Whether you have a single store front or a corporate chain with multiple store locations nationwide, a local SEO strategy is key to driving more prospects through your doors.
This SEO checklist and step-by-step guide is intended to be a jumpstart for your local business.
Some items covered are one-off activities where you can set it and forget it (i.e. making sure that your NAP is clearly written on your website).
Others, like building local reviews and publishing locally-relevant blog content is an activity you’ll need to perform on an ongoing basis for long-term local SEO performance.
Keep both in mind as you work toward better online visibility for your local storefront. Think of it as establishing credibility in the eyes of the major search engines. You have to prove you’re truly a local, and not some flighty carpetbagger!
The key to getting found by potential customers in your local community is using the channels search engines offer that help you establish who you are and where you do business.
Creating content that’s unique to your location can be extremely helpful to that process as well.
Local business directory websites are one key to this process, but these days businesses have to do more than just create and maintain Yelp and Google Places pages to get found.
Companies need to create helpful, remarkable content about the town or location that they’re in if they want to rank locally. By optimizing specific areas of your website, you increase a prospect’s chances of finding you in local search results.
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Local SEO Strategy Overview
Search engines rely on multiple signals to provide the most relevant local search results (SERPs) to the user. These signals include:
- Local website content
- Social media profile pages
- Inbound links, and…
- Directory citations
To boost your local search signals and rank higher in Google search results, you’ll need to focus your efforts on 3 key areas: on-page SEO, local profile pages / reviews, and external links or citations.
1. On-Page Local Search Signals
Establish your NAP (Name – Address – Phone Number)
You’ve got to make it easy for people and search engines to find you. To do this, set up your NAP, which stands for name, address, and phone number (with area code).
This should be included as crawlable HTML text on your website. Avoid the common misstep of of including your NAP only within an image, because images can’t be crawled from search engines quite as easily or as effectively HTML text.
The most common location for the NAP is in the footer or header of your website.
Create Location-Specific Web Pages
If you have more than one brick and mortar store location, one of the easiest ways to build your local SEO rankings is by creating location-specific website pages.
These web pages can provide users with your NAP, store office hours, unique descriptions of each store location, parking and / or transit information, local promotions and local reviews from happy customers.
It’s very important that you avoid duplicating content across multiple location pages. For single location businesses, create a local-specific About Us page.
Publish blog content that’s locally relevant
Be the local authority for your niche – in your local region (s). And to do so, I’d recommend going about this by regularly publishing blog content (and if you don’t already have one, setting up a business blog now – before you do any more damage to your business online).
Promote local industry news, events, feature employees and other educational content. Think of attraction marketing content that goes beyond what your business sells.
For example, if you’re a local photo booths rental company trying to attract new corporate activations or special events, create a helpful resource to get these businesses well-acquainted with event planning best practices, resources and more.
A map of local event planning service providers or a calendar of city-wide events could both provide valuable for your buyer persona and contain highly relevant on-page local signals.
On-Page Meta Tags
Be sure to optimize all of the five main on-page SEO elements for local keywords (H1 tag, url, page title, image tag, body text). And be sure to do this for each store / office location where you want to rank in Google.
Google Maps Embed
From there, you should embedd a google maps snippet on your website for each location – specifying on each location page the Google map coordinates for the local address.
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2. Local Profile Pages and Reviews
Create and Verify your Google+ Local Pages
Make sure you create a Google Local business listing for each location. If you have multiple store locations, link these to the location website pages mentioned earlier.
Duplicate listings are common, as multiple employees may create a new listing not knowing one already exists. Avoid diluting reviews and links across several Google+ Local pages by removing duplicate listings with Google Mapmaker.
Develop an Acquisition Strategy for customer reviews
Your customers may be new to giving Google+ reviews online. Make it easy for them by showing them a process.
Whitespark has this easy-to-create review handout generator to share with customers, attendees or donors – if you need a place to start on this one. You should consider printing this out for your customers in-store, as well as emailing the handout to them after their visit.
Once you get more than five (5) Google+ local reviews, you can start gaining those little yellow stars next to your local SERP (search engine results page) listing.
Optimize your Business Listing’s Category
Google+ Local profiles allow business owners to declare their type of business category. Look through Blumenthal’s list of business categories to find your most relevant industry or niche. Add your business to at least five categories, including both broad and specific categories.
Yelp will Help
Be careful … Yelp is a tricky little fella. Compared to Google Plus local, you’re not allowed to be as forward with asking for reviews on Yelp.
The company’s policy is:
“You can’t ASK for reviews, but you CAN let your customers know you are on Yelp.”
But you can also promote your presence on Yelp by embedding a Yelp badge on your site, and the new Yelp promo tools that come with a profile are truly promising.
Link Building and Directory Citations
You’re probably familiar with inbound link building – the practice of acquiring links from another domain to your website.
Directory citations are different – they’re mentions of your business name and address on other sites. And a citation doesn’t necessarily contain a link. Citations and external links are both important for the major winner in local rankings … off-page SEO.
Here are a few tips on improving the odds that you’ll receive citations and build inbound links.
Ensure your business address is consistent across the web
Consistency in the spelling of your business name, address and phone number (s) is critical for local SEO strategy. For example, if your address is 401 Fort Point Road, then use that spelling on all of your listings.
Avoid variations like 555 Moron St. Point Rd – or the like. Moz Local is a useful tool to check for the consistent spelling of your local citations across the web. Here’s a better one …
HOW IS YOUR BUSINESS LISTED IN DIRECTORIES, SOCIAL AND ON LOCAL WEBSITE PAGES?
Build your local directory citations
For companies in the United States, these four data aggregators provide a large amount of the map data for Apple, Yelp, Bing, Google+ local, TripAdvisor and more.
Verify that your citations are consistent and complete across these four data aggregators. Suppress any duplicate listings you find.
Link Building with Local Authorities
Another way to improve your local SEO presence is by earning backlinks from local sources. You have less control over this, but the keyword to note here is “earn.”
Creating blog and social media content that is worth linking to is the go-to method of both earning traffic and capturing leads on the internet.
To give you an idea of what local backlinks might be helpful to earn, consider forging content relationships with community organizations, running local business groups on LinkedIn or communities on Google Plus, while getting involved in local b2b events or even working with a school’s career center on their internship programs.