What You Ought to Have On Your Local SEO Checklist [Infographic]

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Local SEO Checklist

Is your brand and business visible to your potential customers? If you are a local business and do not know how to go about doing local seo, then this is a great post to read. In this post, I’m going to list out what you should have on your local seo checklist to ensure you have a successful campaign.

What You Ought To Have On Your Local SEO List

Local Citations

A citation is a complete or partial reference to your business name, address, and phone number (NAP). Most citations will also allow you to include your website. So why do citations matter? Well, on google results there is a map listing for local business and service results. Let’s take the search results of “AC Repair Raleigh” as an example:

Google Map Search Result

Here we see the maps listing right below the the paid adwords listing. Google will usually show the top 3 results on maps (depending on the location it could be as little as 2 and as many as 7). In the SEO world we call this the “snack pack.” The maps results is a blended algorithm based on a large number of factors, but the big drivers here are going to be your citations listings and your backlink profile. This is why citation building is so important for any local seo campaign.

When building out citations the number one rule to follow before you start building any is to make sure you have your Google My Business (GMB) address verified. Use your GMB address as the backbone of your citation campaign and do not start up citation building until you have this. I have seen clients and prospects jump the gun in the past. They start building their citations, and then Google comes back with a different address than they were expecting. Citation clean up is then required to make all the other citations consistent. Other rules to follow would be:

  • Build a verified google my business location site and landing page for every physical office you have and build separate unique citations for each office
  • Optimize your google my business first before starting any other citation building. List out your categories, get your pictures up, and drop your logos and related work here
  • Make sure your NAPs are consistent throughout and do not conflict. Services like White Spark are great tools to use if you are not sure what citations you have out there and what information you might have.
  • Only build citations for real physical locations. PO Boxes and virtual offices will not work. Some companies try to use coworking spaces, which you have to use with caution due to google’s possum update, which may hide map results for your business if you lack a unique suite number or have similar businesses at your address.
  • Remove all duplicate citations listings
  • Focus on your most relevant citations first. These would be your niche specific citations and the top citations in your city. If you are trying to DIY everything, I would consider doing the big citations manually yourself and consider outsourcing the others to a reputable agency such as Austin SEO Consultant Velvet Cloud. Often times, the time you spend manually building citations is not going to be worth the time loss of focusing on your business operations, service, and growth.

Link Building

I’m going to hop on my soapbox for a bit here because I have seen so many business owners get pitched for SEO services and many discount SEO shops will try to skip over this. There is no such thing as a local seo campaign without linkbuilding. To provide you further proof, ahrefs did a study of over 2 million ranking keywords to determine what the most powerful ranking factors were for a website. They compared links vs on page factors. At the end of the study the results were undeniable — links are king:

Google Ranking Factors

Source – Ahrefs

Not only should link building be a crucial aspect of your local SEO checklist, but the ability to generate powerful and relevant links is what makes SEO firms stand out. When I talk about linkbuilding, you as a business owner need to understand what that means to avoid damaging your site and getting ripped off. Good links for local SEO are:

  • Not fake
  • Not spammy
  • Relevant to your niche
  • Localized

What do I mean by not fake or spammy? Well, a lot of discount marketing firms use a lot of shady tactics to get your site ranked. By fake, I mean using private blog networks (PBN) to land links for you. Yes, I know that some SEO are fine with PBNs, but I’m not a fan. And here’s why, I’m part of several marketing mastermind groups and every so often I see a post where a firm is pissed that their client has left them for another firm after their contract expired. They used PBNs to build the rankings and in these rants, they talk about cutting off the PBN links in order to make the rankings fall and save the monthly fees they are paying for these sites to keep the links. That’s a total shady move and that is not how I want to build my business or my relationship with clients.

Imagine if you hired someone to do a landscaping project on your home. The landscapers built a beautiful garden and outdoor space for you. Now you decide after the project to hire someone else to maintain the landscaping instead of them. If they in response, pulled out the plants, trees, and rock work they installed, I’m pretty sure you would be pissed off. This is exactly the mentality I’m talking about with some of these marketers. It’s a total dick move!

The next type of links you want to avoid is spammy links. These links usually come from tools like GSA or marketers using foreign websites with high domain authority to build your backlink profile. The biggest risks you have with these links is Google may penalize your site and sink your rankings. Another consequence you do not want to happen!

So now that I covered what to avoid, let’s talk about what to links to acquire. Relevant links are going to be from websites within your niche or your profession. Let’s take Cowboy Boots as an example. If I make cowboy boots, I’m going to want to hit a site like Southern Living or  One Country. I’m not going to be looking to get links from a ballet blog. Likewise, if my stores are located in Austin, I’m not going to focus on getting links from local bloggers in Portland.

Get Positive Reviews

Reviews are a major ranking factor for local seo. Getting positive reviews and managing negative reviews is also part of the ranking factors. You will want to collect multiple reviews for your business. Focus on getting reviews on all your major platforms. These would include:

  • Google – most important
  • Facebook
  • Big citation sites like Yelp or Angie’s list

You should never pay for any reviews. If a customer compliments you via email, phone, or in person, mention that you would appreciate if they left feedback on your business. Put direct links to your review profile in multiple places like your website, newsletter, e-mail signature, or display at your business. You should also actively manage any negative reviews that come your way. Some reviews you may be able to get removed, but for the most part the best way to avoid bad reviews is to provide superior service.

Add Schema Markup

Schema is one of the most underutilized forms of on-page optimization. This also makes it one of the more powerful on page improvements you can make to your website. So what is schema markup? Schema markup is code put on your website that helps a search engine return more useful information to the user. Here is an example of how schema markup looks:

Schema Markup

In this example, we see the Nordstrom has implemented markup for their kai body lotion. This markup is displaying a star rating and number of reviews. When you compare Nordstrom’s results versus other here is what you get:

Schema Markup Review Example

Which result here pops out to you? It would definitely be Nordstrom’s result. The major benefit with schema markup is that it makes your search result stand out. A search result that stands out will get a higher click through rate and a higher click through rate will result in a higher organic ranking.

Every digital marketing campaign we run implements schema markup. At a local level and even more so at a small business level, schema implementation can be used to really dominate your market because many of your competitors will not be using this.

Have a Responsive Web Design

Mobile devices are everywhere and many of your potential customers or clients will search the web on various devices. Because of this, websites these days need to be able to be flexible to the device being used and alter its appearances and presentation to suit the viewing device. This is where a responsive web design comes in. A responsive web design will automatically adjust itself to accommodate to resolution, image size, and scripting abilities. Responsive is not just about the site being able to adjust, but sometimes websites will have slightly different versions of sites based on the device being used to accommodate page size or formatting. This is where a proper theme and tool selection comes through where a web designer can flex the website to work with all devices.

Responsive Web Design

A responsive web design will present a more enjoyable user experience. A more enjoyable experiences leads to more time on your site. More time on your site leads to better organic results, higher quality leads, and ultimately more conversions (aka $$$). These days, a responsive design is a must and any client we take on without a responsive design is absolutely a candidate for a website redesign. To learn more about web design and services, you can look up our friends webdesign99 who do West Palm Beach Website design and are SEO Experts in West Palm Beach.

On Page SEO

Okay, so earlier I know I really devalued the importance of on-page SEO when I showed the Ahrefs study. But instead of completely throwing away the concept of on page SEO, think of it as a compliment to off page or the icing on the cake. On-page SEO can provide that extra bump that you need to get you to the top of the rankings and increase your traffic.

When I think about on page SEO in this section I’m talking about the following:

  • Setting a canonical URL
  • Establish URL best practices
  • Set target keyword in title and in H1 at minimum
  • Fill out meta descriptions

Canonical URL tells search engines which page is preferred and consolidates domain power of the page. This allows your page to rank for various keywords. What normally happens is your various content will rank for various keywords and you can use the canonical tag to point the search result to a different page. Most on page software like a Yoast will have this feature where you can drop in the tag. You can see the example below

Canonical URL

When designing a website URL architecture, we follow the established best practice of the following structure:

http://www.site.com/category-keyword/subcategory-keyword/primary-keyword.html

Having a structure like this does the following:

  • Makes your search result look clean
  • Makes your search result more relevant
  • Prevents extraneous characters in your URLs string, which affects how google reads your keywords

With that explained, let’s move on to target keywords. Since target keywords in title is the most relevant on page ranking factor per the Ahrefs study, we also recommend adding it as well as the second most relevant on page factor – keyword in H1. We also add in the meta descriptions since that is the text searchers will see when they see your page on their search result. A poor meta description will lead too lower clicks and less clicks will hurt your rankings. Recall that on-page in your icing on the cake of a digital marketing campaign. Any SEO firms that calls you or e-mails you crying bloody murder about your missing Meta Tags and H1 without going through your link profile is missing the big driver of your results. On page compliments off page SEO, it is not the end all like many bargain SEO companies like to preach to you when they do those free website audits.

What To Avoid on Your Local SEO Checklist

We want to make sure we avoid tactics that can hurt your Local SEO campaign. They are in summary:

  • Blog/Forum Spam
  • Blackhat SEO
  • Low quality or spun content

Blog commenting is a great away to build backlinks and bring in relevant traffic, but it needs to be done the right way. Many discount SEO shops or Fiverr gigs will attempt to build links to sites through comments all over the web. They often look like the example below:

Forum Comment Spam

Don’t Do This

The problem with these spam comments is they do not help the reader and will likely get removed from the site. If the comment stays, the link gained will usually be from a poor quality site or irrelevant site (since most of these providers are happy to get a link from any site) which will actually hurt your site. What you want is high-quality blog comments like this one from the droneracingpilots forum:

Quality Forum Comments for Backlinking

Do This

This comment here is a forum member who is describing their first-hand experience with first person viewer (FPV) drone flying and has several mentions of products he has used. This comment is helpful to the original topic poster, relevant, and has recommended products all of which the community will appreciate.

Blackhat SEO attempts to exploits weaknesses in the search engine algorithm in order to increase rankings for a website. These techniques are in direct conflict with search engine guidelines. In order for me to fully explain what blackhat SEO is, I would need to write up an entire blog post about it. I will sum up several common techniques used below:

  • Link spamming – Involves using getting links from foreign websites or links in other languages
  • Keyword stuffing – over-optimizing of webpages and content
  • Overuse of high volume search word anchor text
  • Spun content

Every one of these techniques puts your site at risk. You can get your site penalized and/or lose links, web traffic, and page rankings.

Spun content is another technique used by black hat SEO and also some PBN owners. Spinning involves a software that will take content and rewrite so you can post on your site as unique content. You usually see spun content with low priced and low-quality content writing. The best way to avoid this type of content is to just avoid lower price content writing services and make sure the provider you are using is high quality. Yes, you will pay more, but keep in mind that the primary purpose of content writing should be to get links and referral traffic to your site. You are not going to get link and referral traffic with a crappy spun piece of content, so what purpose will that serve aside from hurting your wallet?

Local SEO Checklist Infographic and Wrap Up

This infographic summarizes this post. Click to enlarge and please share if you find this useful:

Local SEO Checklist

Hopefully, this article and infographic are helpful in determining what you should prioritize when trying to increase awareness for your local business. These local SEO techniques are extremely valuable to any business looking to increase their visibility and generate more revenue. If you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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About the Author Mark

Mark is the founder of Velvet Cloud, an Austin Based digital marketing firm that specializes in SEO, content marketing, press outreach, and targeted advertising for local and on-line businesses. Mark's work has been featured in Single Grain, SEMPO, Huffington Post, TechCo and many more.

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1 comment
Ferdinand says April 30, 2017

Very helpful article Mark. Thank you for providing it.

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