Local SEO Checklist 

If you’re running a small business – say a hardware store, restaurant, music store, motorcycle mechanic shop, etc. – your business simply can’t survive without local customers. This makes Local SEO a crucial element to your digital marketing needs.

Plus, according to NPR, 56 percent of online shoppers say they still appreciate the in-person experience over digital retailers.

First, what exactly is Local SEO?

Local SEO is the pursuit of optimizing your website to rank on the first page of major search engines – Google, Bing, and Yahoo – for relevant queries related to your specific area/city/state/country.

Search engines consider the geographical location of the users to provide results that are more useful to them.

For instance, if you searched for “pizza restaurants in Old Forge pa” Google provides the most useful results:

local seo results

But if you search for “pizza restaurants near me,” it will have different results altogether depending on your current location:

GMB for local Search Engine Optimization

Search engines use location-based data (IP addresses and geolocation) to provide results that matter the most to its end users. By optimizing your website for small areas, you can improve online visibility within the local search results.

Remember, Google is very careful ranking which website deserves to be on the coveted first results position as it’s driven to suffice the user’s intent.

You can soar up the chances to get listed at the top and receive higher CTRs (click-through rates) and traffic by closing in the gap with user intent for every search query.

Who Needs Local SEO Services?

Any business with a specific physical address and correspondence address must pursue local SEO.

A restaurant, vehicle repair, doctor, law firm, plumber and many such services you seek in your immediate vicinity.

People out of habit use the internet to find the best service providers before they make a physical visit. If your website fails to rank for the local results, you’re surely losing business opportunities that your competitors can take advantage of.

Now that you understand the simple concept of Local SEO, here’s how to optimize yours for the best results.

Local SEO Checklist

1. Keyword Search

This is the fundamental step that decides the success or failure of your Local SEO. First, you must discover the most relevant keywords and phrases related to your local business, including all products/services and locations. In regards to locations, remember to not just keyword your city or town, but also county, region or any other words/phrases associated with your area (e.g. Northeastern Pennsylvania is known as NEPA).

Here’s a quick rundown of steps:

  • Create your keyword list, paying attention to monthly search volume
  • Use a keyword tool (Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, etc.) and add the seed keywords to find new keyword ideas and to get the estimated search traffic for highly relevant targeted keywords.
  • Filter down a list of targeted keywords that has reasonable search volume and demonstrate medium to low competition levels.
  • Optimize content for those keywords, starting with the title tag explained next.

2. Title Tags & Meta Descriptions

Your page title tag is possibly one of the most popular factors strengthening your on-page SEO.

People can easily locate it at the top of the browser tab. It allows Google bots and users to get a fair insight into what to expect after clicking the link.

  • Always include target keywords to describe the page
  • Place the keyword at the beginning itself
  • Do not extend the length beyond 60 characters to get full display on SERP
  • Include brand name if possible

title tags and meta descriptions for strong Local SEO


Next is the meta description – the short snippet of information visible in the search engine results pages.

  • Keep it unique, informative and interesting
  • Restrict the length to under 160 characters
  • User-friendly, Keyword-rich description
  • Do not stuff it with keywords that affect the quality

Google does not use the meta description as a ranking factor. But it’s still vital because it’s one of your most crucial marketing messages that can either cause a click through to your website and have the searches click elsewhere.  Plus, as you notice in the example above for the query “old forge pizza,” those query words are bold and attract the eye. Always use the target keyword in the meta description.

3. NAP Information – Name, Address, and Phone Number

It’s a must-do or in fact, critical to rank for local SEO. Search engines tend to pick up the NAP data or information to rank for geo-targeted search queries.

Also, maintain NAP consistency – it means your official business address ( including head office and other branches) must be the same on the website and anywhere else on the internet such as yellow pages, business listings, etc.

Any sign of discrepancy or manipulation only flags red for your website.

NEVER play around with your NAP that leaves Google suspicious about your intention.

We recommend displaying your official business name, address and phone number in the header or footer section of your website. Establish transparency with Google and your users and gain market confidence.

4. Image Optimization

Images are an integral element for your local SEO world.

Just assume a scenario – you want to have a family dinner tonight in the new restaurant but confused if its the right place? Having relevant images on their website can help the users to make the decision – quick and confident.

With over 1.94 billion websites estimated by January 2019, the competition is stiff for most businesses but the best way to stand out – stellar images.

However, the case is not the same with search engines. They do not see the images as we people do. Thus you have to put in extra efforts to provide relevant information describing the image using the important keywords.

Easy Tips for SEO-friendly Images:

  • Filename: Title your image with target keyword
  • Title: You can read the text if you put the cursor on the image. Basically, this describes the text and must contain your main keyword or any near variation.
  • Alt-Text: It’s an attribute added to the image tag in HTML code. Google bots read this to understand what the image is all about. It appears even if the image fails to load.
  • Image Size: Resize your image before uploading on the website.
  • Avoid Uploading Heavy files with size 300kb or more as website speed will be compromised. Better to compress images file for better user experience.

5. Include Google map in the Contact Information Page

Having a google map is another strong signal about your business location to search engines and users.

All you have to do it visit Google Maps, click on the top left menu and “add your business”; follow all the instructions to complete the steps.  Additionally, it helps your users to track your exact location from their current position.

How to get your Business location onto Google Maps

6. Update “Google My Business” Page (GMB)

It’s a free and very useful tool for companies vying to rank better for local search engine rankings. Create your business account and update all the important information that includes but not limited to the business name, location, contact number, email, business category and more.

The job does not end here. You have to get your business verified via mail.

The real task begins after the verification when you visit the dashboard and add as much as relevant information as possible such as areas you serve, working hours, business profile photo and many more.

You can also request your customers to share reviews that are reflected on your GMB profile for other visitors to read.

7. Schema ( or Structure Data Markup )

Schemas help search engines understand your location-based structured information such as your NAP – business name, addresses, dates of events, phone numbers, and many more.

Depending on the type of local business, you should use the appropriate schema. You can read more information about local business schemas from Google and also from schema.org.

Generally, there are three supported formats to write schema mark for websites:

  • JSON-LD (recommended)
  • Microdata
  • RDFa

However, before adding Schema markup, run it in Google’s Structured Data testing tool to test its validity.

Remember, just because you’ve added structured data, it does not guarantee that it will appear in the SERP for local queries. Follow the structured data guidelines to ensure you fall in the line of the search engines and not just thrusting them to rank you.

8. Public Citations & Social Profiles

Citations are your online mention of your business anywhere on the web. A single citation registers the presence of your NAP – business name, address and phone number.

A local citation can be seen more or less similar to backlinks for your website SEO practices. However, be careful that not all citations are created equal and largely depends on variables including:

  • The Relevance & Domain Authority of the Citation Source: Can you imagine a plumber in Florida cited in a doctor’s directory in North America? It just does not make sense. You need to look out for local directories that cover plumber services within Florida itself.

The relevance of your citation source is of utmost importance as well. Finding hyper-local directories can be hard but pursue extensive research online to find the highly relevant citation sources ( or websites)

Do not compromise on the domain authority of the websites or directories where your business citations are published. Some of the sites with high DA are Google Local, Facebook, Bing, Yelp, Four Square.

  • The Volume of Citations

This determines the number of times your business reference is published on the website. Every unique domain accounts for one instance of your local business citation.

Remember, if done right, local citations build a reputation and simplify the user experience. Maintain the NAP consistency for the lack of it confuses the users and raise more questions on your local business.

Some helpful citation tips:

  • Maintain and update NAP consistency
  • Add a unique business description that gives succinct information about your company – history, locations, products, services, etc.
  • Upload relevant, high-quality images describing your business
  • One citation per location is the rule. Remove any multiple copies if any.
  • Determine relevant categories for your business. Do not overdo this and limit to 3-4 categories.

a strong social media page is a must for strong Local SEO

Next, are social profiles. Social media can be so much fun and rewarding for your business if you carefully watch every single step. The first and foremost step is creating a profile for your company on popular social media sites – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn or any other.

Do not consider them as isolated part and instead incorporate as if they’re an extension to the individual landing pages of your business.

Likewise, social profiles are important for your business to garner buzz across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Even though it’s not sure if social media metrics – likes, shares, followers, etc. – affect SERP rankings, many studies suggest they do influence users opinion, and to some extent helps to gain organic traffic for your website.

It’s all about improving user web experience to connect them with the right people – businesses. And if social media sites provide them some sense of direction, there’s no reason that search engines even Google would undermine the influence of social media profiles.

9. High-Quality, Engaging Content

Content is the reigning emperor of the digital world even after two decades when Microsoft founder Bill Gates in 1996 essayed his prediction about the future of the internet and coined the phrase “content is king.”

Creating an informative and compelling localized content is an effective way to pique the interest of the people that are living within limited geographical market. However, it’s hard to discern the intent and local keywords that can help you rank better for local SERP results.

Work on the ground rules for best SEO practices – incisive keyword research using Google’s Keyword Planner to find less competitive keywords that fit the needs of local audiences. Many companies do not hesitate to conduct standard research such as interviews or online surveys to know the prevalent demographics and psychographics of your target market.

You can also find interesting ideas for blog posts that may click with the local market more than your service pages, especially if the industry is highly competitive. Organize some local events such as sponsored events, conferences, lectures to create local awareness for your business.

10. Anchor Text Optimization

Anchor text is your visible and clickable text that directs users towards another relevant page. Google bots read the anchor text to understand and get a sense of connection between the host and the linked targeted web page.

A word of caution – do not play around with this anchor text.

For example, if your anchor text says “Home Plumbers,” but it’s directing to a home decor page. It misguides the users and Google alike by using improper anchor text.

You can either direct the visitors within your website (internal linking) or to some other external source for related helpful information. Either way, using keyword-rich anchor text helps Google understand your business link profile and decide whether or not to boost your rankings.

A word of caution from Google itself: “every step undertaken by a website from creating content, generating links, anchor texts to anything and everything in between, needs to provide value to users. Do not use manipulative or deceptive techniques that weaken the spirit of ethical business practices.”

Use links where necessary and not just spamming with similar anchor text after every other line. It will negatively affect the user experience and calls for a severe penalty from Google.

Simple & smart tips for anchor-text optimization include:

  • Make it as natural and relevant as possible
  • Avoid spamming the page with same anchor text – avoid over-optimization
  • Do not link to spammy or adult sites
  • Distribute anchor text variations
  • Place anchor text where it grabs eyeballs and not where it is of little help. 

11. Mobile-Friendly Website

A frustrated user is a lost customer, in many cases. Just assume you opened a site on the move to know about the latest iPhones in your city but the site shows incomplete text and you’ve to scroll right every time.

This can be so annoying! In fact, it has been repeated like a broken record that a mobile website is a must for businesses, and the case is no different if its a local company.

 

Mobile Friendly Websites are vital

Whether you’re searching for a recipe or race course, mobiles come handy to get useful information without feeling the need to open your laptop or desktop. It is all about the experience, after all – and SERP ranking as well.

On May 28, 2019, Google announced mandatory mobile-friendly indexing for new domains that makes it all the more clear how serious the search engine is about mobile search results.

Failing to adhere to Google’s Mobile Friendly guidelines will make you suffer a huge loss in gaining organic traffic from mobile users – that happen to be huge in numbers.

Studies have given some incredible results. For instance, in the USA itself, 94% of smartphone users search for local information on their phones. Interestingly, the frenzy mobile phones have generated has resulted in boosting “go local” Google searches with ‘near me’ have tripled year-over-year in 2016.

Remember, if your visitors are bouncing off to other websites just because they can’t access it on their smartphone, it’s high time you update to a mobile-friendly website.

Here you can learn how to configure your site for multiple devices and help search engines understand your site.

A mobile-friendly website turns your web design responsive enough to adjust its size according to the screen of the device you’re using. Make sure that visitors can have a good experience on your site irrespective they’re using smartphones, tabs, laptops or any other digital device.

Concluding Thoughts

Local SEO is a lifeline for companies that primarily operate in limited geographical regions and rely on locals for sales. While the fundamentals remain the same for local and international SEO, you’ve got to be smarter to enjoy a strong and sound foothold in your local market.

If you’ve any queries or need to share something more, leave your comments in the section below.

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