is helpful to business when it comes to local search results.
Getting backlinks from other sites is vital in increasing your website’s visibility in search engines. Backlinks are one of the three top Google ranking factors. Google treats backlinks as votes for your website and the more backlinks you build, the higher you would rank on the SERPs.
Backlinks are also very important for local SEO.
When running a backlink building campaign, ask anyone who wants to give you a backlink to include the location of your business in the anchor text. This would serve as a positive signal to Google and it also emphasizes the location of your business to search engines. For example, if you were building backlinks to your auto shop’s website, you would want the link to be “auto shop in Burlington” instead of plain “auto shop”.
Tip: Another local SEO checklist best practice is to get backlinks from local businesses that are around you. This would send a signal to Google that your business is relevant around your geographical area and would cause the algorithm to show your business more in the local search results.
9. Leverage the power of Google maps
Local SEO checklist pro tip: Including a Google map of your business location(s) in your Contact Page or About Us section of your page would serve as a signal to search engines that you are a local business with a physical location.
While this would take you less than 10 seconds to, it can have a significant impact on your website’s local SEO.
10. Monitor your site’s local rankings
While implementing the strategies in this local SEO checklist, it is important that you take a step back to monitor your site’s ranking. You need to be aware of the keywords and phrases you are ranking for.
Without regular analysis, you would not know if the local SEO strategies you have implemented are bringing in any results. Monitoring local search results would also help you identify the keywords and phrases your competitors are ranking for. If your competitors are ranking for a particular term that you are targeting, you can now develop a strategy to rank for those same keywords.
Also, note that target keywords and key phrases might vary from location to location. These are some of the factors you would look into when monitoring local results.
To help you get started with monitoring your site’s local ranking, use a search engine optimization tool like SEMrush.
11. Optimize your website for mobile-friendly SEO
Reports from Google show that over 40% of transactions happen on mobile devices. If you want customers that engage with your websites, you would need to invest in mobile SEO optimization. Note that Google sees user engagement as a signal that your website is quality. So the more engagement and dwell time your site receives, the higher your rankings on Google.
You can use this Google tool to check the mobile-friendliness of your website.
What is mobile SEO?
Mobile SEO is the process of optimizing your website to ensure that your site looks great and functions properly on mobile devices.
When you do not have a mobile-friendly site, it hurts your website’s SEO and most users would not return to your website because of the poor experience. In fact, 52% of customers say that they are less likely to engage with a company again due to a bad mobile experience. On the other hand, 72% of customers say that they are more likely to return to a website if they had a good experience.
Here are some strategies you can use in increasing the mobile-friendliness of your website:
- Improve your site’s load time. I have written these articles on how to improve your site’s load time and how to increase the speed of your website without plugins to help you get started.
- Minimize the number of pop-ups on your web pages.
- Implement a clean and easy-to-use navigation bar
- Optimize title tags and meta descriptions
- Create a mobile URL that is adapted for users on mobile devices. This is how it would look like — “m.website.com” or “website.com/mobile”.
- Create mobile-friendly content. For example, keep your paragraphs within 2 – 3 sentences short to help readers easily read or skim through your articles.
12. Create high-quality long-form content that references your local area
Are you finding it difficult to rank for keywords? Or having trouble attracting customers to your website? Then start creating high-quality long-form content.
Long-form content makes you look like an expert in your field, increases the chances of readers engaging and sharing your content, and improves your rankings in the SERPs. In fact, reports for serpIQ show that the average content length for the top 10 results on Google search is more than 2000 words.
This is evidence that if you want to rank high on Google, use long-form content.
This same principle goes for local SEO. Write quality long-form blog posts about your business niche which involve the geographical area that you reside in. This is a strategy that most local businesses would not be using and would surely give you an edge.
For example, if you sell mountain bikes, you can write an in-depth blog post of good hiking and mountain bike trails in your area. This would increase the chances of mountain bike enthusiasts arriving on your website through Google search. Not only would you increase your traffic, but cyclists in your area would also discover that you offer biking services also.
13. Get local online coverage
Another way to boost local SEO is by approaching local news sites for online coverage.
Most of these news sites would be happy to link back to your business website. This backlink would help increase your domain authority. News sites, even local ones tend to have a high domain authority because a ton of websites are linking to them also. Getting links from several of these local news sites can help improve your search rankings significantly.
And since these backlinks are from local news sites in your geographical area, it would cause Google to associate your site with that location.
14. Create an XML sitemap
A sitemap is an XML file listing all the important content on your website. Any page or file that you want to show up in search engines should be in your sitemap. Sitemaps are created for search engines and not for humans.
If you haven’t created an XML sitemap for your website, stop reading this local SEO checklist and go create one now.
Why do you need a sitemap?
Google crawls new content by searching the web. It is sitemaps that tell Google and most search engines where to find the most important pages on your website so they can crawl and index them. If Google cannot crawl and index pages on your site, it would be almost impossible for your website to rank on Google search.
If you are using WordPress to power your site, you can use a plugin like Yoast SEO to generate a sitemap for you.
After installing the plugin and setting it up, you should see your sitemap at either yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml or yourdomain.com/sitemap_index.xml.
15. Ensure your website offers a good user experience
Search engines are for searchers.
What this means is that search engine algorithms are concerned with giving searchers results that offer them the best possible experience. Each update from Google is geared towards giving searchers more user-focused and user-friendly results. We have seen changes like Rich Snippets and knowledge panels on Google SERPs that show how critical UX is to Google’s algorithm.
Google introduced an algorithm called Rankbrain in 2015. This algorithm is the third most important factor that determines the SEO value of a website. It falls only behind backlinks and content. The metrics that Rankbrain uses in determining the SEO value of a website include bounce rate, CTR rate, pages per session, dwell time, and organic CTR. Essentially, your website would only perform well on these metrics if you offer users a good user experience.
If a user visits your website and they spend a good amount of time on it, it signals to Google that you provide good UX, and they would reward your site by increasing your visibility on search engines. On the other hand, if a user leaves your website immediately after clicking on it, it signals Google that your UX is poor or the content is not relevant. If this happens, you would begin to notice a drop in rankings.
16. Include full NAP on Contact Page
NAP stands for Name, Address, Phone number, and it is very important for ranking high in organic local search results.
It is important that somewhere on your website (most preferably your contact page), you have contact information that customers can use to reach you.
This is an example of NAP usage from Blue Corona.
From the image, you can see that they placed their phone number in the header of their site and their office addresses at the footer page.
Search engines like Google take into account this data when deciding which websites to show for geo-targeted results (for example: “Ice cream shops in Brighton”).
Pro Tip: Ensure that your company’s address, phone number, and company name is listed the same across the web. Consistent NAP listings help search engines understand who you are and what you do.
17. Use local customer testimonials
Reviews and ratings are a great way to show customers and local search engines that your business is worth a visit.
I have mentioned earlier in this local SEO checklist how you can get reviews from customers. No point in me rehashing it. Instead, let me give you a list of review acquisition don’ts.
Review acquisition don’ts
These are some common review acquisition mistakes you should avoid:
- Do not pay customers for reviews
- Do not pay anyone to post reviews while posing as customers
- Don’t review your own business or ask your staff to review it
- Don’t set up a review kiosk in your business to ask for reviews
- Don’t negatively review your competitors
- Don’t spot reputation by aggressively or unprofessionally responding to negative reviews
- Don’t ignore the guidelines of any review platform you are using
- Don’t forget to display these reviews on your website
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO (Local Search Engine Optimization) are the processes that you use to market your local business online. It helps businesses to promote their products and services to local customers that are making searches online. Local SEO is also sometimes referred to as Local Search Engine Marketing.
What is ‘Local Search’?
Local search is any query that has a local purchase intent behind it. Any website with enough authority can rank for search queries like “how to paint a wall”, but when it has a purchase intent behind it, it becomes “painter near me” or “painters in [location]”.
The search intent helps Google Algorithm to understand that the search query is based on location, and they would offer up results from the local search engine result pages.
Local SEO checklist: Summary
If you are looking for actionable ways you can increase your local business website rankings of Google and increase your search traffic, then you should invest in Local SEO. Local SEO makes it easy for search engines to promote your products and services on the SERPs.
Make use of the strategies in this article to help your business become more visible in search results and in the process reach your business goals faster.
Which of these local SEO solutions would you implement your strategy? Leave your thoughts in the comment section.
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