Did you know that almost 50% of all Google searches are local?
Add the fact that 97% of search engine users have used Google to find local information, and it’s easy to see why checking all the boxes for a local SEO strategy is so important if your business is local.
Here’s an easy-to-follow local SEO checklist of best practices to improve your results and give you an edge over your competition.
1. Improve Your Local SEO Foundation
Before starting, it’s good to have the fundamentals in place.
These deceptively simple things will multiply your efforts later on rather than holding you back.
- If you don’t have them already, create an About Us and Contact page or update them as needed. List your address and other contact details, even if you have a contact form.
- Integrate a Google Map into your contact page that shows your location. This free embedding tool makes it easy.
- If you’re a business with 10 or fewer physical locations, consider listing them in the website footer so search engines can easily identify your addresses.
- If you don’t want to list your physical address, just make sure you have a phone number. These are big trust signals for Google.
- Review your promotion strategy to ensure you have individual location-specific promotions. This helps your individual locations get picked up for local keywords.
- Are you in the local 3-pack for your main keywords right now? It’s worth checking, as these steps may help you get there.
- Is your website optimized for mobile? You can check pages with Google’s handy mobile-friendly test tool.
- Proximity to the searcher is a primary factor in local SEO. If your keyword pool has plenty of variations with your location included in the search phrases, you’re more likely to rank for searchers nearby.
2. Set Up Google My Business
If you standardize your business information across Google’s platforms, the search engine can easily understand what your business is about.
This is where Google My Business (GMB) comes in. It’s easy to overlook the importance of GMB to local SEO for small businesses. Many people claim their company’s profile but don’t fill out the details with much thought.
But if your business info is crystal clear, Google knows how your product or service applies to searchers and can suggest you in its results pages.
Here are some tips to get your GMB profile right.
- If you haven’t already, list yourself on Google My Business by heading over to Google Maps, finding your location and selecting “Claim this business.”
- Take a moment to consider the most suitable GMB category. Some people misrepresent their business by choosing multiple related categories hoping to score points for the “keywords” they contain. But user behavior metrics such as bounce rate could have a negative effect on your search results.
- Search the major social media sites for your company profile and delete duplicate accounts.
- Claim your business profile where necessary, identically formatting name, address, telephone number and website (NAP-W) info at each site.
- After you add your local contact information to these social sites, complete the account verification process for each. This is usually done through mail and can take a few weeks, but it’s worth it.
- The completeness of your business profile is a major ranking factor for Google. And adding photos of your location can go along way. Include photos of:
- The outside of your building
- The inside of your building
- Your team
3. Create Your Customer Review Strategy
If you look after your customers, the positive reviews they leave you around the web will look after your local SEO strategy.
According to the Moz Local SEO Review, around 60% of local businesses don’t have a review management strategy.
That means that if you’ve got one, you could overtake your competition into the SERPs and you’re more likely to secure your spot in the coveted Local Pack.
If you don’t have a way for your satisfied customers to leave glowing reviews, below are some tips to set up a review process and encourage customers to use it.
Remember, a sudden influx of reviews can raise a red flag to Google. So if you’ve built an enormous email list with Moosend, Mailchimp or other alternatives, don’t send a message out asking everyone to review simultaneously.
- Check Google’s review policy to ensure your review strategy isn’t breaking any rules. Here are some key takeaways:
- You’re not allowed to solicit reviews from customers in bulk.
- Flag and report reviews you feel are fake or written by someone to harm your brand.
- No paying for reviews or having employees write them.
- Don’t interfere with possible negative reviews or solicit positive reviews only from happy customers.
- Set up a customer review management software. Below are some good examples but search around for one that’s optimal for your niche.
- ReviewTrackers (Manage over 100 review sites in a single place)
- BirdEye (Has built-in surveys, live chat and other features)
- BrightLocal (Offers a 14-day free trial)
- Review staff customer care training to see if there’s anything you’ve missed.
- Incentivize employees monthly to improve customer care.
- Set up a process for post-customer service and post-purchase phases to ask customers to leave a review.
- As above, NEVER buy fake reviews. They never pay off and they’re against Google’s policy.
4. Build Your Local Citations
If you’re a company worth calling, you’re probably mentioned in many places around the web. When others mention your business online, that’s known as a citation.
Many consider citations the local SEO version of backlinks. Instead of pointing to your website with hyperlinked text, they point towards your local business via your NAP-W. This builds authority that Google measures in prominence, relevance and distance.
Unlike links, citations can be plain text. Boosting citations will significantly impact new companies or re-brands, whereas more established companies see less impact.
But it’s an important step either way.
- How many citations do you have?
- How many has Google indexed?
- Is the NAP-W information accurate in each?
- Based on your findings, decide whether you want to create citations yourself or pay a local SEO agency to do it. Here are two popular citation building services:
- If you’re creating them manually, make a note of how your NAP-W appears exactly on your website. Citations must always be identical, so pick a format and stick with it.
- Use a tool to standardize your business information across the Internet. Examples include:
- Manually fix the format of any citations that don’t match how the NAP-W appears on your website.
- SEO citations from the main players such as Yelp and Facebook matter the most.
- Next, move onto industry-specific listings. There are lots of citation opportunities over at the Moz database.
- Google your competitor NAP-W info in quotation marks to find out where they have citations and see if you can list there too.
- Once your citations are live, it’s important that Google indexes them.
- Create a page on your site that links to your citations.
- Submit the linking page to Google for indexing.
- Check back the next day to confirm Google indexed the citation.
5. Optimize for Behavioral Signals
Google wants to know that it’s providing its users with quality results.
That means the search engine notes what your website visitors do (or don’t do) when they interact with your business via Google’s search results. These steps help improve those behavioral signals.
- Review your key content to ensure a high degree of relevancy between the search terms the page ranks for and what the page delivers when a user arrives there.
- Use Google Analytics to find and fix the pages with a high bounce rate.
- Supplement your local search strategy with local paid ads to help build those signals.
Time to Boost Your Local SEO Rankings
So, there you have it. If you follow this local search optimization checklist, you’re more likely to get ahead of your competition and earn your share of the millions of local searches happening each month.
Like regular SEO, local search isn’t a “set it and forget it” task. But there’s a lot you can do without the need for local SEO services.
Quarterly SEO audits help your site to perform well in the SERPs. Especially since SEO is an ever-shifting landscape with more depth than a single article can cover.
Got a local search question? Let me know in the comments.