Local SEO is optimizing your online presence to get more business in a specific region of the world. An E-Commerce website that sells a product worldwide can benefit from web traffic anywhere in the world. A dentist in Vermont, however, will only benefit from getting website visitors in maybe 30 miles or so of their office, which is why they should follow this local seo guide to make sure their business gets in front of as many of their nearby customers as possible. Here are some steps you can take to optimize your local business.
Directory Listings & N.A.P
No Local SEO Guide is complete without talking about NAP. Directory Listings are like online phonebooks. They list a bunch of different local businesses with the purpose of making it easy for local consumers to find a product or service. Examples of directory listing sites are Yelp & Angies List. These two directories are valuable by themselves. There are other directory listings like “HotFrog” and hundreds of others that I’ve personally never used as a consumer.
Most directories are useless from the perspective of gaining traffic, but because they list your NAP it helps with your local seo
The goal of your business is to get listed in as many of these directories as possible to improve your Name, Address, and Phone number consistency (NAP).
N.A.P is where every listing of your business online has the same exact business information. Same name, same business hours, same everything. NAP is important for local seo because it gives the search engines confidence that your information is accurate and up to date.
I mean “exactly” the same. Ste. 249 and #249 are different and confuse search engines. There are hundreds of directories available, and you’ll want to be listed on as many as possible. There’s a couple of companies that can help you manage your NAP consistency. Here’s two I recommend:
Yext is the higher quality, but much more expensive way to achieve NAP consistency and improve your local seo. You have to pay yearly, and rumors are that if you cancel your membership they remove your listings. I haven’t tested this though. The benefits of using Yext are they have exclusive high quality backlinks to directories like Amazon Alexa and others. If you’re in a highly competitive local business, you should consider using YEXT to handle your directory listings. An exclusive backlink is very valuable for your local seo efforts.
Another benefit of using Yext is the directory listings are immediate. with Bright Local they outsource the listing placement and have people manually enter your information, which means it’s much more time consuming, and there’s more hoops to jump through.
Bright Local charges $2 – $3 per listing, and you can buy listings in chunks of 25 or so. The upside of Bright Local is their cost. They’re much cheaper, and you pay once for the listings and a monthly membership for some other goodies that help you manage your businesses local seo. The downside is they lack the exclusive offers that Yext Provides, and their process is much more hands on.
If you add images or change your Instagram handle, you’ll have to re-submit (and re-pay) for the listings you need to update. You’ll also have to provide a bit of help on occasion.
Here’s a listing update that we’re working on over at Malone Law Group, PS. Those little profile icons on the right indicate that we as the users have a verification step that needs to be completed. So we need to check the notes and do whatever it says. Honestly it’s kind of a pain. With the potential for re-submitting data, and the extra time it takes to jump through the extra hoops, I feel from a time cost perspective it’d be better to just use YEXT.
Bright Local provides access to “Local Data Aggregators” and a lot of lower quality (but still arguably beneficial) directories that YEXT doesn’t provide.
The Local Data Aggregators help with your local seo because you get listed in vehicle navigation apps, online yellow pages, and other things that are of interest to local businesses who want to optimize their local seo. Most local SEO Guides I’ve seen prefer Bright Local, but I think the time and hassle saved by going with YEXT is more than worth it.
Directory Listings Summary
- Yext is better and has high value exclusivity, but much more expensive. (Use if you’re in a competitive industry)
- Bright Local is cheaper but has more hoops to jump through. Also has benefits YEXT doesn’t have like Local Data Aggregators and lower value directories. (YEXT users can still benefit from using BrightLocal to get stuff they can’t get on YEXT.)
Optimize some Directory Profiles
A lot of local searches are dominated by Yelp, Angies List, etc. It depends on your business and location. So do a search, and whichever directory shows up first may be worthwhile for you to optimize, and maybe even pay for (as long as it’s not Yelp because they have a reputation for being evil) If I was a Roofer in Pahrump, then based on this image below, you’d want to make sure that YOU show up at the top of BBB, “roof.info”, Yelp, and Porch. If you get to the top of these directories, then no matter which website the searcher clicks, they’re going to find you.
Google My Business
Google My Business gets you into the Local Map Pack, which is where around 50% of clicks with local search intent go. If you’re a local business, this is one of the most important things you can do for your local seo campaign. Every Local SEO guide will say that Google My Business is the most important place to get reviews because it’s going to directly help you with showing up multiple times in Google. Once in search, once in the Map pack.
Here’s a few things you can do to increase your Local Business SEO Success and get more customers:
Fill Out Your Google Profile Completely
Filling out your profile completely is straightforward. In the overview page of your business, it tells you exactly how to fill the profile out completely, which is required for optimized local seo, and even notifies you of the things that still need to be done, as you can see in the image above. This involves things like:
- Adding Logo
- Business description
- Hours of operation
- # of years in business
- Photos of your business, people, surroundings, etc.
- Special hours, holidays observed, etc.
- Products & Services
- Menu (if applicable)
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Phone Number
- And more…
Reviews are one of the primary ranking factors for the local map pack. You want as many high reviews as possible. Here’s a couple strategies on managing reviews for your local business to improve the success of your seo campaign.
Respond to Reviews. Especially the bad ones
Responding to reviews improves the relationship with your customers. It shows people you appreciate their business and are friendly. It also proves that you’re up to date and responsive. It’s also more content, which Google pays attention to and rewards with higher rankings.
See how good this looks? People like to feel appreciated.
Would you use a business with a review like this? What if this was the only review? What happened? Is this even a customer? Bad reviews happen, and when they do, the owner should respond so people can get both sides of the story and understand what went wrong. Leaving a bad review unresolved is bad for your local seo campaigns
You want to get as many reviews as possible, and to do that you need to ASK for reviews from every customer. Send out automated texts or have a feedback form on your front desk that you give to customers as they leave. Do whatever it takes to get more positive reviews on your Google Business Profile.
There’s a lot of tools local seo guides will recommend for review management. I really like Grade.us because it allows you to send emails and texts to ask for reviews, and it allows them to choose a platform to review you on. They may want to review you on Facebook (Meta now) or Google Business. You can allow them to choose for themselves. If one of your review platforms needs a little love you can put that platform front and center to get more reviews.
The best part of Grade.US is that it filters out bad reviews at a threshold you specify. So if anything below 4 stars is unacceptable for you, it will actually turn that public review into a private feedback form that allows you to work out the issues with your customer and hopefully turn it into a positive experience for them. Unfortunately it’s pretty expensive as an individual, but gets cheaper if you work with an agency.
DIY review management
The tools listed above are ridiculously expensive. If those are out of your budget, then you should consider just making your own PDF form or a Google form. Send that to your customers and if they give you positive feedback then ask for a review. There’s no reason to not manage your reviews & testimonials for your small business. It’s essential for good local seo.
I don’t see many businesses doing posts regularly, but here’s what they look like:
These posts are great for calls to action. Think of these posts as like Twitter for Google Business Profiles. It’s unknown how much these actually help with rankings, but it’s something to experiment with and monitor your results from.
Be close to your customers
The distance between you and the searcher is a huge ranking factor. Unfortunately there’s not much you can do about it. In the below image you can see the #2 spot has fewer reviews, but they show up higher most likely due to being closer to the searcher.
Setup PPC Ads for Google Business
If you want to get shown for searches where you’re not already in the first spot, you can setup PPC ads. The downside here is you’re paying for each click.
Google Local Services
If you want to be at the very very top, then see if Google Local Services is available in your area. PPC ads are great because they give you a predictable revenue. You’ll know exactly how much you need to spend to accomplish your goals based on averages.
Building Your Local Business Website
There’s a lot of options here, and you’ll have to make a decision based on your budget and level of competition. You do NOT want to use the following to build your website:
Wix SquareSpace WebFlow Weebly Anything closed source.
You CAN use these platforms to build your website, but the major problem with Wix & Squarespace type of websites is their lack of functionality & support for customized needs. Here’s an example.
Website builders have a very narrow way of doing things. They build everything, and if something you need is out of the scope of their abilities, you’re out of luck and either forced to migrate away from the platform or deal with it. The bigger your site gets, the harder and more expensive it will be to migrate away.
WordPress, Drupal, Shopify, and custom solutions like writing an app in React allow you complete customization and complete control over your local seo efforts. If I wanted to write a plugin to open my garage door from a button on my WordPress site, I could do that. With Wix you can’t. It’s hard to tell when you’re going to run into a feature that’s unsupported, so it’s best to just pick the right platform to begin with.
Besides, WordPress is just as easy as Wix & Squarespace.
With visual page builders like Elementor, you get ALL of the benefits of Wix, but inside the open-source platform of WordPress. Truthfully, Elementor isn’t that great either. It’s bloated and slows down your site (not any worse than Wix though).
What’s nice about Elementor is you can migrate away from its page builder one page at a time. as you’re able to afford website optimizations from a professional designer. Here’s a table to describe different website building options.
|Wix||yes||Easy to use|
difficult & expensive to migrate away
Harder to rank with SEO & local seo
|Squarespace||Yes||Easy to use|
difficult & expensive to migrate away
Harder to rank with SEO & local seo
|WebFlow||Yes||Easy to use|
Better than Wix & Squarespace. still worse than open source
| Limited customizations|
difficult & expensive to migrate away
Harder to rank with SEO & local seo
|WordPress||Yes||Elementor makes it just as easy as WebFlow, Squarespace, & Wix|
Open-Source Platform (Fully customizable)
incrementally migrate away from page builders
DIY Friendly (friendly to all skill levels)
Hundreds of thousands of features (plugins) & themes to fit any need
Millions of developers worldwide know this technology
You’ll most likely never outgrow WordPress
Friendly to Local SEO
|Can be complicated (without page builders)|
Can be insecure
A little bloated (unnecessary features)
|Shopify||Yes||closed source but has plugin ecosystem|
Friendly to Local SEO friendly
GraphQL api (very fast. Don’t need to know what this is)
|E-commerce only. May need to compliment with another platform|
Friendly to Local SEO
Very good user experience
Will help for very competitive industries
Must rebuild after every change
Need to hire developer
Most agencies will not be able to help you
Still experimental. Will report back on findings soon.
|Custom (React)||NO||Great for mobile apps, websites with lots of functionality & interactivity|
Lightweight. Only have code that you need for better performance & better Local SEO
|Must hire a developer|
May need to use Ghost, or another platform for blog
Expensive. May end up building things that already exist in WordPress out of the box.
|Ghost CMS||Yes||lightweight blogging platform|
Friendly to Local SEO (?)
|Needs to integrate with another platform for more features.|
Still Experimental Will report back on findings soon.
How 95% of people should build their website
If you’re reading this post, then you’ll most likely be able to win with the strategy I’m about to give you. If you think you may need a more advanced feature, feel free to reach out to us.
Let Professional Developers & Designers do it for you
A good team of developers will make sure you’re headed in the right direction. We can discuss your goals, vision, and budget to determine the correct course of action.
Build a Local Website yourself with Elementor
- Do It Yourself (with Elementor) or pay for a starter website
- Go after lower competition keywords and work your way up.
- As you grow, a developer can help you migrate to more performant solutions (on WordPress, but without Elementor)
Tools Needed to follow along with Video:
(ps. I may get a compensated if you purchase a product. There is no extra charge to you)
- Web Hosting & Domain
- Page Builder
- Lazy Loading (enhance site performance)
- Render Blocking & Unused CSS removal (performance)
Local SEO Guide to Optimizing Your Website
Now that you’ve built your website, you need to optimize it for local seo so you can actually show up at the top of the search engines. Let’s talk about how you can get your business ranked at the top.
Educational & Comprehensive Content
If you look at the best websites that are ranking higher than everyone else, you’ll notice their content is comprehensive and valuable. They go 10 steps above and beyond what the competition is doing. That’s what you need to do to rank. If you don’t have time to put in all this effort, you can hire a writer to help with your local seo content.
Don’t just tell your customers what you do and ask them to call you. Tell them how you do it, the process, the benefits of working with you, why it’s important to work with a professional. Give them tips and suggestions. Be the expert that they’re looking for. Your pages should be full and valuable. Your entire website should be like a library of information where they can get everything they could ever want to know about your industry.
You don’t need to be completely comprehensive, but you need to be better than your competitors. Whoever does the above suggestion the best will rank the highest, assuming everything else is in place. The law firm “AskAdamSKutner” is an Amazing Local Seo Example, check them out to understand how to create comprehensive content.
Writing content about your specific region, even if it’s not about your business could signal to Google the location of your business and may be helpful in improving your local seo. If I write about “5 things to do in Miami” then Google will understand that this website has something to do with Miami. Search engines are able to take a site-wide view of what the business is all about. Even if you don’t rank for these blog articles it may still be worth it. If you do rank, then at least you’re showing up to people who are within your reach to become customers in the future.
City Pages are one of the hardest things to get right in a local seo campaign. They’re helpful in ranking for the various cities that you do business in. For example, Los Angeles has many neighborhoods and takes a while to get all the way through the city. Many people like to use local modifiers, like “Pest Control in Montrose, CA”. By having a page for each city you do business in, you’re more likely to rank for the variety of searches a user could type into Google.
If you can, try to make the city page as original as possible. If you have customers/testimonials in that city specifically, put those testimonials on that page. Have a different writer create the content for each city page so it’s not just the same old thing. Maybe write a few blog posts about that city and link to them. Get creative if you have to.
And make sure that the URL represents the keyword you’re shooting for.
If you want to go after the best keywords and topics for your business, then you’ll want to invest some time and money into keyword research. I highly recommend Ahrefs as a tool because it provides incredible insight.
It also allows for competitor research, and it’s only $7 for a 7 day trial. After that it’s really expensive though, so make sure you get a few months worth of research done in a few days. See how I use the tool in this video (either to the side or below.)
When starting out you want to go after keywords that have both low search volume (10-50 searches a month) AND are not very competitive. If you go to the site that ranks at the top, you’ll want to see how much effort they’ve put into their site. If there’s a lot of content and they look like an established business with a good online presence, then find something easier to get. As your site gets more authority you’ll be able to go after the more competitive terms.
Site performance is very important for local seo, but even some of the top companies are lacking, which gives you an opportunity to take advantage of. Your site should load in under two seconds and be accessible. It should also be mobile friendly. In fact, performance on mobile is all Google looks at anymore. If your site doesn’t perform well on mobile, it likely won’t rank.
To check your site performance,
- Visit your target website in a chrome browser.
- Right click somewhere on your site and click “inspect”
Click on the “Lighthouse” tab, and make sure “Mobile” device is selected, along with all of the categories to test for.
When you have everything selected appropriately, click “Generate Report” to get your site performance overview.
You’ll get an overview that looks something like this, and below it, the report will suggest things you can do to improve the site.
The more minimal your website is, the better your website will likely perform. This is why heavy usage of things like Elementor & Crocoblock are discouraged. Most fixes for this performance report will hopefully be simple. Usually, a lot of improvement can be made by compressing & resizing images, lazy-loading images, and installing a few plugins like wp-rocket to help with some technical stuff. If you can get your site around ~3 seconds, you’ll probably be okay. Less than 2 is ideal, but if you’re not a developer than you may have to settle a little bit and focus on other big-ticket items like content writing.
Audit Your Website Periodically
A tool I like to use is Ahrefs to audit the local SEO of websites and their competitors. To run a site audit:
- Sign up for Ahrefs, and once you’re in, click “Site Audit” and “New Project”
Add the site. Doesn’t matter how:
type in the domain of the site you want to audit and click continue:
Click continue, yes, next, whatever is required until it starts the crawl. When it’s finished, It’ll spit out a report for you that looks something like this:
The ones in red are the biggest priorities to fix to improve your local seo. Here’s a quick summary of these specific errors:
Orphan Pages have no links to them, meaning it’s impossible for a user to get to that page by clicking around on your website. That also means without a sitemap, Google’s crawlers can’t find them either.
404 means the page is not found or something on the website links to a page that isn’t found.
4xx could mean any number of things. you’d have to click on it and learn about that specific error.
Page has links to broken page is basically the same thing as 404.
Non-canonical page in sitemap means that the authoritative content isn’t being linked to or is confused somehow. “Canonical” means the ‘primary’ page to send all authority to if there’s duplicate content. Sometimes this can become a problem if you link to a page without the / at the end of the URL.
The rest are warnings, so you’ll have to check out some of my technical SEO articles to learn more about those. But this should get you a very strong start to fixing your websites local seo.
Backlinks & Relationship building
In order to have success with Local SEO, you’re going to need lots and lots of backlinks to your website. A backlink is another website that points back to yours via a link. I’ve given several backlinks in this article. When I linked back to the injury attorney who does an incredible job with their local seo, that was a backlink. They earned it, and it also makes them that much tougher to beat because it increases their domain authority.
Quality Matters with backlinks. Think of it like a recommendation. If the guy who’s never played baseball before is recommending you a baseball glove, it means practically nothing. But if a pro MLB player told you which glove is the best, you’d probably listen to him. In the same way, every website has a level of “authority” based on a variety of factors. The more authoritative the website, the more valuable the link.
Quantity Matters too. You don’t want garbage websites pointing to you, but as long as they aren’t completely worthless sites, you want as many backlinks as you can possibly get. A single backlink from a quality website is worth hundreds or even thousands of low to medium value websites.
Conclusion on Local SEO:
Local SEO isn’t that hard, it’s just time consuming and a bit tedious. If you can simplify it down into providing high quality content to your users and provide a decent website experience, then you should be performing better than 95% of your competitors in no time.