The term local SEO is unknown to many small business owners but for some businesses this is all they need to succeed online. Our comprehensive local SEO checklist will help you optimize your website for local search.
If you don’t want to read the whole article, go straight to the local SEO Checklist.
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO is the process of optimizing your website so that it appears in the first positions of Google, Bing and Yahoo for searches that are related to your area / city / country. Let me give you a couple of examples to understand this better.
Example 1: lawyers in Nevada
When a user types in the location in the search query then the intent is clear and Google will try to satisfy the user by returning in the top results businesses (in this case law firms) that are registered to operate in the state of Nevada. How does Google know where a company is operating? This is something we will see in a while…
Example 2: florists in London
When you search google.co.uk for the term florists in London you will get a list of flower shops that have a live business in the general area of London.
Example 3: Italian restaurants in New York City
On your next trip to New York open Google and type Italian restaurants in New York City and I am sure that the returned results will help you choose a nice restaurant to enjoy a memorable pasta or Pizza. Why? Because as we will see below you have to prove that your business deserves one of the top positions in their search results and they are very careful of which businesses to showcase.
The list could go on and on but the general idea about local SEO is that the user wants to find an address or a telephone number so as to take a visit or call to satisfy a requirement.
Someone may say that local SEO is similar to long tail SEO but with the location added in the query string and this is correct. Actually we can say that people looking for local businesses are the most targeted searches you can find online.
Who needs local SEO?
From the examples above it is clear that every business that has an address and operates in a certain area needs local SEO. Do you own a restaurant, a barber shop, a law firm? Are you a doctor, mechanic or a retailer? You need to have a website that is optimized for local SEO.
People use the Internet to search for a businesses before they actually visit and if they don’t find you it’s obvious that you are losing customers and opportunities and someone else will take advantage of them.
What are the benefits of local SEO for small business?
Increase your chances of appearing high in the SERPS – As you can see from the images above, businesses that are chosen to appear in Google search results (including Google Places for Business listing) are more likely to receive more visits than websites that don’t appear in the recommendations.
More conversions – There is a high rate of conversion since visitors coming to the website from local search are highly targeted.
Brand Visibility and awareness – More people searching for businesses in your area will know about your existence and this will make your brand more recognizable and also raise awareness’s about your business.
High return on investment – An optimized website for local search can generate more value to a business since all they want is to get customers searching the web for businesses in their area. This generates a high return on the investment made and potential higher growth than companies who don’t take advantage of this.
How is local SEO different than general SEO?
Local SEO is for searches in a specific geo location while SEO practices are applicable for global wide searches. It should be noted that all SEO advice either about on-page or off-page SEO are applicable for local as well. The difference is that for local you also need to make sure that you provide more signals to Google, as we will see in the checklist below.
Also, if you are searching from mobile or if you allowed Google to track your location when searching from Desktop, you don’t have to type a location in your search string because Google already knows where you are located.
Should all businesses practice local SEO?
No and the reason is that if you try to target users in a particular area, it will be more difficult to rank for keywords that are related to global search. Take for example my case with reliablesoft.net. We have clients from all over the World and since we want to rank for more general terms we do not give any local signals to search engines, other than those we need to give to our users for business clarity and trust.
Local SEO Checklist
We have talked about the importance and benefits of local SEO to businesses but we have not yet come to the most important part of this post i.e. what you have to do in order to optimize your website for local search. The local SEO checklist below has all the information you need to get started.
1. Optimize your logo – One of the first things that search engines encounter when crawling your website is the logo image and this is also a good place to start your local SEO optimization. There is a detail post about logo optimization by Chris Silver Smith on searchengineland but the most important points are outlined below:
- Make sure that your image filename is descriptive. Instead of using logo.png better use a more meaningful description like ‘Mayers-dental-surgeons-logo.png’
- ALT text is important for all images but more important for the logo. You can use the ALT text to give more details about the image and in this case the location of your business. For example you can use ‘Mayers Dental Surgeons, Florida’ as the ALT text. As already explained in my SEO Tips article, you can use keywords in the ALT text but don’t overdo it.
- Add the location in the title tag of the link. For example <a title=” Mayers Dental Surgeons, Florida” href=”….</a>
- Try to use the same logo across all channels (Website, FB, Google+ business page, etc)
2. Work on your titles and descriptions – Titles and Descriptions are very important for local SEO. As explained in my 10 SEO Tips for startups, the title should help both users and search engines understand as many things possible about the website before visiting. The title is only 70 characters but if you are targeting local customers then the location (and if possible phone number) should be part of your title and description. A couple of real examples from the web:
3. Full address details and contact information on the home page – On the home page make sure that your full address details (street number, post code, state, country, telephone number, fax number, email) are visible as text (not image) in a prominent position on the home page. You can add this info in the sidebar for example.
4. Full address details and contact information for the rest of the pages – For the rest of the pages you can have the contact information in the footer (if you don’t want to keep it on the sidebar). I separated the home page from the rest of the pages to stress the importance of the contact information to be visible on the homepage.
5. Add a map in the contact information page – It’s very easy to add a Google map of your business in the contact us page and another indication of your location for search engines.
6. Create a Google+ Business page – Make sure that you also fill in your contact details and these are the same as the contact info you have on your website, on FB and anywhere else. Ensure that you provide enough info in the ‘About’ fields (including your location).
7. Register with Google Places for Business – Google will verify your address and ownership of the business and then you get to reply to customer reviews and provide more information about your business. You can even use the premium features like Adwords express and giving offers to your local customers through Google offers. You can read more details in the Places for Business website.
8. Register with Yahoo!Localworks – Yahoo has a service for local listings and while it is not free, the $30 per month is not a big amount to hold you back. Once you do it, make sure that you link to your Yahoo profile from your Google+ Business page. In fact make the Google+ Business page the hub to link for all your other profiles.
9. Implement Google Authorship – This may not have a direct impact on local SEO but it can help you get more visits once you show up in the search results. Various studies have shown that users are more likely to click on a link when the author picture is shown together with the title and description of the page.
10. Use the structured data markup helper to give more information about your local business to Google – When you login to your webmaster tools, under ‘Additional tools’ you can find the ‘Structured Data Markup helper’ tool. You can use the option local businesses to tell Google about your business name, location etc. Once you are done the result is a file that matches the requirements definition of localbusiness at schema.org. You can then download the file and add it to you website.
11. Register with Bing for places – Bing Places for Business is free, easy to complete and another way to verify your business information online. Do not forget to link to your Bing profile from your Google+ Business page.
12. Register to Local directories – Register your businesses to any trusted local directories and remember to be consistent in the address details you are using. You don’t have to overdo it but only submit your businesses in quality local directories with value.
13. Create a business page on Facebook – Besides providing other information you also need to ensure that the address and telephone number are filled correctly. Once you are done go and edit your Google+ Business page and link to your FB business page.
14. Register your business with Yelp for Business – It’s free and easy to setup up. Once you fill in your profile add a link in your Google+ page as well. Find out more information about yelp for business
15. Register with Foursquare for Business – Foursquare for business is another directory to use to enforce your local SEO efforts. With more than 40 million registered users and the growing using of mobile, it is worth taking the time and effort to maintain your business listing with them.
16. Encourage and reply to every single review on every platform – Besides registering on the above platforms it is important to encourage users to review your business and it is equally important to reply to all reviews (either good or bad). When you reply this will encourage more users to leave reviews.
You can also ask your customers to leave a review on their favorite platform either by giving them incentives i.e. 5% on their next purchase or by sending them reminders by SMS or email.
17. Mentions from local press – If you can get a mention from a trusted local online newspaper for example this also sends a signal about your location.
18. SEO Audit checklist – As already mentioned above traditional SEO still matters so it is best to perform an SEO Audit of your website for compliance with best standards and practices.
19. Mobile optimization – Do not forget about mobile especially when it comes to finding customers locally. Many people use their mobile while on the go and having a non-mobile friendly website will keep them away. You can ensure that your mobile application has a map feature to show your location and maybe a GPS function to help users come into your store or office by following directions.
20. Start a blog – How can a blog help local SEO?
You can post high quality content on a regular basis and do location aware internal linking. For example from a blog post you can link to your services pages using the anchor ‘financial services in Texas’. This alone will not do much but it is another small step in your overall optimization process.
Also you can use the blog to target ‘local keywords’ in the title and content of the blog posts
21. Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and more – I haven’t mentioned twitter, pinterest, youTube or any other social networks separately but for best results you also need to maintain an accurate profile on those as well. These networks are also great to get some people in your area to follow you since they all have the facility to suggest followers based on the location / address information.
Can you target local SEO with PPC?
One of the most popular questions I get when discussing with customers about their local SEO strategy is whether you can use targeted PPC campaigns and get those local customers instead of trying to get them organically by going through the local optimization process.
The answer is simple and straightforward, yes you can use PPC to get local customers but PPC does not make SEO obsolete or vice versa. Read my article on the difference between SEO and PPC for more information but the bottom line is that both techniques should be used together and in parallel for maximum results.
Local SEO is a valuable tool for every business that has a physical address and wants to use the Internet to get more customers from people searching for businesses/services/goods in their area.
The techniques to use for local SEO are over and above traditional SEO techniques meaning that you should first do your SEO as you would without caring about local and then optimize for local using the methods outlined above.
In a nutshell, the most important aspects of local SEO are:
Display the full contact information on your website
Use the same address consistently throughout all places, networks
Register for Google+ for business, FB and other directories
Local SEO Checklist
|Local SEO Checklist|
|1||Optimize your logo|
|2||Work on your titles and descriptions|
|3||Add your full address details and contact information on the home page|
|4||Add your full address details and contact information on the rest of the pages|
|5||Add a map in the contact information page|
|6||Create a Google+ Business page|
|7||Register with Google Places for Business|
|8||Register with Yahoo!Localworks|
|9||Implement Google Authorship|
|10||Use the structured data markup helper to give more information about your local business to Google|
|11||Register with Bing for places|
|12||Register to Local directories|
|13||Create a business page on Facebook|
|14||Register your business with Yelp for Business|
|15||Register with Foursquare for Business|
|16||Encourage and reply to every single review on every platform|
|17||Try to get mentions from local press|
|18||SEO Audit your website|
|19||Optimize for mobile|
|20||Start a blog|
|21||Register with Twitter, Pinterest, YoutTube etc|