100 Local SEO Tips for SMB Checklist 2017-2018

A list of well over 100 local SEO tips for small and medium-sized business. In fact, the list currently contains 30 sections, over 120 tips and ideas, and may continue to grow.  As far as we know, this is the most comprehensive list on the internet. Don’t forget to let us know of your tips on social media.

 

Author: Ben Avenell Ben Avenell
SEO Consultant

For many small and medium sized businesses undertaking SEO, targeting local traffic is often the easiest and least competitive place to start. The problem is that there’s a mountain of local SEO tips and advice that you have to go through to understand everything, which can be overwhelming. Nonetheless, several factors need to be considered before you can start to work on optimisation.

We’ve put together an exhaustive checklist for you to bookmark and refer to when working towards optimising for local organic search results.

Although it’s all important, the more vital pieces of the puzzle are highlighted red. The ones we consider less important are green. You can probably guess what orange signifies.

The business must have a physical presence within the targeted town or city

  • It must be a permanent address and not just a PO box, shared office or forwarding address

The business NAP (Name, Address, and Phone number) must be correctly formatted

  • It must contain a local phone number
  • It must contain street address, town/city, and post code at the very least

Publish your NAP  on every page of your site* (not only on the ‘Contact’ page)

  • Make sure it’s crawlable (not an image) and visible (not hidden in a popup or some kind of javascript ‘click to reveal’ element)
    • *If your business has more than one location there are a number of ways you can optimise for this:
      • If you have 2-4 locations, list the details of every location in the footer of the site, and create local landing pages for each store
      • If you have 5+ locations, list the details of every location on the contact page, and create unique local landing pages for each store
      • If you have one headquarters and numerous branches, optimise the ‘Homepage’ and the ‘About’ page with the headquarters as the subject, add all locations to the ‘Contact’ page, and create local landing pages for each location
      • Consider adding an interactive map on the ‘Contact’ page, listing all locations (as well as listing all locations separately)
      • Make sure all local landing pages are unique and meet content quantity and quality guidelines
        • Content: One recent study suggested that in order to rank for even mildly competitive terms, you need to publish 2,000+ words of content. However, for localised content, we suggest that you produce at least 800-1,000 words of content according to the quality guidelines for each page you are looking to rank. Granted, with some pages this might be tough, and it might not be necessary depending on how competitive the industry, location, and therefore keyword term targeted, is.
        • Quality: The content you produce must not be stuffed with keywords. It must be well written, grammatically correct, contain zero spelling errors, be easy to read, and contain language and terminology which is often used in your industry. It must meet search intent (i.e. give users exactly what they’re looking for when they search for your targeted keyword).


Sign your business up to authoritative web directories (Yell, Yelp, FreeIndex etc.)

  • Include as much detail as you can:
    • Store opening hours
    • Images
    • Full descriptions
    • Product/Service tags
    • Example products and services
    • Contact numbers
    • Email addressees
    • Prominent staff members
    • Social media links
    • Videos
    • Links to your website’s internal pages/blog posts

Build citations for your business on the web

Audit all current web citations for accuracy, duplications, and NAP consistency

  1. Find citations by searching the web for your company name, address, telephone number, or postcode in different variations, but preventing results that include your website
    For example, search for [“SEOpie” AND “TN12 6HT” -site://www.seopie.co.uk]
    (without brackets, but with the quotation marks)
  2. Make a list of all citations you have found in a spreadsheet, including details such as the quality of the citation (Does it include a phone number? What about business hours?), and whether there is a link to your website
  3. Work your way through this list updating all the sites as necessary

Get your Google My Business account set up and complete

Ensure:

  • It is verified
  • It is accurate and consistent (check the map pin location)
  • Your chosen GMB primary category is accurate and consistent across the internet
  • The NAP is consistent with your website
  • It includes 5+ images (+ video if you can)
  • Includes your locally targeted town/city in the GMB landing page title
  • You remove any duplicate listings
  • You consider which page on your site to list on the GMB page (i.e. this may not be your homepage)
  • If you have a number of locations, create listings for each location you have a physical presence in
  • If your business has a menu for food items or services (such as a salon or car repair), you should include it in your listing
  • You adhere to the quality guidelines: HERE

 

Attempt to obtain links from local websites

These are websites which are based in or contain content that is primarily catered towards individuals and/or businesses in your targeted local area

These sites include:

  • Local businesses
  • Local education institutions (schools, colleges, universities)
  • Blogs curated by locals

  • Sport-related sites
  • Hobby sites (food/cooking, fan pages, etc.)
  • Local community activities and events sites

Ensure you optimise your keyword focus for single pages/landing pages (not the whole domain)

  • In some cases this will be the homepage, in others it could be your ‘About’ page, ‘Contact’ page, or other pages.
  • Have a look at this guide by Moz for help with building a unique local landing page: https://moz.com/blog/local-landing-pages-guide

Create separate pages for each product or service offered (but not every single product and service in every possible location!)

I.e. not:

  • http://www.OldMcDonalsFarm.co.uk/Organic/Chicken-Feed/Horsemonden
  • http://www.OldMcDonalsFarm.co.uk/GM/Chicken-Feed/Horsemonden
  • http://www.OldMcDonalsFarm.co.uk/Organic/Chicken-Feed/Paddock-Wood
  • http://www.OldMcDonalsFarm.co.uk/GM/Chicken-Feed/Paddock-Wood
  • http://www.OldMcDonalsFarm.co.uk/Organic/Chicken-Feed/Brenchley
  • http://www.OldMcDonalsFarm.co.uk/GM/Chicken-Feed/Brenchley

Optimise your page title tags to include locations (keyword + location)

Your page title tag, located in the HEAD section of your site, should include your targeted term, the local area you’re optimising for, and your brand name. So, for example, if you’re a small private school offering dance classes and you’re looking to target related keywords in Tunbridge Wells, you might want something like this for the homepage:

St Peter's | Dance School in Tunbridge Wells

Or something like this for an internal page optimised for that term:

Dance Classes Tunbridge Wells - Tonbridge | St Peter's

And here’s how it would look in search results:

Keyword location in title example

Optimise your page content elements to include localised content

This includes:

  • Page Headings H1-H6
  • Page Content Quality (focus on relevance, semantics, readability, etc.)
  • Page Content Quantity (as much quality content as possible)
  • Image filenames and alternate attributes
  • Internal links in content as well as nav menus and footers
  • External Links to quality, authority sites within your industry. Any other external links use an “rel=nofollow” attribute
  • URL structure: Consider how location-related pages are organised in the site structure
    • Use primary categories for multiple locations or services in the same area
      E.g. https://www.homepage.co.uk/London/Lewisham/, or https://www.homepage.co.uk/London/dog-sitting/

Create social media profiles for your business

If it’s possible, include your business address, phone number, and a link to a specific page or the homepage of your website.

Sites which you should have a presence on:

Other social networking sites to get involved in:

Specialist social media websites which may be suitable:

Try to get reviews from customers and clients on a number of mediums including Google My Business, TrustPilot, Reevoo, Facebook, and your own website.

  • Outreach to previous and current customers for reviews via email, social media, or even telephone calls
  • Don’t ever create or commission fake reviews
  • Don’t offer unethical (direct financial) incentives for reviews (I know, many companies do this, but it’s just not cricket!). Entering all reviewers (good and bad) into a monthly raffle could be an effective incentive.
  • Make it easy and obvious for customers to review through social media (post regularly about how customers can do this; not every day; once per month is enough)
  • If sending out emails asking for reviews, include a direct link to either the Google My Business review form, or the page on social media, or your website. Make it as straight forward as possible for them.
  • Try to gain reviews on a regular basis rather than a whole lot at once as that can look suspicious
  • Thank the reviewer (It’s just courtesy; manners cost nothing. Plus it helps improve brand reputation!)
  • Set up business profiles on popular review sites (not necessarily paid-for accounts)
  • Don’t filter bad reviews (You’re never going to get perfect scores, and bad reviews help you iron out issues with your business, and make all your reviews more plausible)
  • Add local reviews to local optimised pages (i.e. If you have a number of locations, list the reviews from customers from that location on the page targeting that location, and mark them up with rich snippets like JSON-LD)

Local SEO Reviews Ranking Factor
Review signals are a ranking factor of approximately 13% for getting into the local pack on Moz’s Local Search Ranking Factors 2017

See the full report here.

Create a suitable contact page for your business

Be sure to include:

  • A Google Map of the business location (embedded into the page) with a directions link
    (there’s a great guide on how to create one here: VisionDesign: How To Create a ‘Get Directions’ Link Using Google Maps)
  • ‘Callto:’ links for direct Skype or mobile phone calling
  • A highly visible telephone number
  • Social media links
  • Your business’s full address including telephone number (remember NAP consistency)
  • Images of the store front and possibly the interior of the store

Consider also hiring a professional, approved photographer to make a Google Maps Virtual Tour/Indoor Street View

If you have a bricks and mortar store include information on:

  • Driving directions from local recognisable landmarks
  • Nearest car park or suitable parking locations
  • Transport links (possibly even ticketing info or peak time warnings (i.e. “If you arrive around 3pm we would advise not parking in front of the store as you may get a parking ticket”)

Properly set up tracking systems to monitor local rankings and traffic

Such as:

  • Google Analytics (Tag Manager would be a good place to start if this hasn’t yet been implemented)
  • Google Search Console
  • Other software (Serpfox, Ahrefs, SEMrush, Moz)
  • Use custom campaign (UTM) parameters for web links from different locations (Check out Google’s URL Builder tool here, and a great article by Prateek Agarwal explaining how to use it here).

Research and attempt to manually acquire links to your site

Ensure the links you build:

  • Are from sites that are of good quality (if not good, then just make sure they’re not bad!), and related to your industry
  • Are from sites based in your targeted geographic location
  • Send traffic to the correct landing page on your site for a particular keyword term/location
  • Are occasionally linked to your Google My Business page rather than your website
  • Sometimes include optimised anchor text with location-based keywords (remember that this must be balanced! (Read more here: GotchSEO: Anchor Text)

Sign up to good quality local web directories and business portals

  • As with the authoritative directories; include as much detail as possible (see here).
  • If appropriate/relevant, and possible add your website link in the local directory pointing to the page on your site targeting that local search term. Many sites don’t allow links that point towards subdirectories, but some do.

To find local directories:

  1. Search Google for [“your industry” + directory], [“your industry” + inurl:resources] or [“your keyword” + directory] and variations.
  2. Use software such as Ahrefs to check other local businesses’ linking domains.

Add rich text mark up (also known as ‘rich snippets’ and ‘structured data’) to on-page items

This essentially means wrapping some bits of information in tags which help search engines understand what the information is.

This is the schema you’ll be using: Schema: LocalBusiness

And here’s a great tool for generating the code for you: Hall Analysis JSON-LD Schema Generator

Information to mark-up:

  • Name – Address – Phone number (Local Business & Postal Address)
  • Prices
  • Events
  • Products
  • Testimonials
  • Hours
  • Location/ coordinates (‘GEO’ with latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates,  and ‘hasMap’ with a URL link to a Google map of your business)

  • Coupons / Offers
  • Person/individuals
  • Images
  • Videos
  • Logo
  • SameAs (URL links to authoritative/reliable information on your business, such as a Google+ page or a Wikipedia page)

Here’s an example of how it will look using microdata:

Schema Localbusiness example

Here we’ve told search engines that ‘item’ is a business with the name “SEOpie”. We’ve also told them the URL of the business (//www.seopie.co.uk). We’ve also offered information in the form of ‘sameAs’, which helps to further explain that this business is the same business described at this other URL (//plus.google.com/+SeopieCoUk).

Sign up to Bing Places for Business and verify your listing

  • Here’s the link: https://www.bingplaces.com/
  • Include as much detail as possible, especially full contact details and business hours.
  • Remember to verify your listing once you receive the postcard

Create local content for your website

Such as:

  • Publish interviews with local businesses or influential figures
  • Carry out local surveys of buying habits, hobbies, attractions, opinions, etc.
  • Create lists of local attractions, events, or locations related to your business (e.g The Best Mexican Restaurants in Surrey)
  • Write updates on local topical news in your area which your site visitors might engage with (possibly consider writing from a viewpoint that would spark discussion or debate, as this can increase user engagement)
  • Put together a write-up of a local event, fund-raiser, or community activity
  • Write reviews of a local attraction, event or location related to your industry
  • Create a local resource page containing important information for locals (N.B. Not a ‘Friends’ page with a list of links or unrelated businesses)
  • Sponsor, organise or promote local awards schemes

Maintain regular engagement on social media

  • If keeping all social media channels up-to-date is tough, just concentrate on one. Which social media stream to choose depends on your industry. See what other competitors are doing and how successful they are in terms of engagement.
  • Consider using software to synchronise and schedule posts.
  • Reply to customer questions and engage with the community
  • Avoid anything too controversial. Always maintain professionalism.

Optimise additional meta tags to include locations

Including:

  • Your site meta descriptions (unique for all pages)
  • Open Graph Meta Tags: locale (for telling Facebook which language your website is in when a page is shared on the site), as well as other tags like ‘image’ and ‘title’. Have a look through this post by Kissmetrics for more detailed info: Kissmetrics: Open Graph Meta Tags

Engage with local customers

Building a brand in a certain locality often encompasses getting involved in the local community to some degree. By communicating with locals via social media or direct means you can build word-of-mouth marketing, which improves the chances of your brand being mentioned online or gaining reviews.

Create separate pages for each location targeted (if necessary, and within reason (i.e. possibly not for every small town or village in your area))

  • In order to decide what towns, cities, and counties you want to target, you need to look at search volume for those areas, whether these areas are within your normal business catchment area, and whether the cost of additional website development will be justified. If there are a few large cities and towns you wish to target, choose only the most important and the ones which offer the best potential return
  • Make sure every page has value. It must not be a duplicate of another page designed only to funnel visitors to your primary pages. Otherwise, it could be algorithmically demoted.
  • Ensure these location pages can be navigated to from your main nav menu

Maintain traditional offline marketing efforts

Traditional offline marketing helps to build brand awareness, leading to improved online engagement, social interaction, and so on. Plus, events are often published online, with independent write ups. Examples include:

  • Sponsor local sports (and other) teams (tip: search for “city inurl:sponsor”)
  • Collaborate with schools, colleges, universities, businesses, or non-profit organisations to promote a certain activity, event, charity or cause
  • Offer discounts/promotions to local school or university alumni, or teachers (which are often listed on university alumni portals)
  • Invest in a scholarship with a local college or university
  • Sponsor or organise local community events such as ‘litter collection day’, ‘old clothes collection’, ‘the local fete’, etc.
  • Organise local conferences/seminars
  • Set up local industry meetings
  • Organise local workshops
  • Get involved in networking events
  • Have a regular presence at local tradeshows
  • Invest in traditional newspaper, radio and paper (banners/posters) advertising
  • Donate to local causes
  • Connect with local influencers and prominent people (potentially in a ‘brand ambassador’ type of role, but not necessarily)
  • Sponsor local social meet-ups such as those focusing on popular topics like housing, road-safety, education, local amenities or even dating

Combine offline marketing with incentives to engage online.

This could be done by:

  • Producing flyers or advertisements with discount codes for your online store
  • Utilising QR codes with links to websites, social media, apps, or downloadable items
  • Distributing promotional items, or business cards with NFC chips that cause some kind of online interaction, or simply links to websites, social media, apps, or downloadable items
  • Organising competitions which involve online interaction such as sharing, liking, retweeting or Instagram ‘love/follow’ a page or image
  • Sponsoring or organising a local webinar
  • Live streaming events on social media or LiveStream.com which cover topics such as Q&As, press releases, descriptions of upcoming sales and promotions
  • Organising Easter Egg hunt-style activities for locals through social media (for example, ‘What does the second line on the plaque of the local war memorial say?’, or ‘go [here] and scan this QR code to give you the answer to this question’)

Attempt to win or at least be nominated for local business or community awards.

  • Search Google for “City Name”+”Nominate a business” and variations to find examples.

Regularly update your Google My Business page

Publicise information, such as:

  • Blog posts (or republish older, informative posts (especially those with previously high engagement)
  • Changes to your stock/product line
  • Promotions/sales
  • Staff changes/developments
  • Upcoming events
  • Industry news

Of course, aside from this there are the additional elements of the standard on page SEO best practice to follow:

  • Set up canonical URLs correctly (see Yoast complete guide: https://yoast.com/rel-canonical/)
  • Remove duplicate pages
  • Remove superfluous pages (tag and category pages)
  • Update and remove any redirect chains
  • Noindex/follow internal search results pages (in the vast majority of cases)
  • If applicable, remove theme demo content pages (really obvious, but many still miss it)
  • Set up a proper custom 404 page
  • Correct utilisation of 301 redirects (including www to non-www or vice versa)
  • Optimise page load speed through content delivery and resource optimisation (js and css files, server response time, image file sizes, WP plugins, cached resources, prioritising content, etc.)
  • Ensure mobile usability and friendliness (I know, still saying this in 2017, right)
  • Prioritise user experience and site intuitiveness
  • With e-commerce stores try to ensure product and category pages differentiate by more than just images and price (i.e. write detailed, unique, accurate descriptions)
  • Consider investing in some form of SSL certificate (https). Domain Validated, Organisation Validates, or Extended Validation are the primary forms. DV certificates are cheap, EV certificates are expensive, and better, but require lots of documentation to prove your company’s authenticity.

In Closing…

Clearly the red puzzle pieces should be prioritised, however, many of the orange ‘medium priority’ points are also quite important. Many of these points go further towards improving ‘click-through rate’ than organic rankings. Some have zero effect on organic rankings, but do provide a higher chance of appearing in the 3-pack of local results. We’ve deliberately avoided explaining this, as to do so would add further technicality to an already confusing topic for many people.

If your time or budget is limited, concentrate on getting the fundamentals of your website finalised first, then begin looking to external ‘signals’, such as citations and links.

 

As mentioned at the beginning, while this list is indeed extensive there’s always going to be more to add. Please let us know on social media if you have any more tips to add to the list (we’ll accredit all additions).

 

If you’d like help with implementing these modifications to your website, fire us over an email and we’d be happy to assist.

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