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127-Point Local SEO Checklist for 2021

 Are you struggling to rank your local business in Google, Bing and other search engines?

You’re not alone.

Many business owners understand the importance of local SEO, but don’t know how to get started or struggle to see results. 

The end result: a lot of online traffic, leads and sales get left on the table. 

Today, over 46% of all Google searches are local, and 88% of searches for local businesses on a mobile device either call or visit the business within 24 hours. 

According to Google, local intent searches like “near me” are growing 150% faster than non-local searches.

If you’re serious about growing your local business, it's essential to rank in both the local map pack and organic search results.

To help you do just that, I’ve put together a comprehensive local SEO checklist that covers everything from technical SEO and Google Maps optimization to review strategy and link building. 

Why is SEO important for local businesses?

Today, local businesses need to have a clearly defined online marketing strategy in order to grow (or in many cases stay afloat).

One study found that 78% of location-based mobile searches result in a purchase made offline.

Think about that for a moment.

For most businesses, a large majority of customers begin their journey online, but complete their purchase offline at a physical location.

In addition, 92% of searchers will pick businesses on the first page of local search results. It isn’t enough to simply “have a website”, it also needs to rank high on the first page, and inside the map pack, to get found by potential customers:

 Notice how this cosmetic dentist is ranking #1 in the maps section AND in the organic search results? You can bet your bottom dollar this results in a steady stream of new patients each month.

How do we achieve this?

Local search engine optimization (SEO).

Ok, now that we know why local search is critical for your business, it's important to also understand what factors Google uses to rank websites in the Maps and organic search results.

Top Local Ranking Factors

Let’s be clear; Google doesn’t publicly share every single ranking factor, and certainly won’t share the exact weight or importance of each factor.

However, through hundreds of experiments, numerous studies, tests, and a deep understanding of how search works, we are able to gain powerful insights into the most important local seo factors

Some of the most important local seo ranking factors include:

 

Google My Business optimization

Links 

Reviews 

On-Page Optimizations

Citations & Directories

Behavioral Signals

Personalization

Social Signals

This checklist will dive deep into each ranking factor, and show you step-by-step how to optimize your website for higher local search rankings.

Real-Life Results From This Checklist

Let’s take a look at some real local businesses that have seen traffic and revenue growth after working through the exact items covered in this checklist.

 

The Healthcare Industry

This checklist covers the exact steps I used to get quick results for this small local business in the healthcare industry:

While these traffic numbers are by no means meteoric, the relative growth shows how this process can have a sizable impact on even the smallest of local businesses.

 

Now:

Traffic is great, but what about the bottom line?

After implementing this checklist, another dentist client is receiving 80-90 new patient bookings each month. That’s nearly triple the industry benchmark!

This amounts to over $75,000 of additional revenue every single month.

his local SEO checklist is broken out into different focus areas below. The order may be slightly different to what you’ll see on other checklists.

We started with technical SEO because all your work will be for nothing if you have an issue with Google crawling or indexing your site.

We chose to focus on conversion rate optimization (CRO) next because all SEO and other marketing efforts will be wasted if the site or page isn't optimized for conversions or isn't mobile-friendly.

We then jump into the core local search initiatives such as GMB optimizations, review collection, citations, links and content.

You can use the links below to jump to a section of interest. 

Technical SEO

Technical SEO issues can wreak havoc for local businesses. 

If your site is configured to tell Google NOT to index your content, it will never rank. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve come across a WordPress website that had this little box checked:

Begin by making sure Google can crawl and index your website efficiently. Otherwise all your time, money and effort spent trying to grow your online presence will be wasted.

. Crawl the site to find accessibility/indexation issues

What is website indexing?

The process for crawling web content on the internet, analyzing its content and organizing it accordingly. Think of it as a giant library:

Why is website indexation important for local businesses?

If google is unable to crawl or index (the process of sorting content) your website, then you will not appear in Google search. This is simply because Google doesn’t know your web page exists.

How do I identify and fix site indexing issues?

You can begin this process by going to Google and entering the following search operator:

“Site:yourwebsite.com”

For example, if you go to Google and search “site:https://www.robbierichards.com” you will see Google has indexed 221 pages:

If the number listed is significantly higher or lower than the number of pages that your site actually has, you likely have some indexation or accessibility issues that need to be fixed.

For example:

If the number of pages in the index is a lot lower than the number of pages/posts published on your site, there are likely some accessibility issues at play where you may be inadvertently blocking crawlers from finding and indexing your content.

Using Screaming Frog, you can quickly see which pages are indexable:

Step 1:

Open Screaming Frog and click on the ‘configuration’ tab and then the ‘spider’ tab.

From there you can quickly check or uncheck specific resources you don’t want to crawl to speed up the process:

Step 2:

Next, add your website’s URL into the input bar at the top and hit “Start”.

Step 3:

Once the crawl is complete, you can quickly sort your pages via the indexability tab to see which pages are indexable and which ones are not.

 also check to see if you are blocking any pages from your robots.txt file.

Manually review the pages and make sure you’re not blocking any assets that should be in the index.

Bonus resources:

8 Reasons Why Your Site Might Not Get Indexed

Screaming Frog Guide To Doing Almost Anything: 55+ Ways Of Looking At A Tool

2. Set up analytics and analyze KPIs

What are analytics?

“Analytics” refers to all of the data and metrics about a website (eg: pageviews, organic traffic, number of sessions, conversions, time spent on site etc).

 

Google Analytics is a free tool provided by Google to track and monitor your website’s prformance.

What are KPIs?

Key Performance Indicators. A measurable value that tracks how well a business is performing against its key objectives (eg: boost organic traffic, generate more leads, increase sales etc).

Why setup analytics & track metrics?

Tracking analytics and measuring KPIs is crucial to making informed decisions for your business, such as where to invest marketing dollars.

How to set up all the necessary analytics & track your KPIs:

Sign up for Google Analytics and connect it to your site using one of the various verification methods.

Step 1:

Head over to Google Analytics and click “Start for free”.

Step 2:

Go to the ‘Admin’ tab and select ‘create account’ and then enter all of your account details.

Step 3:

Continue the process by choosing what it is you want to measure. For most of you this will be “Web” rather than “App”.

Step 4:

Next, you will need to set up your property by naming your website in your GA account and adding your website URL, your industry category, as well as your time zone.

Step 5:

Now that your account is set up and ready to go, the last thing you need to do is to add your Google Analytics tracking code to the website. You can do this by adding the code into the <head> tag of every web page you want to track.

If you aren’t sure how to do this, you can also add this via Google Tag Manager or through a plugin if you are on WordPress.

Set up Google Search Console

Next you need to set up Google Search Console & verify each individual version of your website (http vs https & www vs non-www) and then also verify the site through the “domain” section.

Note: If you only set up the domain section without the other versions, you won’t have access to some of the older webmaster tools.

The verification process is very similar to Google Analytics.

And once you are finished, you will be able to easily measure performance in Google search over time.

When setting up and tracking your KPIs, always align your KPIs with overarching business goals. If the business is trying to increase revenue, then tracking overall sales, leads and conversions is a must.

If the business is focusing on brand awareness, perhaps organic sessions, session duration, or social shares are some of the more important KPIs.

Bonus resource: 61 Experts Discuss Key Best SEO Services in India to Measure ROI (SEO Dashboard Template Inside)

3. Improve Page Speed

What is page speed?

The measurement of how fast your web content loads for the user.

Why improve your website speed?

Not only is page speed a ranking factor, but with more than half of all searches happening on a mobile device, your web page needs to load quickly.

Depending on the website, every additional second can result in a 7% loss in conversions.

love your load time & site speed:

Start by measuring your current page speed. I recommend using a tool called GTmetrix.

Save the report and keep it on hand to track improvements. The best way to improve your website’s load time includes the following:

Upgrade your hosting

Utilize caching

Compress images & reduce file sizes

Compress CSS, HTML, and JavaScript files

Minify CSS, HTML, and JavaScript files

Use a CDN

Robbie headshot

Editor's note: 

If you have a WordPress website, I highly recommend using the WP Rocket page speed optimization plugin. 

4. Build A Responsive Website

What is a responsive website?

A responsive website automatically adjusts the content to fit the size of the screen or device, no matter the size.

Why is a responsive site necessary?

After making a local search on a mobile device, 88% of all consumers will either call or visit a business within 24 hours. If your website isn’t mobile friendly then you will lose out on nearly 61% of those consumers.

Google has also made the switch to mobile-first indexing. This means that Google analyzes the mobile version of your website rather than the desktop version.

By prioritizing a mobile-first design, you will benefit customers and search engines.

Here’s just one client that saw drastic improvements almost immediately after switching to a responsive website:

How to build a responsive website:

The best way to ensure you have a responsive website that is custom built for your local area, is to work with someone who offers high-quality responsive website design.

That being said, not every business can afford a new website. If you choose to do it yourself, one of the best ways to get started (without needing to be super tech savvy) is to utilize a fast, conversion-focused WordPress theme builder like Thrive or at least a helpful visual page builder (I recommend Thrive Architect).

Not only can these help you build a fast responsive website, but they are a fantastic option for any local business just starting to build an online presence. 

CRO and Design

5. Mobile First CRO

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the process of improving the percentage of customers that take a desired action on your website. This may be anything from improving the number of form fills or phone calls to increasing direct online sales.

To properly improve the CRO process you must accurately understand how your customers use your website, which pages they visit and in what order. As well as identify possible reasons that your website may not be “converting” as many customers as desired.

CRO may include some of the following actions:

Adjusting your value proposition

Restructuring content layout

Adding clear call-to-actions

Including social proof

Adding videos to pages

Why is mobile CRO necessary?

You can get more leads, customers and revenue from the traffic you already have. If you are a plastic surgeon getting 1,500 visits to your page each month, and that page has a 3% conversion rate, then you will get roughly 45 new leads each month.

 

However, if you are able to double your conversion rate to 6%, then you will also double your overall number of leads without needing any additional traffic.

How to optimize your website for conversions:

One of the biggest mistakes I come across on websites involves the business phone number. If one of your primary goals is to get customers to call you, then you MUST be sure to display the phone number clearly and prominently.

Here’s a great example of an oral surgeon that does this well in their mobile menu (as well as a phone CTA in the mobile footer) vs a carpet cleaner whose phone number is extremely hard to find and isn’t clickable:

Pro tip: Make sure your phone number is clickable (click to call) via mobile devices.

Additional CRO Improvements include:

Use very specific CTAs like “request an appointment” or “get directions”

Add social proof - testimonials, client logos or awards/ certifications

Use only as many form fields as absolutely necessary

Use buttons when possible instead of linked text to make things easier to click on mobile

Improve readability by increasing font size

Include key information above the fold so users see it immediately after arriving to the page

Break up content into short concise paragraphs

For a comprehensive guide on CRO be sure to check out ConversionXL.

6. Optimize Local Landing Pages

What is a local landing page?

Local landing pages are unique web pages built for each store location.

Why is local landing page optimization necessary?

As with any other page, optimization is necessary to target the local market specific to that page's location. These types of pages are especially important for brick and mortar stores with multiple locations.

How to optimize your landing pages:

There are the Best Digital Marketing Agency in India techniques that can be applied, however, today we are going to focus on 9 important optimization steps. We will also use Affordable Dentures’ Boise location page as a great example.

1. Include the keyword in the page heading

As soon as your customer lands on the page they should immediately understand what the page is about and where the business is located. Google will also be able to better understand those two things and, as a result, be much more likely to rank the page.

2. Keep all your URLs clean

Your URL should also be clear and understandable. Include the keyword in your URL if possible, but don’t sacrifice user experience. Avoid including any special codes or characters in your URL.

Create URLs like this:

example.com/locations/miami/

NOT this:

example.com/hotels/hotels-united-states/north.american$32hotels/hotels-in-florida/miami-hotels.html#!latest

3. Mention specific customer benefits for your service/product

This is where you want to actually market your business. Convince your customer why this location is worth their time or energy. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and address their common pain points here.

Mention customer benefits like:

Affordable pricing

Same-day service

Free Quotes

Open 24 Hours

4. Include prominent call-to-action buttons

This is more of a CRO best practice, but every good landing page needs a CTA that inspires readers to take specific action. Be sure to feature your call-to-action both above-the-fold and at the bottom of the page if possible.

Be sure to use action-driven text as well.

5. Discuss location specific information

In this section, you want to really highlight the specific locations important information. If your customers need to use an elevator to get to your office, mention this.

If you have a unique parking situation, this is your opportunity to make their life even easier. Or perhaps you have a local customer representative that remains at one location; you can feature that information here.

6. List the location’s unique features

Now this is a little bit different than location specific information. Instead of addressing possible issues or offering helpful information, you are going to list the unique benefits of this one specific location.

Do you have outdoor seating with umbrellas? Mention it. Do you offer free wifi? Feature that! Do you offer snacks or refreshments for your customers when they visit? You get the point. Highlight all of your business' unique features in this section of the page. 

7. Include social proof via testimonials and reviews

This step is so important but is often skipped. With 88% of consumers trusting user reviews as much as a personal friend, social proof is one of the single largest improvements you can possibly make to your page.

8. Include an embedded Google map & NAP information

Help your customers to quickly discover where you are located and easily get directions. Also be sure to list your NAP info toward the top of the page (preferably with Schema markup)

9. Feature social media widgets (when applicable)

Not only offer another opportunity to connect your brand with your audience, but you just finished making this outstanding webpage. So don’t forget to make it easily shareable. This may not be necessary for all business types, so just think of your personal audience and ask yourself if it makes sense.

Google My Business

Robbie headshot

Editor's note: Alex was nice enough to provide his personal GMB optimization checklist. You can access the Google Sheet here. 

Google My Business checklist

7. Setup Google My Business Page

A free platform provided by Google that allows you to feature your business and all your information in Google Maps.

Why set up a GMB profile?

Studies have found that the average business is found in over 1,000 GMB searches each month, with 84% of those coming from discovery searches.

A GMB profile allows you to easily connect with your customers across Google Search and Maps, and when properly setup & optimized, offers a TON of search visibility.

How to setup your GMB profile properly:

Setting up your Google My Business profile doesn’t need to be complicated. In fact, setting it up is quite simple. It involves the following steps:

1. Visit https://www.google.com/business/

After you visit the website, hit the blue “Manage Now” button to get started.



2. Enter the name of your business

Always be sure to follow Google’s guidelines for naming. This includes businesses with multiple locations. The business name should be consistent for all locations.

For example, “The Home Depot” rather than “The Home Depot of Baton Rouge”.

Check Google’s guidelines for the rare exceptions to this (like including multiple practitioner listings). If you do have a business with multiple practitioners at one location, you should have a listing specifically for the business and also individual listings for the practitioners.

 The individual practitioner listing’s title should just be their name, not the business name + their name.

For example, a dental practice called “SEO Family Dental” with two dentists who work at the office might look something this:

- SEO Family Dental

- Dr. Robbie Richards

- Dr. Alex Ratynski

3. Choose your business category

Choosing your correct business category will help Google understand your profile better, and provide the best results for customers who might be searching for you.

Keep in mind that it’s important to keep categories consistent. Although Google allows you to add multiple categories, it places the most weight on your primary category. So be sure that your primary category is the most accurate description of your business.

Also, be careful to avoid any GMB category dilution problems.

4. Select your location type

Depending on the type of business you have, you will need to answer this question differently. If you do not serve your customers at a physical location, you should select “No” in this case.

If you are a service area business, become familiar with your varying address options.

5. Are you a SAB (Service-Area-Business) or do you deliver?

If you are a SAB (such as a carpet cleaner, plumber, locksmith, or house cleaner) then you will want to select “yes” and then proceed to list the primary locations that you serve.

6. Select your service areas

This is where you will list the different locations that your business serves. Keep in mind that although Google uses this information to display your profile to customers, you will likely only rank in the city or location closest to your actual address.

Most businesses should always stay within a 20 mile radius when listing these areas.

7. Complete your business contact information

Use this section to share your business phone number and website. If you do not currently have a website, you can select that as an option or create a free website within Google My Business.

8. Select finish

Congrats! Open a cold one, because you’re all done with the GMB setup.

Bonus resource: How to setup Google My Business - Bright Local

8. Fully Optimize Your GMB Profile

The process of optimizing your GMB is one of the most important steps for any business looking to rank in Google Maps.

Here are 9 of the most important steps for GMB optimization:

1. Verify your GMB Profile

This may seem simple, but you won’t be able to manage a GMB profile without verifying it first. If you are starting a new listing, this is done via a postcard with a code on it from Google sent via snail mail.

2. Maintain accurate business hours

It’s important to keep your business hours accurate for both your own sanity, and most importantly for the sanity of your customers. Nothing is more frustrating than driving all the way to a location, just to find out that it’s closed.

3. Add relevant sub-categories

As we mentioned above, it’s important to keep in mind that Google gives the most weight to a GMB’s primary category. That being said, it’s important to utilize subcategories to also high;ight additional services or product offerings.

For example, take a look at this dental practice’s category setup:

4. Write the perfect business description

You have 750 characters to write a captivating, authentic business description that motivates potential customers to take action. Utilize as much space as you can and be sure to naturally include keywords throughout the content. Be sure to also include the location of your business within the content.

Here is an excellent example from The Metropolitan Museum of Art:

5. Add services/menus

If you sell specific services or products you can directly list them on Google My Business.

First go to the “info” section in the backend of Google My Business. From there, depending on your business category, you may see either services, products, or menu:

You can then list your various services under its respective category that you set before. You can also add a description and a price as well (if you so choose):

6. Add photos, logo, and videos

Photos help customers connect with your business. Adding photos (both by your customers and by the business) are also a ranking factor in Google Maps.

One recent study found that businesses with 100 images or more get 520% more calls than the average business, while those with just one image get 71% fewer.

7. Manage & respond to every google review (we will cover this later)

8. Use Google posts (we will cover this later)

9. Manage and respond to the Q&A section

Did you know you can feature a custom FAQ section in your GMB profile? Many businesses don’t even realize there is a section in Google My Business called “Questions & Answers”.

Not only is there a Q&A section, but depending on your business size, the Q&A section may be used quite a bit.

Here’s a look at the Q&A section from Paramount Theater in Seattle:

Over 90 people have asked specific questions about this business.

One study found that over 25% of locations on GMB have received questions. With one out of every four businesses being asked questions, it’s vital to stay on top of your Q&A section.

 Source: https://www.robbierichards.com/seo/local-seo-checklist/

 


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