With over 46% of all searches having local intent, any local business that wants to thrive in the coming years will need to keep a close eye on their local SEO traffic. That’s where local SEO comes in.
If you’re new to local SEO, you might be wondering where to start. This checklist will give you each and every step to follow, to find success in local search.
Understanding How Local SEO Works
Google has about 83% market share in the search market. If you’re running a local SEO campaign for a client, it makes sense to focus primarily on Google Search. Google’s Local Search algorithm has three key ranking factors. Proximity, Relevance, and Prominence.
Here is a quick summary of these three key local search ranking factors:
- Proximity refers to the physical distance from the searcher.
- Relevance refers to how relevant the business is to the search.
- Prominence refers to how well-known a business is. You can also think of prominence as a business’ authority.
Learn more about these three local ranking factors on the Google Help Center.
With the theory out of the way, we can now focus on the actionable items you need to do to rank in local SERPs. The following is an exhaustive local SEO checklist that will help you systemize your local SEO process, improve your productivity level, and increase your odds of success with any local SEO campaign.
Initial SEO Strategy and Setup
Develop a Local SEO Strategy
When starting out you’ll need to take a minute and organize your client’s business information and web properties. You’ll want to ask them for all of the locations they operate and make sure you have the correct business information. You wouldn’t want to do SEO for three months only to find out the phone number on their Google Business Profile is incorrect, or that they had a few more locations they didn’t tell you about.
Most businesses will fall into one of these four categories:
- Single location with a physical address
- If you have only one location your strategy will be simple. You will only need one Google Business Profile with a verified address.
- Multiple locations with physical addresses
- If you have multiple locations, you will need multiple Google Business Profiles. Each location will need its own unique address and phone number, and landing pages.
- Single location with a service area (no physical address)
- If you have only one location but don’t want to show your physical address, you can hide it and show the areas you serve. Usually, it’s best to have an address in terms of SEO rankings.
- Multiple locations with service areas (no physical addresses)
- If you choose this strategy, make sure there is no overlap with the service areas. Google will typically filter businesses with too many service area locations and only show the one it believes to be the most prominent location.
Top Tip: BrightLocal Academy offers a free course on How to Master Local Keyword Research. With over 2.5 hours of videos, it’ll get you on track to find the best keywords for your local SEO campaigns.
1. Analyze Keyword Positions
Once you have your list of keywords, enter them into BrightLocal’s Local Rank Tracker. This tool will be able to tell you where your clients’ website ranks on Google, Google Maps, Bing, and Bing Local. You can also white-label these reports, which will look like this example.
2. Run a Full Local SEO Analysis
After you set up the rank tracker, be sure to run the complete local SEO analysis using BrightLocal. It takes a few minutes and can be scheduled to run weekly so you can keep a close eye on the key metrics for your local SEO campaigns.
3. Scan Your Business Rankings Using a Local Search Grid
You’ll also want to periodically check rankings using Local Search Grid. This is important because Google serves search results based on proximity, so the location of the searcher will affect the SERP. The Local Search Grid gives you a birds-eye view of your client’s rankings. It also makes you look like an SEO ninja when you show your client this report!
Now that you’ve developed an awesome local SEO strategy and taken a snapshot of rankings for your client’s local SEO campaign, you can move on to doing the SEO work that will push rankings higher.
Online Directories and Local Citations
4. Scan and Find Your Current Citations
It’s no secret that citations are critical for SEO rankings. Google uses online citations to make sure the business is reputable. Imagine you needed to contact a business and you did a search only to find 15 different phone numbers listed on the web. This wouldn’t be a pleasant experience. This is why Google uses citations as a local ranking factor.
Run a citation audit using BrightLocal’s Citation Tracker to take a snapshot of your current citations.
5. Make Sure Your NAP Details Are Consistent
The importance of consistent NAP data was mentioned above, but the value can’t be overstated for local SEO. Make sure each location has consistent NAP information. You’ll really want to check and double-check this part.
Make sure you keep your business information consistent across the web. Primarily focus on the Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP) for each location. You’ll also want to be sure your business hours and website URL are consistent for each location.
6. Make Sure You’re Listed on the Top Directories
There are directories that are not niche-specific and nearly every business should have listings on them. Think of the top directories like Yelp, Manta, and Foursquare. Make sure you set these up unless the business is already listed on them.
Top Tip: Check out the Ultimate Free Business Directory List for the USA for the very best place to start if you’re looking for free citations in the USA.
7. Find and Remove Duplicate Citations
Google likes organized data. Duplicate citations cause issues with local SEO, especially if they have inconsistent business information. You’ll want to go through and remove any duplicate citations as needed. When you’re setting up new citations, make sure that you’re not creating duplicates.
8. Find Citation Opportunities Based on Competitors
Once you’ve set up your foundational citations, and cleaned up the NAP info, take a second to identify your top competitors that show up for your target keywords. You can replicate their success by building citations from the same directories.
Related: A Beginner’s Guide to Local SEO – Free Online Course
9. Get Listed on Industry-Specific Directories
Industry-specific citations are the cherry on top. They’ll be necessary for competitive markets.
10. Get Listed on City/County/State-Specific Directories
Just like industry-specific directories, there are also city, county, and state-specific directories. You don’t always need these but if you’ve tried everything else and your local rankings are stuck then this might be the missing piece.
Google Properties and Tools
11. Set Up and Verify Your Google Business Profile
Setting up your Google Business Profile should be one of the first things you do, along with your citations. Verifying your Google Business Profile has become increasingly difficult over the past few years. You’ll need to mail a postcard to a physical address to verify your business even if you choose to not display your address.
Top Tip: BrightLocal Academy offers a free course on How to Create, Optimize, and Manage Google Business Profiles. You’ll learn how to set up, and monitor your profile, instilling you with the knowledge, skills, and confidence you need to succeed.
12. Add As Much Info As Possible to Your Google Business Profile
This is pretty straightforward. Dedicate some time to filling out every field available on the Google Business Profile. Don’t forget to upload relevant photos which showcase your business. Remember that every field is valuable real estate, and can help improve the customer experience of those visiting your profile and evaluating your business.
13. Choose the Right Categories
Choosing the right categories for your Google Business Profile is critical. You don’t want to choose too many categories. Try to choose only two or three categories. You can easily find your competitors’ categories with BrightLocal’s Local Search Grid.
14. Make Use of Google’s Q&A
Google’s Q&A allows users to ask and answer questions about a business, place, or landmark. Keep an eye out for questions on your Google Business Profile, and consider asking and answering your own to create an off-site set of FAQs.
15. Add a Detailed Business Description
The business description of your Google Business Profile should be unique, descriptive, and accurate. Take the time to craft a well-written business description.
16. Products and Services
On your Google Business Profile, you have a section where you can add more information about your products and services, if applicable. You’ll also want to make sure this content is unique and descriptive.
17. Post Regularly on Google Business Profile
Posting regularly helps show users you are active and is also a free medium to promote your business. Learn more about Google Business Profile posts and how to use them to engage and convert.
18. Set Up Google Analytics
Setting up Google Analytics is essential for any digital marketing campaign, including local search. Make sure your client has Google Analytics set up. You’ll also need to set up Google Analytics 4, as this will replace Universal Analytics in July 2023.
19. Set Up Google Search Console
Google Search Console will help you analyze SEO traffic, and you’ll also be able to see if there are any errors that need to be fixed on your client’s website.
20. Make a Schedule To Monitor Your Google Business Profile
With user interactions and Google updates, your Google Business Profile can change frequently. Make sure you create a schedule to monitor your Google Business Profile on a regular basis.
21. Google Data Highlighter
You can use Google Data Highlighter to highlight your client’s business information, such as the Name, Address, Phone Number, and URL. You can learn more about Google Data Highlighter for Local Businesses on the Google Help Center.
22. Get Reviews for Your Google Business Profile
Getting reviews for your business helps you rank higher and it also improves the click-through rate on your Google Business Profile. You can use BrightLocal’s Get Reviews tool to help generate reviews and build trust with new customers.
23. Showcase Reviews on Your Website
Showcasing reviews on your website is a simple, yet effective way to boost credibility. Embedding a widget that automatically updates will look more legitimate since it is an unfiltered, automated feed rather than a handpicked review feed.
24. Respond to Reviews
The latest Local Consumer Review Survey showed that consumers value review responses. Don’t neglect consumer feedback. Responding to reviews is a must.
25. Ask Customers to Be Very Descriptive When Getting Reviews
When getting reviews, ask customers to be as descriptive as possible. Adding service and location keywords can help rankings and conversion rates. If you do a search for the business, you may notice that keywords in reviews are highlighted on the SERP.
26. Add a Location Page for Every City You Serve
Search engines use your website to understand what your business does. Location pages help search engines understand the areas you serve.
27. Add Services Page for Every Service You Offer
Just like location pages, you’ll want to have a page dedicated for each service you offer. Make sure to use these pages to answer potential customer questions or problems, and explain how your services help them.
28. Optimize Title Tags
Keyword-rich title tags will help your pages rank higher for targeted keywords. Your title tags are one of the most important on-site SEO factors. Take the time to craft the perfect title tag, optimized for both keywords and clicks.
29. Optimize Your URLs
Keep your URLs short and keyword-rich. Don’t repeat keywords in them.
30. Optimize Images
Image alt tags help search engines understand the images on your website. They also help those using screen-reading tools to understand what each image shows.
31. Structure Your Site’s Main Navigation Menu
A well-thought-out website structure will make your website more SEO friendly. Your main navigation should be aligned with your website structure.
32. Link all Location Pages from Your Menu
If possible, link all of your location pages from the menu. You can also link to the location pages from the footer of your website.
33. Link All Services Pages from Your Menu
Just like the location pages, link to all of your service pages from the main navigation or in the footer.
34. Display Your Location Data on Your Website
If you have a few locations (two to three), add their addresses to the footer so it is site-wide.
35. Check Your XML Sitemap
Make sure you have an XML sitemap. Also, don’t forget to submit this sitemap to Google Search Console and the Bing Webmaster tools.
36. Fix Broken Links
Broken links on your site should be cleaned up. You’ll want to check for broken links once a month or once per quarter, depending on the size of your website.
37. Use Structured Data (Schema)
Using Local Business schema markup helps search engines understand important information about your business. You’ll need to add this information to the header of your website.
38. Test Your Website on Mobile
Google’s mobile-first index forces webmasters to prioritize the mobile version of their website. You can use Google’s Mobile-Friendly tool to find out how easy it is for someone to use your website on a mobile device.
39. Make Sure the Phone Number is Visible and Clickable
Having a visible and clickable phone number on your website will improve the legitimacy of your website and boost conversions as well.
40. Set Up Call Tracking
Call tracking will help you understand the ROI of your local SEO campaign. Clients usually care about leads and calls more than anything else.
41. Try to Keep All Website Pages on the Same URL, and Avoid Subdomains
You can make subdomains work if you need to, but it easily gets messy. Keeping all of your landing pages on the root domain is best for local SEO.
42. Create a Content Calendar
Most of us know we need to publish quality content on a regular basis. Keeping a content calendar will help you stay on track with your local SEO goals.
43. Publish Content About Your Service and Your Service Area
Aside from your service and location pages, you’ll want to publish blog posts about industry trends or local news. Having fresh content can also be a great way to build links since most people link to blogs rather than service pages.
44. Connect With Local Bloggers
One way you can build backlinks is by reaching out to local bloggers and offering them a product or a service for them to blog about. Alternatively, you could guest post on their blog and link back to your site for attribution.
45. Testimonial Links
Another way you can build links is by providing testimonials to products or services you use. It’s a win-win.
46. Get Backlinks from Websites with Traffic
Not all backlinks are equally effective. One way to determine if you want a backlink from a website is by checking its traffic. If they get about 1,000 visitors per month from search engines there’s a higher chance that the website is trustworthy.
47. Look into Event sponsorships, local meet ups, and clubs
Getting your business out in the local community and local link building go hand in hand. Offer to sponsor local events, meet ups, or clubs. That could be by paying for a specific sponsorship, or offering out your office space to a local club. By sponsoring these groups, it’s easy to get a link back from their website and get your name out with the local community.
Top Tip: BrightLocal Academy offers a free course on How to Master Local Link Building. Once completed, you’ll walk away with the knowledge of how to structure your link-building efforts to be efficient and effective.
Stay Up to Date With Local SEO
Step 48: Sign up for the BrightLocal newsletter!
Whilst there’ll regularly be new features, tactics, and algorithm updates in local SEO, the basics covered in this checklist will always be the foundation of your local SEO activity. Stay up to date with all things local, by signing up for our newsletter.