A complete local SEO checklist and how to improve rankings 

Now more than ever, having a local search strategy is important for the growth of your business. A local SEO checklist can help to focus your efforts and know that you’re optimising the right parts of your website and content. 

Now more than ever, having a local search strategy is important for the growth of your business. A local SEO checklist can help to focus your efforts and know that you’re optimising the right parts of your website and content. 

According to Google, localism was becoming a consumer trend before the COVID-19 and changed how customers consumed and engaged with brands. This trend accelerated throughout 2020 but, as the world began to open up again, it showed no signs of slowing down. 

Customers in all industries are searching for the best products or services near them so local marketing is only going to become more important in the future. 

Why is this significant for your business?

76% of people who search on their smartphones for something nearby visit a business within a day. In addition, 28% of those searches for something nearby result in a purchase. 

So, if you want to make the most of mobile search and new and changing consumer behaviours, following this local SEO checklist will help you to stay ahead of your competition and keep reaching local customers in the right places, at the right time.

1. Understand local SEO ranking factors

The ranking factors for local SEO are very slightly different to general SEO. If you’re already familiar with general SEO, local SEO should be relatively easy for you to follow. 

Here are just some of the most important local SEO ranking factors you should consider (we will cover these in more detail later): 

  • Link signals 
  • On page signals 
  • Behavioural signals 
  • Google my Business signals 
  • Citation signals 
  • Personalisation 
  • Review signals 
  • Social signals 

2. Optimise your website for local SEO 

Optimising your website for local SEO covers the on page signals required to rank for local SEO. 

The elements you should optimise are: 

  • Title tags - if possible, include a geo targeted keyword in your title tag 
  • Meta descriptions - use a local keyword in a meta description if it makes sense for that particular landing page 
  • Images - use relevant alt text and captions to expand the use of local keywords on your website 
  • Site navigation - simplify the navigation structure on your website so that your website visitors can find the information they need in as few clicks as possible 
  • URLs - you can add more local context to your site by adding local terms to the URLs 
  • Contact information - make sure names, addresses and phone numbers are easily accessible 
  • Internal links - when linking internally on your website, include targeted keywords in the anchor text. This is an SEO best practice and signals to your customers what they can expect when they click on the link
  • Keyword targets - have a look at your high level keyword objectives and see if you can find more location-based keywords. By optimising and rambling for local long tail keywords, you’ll be able to find high intent visitors and target customers in your local area

All of these elements are part of on-page optimisation and are simple changes that could provide huge results for your local SEO strategy. 

3. Optimise your Google my Business profile 

Google my Business is one of the top four ranking signals for local search. So, setting up and optimising your Google my Business listing should be top of your list when it comes to your local SEO strategy. 

You enter your business data into your business listing such as your contact details, business categories, photos and opening hours. Google will then ask you to verify your business address by sending a unique code to your business address. Google my Business will then populate the data across Google Maps, Local 3-packs, Google Posts, Knowledge Panels and mobile SERP carousels. 

Adding your details to your profile is a quick job and is one of the easiest things you can do to make sure your business is seen in local search results. 

Your business listing will appear on the right hand side of the search results page, displaying your address and phone number, as well as any other important information so that customers can get in touch with you. 

4. Post local content on social media

Social media is a great platform for publishing and sharing content that’s relevant to your local area. Whilst social media interactions such as likes, comments and shares are not considered by Google when ranking pages, it can increase interactions with your business and its prominence which is a ranking factor. 

The more your business is seen and trusted online, the more likely people are to interact with you and comment, like or share your content.

5. Ask for reviews and ratings

According to a recent survey from Brightlocal, 87% of customers now read reviews online for local businesses. So, the importance of reviews for driving traffic and sales for your business is more important than ever if you’re a local business. 

Reviews can help to build trust with your potential customers. Knowing that you’re a business they can trust to deliver on time, offer good customer service and provide them with exactly what they need will encourage them to click through and purchase from you. 

The more customers click through from the search results, the more search engines can see that you’re a trustworthy business that local customers want to buy from. Plus, happy customers are more likely to leave a review which will lead to even more trust signals for your website. 

6. Gain backlinks

Backlinks, or inbound links, are a number one ranking factor for both general and local SEO. They can be time consuming to generate but, if you create content around high value local keywords and building links with high authority sites will see a surge in your rankings. 

Create profiles on high quality local directories 

Creating a profile and submitting your business details to high quality local directories will help to boost your local rankings in the search results. 

Directory entries are indexed by Google and, if the directory is a high authority site, it can often return your directory entry in a high position in search. This will allow you to gain visibility for a particular page on your website, even if your site doesn’t rank highly yet. 

You may also get a backlink from the directory which can also help to enhance your performance in the search results. 

Find online coverage locally 

You can approach local news sites or other local sites to ask for coverage of your business or content. These sites will probably be happy to provide a backlink too so will help with building authority for your own site. 

News sites have a lot of authority because a number of other sites will to them so getting links from these sites is a great way to boost your position in the local search results.

7. Mobile usability

When indexing content in the SERPs, Google will now prioritise mobile pages over desktop pages. Mobile friendliness is now a top 10 ranking factor with around 60% of searches conducted on mobile devices

In addition, according to Hubspot 61% of mobile searchers are more likely to contact a local business with a mobile friendly site. 

This is not just important for local SEO, it’s important for general SEO too. Google will also favour websites that perform well on mobiles too over those that are slow. By ensuring that your website is responsive and loads quickly on mobile will increase your chances of ranking highly for local search terms. A faster mobile site makes for better user experiences and will increase the chances of conversion when someone lands on your site from the search results. 

8. Use the right keywords for your products or services

When writing descriptions of your products or services on your website, make sure the words and phrases you use actually reflect what people are searching for in your area. This is important for making sure that your business is found when potential customers are searching for you online. 

For example, there’s no point in referring to cars as automobiles when customers are actually just searching for cars and terms related to cars. 

Use an SEO tool such as SEMrush, Answer the Public or Moz to find the terms that your customers are using to search for your products or services. This will also show you local terms in relation to your business that you can use in your content or website pages.

9. Use schema's geographic markup

Shema.org is something provided by Bing, Google, Yandex and Yahoo which allows you to submit your business information to the search engines to help them better understand your content and so that they can provide the most relevant search results to users.   

Adding Schema markup to your website will enable search engines to display additional business information in the search results. Geographic markup is a specific type of code that will inform search engines about your business location and adding it to your site can provide a boost when it comes to local search results. 

10. Create high quality content that references your local area

Websites that include high quality, informative articles on topics related to their business or expertise and which people are interested in, usually perform well in the search results.  

These pieces of content are keyword rich which increases the likelihood that your content will match a number of search queries. In addition, if they provide a valuable resource, other websites may create backlinks to them which can increase your chances of success in the local search results. 

This is exactly the same for local SEO. So, making sure that you create high quality posts about your business that also references your geographical area will help you in the local search results. 

Here are a few tips for creating content for local SEO:

  1. Optimise content for local search - when creating content for local SEO, make sure the target keywords are placed in the URL, page title, headings, meta description and body of your content. 
  2. Create local landing pages - creating landing pages for specific business locations will help to boost your local rankings. This is particularly useful if your business is located in different areas with a number of premises. You can create landing pages with the correct contact details and use Google maps to display your physical locations on the page. 
  3. Don’t create thin content - make sure you have at least 500 words of content on every page you create. Don’t just write content for the sake of it. Make sure it’s relevant to your business and include local information and social proof. 

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Blog written by

Amy Ward