Local SEO Checklist

December 3, 2019

In our current “go big or go home” culture, it’s easy to miss opportunities that are quite literally at our doorsteps. According to GoGuf, 46% of Google searches are looking for local information. Why not give people what they are searching for?

In this article, we will be going through all the steps you will need to optimize your small business’ online presence. There are so many Local SEO tools available, so let’s try to get through them all!

What is Local SEO?

So what is Local SEO and what makes it different from regular SEO?

Let’s do a quick run through of the basics. When you input a search query into any major search engine (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc), you get search results. The order of the site listings on the search engine are based on what the search engine determines to be most relevant. This relevance is based on the number of visits or “pings” your site receives. It’s become an ongoing cycle: you need pings to get more pings.

All website owners want their sites to pop up first. But that's the problem -- all website owners want their sites to pop up first. At the end of the day, you are competing with hundreds, thousands, or even millions of other businesses that want that spot in the lead.

This is when SEO comes into play. SEO stands for search engine optimization, and, in short, it is the process of increasing traffic to your site by making your site easily accessible to the search engine.

Local SEO, on the other hand, has a geographical component. In Local SEO, you, the local business owner, are marketing your product to your local customers. As an example, it is late at night and you want to order a pizza. Instead of searching “pizza place,” you would search “pizza place in <insert your current location>”. This is a local search, and for the local business owner, this calls for Local SEO.

Google’s Local Pack

A big part of Local SEO would be the Local Pack.

Google’s Local Pack comes as one of many features under Google’s Local SERPs. SERPs stands for Google’s Search Engine Results Page. While the Local Pack may arguably be the most crucial component to Local SEO, Google’s SERPs contains very useful features to help your business market your product.

Let’s go back to our previous pizza example. So you’ve typed in the search query “pizza places in los angeles” and this is the result you get:

Looks familiar, right? The Local Pack is the boxed area that appears after local searches. Only the top three most relevant listings make it on there. This is why Local SEO is so important. 30% of first page SERPs feature a Local Pack and your business can gain amazing exposure from being on there.

Now that we’ve gone through what Local SEO is and why it’s important, let’s go through the Local SEO tools you can use to maximize exposure and pings for your small business!

Starting With Your Site

Before anything, we should address your on-page elements. This might feel like a hassle, but cleaning up your site will prove beneficial in the long run. An online site can be similar to a physical store. You want to maintain a clean and concise presence -- it adds credibility (and pings)!

Setting up Keywords

First up, keywords!

You want your site to show up in the SERPs when people search for a product that you sell. The usual format is <service> in <location>. Applying this to our pizza example, when a customer is searching for your product, they would likely input:

“pizza place in los angeles”

“pizzeria in LA”

“best pizza in los angeles”

So how should we find SEO keywords?

  • Compile all of your services. Be sure to list out all variations of your services -- this is a good time to be very specific!
  • “Pizza”, “Pizzas”, “Pizzeria”, etc.
  • Compile all of the locations you cater to. If your business is near a big city, list that big city! Name all the variations of your location as well
  • “Los Angeles”, “LA”, “Downtown Los Angeles”, “Downtown LA”, etc.
  • If you are out of ideas off the top of your head, you can:
  • Use Google auto-complete. Type in the beginning of a search query and allow Google to provide you with some ideas.

After finding these keywords, apply them! One of the biggest myths about SEO is that SEO is a one-time thing. This is not true. Instead, SEO is an ever-changing process which requires constant maintenance, updating, and refinement. What was a popular search last month may not be the same popular search today. By continually researching, refining, and implementing, you can make sure your business continues to benefit from properly implemented SEO techniques.

Title Tags

A title tag is the HTML title of the web page and is displayed on the search engine results page. The title tag in the photo below would be “Sprout Social: How to Grow Your Social Media Presence l electrIQ marketing.”

It is important to create title tags that a customer would want to click on. They should be attention grabbing and enticing. With a combination of SEO techniques and other tips, you can make a very ping-worthy site. Your goal? A title tag for your site that is both attractive to users and search engines alike!

What should your title tag encompass?

  1. Be relevant to your page but still unique.
  2. Have simple but clear keywords for the search engine crawlers to recognize (to get ranked).
  3. Captivate the audience.
  4. Should be short and concise (page headings can be longer).
  5. Special offers and benefits should be included.

URLs and Images

You need a clean URL that won’t make your website’s link look like a virus or keyboard explosion. The goal of your URL should be: to be search-engine friendly and simple enough for your user to understand. With a good URL, you can rank higher for competitive keywords and increase your site’s page rank. With a good page rank, Google will rate your site better for user experience.

Optimizing images is also a must. While the camera quality may be absolutely amazing, loads of high-resolution, heavy photos slow down your site. When sites load too slow, your visitor leaves and goes somewhere else. Additionally, large files and slow sites lower your Google grades for user experience.

For photos, our tips would be:

  1. Use photos that are relevant to the content.
  2. Use original and unique photos.
  3. Compress your photos to the right size through tools like jpegmini or imageoptim.
  4. Captioning the image can help with SEO and make it more relevant.
  5. Make sure the photos match and the page looks appealing.

Claiming and Optimizing Local Listings

To begin the process of local SEO, you need to claim and manage your online listings. In fact, 56% of businesses have not claimed their Google My Business listings.

It is crucial to claim your business listings, but also to maintain them with accurate data. There should be no discrepancies between listings or sites. Because of the “suggest an edit” function, there is a possibility of your listings changing without your knowledge. This can be addressed by simply checking your listing’s information every couple of weeks. If not, it can cause incorrect information to be spread to and among customers. This can lead to negative reviews and responses by customer to your business and product even though it may not be your fault.

Some things to keep updated and uniform through all sites:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone Numbers
  • Making sure they are the same throughout all sites (your website, Yelp, etc) and listings (Google, Apple, Bing, etc)
  • Store Hours
  • Transitioning from Soft Opening Hours to Regular Hours
  • Any Changes in Scheduling, etc.

Now let’s go into the specifics of Google My Business, Bing Places, and Apple Maps.

Google My Business

Google My Business is a free and easy-to-use tool for businesses and organizations to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps. With a market share of 76%, Google has been the leading search engine for nearly two decades. As such, claiming your Google My Business listing is a must.

Here is how to claim your Google My Business listing.

After verifying your listing, you can begin to optimize. Adding categories, listing services, and creating categories will help to expand your credibility and draw in customers. Additionally, Google My Business gives tracking insights through Google Analytics! We will talk about this more later.

As you begin optimizing your Google My Business settings, consider adding photos. According to Google, businesses with photos get 40% more requests for directions. In fact, an original and high-quality photo can help boost SEO rankings! Photos are helpful in connecting to your customer and drawing them in. It boosts the legitimacy of your business and sparks their interest.

Additionally, if a business has filled out all of their information (hours, phone number, etc.), their logo will appear next to their business profile!

Bing Places

According to Microsoft Advertising, 33% of American searches are powered by Bing. While that is more than a lot of us had expected, it shows the importance of Bing for Local SEO -- it can not be forgotten! Claiming businesses on Bing Places is very similar to Google My Businesses. In fact, if you already have a Google My Business listing, you can transfer it over!

After verifying your listing, begin to optimize by adding the basics such as your phone number and website, but also your Facebook, Yelp (which we will be going through soon), and other sites you may have. Additionally, like Google My Business, photos are crucial. Bing allows you to add up to 100 photos and gives guidelines here!

Apple Maps

Apple Maps is another important business outlet. Why? Because it is used by millions of IOS users, and it automatically connects to Siri and spotlight searches. When iPhone users use voice command for navigation, or click an address, Apple Maps provides data. Similarly, when customers are searching for certain businesses or products, Apple Maps becomes a worthy contender. In short, claim your Apple Maps listing, and of course, optimize as usual!

Here is how to claim your Apple Maps listing.

Business Directories and Reviews

Now, don’t forget the business directories. And with those business directories come reviews. Here is where it can get timely. While claiming listings and updating information can be done pretty infrequently, business directories call for the monitoring and generation of reviews and testimonies. However, this constant maintenance is necessary and here’s why:

Yelp

Yelp can make or break your business. As one of the highest trafficked websites and the leading review site, this is the place to be for your local business. Thankfully, Yelp made it pretty easy for business owners to claim or create a business listing.

Here is a mini checklist for navigating through Yelp for your small business.

  1. Visit Yelp For Business Owners and input your business’ name and location.
  2. Claim your business from the results.
  3. If your business is not listed, click Add your Business to Yelp at the bottom of the page.
  4. Update your information and keep it updated (hours, locations, phone number, etc.).
  5. Monitor and respond to reviews regularly.
  6. Use this as a chance to interact with your customers online. If they did not have a positive experience in store, provide a positive online experience instead. Create a positive environment to show positive customer support and that you are willing to learn (no snarky comments!).
  7. You need these reviews. Businesses with higher numbers of reviews and ratings tend to be visited more often. Because your business is literally placed under or above another listing that caters a similar product, reviews are important!
  8. Responding to reviews shows your customers that you care and are constantly bettering your business and products.
  9. Maintenance
  10. Creating a credible Yelp page is key. Any negative experience (regardless of whether or not it had anything to do with you or your product) can result in a negative review. Keeping your information at peak level is crucial.
  11. As with everything that is on the internet, managing your Yelp page is a continual and ongoing process. As the online world changes, there will always be new competition and factors to consider. Keeping your Yelp page at the top of its game will help counter that change.

Google My Business

In addition to claiming your business and looking for incorrect edits, engaging with your customers is key. Google My Business gives access to various Google tools which is great! Use Google Posts to update and communicate with your customers. And of course, responding to reviews (both positive and negative) in a timely and positive manner.

Applying Technical Tools to Enhance Your Site

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is deservingly the leading web analytic tool. With real-time reporting and historical analysis, you are provided with better knowledge of your customer.

  • After pairing Google Analytics with Google My Business, you can view campaign data (who’s clicking on the site from the listing, who’s clicking on the Google Maps listing, etc.).
  • Dashboards to track various reports and metrics.
  • Audience Overview to show what’s happening on your sites (users, page views, etc.).
  • A Pages Report lets you know how each individual page is doing.
  • Keyword Report for SEO (what is working and what isn’t).

Through the information received, you can better know your customer and effectively implement SEO techniques for your online site.

Set up a Google Analytics account here!

Building Citations

Like citations on an essay or article, your business can be cited. Online mentions of your business on credible sources can be helpful by displaying your NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number). This is added exposure.

There are two types of citations, structured and unstructured. Structure citations are the ones where your NAP is shown in a very systematic manner. They are usually found on business directories (Yelp, Google My Business, etc.) and social profiles. Unstructured citations tend to be found on blog posts or articles. They don’t necessarily show all of your information but will likely link to a site.

You want the added exposure of citations of your business. Listing your business of reputable sites can be helpful in gaining credibility. Search engines rank sites with more citations higher. However, these need to be credible and accurate or Google may rank you down. Examples of sites you may want to be listed on include, but are not limited to:

  • Google My Business
  • Yelp
  • Facebook
  • Foursquare
  • Trip Advisor
  • Apple Maps
  • Bing Places
  • Groupon

Whenever adding any information, make sure you are careful to avoid typos and mistakes. Reread anything you type into your profiles two or three times. Mistakes can be costly, both in an SEO sense and a monetary sense for your business!

Backlinking

A backlink is a link from another website to your source. The function of backlinks are to build authority and increase traffic. More backlinks lead to more referral traffic -- this brings in more exposure and customers for your site. Additionally, greater numbers of backlinks will improve your SEO as it gains the trust of crawlers. This means it will gain greater relevance and ranking in search results, a huge positive!

Increasing the volume of backlinks for your site will increase Local SEO and build credibility for your business. To do this, here are some tips:

  • As stated before, get listed. The more listings you site has the more backlinks, citations, and exposure!
  • Become featured in local forums, newspapers, and blogs. In addition to getting local exposure, you build backlinks. Don’t be afraid to reach out to blogs and newspapers about your products. They might be interested in writing an article or post about your business!
  • Find online directories that are specialized for your products.
  • Post your articles and blog posts on other sites.
  • Partner with bloggers, and local influencers to be featured. Gain awareness for your product through their followers.

Local SEO Overview

Local SEO can be challenging, however, it is a vital component of running a successful business. Increasing your business’ exposure so that it can be located by searchers is crucial. Plus, don’t forget that Local SEO is an ongoing process. One that requires updating and refinement.

As always, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out! Or, if you are looking for some ideas about how your business specifically should approach Local SEO, book one of our complimentary consultations. We’d be happy to go over how you can take your business to the next level through a well-planned, custom-tailored SEO approach!

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