The Ultimate Local SEO Checklist

local seo checklistAs a local company or business trying to lay the foundations of a strong local presence, SEO is vital to the success of your business in your target market.

Your customers are actively looking through Google for the type of products or services that your business provides. These local searches are valuable and could attract customers to your website or right to your doorstep so you don’t want to miss out on this mostly free traffic.

Why Is Local SEO A Big Deal?

Search engines pay close attention to the searcher’s geographical location.

Local companies and business owners recognise this and ensure that their business has maximum visibility in their area.

Companies that do this well will rank higher than other similar businesses in their suburb and surrounds.

Let’s look at how you can use local SEO to your advantage starting with the most crucial aspect of local SEO: Google My Business.

1. Register Your Company Or Business With Google My Business

Your Google My Business profile is the heartbeat of your local SEO and building a Google My Business profile is among the simplest thing you can do to get visibility in your locality’s search results.

google my business

Google My Business drives around 30% of page 1 traffic.

When creating your profile, Google will ask for your business address. They will then send a postcard containing a PIN to your business address for you to verify the address.

You don’t have to display your address publicly online. Google just need to know that you are who you are i.e. they don’t want people creating multiple Google My Business listings to manipulate the search results.

Once you’re verified, expect Google to include your business in the search results within a couple of days.

When users in your surrounding area enter a search for your type of service, Google displays the ‘map pack’ which is 3 business listings. If you end up here, this will give your business visibility in your local area.

If you don’t appear there, don’t worry, with good local SEO work, your business should eventually appear in this 3 pack section to give you maximum visibility.

If other similar businesses in your area have legitimate profiles on Google My Business, you can see how your business ranks among them.

A good way of working out how to rank in the map pack is seeing what top ranking businesses are doing. There are plenty of SEO tools like Ahrefs which you can use to reverse engineer their sites.

google my business 3 pack

The Google Local 3 Pack (free traffic!)

If your business has locations in several different areas, you should register them in Google My Business as well.

One of the biggest ranking factors for Google My Business listings is the proximity of the searcher to the business location. The more listings you have, the more traffic you’ll get so it’s important to list all your offices/stores.

But be careful, only use legitimate addresses to verify a business. Using an address that is not your business address will get you penalised. 

How To Fill Out Your Google My Business Listing

When creating your profile in Google My Business, you want to provide them with all the information they ask for. This includes products, services, business category, opening hours, website URL and phone number.

Tip: Put a primary category and 3 secondary categories. Have a look at what the high ranking sites have as categories and sub categories. Although you can’t see the sub categories in Google, there’s a little trick where you can see them:

  1. Find their Google My Business listing and click through to their listing in Maps.
  2. In the URL bar, replace https:// with view-source:
  3. In the wall of code, search the text (hit Cmd F on Mac) for the primary category
  4. Next to the primary category, you’ll see all the secondary categories.

Submit all your business information to ensure your listing is complete and gets a 100% score from Google. Note at the time of publishing, there’s a bug in Google My Business which shows an 80% score even though you have all your information in there.

It’s really important to get all this information in there because Google is more likely to show your business in local searches and map packs if you submit as much information as possible.

When you make an effort to register your business with Google My Business, you create a strong online trust signal that will help you rank high in map packs and the organic listings. Your business tends to show up ahead of others in search results giving you an upper hand over your competitors.

2. Reference Your Location In Key Parts Of Your Website

You should reference your location on your home page and any other pages containing information about your business in four key areas:

  • The page title tag
  • Headings (H1, H2, H3, H4 tags)
  • Body copy.
  • The page meta description.

A great piece of software that tells you exactly how many keywords you should have in your copy is Page Optimiser Pro (POP). POP compares your page to higher ranking pages and gives you a ‘content gap’ showing you exactly what you need to put on your page to rank well.

In addition, adding the location in the URL is worth it. A good way to see if Google reward locations in the URL is to see what pages they are ranking high – if they all have the location, this is a strong signal that you should do this. E.g. the URL will look something like:

www.yourdomain.com.au/electrician-brisbane/

Say you run a business with locations in three different parts, it would be smart to create three different pages with three different URLs.

E.g.

www.yourdomain.com.au/electrician-brisbane/

www.yourdomain.com.au/electrician-gold-coast/

www.yourdomain.com.au/electrician-sunshine-coast/

You want to make every page distinct because Google can penalise duplicate content in search results. You don’t have to be too different but try and make each page unique. and relevant to the location you’re targeting.

This should also get you thinking about how wide you need to cast the net when referencing your location.

For some businesses, a ‘hyper-local’ approach (using their suburb as a focus keyword) will make more sense if they offer their services in a very specific area.

E.g. if you target the northern suburbs of Brisbane

www.yourdomain.com.au/electrician-kalinga/

www.yourdomain.com.au/electrician-clayfield/

www.yourdomain.com.au/electrician-wavell-heights/

Although the more hyper local you get, the less people there are searching, but the easier it is to rank. Do enough of these hyper local pages, and you’ll get a steady stream of leads each month.

For businesses looking to serve a wider geographical area, it makes more sense to reference capital cities or county on their website.

 

3. Ensure You Target The Right Local Keywords For The Products and Services You Offer

Local Vs Broader Keywords

It’s vital that your website’s description of your products and services reflects what people are actually searching for in your area.

The more hyper local your keywords, the easier it will be to rank. The broader you go, the longer it will take. 

E.g. Its far easier to rank for ‘electrician brisbane’ than ‘electrician’

Use Keyword Research Tools to Assess what people are actually typing into Google

If you sell cars, it makes no sense to constantly refer to ‘automobiles’ on your entire website when people are searching for ‘cars’.

To avoid these kinds of mistakes, you need a keyword research tool to help you find the most popular search phrase in your area for businesses like yours – and how difficult for them it will be to rank in local searches.

Using a keyword research tool, for instance, you might discover that ‘Brisbane Electrician’ has more searches per month than ‘Electrician Brisbane’ (it doesn’t).

You might also learn that ‘Electrician in Brisbane QLD’ may be easier to rank for but doesn’t have the search volume of ‘Electrician Brisbane’.

You can use this kind of data to identify a phrase that precisely describes your services and has a good chance of doing well in search results.

Once you get your ‘sweet spot’ keyword, you can build and optimise your content around it.

I recommend going for ‘quick wins’ at the beginning of a campaign (low search volume, less competition) and then building up to the big keywords that will bring in a lot of traffic.

The best keyword tools on the market are:

  1. Google Ads Keyword Tool
  2. Ahrefs
  3. Semrush
  4. Keywords Everywhere

And don’t forget Google – type your keyword into Google and check out ‘Google suggest’, ‘people also ask’ and ‘related searches’ down the bottom.

Another great tool which I use often is Agency Analytics. It’s my client reporting tool and does many SEO tasks in the one spot including decent keyword research.

4. Build backlinks That Include Location in the Anchor Text

Backlinks or inbound links are hyperlinks from other websites. They play a vital role in your site’s visibility in search results and are one of the top ranking factors for local SEO.

Google treats backlinks like ‘votes’ for your site and rewards sites that have more links pointing to them with higher rankings in searches. You shouldn’t overlook backlinks because they help search engines to discover and rank your site.

If high authority local websites link to your online content, your performance in local search results will receive a massive boost. To ensure you have more chances of surging in rankings, you should ask anyone kind enough to link to your content to include your business location in the backlink.

This will draw the attention of your business location to search engines.

But be aware, there are some sites you shouldn’t get links from. The best links are from high authority websites in your industry or in a related industry. Getting links from low quality sites will either be ignored by Google but at worst, your site may be penalised and de-ranked which can be very hard to come back from and can take years to recover.

When building your backlinks try to get local backlinks from businesses that operate within your vicinity to give search engines a signal that your site is especially relevant to a specific geographic area.

You want to occasionally include the location of your business in backlinks. Overdoing location keywords may give the impression of being spammy, raising red flags to search engine algorithms which can get you penalised.

5. Ask for Online Customer Reviews and Testimonials

Reviews matter a lot in SEO. When your customers give you high quality, positive reviews, your business visibility will increase, and there will be more likeliness for prospective customers to contact you.

I’m a firm believer that the more reviews you get, the higher your listing will rank and there have been study’s to suggest the same. Ranking factor or not, the weight of a Google review is huge and getting reviews is something that should be high on your local SEO priority list.

Thoughtful testimonials, positive brand mentions and high ratings support your claim of superior service. They also empower other searchers online to trust your services and possibly procure them. Encourage happy customers to leave positive reviews because they give you a positive ranking signal.

6. Utilise Schema Markup

Google, Yandex, Bing, and Yahoo collaborated to come up with schema.org. Schema lets businesses submit their information to help search engine (Google, Yandex, Bing, and Yahoo) algorithms to understand your content better, ultimately providing the most relevant search results.

Schema markup is responsible for the ‘rich snippets’ or ‘featured snippets you may see in Google search results.

What is a Rich Snippet?

A rich snippet is an enhanced search result with additional information in the listing, such as the star ratings of the business.

example of a rich snippet

A Star Rating Rich Snippet

What is a Featured Snippet?

A featured snippet is a piece of information at the top of search results which aims to answer the searchers question quickly, without clicking through to the website.

featured snippet

A featured snippet

Schema offers geographic markup – a type of code that allows search engines and users to learn more about your business location. Adding schema can affect your business positively in terms of local search results. It also enables these search engines to display more information about your content in search results.

But, before you go in on Schema markup, you may want to look at Google’s guidelines on how to use it – so you don’t do anything spammy.

While the process of adding schema is not simple, you should not be worried. Once you have settled on the sort of schema you want to add, Google provides an easy-to-use Structured Data Markup Helper to take you through every step of the process.

7. Place your site on high quality local business directories.

Your position in local search results can get a significant boost from submitting your site to high quality local online business directories.

Your entry in the business directory will rank in Google but your website will rank higher (if optimised correctly) than all directory listings. That being said, depending on the directory, you will get some referral traffic from these sites but the main benefit is Google ‘seeing’ the entry which gives more trust to your business.

Not only can placing your site on quality local directories help from a local SEO perspective, but it may also get a useful backlink that can increase performance in search results.

Furthermore, your business will be more visible to anyone using those directories. You’ll also get a step closer to ‘owning the first page of Google’ for your brand.

You should note that when dealing with online directories, it’s very important to be consistent with your business contact details. Make sure you always enter all of them the same because engines can raise a ‘red flag’ about your business authenticity if your ‘NAP’ (Name, Address, and Phone number) citations are inconsistent.

This might have negative consequences for your business’s visibility in search results.

 

8. Create High Quality Content That References Your Location

Websites that post comprehensive, informative articles on topics that generate genuine interest tend to do well in search results.

This is mainly down to two reasons: First, high quality content tends to be keyword-rich. This makes it substantially more likely that your content compares well with a variety of search queries.

In local SEO, high quality content is pivotal to generating organic traffic for your site.

Second, particularly good resources will attract other site owners to create backlinks to them, generating higher placements in local search results.

In local search engine optimisation, the same rules apply. If you compose high quality blog posts regarding your business niche that involve the suburbs your business operates in, you may find yourself surging in local search results.

9. Try To Get Regional Online Media Coverage

Approaching and asking local news sites to give your content or business some coverage is a good place to start.

Taking the local angle into consideration, most of these local news sites will be more than delighted to provide you with a backlink. This link can pass on a considerable amount of clout or ‘link juice.’

News sites usually carry a lot of authority since many other sites link to them. This means a backlink from a news site, even a local one can do wonders on your placement in search results.

While getting a local newspaper to give your business coverage is a lot easier than getting a national press company, it can nonetheless give you some very useful backlinks.

There is also a likelihood that Google’s algorithms will consider the context in which these links appear and associate your website with that region.

10. Ensure your site is optimised for mobile devices.

The majority of searches these days are done on mobile devices. A study by Hubspot showed that 61% of mobile searchers are more likely to get in touch with a local business if their website is mobile friendly.

Google gives priority to websites that have mobile friendly platforms. So, if you want to benefit more from local SEO, ensure your site performs well on a smartphone.

If you want to meet mobile phone users’ needs, it’s essential that you get local SEO right.

For that reason, you should make sure that your site adapts to smartphone displays correctly and loads quickly on mobile devices.

Google has a tool that can test your site’s mobile friendliness. This tool allows you to see how your site renders on a mobile device. You can also check your website’s current performance on mobile devices.

While you are at it, you should run your site through Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. This tool will give you in depth information on how long it takes your mobile site to load and whether or not it satisfies Google’s new Core Web Vitals standards.

Currently, Google leans toward mobile pages more than desktop pages when indexing content on search engine results pages (SERP). This reflects the fact that the majority of website visits are made via mobile devices and this number will continue to increase (around 68% in 2020).

If you want to see whether your site meets presentation and technical SEO expectations and how it displays on mobile screens, Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test can be useful.

If you’re your site offers a poor mobile experience, you’re likely to lose to your competitors as many people read reviews on their phones.

A terrible UX can be a costly mistake. That is why you need to keep mobile responsiveness in mind when overhauling your local SEO tactics.

11. Sponsor Local Sporting/Community Clubs or Schools

As well as helping out your local community (many of these clubs rely purely on donations), you’ll also get a link from their website. Many local community websites have great authority in Google and a link from these will go a long way to helping you rank better in Google. Apart from this, the visibility you’ll get with having your logo on shirts, signboards and other offline material is always good for brand recognition.

Final Thoughts

According to Google, Google Maps has more than a billion monthly users. There are also more than 5 million active websites and mobile applications using the core products of the Google Maps Platform every week.

Local SEO is gaining momentum fast and involves many elements that are different from normal SEO best practices.

Well executed local SEO strategies can help you optimise your site and obtain more local customers.

Google is looking to provide new products and experiences for businesses. If your brand is not visible to potential customers, following this local SEO cheat sheet will give you an incredible opportunity to show up in local searches and interact with customers.

Local SEO Cheat Sheet For All Businesses

Use the checklist below to get ahead in local search.

  • Register your company or business with Google My Business.
  • Ensure you target the right local keywords for the products and/or services you offer.
  • Reference your location in key parts of your site.
  • Place your site on high quality local business directories.
  • Ask for Online customer reviews and testimonials.
  • Utilise Schema Markup.
  • Build backlinks that include location in anchor text.
  • Create high quality content that references your location.
  • Try to get local online media coverage.
  • Ensure your site is optimised for mobile devices.
  • Sponsor Local Sporting or Community Clubs

Are you a local business struggling for brand visibility? You need to nail down your local SEO if you want to be seen every time a customer searches on a mobile phone or computer.

Author Will Mullins

If you need more traffic from Google, then you need a specialised SEO person in your team.Feel free to contact me any time on issues such as:"We rank OK but want to rank better", "We don't show up anywhere in Google!" "We used to get enquiries from Google but haven't been for a while", "We've had a website built and we need it to show up in the search results”,My services include keyword and competitor research, on page SEO, off page link building, local SEO and content strategy. If you'd like me to have a look at your website and rankings, please contact me on 0419 943 234 or email will@willmullins.com.au.

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