The world of local SEO may look tough to navigate at first. But in reality, it’s not a maze as much as it’s a marathon. Optimizing your website for local search and dominating the results page can take time, effort and patience. SEO is never a one-and-done part of your marketing strategy; it’s something that requires regular upkeep and maintenance.
To help you get started in this long-haul race, we’ve put together a local SEO checklist for your website and online presence. Happy optimizing!
1. Your Business Type(s)
The first thing to do for any local SEO listing is to make sure you have your business type correctly selected for Google. Do you have multiple business locations or just one? If you do have multiple locations, are you using location groups? Making sure your business is correctly represented online is the first step to making sure you’re optimizing for local SEO.
2. Google My Business Listing
Your Google My Business listing is one of the biggest factors for local SEO. If you don’t have one for your business, you should definitely set one up. People can’t find you without a Google My Business listing, so it’s worth your time to make sure your business has its location (or multiple locations, if applicable) accurately listed. Your Google My Business listing, along with your business’s name, address and phone number, are two huge components of any local SEO optimization strategy.
3. Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP)
Your business’s name, address and phone number are arguably the most important things to remember and optimize when you’re going after the top spot on Google’s local search results page. Your NAP is what tells people where you’re located and how to get in touch with you, as well as your operating hours and your website.
Your NAP needs to be 100% consistent all across the web, from Facebook to Google to Yelp. For example, if your business name is "Izzy's Ice Cream Company", you'll want to use that exact phrasing everywhere — not "Izzy's Ice Cream" or "Izzy's Ice Cream Co." Once you have that consistently posted, users will be able to easily find you.
Don’t forget: you can’t have SEO without your NAP!
4. Duplicate Listings
Once you have your Google My Business set up, your NAP ready and your social profiles active, you’ll also need to make sure you don’t have duplicate listings for your business. Having more than one Google My Business listing can be confusing for users, especially if the duplicate listing has incorrect information on it.
You can merge or remove duplicate listings through Google Maps or Google My Business. Removing these duplicates will provide both your customers and your users an accurate location, phone number and other relevant information as it pertains to your business.
5. Local Website Optimization
Your website can support your local SEO efforts, so optimizing it shouldn’t be overlooked while you take care of the other items on this checklist. You should have your NAP displayed on a contact page so people can easily find you. You can even make a phone number clickable on mobile devices with schema so users can directly call your business.
6. Thoughtful Keyword and Content Strategies
Content can help Google establish how authoritative or trustworthy your website is, which factors largely into your SEO rankings. Only writing one or two sentences per page isn’t going to get you very far for local SEO, and neither will copy/pasting the same content across your website.
When you write your content, you want it to be helpful, informative and aimed at the user. Don’t “stuff” a page full of keywords — that can actually earn you a penalty in SEO rankings. Instead, think carefully about what search terms you want your website to appear for on Google and craft content that helps your users. High-quality content might mention your services and location only a few times, but it will still be impactful if it helps users find what they’re looking for. Be intentional about your content and Google may reward you.
7. Schema Markups
Schema markups are another way to further optimize your website for local SEO. A schema markup is “microdata” you can add to your website so search engines can better read your site’s pages. Setting up schema markups on your website for your location is particularly important if you want to get to the top of Google’s search results. While it’s not guaranteed, if you follow Google’s guidelines and set up your schema markup in line with user intent, you’re better positioned to take a top position on local search results.
8. Customer Reviews
Customer reviews are one of the most important ways you can tell how your business is doing. Customer reviews are one of the most important ways to see how your business is doing and respond to your customers' feedback — whether it be positive or negative. It can also help your local SEO. When you really wow a customer, a five-star review on Google, Yelp or Facebook has high potential to convert a user into a customer. You can get creative about how you gather feedback or even offer small incentives for customers who post a review, like a discount on a future purchase.
If you haven’t already, set up a Yelp profile or a Facebook page for your business and encourage customers to leave reviews there or on Google. Respond to reviews promptly to show you really care about your customers’ experience. People will give up on a brand if they don’t think the company cares about them, so don’t shy away from answering reviews, answering questions or providing a way to resolve an issue they've experienced with your brand.
Once your NAP is standardized across the web, the next thing you can do to optimize your local SEO is gather local citations. A local citation is a reference to your business’s NAP. You want to focus on gathering local citations on both social media platforms and industry-specific platforms like professional association websites. Google My Business is also a platform you’ll want to focus on for local citations.
10. Social Media Profiles
Social media connects billions of people every day, and not representing your business on certain platforms can actually hurt you, even if you don’t think that’s where your customers are. You can gather local citations off of Facebook and happy customers can post reviews on your business’s page. Claiming a Facebook page for your business and posting on it can also help you connect with a broader audience and introduce people to your company who may not have known about it at all.
Disclaimer: Trying to represent your brand on all platforms is unrealistic and can come across as inauthentic if certain platforms aren't right for your brand. Utilize the ones that are appropriate for your business, industry and audience and make an effort to keep them fresh active.
And there you have it: our handcrafted local SEO checklist with the top 10 signals we believe are best to optimize for!
Bonus Tip: Beware the “Quick Fix” for Local SEO
Now that you know what you need to do to dominate local SEO, it’s important to remember what not to do as well. Quick fixes might seem like a good idea, but they could just be short-term gains with longer-term losses. It takes time and a commitment to achieve a top spot on local search listings.
When you start optimizing for local SEO, think about tactics that will help you long-term and avoid the "Band-Aid" shortcuts you think will get you to the top. Tactics like mass-collecting reviews might sound great at the time, but Google will be quick to remove any reviews that don’t look genuine. Taking content from another website can also result in stiff penalties for your online presence in Google’s search results, as will keyword stuffing with the hopes of quick optimization. As we said before, be intentional and Google may reward you!
Optimize Today So You Can Rank Tomorrow
Local SEO means playing the long game. You should be prepared to make adjustments as needed to keep your top spot after you’ve secured it on Google. One update from the search engine could completely change how it ranks websites. Be smart and intentional about how you optimize, and the results may surprise you!