Local SEO Guide For Small Businesses [Checklist Included]

By Karen Gardner

December 3, 2021

In this guide, we’ll be covering only the most essential things you will need to know about Local SEO. From what it is to how to implement it, you’ll have everything you need to start ranking locally on Google and bringing in more local customers as they search online for your business’s service or product.

Different Ways To Market

We get it! There are so many different ways to market your business and knowing which one to choose can be tricky. Most small businesses have already tried a mixture of traditional marketing which would include flyers, word of mouth, or tv/radio ads. While these aren’t bad options, it can be nearly impossible to track the return on investment your business is or isn’t receiving from these efforts.

Another type of marketing more commonly used is pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. This type of marketing is good in the short run as it gives you a faster return for your buck, but once you pause ad dollars, you are also instantly out of leads. Long-term, PPC ads are not sustainable as the primary driver of your business.

If you are looking for long-term growth for your business, then Search Engine Optimization (SEO), should not be a second thought. SEO is a form of marketing that allows potential customers to find your website with ease, leading to a higher return in inquiries, sales, and revenue.

With the rise in online searches for local businesses, you’ll want to make sure your website is the first one potential customers see.

Benefits of SEO

We know SEO is essential for your business, but we want to make sure you know it too. Take a look at these SEO facts and see how including SEO in your marketing strategy can help your business.

72%

of consumers that do a local search visit a store within 5 miles

88%

of searches for local businesses on a mobile device either call or visit the business within 24 hours

62%

of consumers will disregard a business if they can’t find them online

900%

“Near me” or “close by” type searches have grown by more than 900% in the last two years

4 in 5

consumers use search engines like google to find local information

92%

of searchers will pick businesses that appear on the first page of local search results

Organic Listings Vs. Map Listings

When a potential customer performs a local search, there are two organic sections on Google that are triggered. One of them is the organic search results and the other is the map results commonly referred to as the Map Pack. We’ll be going over both and how SEO can help your small business compete locally against national competitors.

How Organic Listings Work

Organic listings or organic search refers to any search results that show up below the Google Map Pack and are unpaid.

Not only are you fighting to get on the first page of Google, but you also really want to be the #1 spot on the first page of Google. In the chart below you’ll see how there’s a 17.1% increase in clicks when your business is in spot 1 vs. spot 2. The further down your business is from the top, the fewer amount of website visitors you’ll receive. The more website visitors you receive, the more phone calls, leads, and inquiries your business receives.

Google presents results based on the proximity of the business to the user searching. When local keywords are used such as “near me” or “close by,” Google finds businesses that are in close proximity to the user. When you search for “best ice cream shops near me” it wouldn’t make sense for Google to show you ice cream shops in another state. Thus, Google finds businesses that are near the user, always making sure the user searching is satisfied with the results of their query.

How Map Listings Work

Google’s Local Map Pack shows up right below any paid ads and receives about 40% of all search clicks.

Just as we went over with organic listings, Google’s Map pack changes based on the user’s location. The search term “local food near me” will show different results based on what state and city the user is located in.

Many people think that Google’s Map Pack heavily relies on reviews, but in reality, reviews don’t always win.

In the image above for the search “local food near me,” looking at the number of reviews as well as the rating, you’d think that “Chubby’s Cafe Vineyard” should be in the #1 spot, but that’s not always the case. In this situation, the #1 choice has fewer amount of reviews and a slightly lower rating than the second choice. So what criteria does Google use to order the results of the Maps? That’s where NAP comes in.

What is NAP?

NAP is an acronym for Name, Address, and Phone number. Google values accurate and correct information for its users. Having consistent NAP across all your online listings including your website and Google Business Profile is important for ranking on the Google Map Pack. When all of your online listings have the same format (including abbreviations for street names), Google can confidently display your business information online for its users to see.

Along with NAP, citations are also super important to keep in mind. A citation refers to every time your NAP shows up on different directory websites such as your location page, Yelp, Google Business Profile, etc.

Your local rankings are heavily influenced by how consistent your business’s information shows up online.

Now that you have a better understanding of Local SEO, let’s go over some things you can start doing now to improve your local search rankings.

Things You Can Do Now:

Create A Functional Website

If you don’t already have a website for your business, now is the time to create it. Some small businesses may think they don’t need a website if they’re not selling their product or service online, but that is wrong. No matter your industry, don’t forget to build a website that effectively tells your company’s story. Here is a great article to get you started on how to create your website.

Create A Location Page

As you create your website, make sure to create a page with your business’s information including the name, address, and phone number of your location. Most businesses usually place this on their About Us page or their Contact Us page, but it’s best to have a standalone page just to establish the details of your business’ location. In addition to including your contact information, dress up the page(s) with details and facts about the region in which you do business. Do what you can to prove to your site visitors (and Google) that you’re truly local.

Claim Your Google Business Profile

Formerly known as Google My Business, a Google Business Profile contains your business’ information including hours of operation and location. The information you put into your Google Business Profile is used to fill out your Map Listing..

Make sure to use the same NAP format on your Google Business Profile as you did across all other directories. Click here to start building your Google Business Profile.

Set Up Google Analytics

After you’ve created your website, make sure to set up your Google Analytics Account. Google Analytics is an all-in-one dashboard where you can track and analyze all of your website traffic. From the moment a customer lands on your website, Google Analytics can show you where that visitor came from and what pages of your website they visited. The data you learn from Google Analytics allows you to strategically know which campaigns are (or aren’t) driving growth for your business. Make sure to get set up here.

Check For Mobile and User Friendliness

As you start to add images and text all over your website, make sure to keep in mind how they will appear on mobile devices. With almost 60% of all online searches now being carried out on a mobile device, you’ll want to make sure you optimize for this experience.

Along with having a mobile-friendly website, you’ll also want to analyze how fast your site loads. As your page load times increase from one to ten seconds, you increase your chances by 123% of having a mobile user get frustrated and leave your website. If that means removing animations or long videos from your website, it’ll be well worth it to keep your customers engaged on your site.

Standardize NAP

Once you have a website up and running, it’s time to start optimizing it for search. If you haven’t listed your business on any directories, you will want to find different directories relevant to your industry that could benefit your business. For instance, if you’re in the food industry you would want to get your business listed on directories such as Yelp or Open Table.

If you already have your business listed on some directories, a great way to optimize your website for search is to go through these directories (citations) and make sure your NAP is consistent throughout them all.

Set Up Google Search Console

Google Search Console is used to take a hands-on approach to SEO where you can see specific keyword performance and learn how to fix technical issues. If you want to know how your website is doing organically on Google, Google Search Console is the place to look. Google will even email you directly from Search Console if there is anything alerting for you to know about. Search Console is essential—without it, Google won’t even be able to find the website you made. Use this link to set up your Google Search Console.

Update Individual Pages For Search

Title tags and meta descriptions are bits of information used to help search engines understand the content on a page.

A title tag is used to summarize all of the content found on a page and is usually between 50 to 70 characters long. A meta description usually consists of between 155-160 characters and is used to add a description of what is found on the page. Keeping your title tag and meta description within the number of characters above ensures that your text will appear on both desktop and mobile devices. The image above can give you a better idea of how customers will see them.

Both title tags and meta descriptions can be updated on individual pages in the website’s backend or code. Here is a link to help you find where to edit your title tag and meta description if your site is on WordPress.

Produce Useful Content

After your website is technically optimized, it’s time to focus attention on the specific words on your pages. The best approach is to produce useful content for your specific audience, using keywords and terms that your potential customers would use to search for your product or business. Make sure to include the keywords in your titles and content section. For example, if you’re a dog grooming business, a keyword many potential dog groomers search could include “how often to take my dog to get groomed.” If you write an article talking about that target keyword, you’ll attract potential customers directly to your site all from content. A lot of small business owners will store all of their useful content in a blog.

Backlinks

Backlinks are links pointing from other websites to yours. As more and more relevant and authoritative sites link back to your website, it signals to Google that your business is also authoritative, boosting you up higher in the search engine results page (SERPs).

A couple of ways to obtain local links include local press or sponsoring events. If you’re opening a new location, try getting it out to your local publications to showcase your business. Whenever you are pitching to an editor, make sure it’s relevant and local for those nearby. You can also work with nearby organizations to help get your business’s name out there while finding ways to link back to your site.

Backlinks are like gas to the flame of a well-built, well-written website—possibly the most impactful tactics on your growth. That said, the process of securing backlinks is very complex and likely something worth hiring to do.

How Do I Know If This Is Working?

Keyword Tracking

Using an SEO tool like Ahrefs, you’ll be able to track any keywords you are currently ranking for as well as the amount of positions you move as you start optimizing your site. Once you see your keywords start moving up and closer to position #1, you’ll know that your optimizations are working.

Organic Traffic Increases

Google Analytics will be an accurate tool you can use to track traffic data. With so much data available to you on Google Analytics, you’ll be able to see which campaigns and platforms are bringing in organic traffic to your site. If you see that your organic traffic is increasing, then that is a strong indicator that the SEO optimizations you are doing are working.

Need Help?

This may feel like a lot to take in—SEO is not a simple strategy. However, no other marketing strategy has the same long-term potential for growth that SEO has. You’ve done a great job so far creating and running your business. Now let’s help it grow using SEO and Google.

If at any point you get stuck or have any questions, let’s talk. With over 10 years of experience in running these campaigns for countless small-to-medium sized businesses, we may be able to help.

Local SEO Checklist [download]

You May Also Like…

6 Steps to Rank Higher on Google

6 Steps to Rank Higher on Google

Google takes a lot of things into consideration when ranking websites. Their end goal is to match user intent when...