Local SEO

Local SEO Guide and Checklist for Beginners – Is Your Local Business Ready for 2019?

by Tom Buckland Updated On May 16, 2019

So, you’ve ended up on this page where we talk a lot about local SEO.

Local SEO isn’t exactly a juicy, popcorn-worthy topic. Therefore, this tells me that you either run a local business and are trying to get as many people to call you or show up at your door, or you’re a marketer looking for some easy to answers to difficult questions.

In either case, you’re doing at least one thing right – caring about local SEO. So, congratulations on that.

Local SEO is a funny little thing – it’s probably the youngest of all SEO brethren, and still the most powerful when it comes to immediate, tangible results that translate directly to cold, hard cash. That said, it is also a phenomenon that has bred countless myths and misconceptions.

I have been planning on creating a comprehensive, actionable local SEO guide for beginners for quite some time. With 2019 just a couple of weeks away, the time seems just right to finally get it out there.

What You’ll Find in This Local SEO Guide

  • A thorough understanding of what local search engine optimization is, how it’s going to evolve in 2019 and why you need to keep up.
  • Building blocks of local SEO.
  • How to get each local SEO building block in line with Google’s expectations.
  • Our ultimate local SEO checklist.

 

Alright. What Is Local SEO?!

Local SEO is an umbrella term that includes all the strategies and tactics that are used to improve organic rankings for local searches. Local SEO has one ultimate goal – let local searchers find you when they are very likely to do business with you.

2019 or 2050, one SEO fact will never change – we will never run out of SEO gurus who can’t see beyond keywords.

Despite operating in this industry for years now, this still amuses me every time I turn to Google. But I can see how it can be a frustrating experience for businesses who pay good money for such services. So, let’s get one thing straight – local SEO is nothing more or less than a localized cousin of general, global SEO. It still follows the fundamental tenets of SEO, it still holds good UX at its heart – just in its own local ways.

 

How Important Is Local SEO?

Most local strategies miss a simple point – understanding why it’s important to do local SEO right.

Don’t let anyone tell you that you can treat local SEO as an add-on or a frill to your other SEO efforts. I’ll let the numbers speak for me.

 

Local SEO Stats 2019 - Importance of Local SEO - HQ SEO

Sources: Hubspot, Brightlocal
 

So, it should now be beyond every doubt that local SEO is important. With that, let’s get started with what really brought us all here.

 

Short on Time?
4 Minutes – That’s all it takes to find out all about major local SEO problems on your website with our Mini Local SEO Audit (2019).

 

HQ SEO Local SEO Guide (2019) for Beginners – Getting Started

For easier navigation and understanding, we will divide local SEO into its basic elements – the building blocks.These are:

We will discuss each block at length and see how you can develop deep-focus local SEO strategies and tactics to bring everything in order.

Improving organic rankings, improving the local search visibility, skyrocketing click-through rates and in general driving favourable actions through the roof – it’s all a matter of experience and expertise. Do check out how we – at HQ SEO – develop our bespoke, fully customised and 360-degree local SEO campaigns. To get in touch with our local SEO team, drop us a line here.

 

A. On-Page Local SEO

If you are familiar with the basics of general SEO, you shouldn’t have too much trouble understanding this point. Even if you aren’t, do stick with me – this is the most interesting part of every local SEO project. On-page SEO has one job – grab a share of organic traffic for relevant, closely related search terms through various content assets.

So, what sort of content should a local business really have?

Here’s a quick, generalised content scheme that most local businesses use:

  • Home Page (the first-choice landing page): Works for businesses across the board.
  • Contact Page (the second-choice landing page): Works if you want to generate instant leads. For example, the website for a home improvement business can lead people directly to the ‘Contact Us’ page.
  • Service Pages (the third-choice landing pages): If you want to close pre-sold leads, this is the way to go. For example, a restaurant website can lead visitors to the ‘Today’s Menu’ page.
  • Offers, Promotions, Events (the fourth-choice landing pages): I wouldn’t recommend using these as landing pages in local SEO. Keep them handy for social media and other marketing efforts.
  • Content Marketing – Blog, News, Videos & Other Assets (the complementary landing pages): These will be ‘incidental’ landing pages. Much of the traffic that these generate will be organic – so you need to put in additional conversion machinery to make them count.

Regardless of whether your business is hyperlocal or national, most pages and posts on your website will fall under one of these heads. One quick point to avoid any confusion – we won’t be talking here about optimizing your lead magnets or improving the lead flow. Our aim here is to work towards winning more organic clicks by optimizing on-page local SEO ranking factors.

 

Optimize the Landing Page

In most cases, the home page is going to be the default landing page. What I mean by the landing page here is this:

 

GMB Landing Page Example - HQ SEO

 

 Don’t confuse this with any other landing pages in your marketing campaigns. Unless specified otherwise, a local SEO landing page is your Google My Business landing page.  

 

The Title

It’s not enough to just put the name of your business in the title of the landing page. You need to add more local context to it. As of today, a good way to structure the website title is as follows:

Ideal Title Tag Format For Local SEO

We’re trying to achieve two things here – contextual and locational relevance.

A service/product keyword in the title followed by some locational context sets your home page nicely. Don’t forget to wrap your titles in a correct title tag. Without this tag, Google can’t really understand what your page is all about.

Most Content Management Systems will do this automatically for you. If you’re outsourcing the design to an external developer, make sure they follow the best on-page SEO practices.

Here’s one question I get asked a lot:

I see people using the city/area name right in their business name. Isn’t that overoptimization?

Yes, it is. The difference is subtle here – you should use a locational modifier (city/area) in the title on YOUR website. When you actually add it as your ‘Business Name’ in the GMB listing, it just looks crass, spammy and weird – unless of course that’s your actual business name. Here’s an example:

 

The Content

There are quite a few factors that go into the making of good content. The fundamentals of good content are the same for local business websites. As far as the landing page is concerned, you need to be extra careful in establishing:

 

Relevancy

Very, very important. The content on your landing page must be relevant to your business, to your location, to your GMB listing and in general to what wins you most clicks. Any disconnect will make people bounce, telling Google your website isn’t really relevant to those keywords. Going a step further, make sure that every piece of content across your website follows this.

 

Volume

This is a delicate matter. The quality of the content is rarely dependent upon its length – but that doesn’t mean you can get away with a landing page that has a couple of sentences here and there. Aim to develop your landing page in a natural fashion and worry about the word count only when it’s too low (less than 300, for example) or astonishingly high (anything above 5,000).

When it comes to blog posts and other content marketing assets, you don’t really need to worry about the upper limit. For reference, a well-performing blog post takes about 7-10 minutes to read (1,500 to 2,500 words).

 

Tags

This is quite basic but still needs to be reiterated. All your content must follow the general SEO best practices. This means:

 

The NAP Details (A Local SEO Must-Have)

The NAP details – name, address and phone number – are non-negotiables for every local business SEO effort.

 

NAP Details Local SEO Example - HQ SEO

Courtesy: Ten Fifty BBQ 
 

Here’s the best way to go about this:

 

The Business Name

As I pointed out earlier, the business name should always be the name that’s on your business cards. If I were to run a ‘Tom’s BBQ’ in London, ‘Tom’s BBQ’ will do just fine – no need to overoptimize and go for ‘Tom’s BBQ in London’.

 

Important
 You can be a little adventurous with your titles and URLs – but not with NAP. This is because Google will pick up NAP details when you use structured data markups. In this case, the title of my website can well be – Tom’s BBQ – 24×7 BBQ Restaurant in London. But the schema-fied business name MUST be Tom’s BBQ.

 

The Address

The address should be precise, accurate and in the right local format.

 

The Phone Number

Click to Call GIF - HQ SEO

It’s quite likely that you have multiple phone numbers that people use to get in touch with you. While I understand the need for this, stick to using just one number that is present all over the internet – on your website, citations and the GMB listing.

This will avoid any potential conflict that can lower your localized search rankings. Moreover, having multiple entries will only confuse your potential customers. If you must, create a separate contact page to list other phone numbers.

 3 out 4 local searches result in phone calls. If you aren’t doing this right, you’re literally making money for your competitors. We don’t want to do that – so, be sure to employ the simple ‘Click to Call’ code on your landing page. It’s a simple markup – all you have to do is wrap your phone numbers with the universal telephone schema tel:.
Read more about this here.

 

The Location

To go with the address, consider embedding a visual map location on your landing page. This quickly tells the visitor where you exactly are. Again, it’s not overly difficult and can give your UX and engagement a great edge. For seamless integration with your GMB listing and better local search SEO results, stick to Google Maps. Here’s how you can get the embed code. Here’s what our HQ SEO office address looks like:

 

 

In the same way, you can use Apple Maps Connect to put your business on Apple Maps and get an embed code for the same.

 

The NAP Schema

While we usually reserve schema for technical SEO, it makes a lot of sense to include it right here. The beauty of local SEO is that you don’t always need to get people to actually visit your website. As long as Google shows the important details (read: the NAP details) directly in SERPs, you are all set. To feature these details as rich snippets, you need to adopt the best schema practices (the ‘Click to Call’ is one). Wrap all the important details in a way that’s prescribed here, and Google will extract and display these directly in SERPs.

To future-proof your website, employ proper structured data markup across your website.

 

How to Validate Your NAP Schema?
Once you have implemented on-page NAP schema, it’s important to validate it to remove any inadvertent coding issues. You can use Google’s structured data testing tool for this purpose.

 

The Footer and the Contact Page

If your ‘Contact Us’ page isn’t the landing page, be sure to include the NAP details here all over again, in the same way. If you can’t embed the map link on to your landing page, the contact page is the best candidate for it. Here’s how we add our NAP details to the footer of our website:

 

NAP Example for Local SEO | HQ SEO

The NAP details should also be present in the footer of your website so that people can quickly get in touch with you regardless of the page they are on.

 

The Keywords

Ah, the keywords.

We keep talking about keywords quite frequently on our blog. As far local SEO tactics go, you need to be on your toes all the time – because the competition is real and fierce. No better place to find this out the hard way than the keyword research.

Here’s what you need to keep in mind while carrying out the keyword research to boost your local SEO efforts:

 

  • Focus on local search modifiers – ‘near me’, ‘nearby’, ‘in city_name’, ‘around area_name’ – for example.
  • The landing page should be optimized for business + local keywords.
  • Reverse engineering keywords from successful local competitors can yield fast results.
  • Start from micro-niche keywords and build towards major, high-volume, high competition keywords.
  • Exploit keyword gaps, use long tail keywords and terms wisely, maintain the natural flow of language.

 

It’s impossible to discuss all the nuances of keyword research here. Just keep this in mind – creative, result-driven keyword research is never going to lose you money. If this interests you, here’s a glimpse into our advanced keyword research strategy. You can also drop us a line here to speak to our dedicated local keyword research team.

 

Local Content Marketing and Digital PR

Content marketing is in. There’s only reasons for this – the value it adds to your website.

Then again, do it without a strategy and all your marketing budget goes for a toss. Content marketing, when done right, really has no upper limit to the ROIs it provides – especially for local businesses. Most local SEO guides seem to ignore this point – and I can see why. It’s a time-consuming process. That, however, is no reason to chuck a potential windfall out of the window!

From the local SEO point of view, here’s what your content marketing efforts should do:

  • Build topical, relevant and interesting content assets,
  • Promote on-page engagement and sharing,
  • Provide consistent value to the visitor,
  • Generate leads (your landing page will generate intent-driven, hot leads, while your content assets will usually generate warm leads that you can convert with a little bit of nudging),
  • Ultimately, boost conversions.

 

Local SEO Content Marketing - Local Content Assets - HQ SEO

The question here is – what sort of content works best for local SEO?

A great local content piece will have these three qualities – it has incredibly high locational relevance; it is unique, original and shareable; as a standalone piece, it’s linkable.

Any local content asset you create that ticks all these boxes will ultimately boost your local SEO on a consistent basis. Here’s how:

Let’s say you run a local dog care and grooming business in Boston. You want to create a content piece for the target audience ‘dog owners in Boston’. What ideas come to your mind?

 

‘Here’s how our latest dog grooming service helps your dog’.

Nope. Doesn’t click with ‘Boston’. Sounds like an ad, too.

 

‘10 benefits of grooming for your Chihuahua’s health’.

Good, will work with ‘dog owners’, but lacks the ‘Boston’ angle (Put it in the pipeline, anyway).

 

‘It’s the coldest December in Boston since 1964. 10 grooming tips to keep your dog warm, happy & cuddly!’

Sign me up! If I am a dog owner in Boston, I’d not only click on it, I’d send it to people I know will be interested in reading, and probably share it on my Facebook, too. If the content itself is top-notch, it will be worth linking back to for other websites, as well. So, we’ll hope that local blogs, dailies and magazines pick it up. If not, you can always proactively reach out to them (digital PR).

Creating diverse, unique, original and absolutely kick-ass content will never ever hurt your business – it will only provide great returns on every marketing dollar. Consistency, relevancy and discipline are the keys to success, as we have discussed in our SEO content strategy guide.

 

B. Off-Page Local SEO – Why Local Link Building Matters

Off-page SEO has many facets, but the most important is building links that matter.

Link building – unlike most other SEO tactics – is an art. Here’s a quick exercise – just Google something like ‘SEO link building’ or ‘building backlinks’. You’ll be amazed at how many conflicting advice, suggestions and tips spring up. Needless to say – most of these don’t work. Worse yet, a bad day at link building hurts your website and domain at a fundamental level. Getting Google mad at you sucks!

Let’s take ourselves back to this handy stat-studded study Moz published for 2018 (I don’t expect any sweeping changes for 2019). The two main takeaways in regard with backlinks are:

  1. The link profile is the most powerful localized organic ranking factor.
  2. It is also the second most powerful ranking factor for Google’s Local 3-Packs and expanded results (aka Local Finder).

 

Query-based, intent-driven traffic is the bread and butter for local SEO. Ideally, if you run a Chinese takeaway in Manchester, you want to show up in the 3-pack every single time a hungry person in Manchester turns to Google for some Kung Pao. Moreover, showing up at the top in SERPs makes sure that whoever didn’t care about the 3-pack will anyway find you. Forget domain rating/authority and referral traffic for a minute – if you need your local SEO strategy to really pack a punch, these two reasons are what make local link building an absolute must-have for your website!

 

There are dozens of link analysis tools out there that let you analyse your link profile in qualitative and quantitative ways. Start with something that’s reliable and preferably free – like Moz Link Explorer. If you want more insights, move up to something more premium, like Ahrefs, a tool that I have relied on for many years. For a more local touch, you can try out dedicated local SEO tools like BrightLocal (I don’t see the upside to these if you already have Ahrefs).

Local link building is, in a nutshell, the traditional link building with a local flavour. So, the preferred referring domains here will be those that cater to your location and are at least loosely related to what your business does.  There are multiple ways you can build a healthy local link profile for your business. Again, we can’t discuss all of these in details here you can instead head over to our link building process page to learn more. If you want to know how an end-to-end, fully optimized local link building campaign can help you find and close dozens – if not hundreds – of new customers every day, write to us here.

 

Inbound Link Building for Local SEO:

 

  • Local Directories, Resource Pages and Citations: Most of these will be nofollow links – but they are not totally worthless. In fact, these are essentially free links that you can claim and move on to other tactics. Start with the usual suspects – Yelp, BBB, Foursquare, Trustpilot, Glassdoor and then progress towards industry-specific directories. The last but not the least – find and get featured in as many local directories as you can.
  • Google Links: Same as above. Get links from as many Google assets as you can. This won’t really have a massive impact on local SEO – it’s just a basic procedure that you need to get out of your way.
  • Scholarships: A powerful way to build links from high-authority university, college and school websites. Not to mention, it’s a great way of giving back to your local society.
  • Charities: Donate to local charities to feature on their websites. Again, you’ll be giving back to the local community in a meaningful way.
  • Sponsorships: Find local teams – football, rugby, lacrosse, baseball, cricket or whatever your local thing is – and strike sponsorship deals with them. Start smaller (school/junior levels) and build on to it as your budget allows. You can also sponsor/co-sponsor events (think marathons, book launches, keynotes), stadiums and even tournaments – if your budget allows for it. Remember – as the spending goes up, you will need to consider other marketing angles (brand awareness, chiefly) along with link building.
  • Local Blogs: Important! Find local blogs that are related to your business and negotiate guest posting deals with them.
  • Local Influencers: You don’t really need to restrict your efforts to local influencers, but it helps if they have a local audience.
  • Digital PR: Online press releases, sponsored articles, news and much more. It’s much, much easier to feature on a local daily’s website than – say – the Washington Post. So, make the most of this.
  • Local Events: Awards, seminars, workshops, competitions, conclaves, gatherings, roundtables – attend them all and hopefully end up on relevant websites. This approach won’t really be optimizable, but it’s incredibly effective.
  • Reverse Engineering: If you can actually reverse engineer link targets and leverage your competitors’ investments for your own gains, there’s nothing like it. It’s a rather complicated process that is best trusted with experienced, proven link building agencies.
  • Unlinked Mentions: This isn’t a typical link building strategy – it takes a bit of creativity, and you need to be a link building ninja who knows their way around multiple SEO tools. HQ SEO is one of the handful of SEO experts out there who have developed a result-centric link building process around this that guarantees some of the best ROIs and fastest results. To read more about this, head over to this presentation.

 

Link building – local or global – is a delicate affair. Despite all the technicalities, it’s eventually all about being creative  – as I have discussed at length in this post dedicated to creative local link building strategies.

 

Internal Linking for Local SEO

Internal linking is a criminally underrated tactic – especially when it comes to local search engine optimization. These links aren’t just meh, because they eventually contribute to the UX – the master that all-SEO-ever has aimed to serve.

In fact, I will go so far as to say that no local SEO guide (or any SEO guide, for that matter!) is complete without a quick word about internal linking – something that boasts of massive benefits for little effort. Here’s why:

 

  • Ease of navigation – It’s 2019, and maze websites are dead for real. UX shouldn’t ever be an afterthought.
  • On-Page Signals: Internals links are an important on-page SEO factor.
  • Helping Google: When you create an elaborate internal link profile, you help the Googlebot decide with more precision which page is about what. It also helps put all your link juice in a funnel that will help you rank important pages for profitable keywords.

You will always have the 100% control over your internal links. So, if you haven’t been doing this for your website, take a day off other things and start linking.

 

C. Local SEO and Google (Google My Business, Maps, Search & More)

As a local business trying to acquire new customers, you will always be at Google’s mercy.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – Google is good at what it does, and it does – to some extent – try to maintain a level playing field. Understanding and optimizing your website’s relationship with Google is the most important aspect of local SEO – and one that sets it apart from general SEO. In fact, no local SEO guide can ever be complete without discussing this relationship at length. The starting point – as you can guess – is your Google My Business listing.

 

What is ‘Google My Business’?

Google My Business Listing - HQ SEO

GMB Listing for HQ SEO
 

For those who aren’t initiated in this cutthroat world of local SEO, a Google My Business listing is a sort of business directory. You submit your business information to Google, claim a pin on the map and let Google show your business details to local searchers.

There are two primary places that Google will display your listing on: Search and Maps.

 

Google Maps Stats - Local SEO - HQ SEO

Source: Hubspot
 

Sounds good? It is.

Straightforward? Yes – until it isn’t!

It’s incredibly easy to make errors while creating and optimizing these listings – and there will be no way for you to know about these before your business takes a hit. So, make sure you get this right. (If you need a quick overview of how to improve your GMB ranking, we have you covered here). 

 

Getting Started with Google My Business

Working with Google is usually a non-complicated process. You can skip to the next part if you already have an active GMB listing. If not, start here – open a new tab, visit Google Maps, and look your business up. If something shows up, it’s quite likely a user-contributed listing (or auto-fetched by Google from other online citations). Here’s an example (no wonder it looks like an abandoned business!):

 

Google My Business Listing Example - GMB - HQ SEO

 

As you can see, there’s absolutely no helpful information available here. If you haven’t bothered about GMB so far, it’s quite likely that yours looks similar – and you need work on it ASAP. Click the ‘Claim This Business’ button and follow the instructions that pop up. Google will then assign you as the rightful owner of the business after necessary verification.

If your business is altogether absent in Maps, you’ve got a clean slate to start with. Visit Google My Business onboarding page and follow the instructions. It’s a simple, intuitive process and shouldn’t take too long.

The devil, though, lies in the details.

 

The NAP Details on Your GMB Listing

Let me say this as clearly as I can – the NAP details on your GMB listing should be EXACTLY the same as those on your website. Any error will only confuse Google because it will have conflicting entries for the same fields – one crawled by the Googlebot and another created by you via GMB.

The name field – as I have already mentioned earlier – should be your business name – don’t be tempted to put keywords in here unless absolutely necessary. I’ve come across many local SEO guides preaching over-the-top optimization of the name field, but it’s really an overkill.

The address field should be detailed, accurate and easy to follow.

The phone number should be in the exact same format as on your website. Google will make this automatically clickable for you, so that’s one less thing to worry about.

 

Business Locations on Your GMB Listing

This is another vital step. Once you have entered your NAP details, Google will ask you to pinpoint your business location on the map. For best results, zoom in and put the pin exactly where the address is. Remember – if your customers visit your business, they will be using this location to find directions. Get this wrong and you have already started off on the wrong foot with a potential customer!

 

Business Category

The business category is a loose local SEO relevance factor. Be sure to assign your listing a category that closely matches your business. This is how Google wants it done. It can be edited later on – but it’s always advisable to get it right the first time around.

 

The Landing Page URL

Google lets you enter one URL that your customers can click on to visit your website. The home page is almost always the safest bet here – but don’t be too afraid to tinker around. We have already talked about this in the on-page local SEO section.

At this point, your GMB listing will be live. Before you can make any substantial changes to the listing, you will need to verify your listing – here’s how it’s done.

The GMB dashboard is self-explanatory. Be sure to explore each option and make sure you provide accurate information (business hours, attributes, amenities and so on).

 

On-Page Engagement for Your GMB Listing

You can’t just create a GMB listing and let if fly on its own. It’s your listing and you need to keep it alive by taking advantage of every engagement option Google provides. The local SEO bump you get from engagement is indirect, but it has a sort of compounding interest effect that gets stronger with time.

 

GMB On-Page Engagement - HQ SEO

 

Three factors to consider and stay on top of:

 

Reviews

Reviews are probably the most important factor that contributes to the click-through rate. I look something up, I see a 4.5 star rating from dozens of users, I click – simple as that. More importantly, the reviews are also the third most important ranking factor for Google’s local packs.

Of course, the reviews your business gets will always be a direct function of the quality you provide. Do good there, and hopefully the reviews will come rolling in. If not, you can always stay ahead of the curve and proactively seek reviews.

If you’ve been doing all the right things and you know the customers are happy, investing in reviews can have a lasting, positive impact on your business. As is the case with every business activity, it pays to be systematic about this. Here’s how we – at HQ SEO – help businesses like yours get those all important reviews through our fast, fully customised and trackable review generation process. You can also write to us directly here and we’ll have our team get in touch with you right away.

 

GMB Reviews - Engagement - Local SEO Guide - HQ SEO

 

Once the reviews start coming in, you will need to manage them on a regular basis (preferably daily, if not weekly). Someone writes a glowing review – you thank them (and they will definitely come back). Someone has a not-so-good experience, you apologise, ask them to let you know more about what went wrong and update the response when the issue is resolved. The point here is to add a human touch to what essentially is a boring, lifeless listing.

Check the screenshot above for a good example of how to respond to good reviews.

 

Photos

Add as many quality pictures of your business as you can. Run a restaurant? Close a customer with some enticing pictures of your recipes. Have a construction business? Upload some pictures of your team at work, awards you’ve won and projects you’ve completed.

 

GMB Pictures - GMB Photos - Local SEO - HQ SEO

 

If you can (it shouldn’t be too difficult), upload panoramic, 360-degree pictures of your place of business as ‘virtual tours’. Not many businesses do it – that’s your cue! I have noticed that Google lets you request free quotes for 360-degree virtual tour photography by sending your lead to trusted photographers in your area. There’s an option to get a free quote for this within your GMB dashboard. Here’s more about that.

From time to time, Googles prompts users to upload pictures of businesses they visit. If your listing gets user contributed pictures, it’s a great engagement signal.

 

Messaging

Google My Business Messaging - GMB Messaging - Local SEO Guide - HQ SEO

Alright, your competitors are probably not doing this, and it’s your chance to show your customers that you care. GMB allows you to communicate with your customers on a personal level. All the messages that are sent to you can be forwarded to your listed number via the Google Allo app or other similar text messengers.

 

Q&As

Lots of people ask questions on GMB pages. They want to know if you sell a particular brand of beer, they want to know if you attend emergency service calls, they want to know if you provide free quotes and they want to know if you accept cheques instead of cash.

Whenever a question pops up, you will get a notification in your email from Google. Try to answer the question as clearly as you can.

 

Here's a Cool Idea!
Request the person asking you the question to drop you a message via the GMB Messaging feature, and you’ve got a qualified lead without spending a dollar!

 

Posts

GMB Post - Target Google My Business Post - Local SEO Guide - HQ SEO

 

Google My Business lets you write posts (similar to what Google Plus did, years ago). Don’t go overboard and write lengthy articles – treat these like slightly fatter Tweets. Announcements, offers, deals, coupons, promotions, competitions, news, events – everything is fair game here. Don’t forget to use tracking links in posts to unlock some optimization possibilities.

 

I understand that this all may seem like a wild ride – especially if you aren’t familiar with how local SEO really works. Moreover, there are countless other aspects of local SEO that simply cannot be explained in a single post. As a response to this need, we – at HQ SEO – have developed result-driven, ROI-efficient local SEO services that help you rank higher for profitable search terms, improve click-through rates and get more business on a consistent basis. If you need to know more about how these services will be customised for your requirements, do feel free to get in touch with us here.

 

D. Business Citations

Remember the good-old local directories and yellow pages?

Online business citations are just like those – just a bit more organized, a touch less frustrating and a whole lot more accessible. Think Yelp, Foursquare and YellowPages.com, for example.

 

Yelp Citation Example - Local SEO - HQ SEO

A Sample Yelp Citation
 

These directories are also called local search engines by many, and thus business citations can be treated as not-so-prominent equivalents of your GMB listing.

Not a lot of your customers will visit these websites as the first step. A typical customer will turn to Google, find your business, see if it’s good for them based on reviews, pricing, distance, services, hours etc. and then, just to double check, turn to Yelp. So, for now, let’s assume that no customers will ever find your business via these citations.

Then why build them at all?

Here are two important reasons:

  1. You get backlinks from some high DA domains (as we discussed in the off-page local SEO section).
  2. Google crawls all these websites and receives data snippets – mostly about your NAP details and reviews.

If you want to get started with business citations, start with the biggest names first and move on to your local directories. Here’s a comprehensive list of the top 50 online business directories in the USA.

A typical citation flow will look like this: industry agnostic, global directories (Better Business Bureau, for example); industry specific global directories (TripAdvisor, for example); local directories; hyper local directories, unstructured citations. 

Since local relevancy is a huge point of concern for local SEO, it’s a good strategy to list your business in all local directories. Finding such directories and manage dozens – if not hundreds – of citations is a tough ask. At HQ SEO, we help you get around this problem with our original, fully managed citation creation services.

 

Citation Consistency

Moz Citation Checker Tool - Local SEO - HQ SEO

 

An important factor you can’t afford to miss while building citations is the consistency of NAP details. Every citation must provide the same name, address and phone number for your business – get this wrong and you’ll just end up confusing search engine crawlers. If you already have active citations all over the internet, Moz has built a ridiculously easy to use citation checker tool. Put it to good use – as shown above.

 

E. Technical Local SEO

Technical SEO has one job – to turn your website into a friendly playground for search engine crawlers, and not a hostile minefield. Since crawlers can’t tell a ‘local’ website from a non-local website, the general technical SEO ideas stay the same for local SEO. Doing technical SEO right has can have an enormous impact on your bottom line.

 

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Some of the most important technical SEO factors you need to look after are:

 

SSL

SSL is important for every business website. Getting it sorted ASAP (if you haven’t already) is a no brainer. Remember to employ proper redirects if you are adding a new SSL certificate onto a domain that already has a live website.

 

Site Speed

Google loves fast-loading sites with no bloatware, unnecessary scripts and unresponsive codes. Make sure you work with your dev team to improve the site speed across pages – especially your local landing page.

 

Mobile Friendliness

Once again, it’s a no brainer. Here’s why – every third mobile search has something to do with locations and local businesses. The Mobile First Indexing has gained a lot of momentum in 2018, and come 2019, mobile-hostile websites will struggle to maintain organic rankings. Consider implementing Accelerate Mobile Pages (AMP), if it doesn’t conflict with the UX.

 

Indexation and Crawlability

We can’t really get into the technicalities here, but here’s what you need to do in this regard:

 

  • Create and submit accurate sitemaps to Google via Search Console.
  • Block unwanted results from being indexed via the Robots.txt file.
  • Resolve crawl errors as indicated in your Search Console dashboard.

 

Duplicate Content and Canonicalisation

Hosting duplicate content on your website is a waste of resources and badly hurts the UX. For these reasons alone, you need to stay on top of these messy issues. But there’s another solid reason to do this – it wastes your crawl budget and in general, makes life difficult for crawlers.

You can use free/premium services like Copyscape to find pages that carry duplicate content. Depending on the nature of these pages, you can either use smart 301 redirects or repurpose the content to make sure that every URL on your website hosts nothing but original content. If you are syndicating content from other places, make sure you attribute proper credit to the creator with appropriate canonical attributes. If you are using your own content as guest posts on other websites, request them to do the same for you, so that Google knows you are the creator.

 

There are no easy turns when it comes to technical SEO. A full-scale technical audit is usually the best way of finding and resolving ALL technical SEO issues that keep your website from being indexed and crawled properly. To get you started, we have put together a handy technical SEO checklist – one that lets you audit your website for technical SEO errors in a matter of 4 minutes!

 

Google Assistant Local SEO - Local SEO Guide - HQ SEO

2018 was the coming of age year for voice search. With every major digital / electronics player – from Google to Apple and Microsoft to Amazon – making their digital assistants an integral part of most of their services, it’s time for local businesses to jump on board the voice search boat.

While discussing on-page local SEO, I said that structured data markups help voice searches. There’s only one reason for this – voice search pulls up information directly from various relevant schema attributes. The brand name, address, hours, prices, location on the map and even reviews – everything that can be schematized is fair game.

If you want to be more adventurous and futuristic, you can enable important bits of information on your website to be TTS friendly (text-to-speech) with the speakable: attribute. Google talks about this here.

Here’s a quick review of where the most popular voice assistants get their data from, and how they stack up against each other.

 

 GoogleAppleAmazonMicrosoft
Google AssistantSiriAlexaCortana
Search Engine UsedGoogleGoogleBingBing
Business Directory UsedGoogle My BusinessApple MapsYelpBing
Reviews Extracted FromGoogle My BusinessYelpYelpYelp
Create Your ListingHereHereHereHere
 

G. Social Signals and Local SEO

Social signals matter for all SEO, and local isn’t an exception. While it’s true that social signals carry the least weight among all local SEO ranking factors, there are many reasons for you to take these seriously.

We all know that social media engagement has a direct and indisputable impact on brand awareness – not to mention the high-relevancy social traffic your landing pages enjoy from this. This is especially true for local SEO. A global brand like Nike or Starbucks getting yet another Facebook Page Like isn’t a big deal. For a small, local business, however, this means a world of possibilities.

For example, having a local business Facebook page help you reach customers who use (intentionally/accidentally) Facebook Search for their everyday local queries:

 

Facebook Local SEO - Local SEO Guide - HQ SEO

 

You not only build a loyal customer base over time, you create an impressive brand image and wide-spread social proof – things that matter to local SEO in direct and indirect ways.

Here are some local SEO tactics for social media:

 

  1. Create a social presence on all top platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest to begin with. If you have a lot of video content assets, create a YouTube channel and employ YouTube SEO. Hosting videos on your servers is counter-productive – it wastes a lot of server space and gives you no extra traffic, engagement or presence.
  2. Facebook Local SEO may well be the most important part of your social media SEO efforts in 2019 – mainly because Facebook has reportedly been planning on building their own local business directory. This is supposed to work just like the Facebook Search that we are all used to – except it will curate business details (hours, prices, directions, reviews and more) based on verified/claimed Facebook business pages and listings. If you already have a Facebook page, it will double up as a local business listing – as long as you have classified your page as a local business.
  3. Be active on social media. Don’t just create accounts and leave them for dead. If a potential customer stumbles upon your page and sees nothing’s happening, would you blame them for thinking you are no longer in business? An inactive or sporadically active page can never promote engagement.
  4. Combine your social media marketing efforts towards local SEO. This is a rather complicated step – but it’s worth every bit of effort. It’s all about directing social media marketing towards achieving important local SEO targets. You can market new offers to drive up those all-important Google reviews, you can market your content to find new link building opportunities and you can run PPC ads to improve behavioural local SEO signals like bounce rates and on-page times.
  5. Save time with social media suites. This is a little off topic, but it saves you time – time you can dedicate towards other local SEO strategies. Use tools like Hootsuite and Buffer to manage all your social media assets in a convenient, statistically insightful way.

 

HQ SEO Local SEO Checklist

It should be clear by now that bringing your local SEO up to the ‘code’ is a mix of sweeping changes and delicate tweaks. I understand that doing this on your own can be challenging – especially if your website is riddled with problems that go all the way down to your servers. HQ SEO’s local SEO services are geared exactly to tack such deep-rooted issues.

Coupled with a comprehensive local SEO audit, we make sure that at the end of the campaign, your website is optimized in every way to rank higher for profitable, high competition keywords on a local level. To request a proposal, scroll down to the bottom of this page, or get in touch with us.

We have boiled down every important local SEO check discussed in this post into a handy, concise local SEO checklist that you can refer to when you sit down to assess your website. If you are a marketer, you can use it as a comprehensive guide to assess client queries, chalking up quick plans of action and following them through to track and optimize the results.

 

Local SEO in 2019: A Mixed Bag of Excitement and Caution

As far as local SEO is concerned, 2019 has two things in store for us – interactive search channels (voice/visual) and enhanced local relevance for every search. You can cover your local business website for both of these with the detailed, actionable local SEO strategies I have discussed throughout this post.

 

In serving your business and search engines, SEO keeps moving closer and closer to serving the end customer. Ignore this simple string of logic and you ignore what matters – the focus on the bottom line. If you run a local business, you’ve got to follow the best SEO practices, or be prepared to concede the all important organic real estate to your competitors.

 

At HQ SEO, we have helped numerous businesses leverage the potential that comes with organic rankings and visibility. Visit our case studies page to get more insights into how our services can help you grow your business. To get in touch with our local SEO team or to know more about any other service, do feel free to write to us, or request a free proposal by filling in the form below!

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About Tom

Hi, I'm Tom, Founder & Director of HQ SEO. I live and breathe SEO. I hope you enjoy my findings. Interested in SEO?
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