Unlock Success with Our Local SEO Checklist – 20 Steps for Maximum Impact to Supercharge Your Results and Dominate Online!
Local SEO pertains to the practice of optimizing a website and Google Business Profile to rank in local search results. This strategy can have a significant impact on businesses that rely on local customers, as it enables them to reach potential customers who are searching for products or services in their area. To achieve this, an SEO campaign must focus on content surrounding localized keywords, generating local backlinks, and other local ranking factors.
1. Establishing Effective Tracking
It is crucial to set up tracking early on in the Local SEO campaign to establish a baseline and better understand how optimizations are performing. The following tracking should be set up:
⦿ Keyword/rank tracking: This helps gauge the impact of the campaign by understanding how the business ranks for search terms in target localities. BrightLocal is an excellent option as it offers several options, including geo grid reports.
⦿ Google Search Console (GSC): This free tool from Google provides detailed reporting and data to better understand website performance, fix issues, and request indexation for new pages.
⦿ Google Analytics (GA): Another free tool that allows for a better understanding of how users engage with the site. Conversion tracking for valuable actions like calls and form fills can also be set up.
⦿ Call tracking (optional): Call tracking software like Call Tracking Metrics (CTM) or Call Rail can be helpful for attributing calls to specific marketing channels and sources and determining call quality.
⦿ Facebook Pixel (optional): Facebook Pixel can be installed on the website to track and target users, reach new users, retarget website visitors, and create other helpful campaigns to support digital marketing efforts.
2. Laying the Groundwork for Technical SEO
Prior to embarking on an SEO campaign, it is highly recommended to conduct a thorough examination of your website’s technical foundation. This early assessment will ensure that your campaign is set up for success and enable you to identify any technical issues before they escalate into significant problems.
The following are some critical technical SEO components that require consideration:
🔎SSL Certification: Your website must serve pages over the https protocol to minimize risk and ensure safety. Depending on your hosting provider, this may be a free or paid service, but it is essential as it is a crucial ranking factor.
🔎 XML Sitemap: Your website’s sitemap.xml should be appropriately configured at the outset as it provides vital information about your site’s pages, videos, and other files, as well as the relationships between them. Typically, this entails configuring indexation settings for your website’s post types. If you are using WordPress (which is recommended), this is usually done with the Yoast or RankMath plug-ins.
🔎 Google Search Console Indexation: Once your sitemap and robots.txt file have been correctly configured, you should submit your website’s sitemap to Google Search Console. Upon submission, Google will provide a success message (validating that it can crawl it), offer insights about discovered pages, and regularly crawl it to discover new pages on your website.
🔎 Mobile-Friendly Test: As a local business, a significant portion of your website traffic is likely to come from mobile devices. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that your website is mobile-friendly using Google’s testing tool. It is also important to conduct a manual review to ensure that all of your page’s elements display as expected.
🔎 WordPress Settings: I have observed numerous sites being launched with the “✅ Discourage search engines from indexing this site” box checked, which signals to Google (and other search engines) that your site should not be indexed in search results. Ensure that this box is unchecked! You can find it in the WordPress navigation by logging in and going to Settings → Reading → Search engine visibility.
3. Establishing Local Business Listings
It is recommended that the creation of local listings be manually set up to avoid errors, duplicates, or other common mistakes during the process, although tools such as BrightLocal, Yext, or SEMrush can automate most, if not all, of the listings. Before creating any new listings, it is important to search for the business to ensure that no duplicate listings are created. The following profiles are the most important in a Local SEO campaign.
The first profile to create and set up is the Google Business Profile, as it generates the most results in terms of SEO for local businesses. Google My Business is a free tool that allows businesses to manage how they appear on Google Search & Maps. By verifying the business profile, important information such as the address, phone number, hours, and products/services can be provided to customers and search engines.
Once the Google Business Profile has been created and optimized, the information can be imported to Bing Places. Adding the business to Apple Maps increases the likelihood of someone finding it when searching for local products or services on their mobile device. To create and optimize the business for free on Apple Maps, the optimized business information from the Google Business Profile can be copied to the Apple Maps listing via Apple Business Connect.
Yelp often ranks highly on the search engine results page (SERP) for local searches and functions as a search engine for users who want to find local products, services, and places of interest. It is a good opportunity to capture demand and is also free. To claim and optimize the Yelp business listing, the optimized information from the Google Business Profile can be copied over from Yelp for Business.
Finally, it is important to claim and optimize the business listing on Yahoo. If the listing already exists, it can be claimed via Yext. If not, it can be added directly using the link to Yext.
4. Enhancing Local Listings for Better Performance
In order to enhance Local SEO, it is imperative to optimize local listings by ensuring that all relevant business information is included. This information often coincides with Google’s local ranking factors. Optimization of the profile is achieved by incorporating all pertinent business information. It is important to note that this information should be regularly updated and maintained for accuracy, for both users and search engines.
To ensure that local profiles such as Google Business, Bing, and Yelp are fully optimized, the following steps should be taken:
– Claim and verify the profile
– Include business name, address, and phone number (NAP info)
– Specify primary and additional business categories
– Provide business hours
– Include a business description
– Upload videos and photos, including logo and cover photo
– Include the website URL
In essence, it is crucial to ensure that local listings on platforms such as Google, Bing, and Yelp are complete and contain relevant information pertaining to the business’s products and services.
5. Crafting and Enhancing Social Media Profiles
Once again, we turn our attention to the creation and optimization of social profiles.
Given that social profiles serve as significant trust signals to both search engines and users, it is imperative that they are crafted with care. This entails the inclusion of high-quality photos, posts, accurate NAP information, business categories, page descriptions, and other relevant details.
It is important to note that personal biases towards certain platforms should not influence decisions regarding social media presence. In fact, it is highly likely that customers and potential customers are active on social media, regardless of personal opinions.
While it may not be necessary for local businesses to maintain a presence on every social platform, the following should be considered:
Facebook – This platform is relevant for all local businesses, as it is where customers are most likely to be found.
Instagram – While not ideal for certain businesses, such as plumbers, it is an excellent platform for restaurants.
Twitter/X – This platform may be the least applicable, as building a following can be challenging.
LinkedIn – This platform is beneficial for all businesses, and can also be useful for internal efforts such as recruiting.
YouTube – Creating helpful how-to content on this platform can be advantageous for most businesses.
Pinterest – This platform is particularly useful for restaurants, clothing stores, and other businesses with visually appealing products.
TikTok – Given the short attention span of users on this platform, it is crucial to capture their attention within the first two seconds.
Conducting an audit of competitor profiles and their user engagement can provide valuable insights into which social channels may be a good fit for your business.
6. Cultivating Regular Monthly Reviews
It is recommended that monthly reviews be generated to establish your business as a credible source for a product or service. This can be achieved by obtaining ongoing reviews, which serve as social proofing. To generate more reviews, it is suggested that you use a guide to generate more Google reviews and apply it to other platforms such as Facebook and Yelp.
It is important to regularly generate reviews across multiple profiles, including Google, Facebook, and Yelp. Generating reviews for your Google Business Profile can significantly impact your local search ranking, as Google reviews are a ranking factor for Local SEO. To determine the number of reviews needed, you can use the GMB audit template and compare it with the number of reviews top competitors have.
Facebook is a valuable social channel for building and engaging with your local community. Obtaining reviews for your Facebook page serves as social proof for your local business and encourages customers to take valuable actions. Facebook reviews are also sourced to Bing, so maintaining a good star rating is crucial. Yelp can also add an extra layer of social proofing and encourage potential customers to take action when searching for local products or services offered by your business. Yelp reviews are sourced to Apple Maps, so maintaining a high star rating is also important.
In conclusion, generating reviews is essential for establishing your business as a credible source for a product or service. While the aforementioned profiles are the basics, other profiles may also benefit from receiving regular reviews depending on the industry.
7. Expanding NAP Citations for Consistency
Local citations, also known as NAP citations, constitute a significant portion of local ranking factors, accounting for nearly 10%. These citations encompass location data, NAP consistency, and citation volume.
In essence, citations refer to any online mention of your business that includes your business name, address, and phone number, ideally with a backlink to your website. Common local citations include bbb.org, foursquare.com, yellowpages.com, and chamberofcommerce.com.
Syndicating NAP information across these sites enhances accessibility, ensuring that your business is easily discoverable regardless of where potential customers are searching.
Pro Tip: While local directories are a simple yet effective strategy for Local SEO, most businesses fail to execute it correctly. You can refer to the Local Citation SEO Guide to establish directories in the right manner.
Moreover, software such as BrightLocal automates the citation-building process, making it effortless.
8. Crafting Niche Citations and Specialized Profiles
One effective strategy to enhance the online presence of your business is to create niche citations and profiles. Apart from the commonly known citations such as BBB or YP, there are industry-specific websites where you can list your business. These websites often rank high in local search results, providing greater visibility to your business. For instance, in the legal niche, there are several local profiles such as Super Lawyers that can be created for the law firm or attorneys.
To locate such niche websites, you can search for your keyword along with the city name. In most cases, you can add your business or a team member to these websites for free. This approach can be leveraged for any local business, making it an effective way to utilize parasite SEO.
9. Crafting an Irresistible Offer
At this stage of the checklist, it is assumed that a strong SEO foundation has been established, making it easier for potential clients to locate your business. However, it is equally important to provide them with a compelling reason to contact you. To achieve this, it is recommended that you create an attractive offer.
An example of an offer that meets at least 2/3 of the following criteria:
✔️ Unique: To stand out in your market, it is advisable to have a unique offer that sets you apart from your competitors. This can help build your brand and differentiate your business. However, in some industries, such as personal injury, it may be challenging to deviate from industry-standard offers like “free case evaluation.”
✔️ Prominent / accessible: Ensure that your offer is easily accessible on your website and mentioned on your profiles, such as Google My Business. To make your offer more visible and accessible on your website, consider including it in the viewport across all devices.
✔️ Low risk & guarantee: Your offer should be low risk and generally free. For instance, a personal injury lawyer may offer a free case evaluation, while a plumber may provide a free estimate. It is also essential to guarantee something, such as a set time frame.
Create a unique landing page and form for your offer. This will enable you to provide more details about the offer and facilitate easy tracking setup.
It is worth noting that some offers may not work, and that is perfectly acceptable. You can experiment with new offers and learn what works best for your business. For many businesses, a single static offer may not suffice. Some businesses may benefit from seasonal offers, while others may benefit from a mix of offers.
10. Ensuring Website Accuracy in Representing Products/Services
It is imperative that your business’s website accurately represents all of its products and/or services. To achieve this, it is recommended to create a prioritized list, either by yourself or with the assistance of your client. This list can then be used to compare with competing websites, determine a suitable site structure, and develop your site’s navigation around your core product or service offerings.
In order to ensure that each page meets the necessary criteria, it is important to incorporate personalization by including key team members, as people tend to buy from people, especially when it comes to local businesses. Additionally, a call-to-action (CTA) should be included in the viewport to inform customers of the desired action, whether it be calling, filling out a form, or purchasing a product.
To further build trust with prospective customers, relevant product or service reviews should be showcased on your pages. Utilizing this local landing page formula can consistently create high-performing pages for your business’s products or services.
11. Adding and Update Brand Pages
A business’s brand is a crucial element in terms of ranking, generating traffic, and establishing trust. To this end, it is imperative to create and refine the following pages for your website:
About Page: Your website should feature a comprehensive “About” page that provides detailed information about your business, including its history, mission/vision, founding date, key founders, and other relevant details. This not only helps to establish social proofing, particularly for established businesses, but also contributes to building your company’s Knowledge Graph.
Team Page(s): Local business sites should have at least one team page that showcases relevant team members and their awards and accolades. This not only helps to establish trust but also adds a level of personalization and uniqueness.
Offer/Lead Magnet: As discussed in a previous section, your website should feature an attractive offer and a dedicated page providing information about it.
Contact Page: A general contact page can help segment tracking and provide an alternative contact option for individuals with questions who may not necessarily be looking to make a purchase.
FAQ Page(s): A frequently asked questions (FAQ) page can help to create more informed prospective customers and reduce the time spent answering basic questions during calls or meetings with prospects.
Testimonials/Reviews/Case Studies: Depending on your business, you may want a simple testimonials page or a more complex case study directive on your website. This further adds to social proofing and builds trust with your website visitors by showcasing success stories.
12. Building Credibility on Your Website
The importance of fostering trust on your website cannot be overstated. While I have previously mentioned the significance of obtaining reviews and displaying them, it is worth reiterating and providing further elaboration.
For Local SEO, it is crucial to incorporate the following elements on your website to promote trust:
– Relevant reviews should be prominently displayed on product or service pages.
– Product or service pages must contain accurate and comprehensive descriptions.
– Social proofing should be prominently featured on high-value pages.
– Team member pages should include credible biographies.
– Trust badges and awards should be prominently displayed.
A helpful tip is to utilize the E-E-A-T guide to ensure that each page on your website incorporates experience, expertise, authority, and trust. These factors are all evaluated by Google when ranking pages.
13. Optimizing Web Pages for Improved Performance
This can be achieved through keyword mapping, where each page should have a target keyword or group of keywords for which it is intended to rank. For instance, a personal injury law firm may have a car accident lawyer who specializes in the specific practice area of auto accidents. Similarly, a plumbing company may have a drain cleaning service page that outlines their service, its costs, and briefly answers relevant questions.
To map keywords to a target page, it is recommended to use the SEMrush keyword research template. On-page SEO is also crucial, and each page should have an optimized title tag, headings, and images. Tools such as Surfer SEO can be used to obtain a loose score for optimization. While it is important to include keywords, it is equally important to ensure that the page provides value and reads well. High-value pages such as products or services should also be included in the website’s navigation.
Content uniqueness is another important factor to consider. Each page should be unique, meaning that there should not be a large percentage of content that is identical or very similar to other internal pages or competing websites. This can be achieved by using tools such as Siteliner to check for duplicate content.
URL structure is also crucial, and the website should follow a logical URL structuring to help users and search engines easily understand it. This can also help keep things organized on the back end. For example, a personal injury law firm may have the following URLs for their auto accident practice area pages: /auto-accidents/, /auto-accidents/truck-accidents/, /auto-accidents/motorcycle-accidents/, /auto-accidents/bus-accidents/, and so on. Tools such as Screaming Frog can be used to better understand the website’s structure with a visual representation.
Internal linking is another important aspect of optimization. Pages that are topically related to each other should all internally link to each other. For example, the /auto-accidents/ page would link to all other child pages (e.g. /auto-accidents/motorcycle-accidents/). Additionally, it might also link to FAQ-related pages such as /phoenix-car-accident-statute-of-limitations/ and /how-much-is-my-car-accident-case-worth/. Tools such as Ahrefs or Screaming Frog can be used to understand how many internal links a page has and compare it to the competition.
Finally, image optimization is also crucial. Each page should have unique images (not stock photos) with a relevant file name, alt text, formatted for the web (such as WEBP), and compressed using a tool like Optimizilla. For example, the /auto-accidents/ page might feature an image of an auto accident or an auto accident attorney from the firm.
14. Implementing Schema Markup for Enhanced Visibility
The addition of Schema Markup to specific webpages can significantly enhance search engine comprehension of the webpage. For local businesses, there are several types of Schema Markup that are applicable.
The LocalBusiness Schema Markup type can be utilized to provide Google with a better understanding of information pertaining to the business, including location, services, additional web properties such as social profiles, and other relevant details.
To potentially increase rankings, the LocalBusiness Schema Markup can be added to the business’s homepage or local landing page by following the local business schema guide and templates.
The WebPage and Article Schema Markup types can also improve visibility, and if using WordPress, the desired markup can be specified, with Yoast or RankMath automatically adding the markup.
For service pages, the Service Schema Markup type can be used to clearly define the service, including the name, description, URL, image, and other pertinent information such as the area served. This can greatly assist Google in comprehending the service offerings and customer service areas for service area businesses.
After implementation, it is important to test the Schema Markup to ensure that the code is valid by using the Schema Markup Validator. It is crucial that each element contained in the Schema Markup is represented in the page’s source code.
15. Harnessing the Power of Blog Content
To enhance the quality of your website, it is recommended to include informative pages that are relevant to your services and brand. Topical relevance is a key factor in improving your website’s ranking. The more quality content your website has for a given topic, the better the ranking of those pages. One effective way to generate ideas for blog-related content is to start with questions related to your products or services. SEMrush offers a 7-day free trial to easily find keywords.
By applying filters to include questions that people are asking around the topic, you can select keywords to build a list of relevant blog content ideas. It is also important to consider the “KD” metric, which estimates the ease of ranking for the keyword. Additionally, “How-to / DIY guides” and “FAQs” are common content types that can provide helpful ideas. By typing your target keyword in and examining Google’s People Also Ask Feature, you can obtain a plethora of useful ideas.
16. Adapting Content for Video Format
Not all of your content will easily translate to a video, but some will. You can determine whether or not your content will make a good video with keyword research (and filtering by video SERP features), competitor research, or by using YouTube’s suggest feature.
17. Optimize Video Content
In order to maximize the potential of your videos, it is imperative to ensure that they are optimized. This entails incorporating the following elements:
– A captivating thumbnail
– A title, description, and hashtags that feature relevant keywords
– Links in the description to other pertinent content or videos
– Inclusion of the business name, address, and phone number information in the description
– Embedding of the videos on appropriate web pages
By implementing these optimization techniques, you can significantly increase engagement and viewership. An exemplar of a well-optimized YouTube video can serve as a useful guide in this regard.
18. Strategically Promoting Valuable Content
To enhance the visibility and engagement of content such as blog posts and videos, it is imperative to promote it across various channels. In order to achieve this, there are several options that must be taken into consideration.
One example of content promotion is on Facebook. This can be achieved through various means such as incorporating blog and video content into social media posts, joining relevant Facebook groups and sharing content with email contacts and newsletters. Additionally, team members can be encouraged to engage with the content by sharing it with them. It is also advisable to consider pitching the content to local news outlets and posting it on relevant online forums to increase visibility.
19. Acquiring High-Quality Backlinks
Irrespective of the industry, it is imperative to generate a steady stream of high-quality backlinks.
Backlink Profile for Local SEO
To achieve consistent growth over time, it is recommended to obtain links from the following sources:
-Industry-specific profiles and review sites
-Organize noteworthy events and promotions for local public relations
-Share your experience and expertise with local news outlets
-Identify competitor backlink gaps for additional ideas
For generating ideas for specific websites, the Ahrefs Link Intersect tool is highly recommended as it enables you to easily identify backlinks that your competitors possess but you do not.
20. Enhancing Website Performance and Speed
It is important to note that Core Web Vitals serve as a ranking factor, and therefore, it is crucial to consider the performance of each web page. To gain a better understanding of a specific page’s performance, Google’s PageSpeed Insights can be utilized.
It is important to keep in mind that the results obtained from Google’s PageSpeed Insights are specific to each page and cannot be generalized to the entire website. Therefore, conducting a homepage audit is not representative of the page speed for other pages on the site.
To optimize website performance, it is recommended to follow the Pareto Principle and focus on the items that are likely to have the biggest impact. In most cases, images are the primary culprit for slow website performance.
To address this issue, tools such as Smush and Imagify can be used to fix these issues at scale. However, it is important to note that this should only be done retroactively and not on a regular basis if images are optimized before creating a page or post (refer to the full image optimization guide).
It is advisable to aim for a load time of under 3 seconds or to exceed the load times of top-ranking competitors.