2017 Local SEO Checklist

By Adam Sgammotta |

Local SEO is an important topic in the current SEO world. Small businesses depend on local search traffic to generate revenue.  Optimize your website, so you will not lose valuable leads to your competitors.

Local SEO results in stronger brand recognition. Users are more likely to use services of companies that are near them, due to convenience. Local SEO also results in increased conversions from these users.  A benefit of Local SEO is that related services or media can find you or link to you. An example is a list of local marriage lawyers. The source will most likely write about the businesses who have the most search presence in that metro area.

If you want to increase local traffic, there are a few guidelines to follow. Reach a wider local audience with our 2017 Local SEO Checklist. 

2017 Local SEO Checklist:

1. Complete keyword research.

keyword research

Users search for websites by using phrases and terms also called keywords. Search engines use keywords to determine which results are most helpful to users.  It is important to analyze what users type to find your local business, as the results may surprise you.  Choose keywords that users who are near your business search for.  Users who live near a swimming center would use the name “Macomb Swimming Center.” This keyword is more specific than  “swimming” or “pool.”

Yet, the types of keywords that are most effective depend on the type of business. If a business is new, users will not know the brand name yet and the business should rank for services instead.  For this reason, new businesses should use local keywords rather than a business name. Some examples of local keywords are “plumbers” or “AC repair”, rather than “Jerry’s Plumbing.” Spend enough time brainstorming. There are many ways to brainstorm. Think of what you might type in a search engine to find your business. Ask other people what they would search for. Looking at your competition can be a helpful start, so see what similar businesses are ranking for.  There are many tools that can help you with keyword brainstorming. Some popular keyword tools are Moz, Google Keyword Planner, and UberSuggest.

2. Optimize page titles and descriptions.

The title of the page should define what the page is about. If the page is a contact page, “contact us” or “contact” should be in the title in most cases.  Titles should include the keyword(s) you are targeting also. Your keywords, in most cases, should be close to the beginning of the title tag. Add the metro area or city that you are targeting to your page titles. Additionally, make sure your titles are the correct length so they do not get cut off by the search engine. The length of most title tags should be around 50-60 characters. 

Meta descriptions are paragraphs shown below the titles of pages. The paragraphs should be a brief description of what is on the page. Meta descriptions are not used by Google as a ranking factor. Complete meta descriptions because they encourage users to click on your website. They should be less than around 150 characters and will get cut off if they are longer than that. Include your keyword in your meta description with a call to action to motivate users to click on your link. Correct titles and meta descriptions will help you rank for local search.

Here are where titles and meta descriptions show on a search engine:

titlesandmetadescriptions

3. Confirm that your address and phone number are visible on your website.

The address and phone number of your business should be on the homepage of your website or contact page. Placing the contact information in the footer element is helpful also. This way,  any user who visits your site can see this information. Linking your address to Google Maps is another great way of helping local users find you too. Search for your business on Google Maps. Claim your business, if you find it by searching. If it is not listed, you will have to create a new Google Maps listing. Read our article “How Do I Add My Business to Google Maps.” for more information.

4. Sign up with NAP services (Google My Business, Bing Places).

NAP is an acronym for Name, Address, and Phone Number. There are many NAP directory services out there. NAP directories make your business visible to search engines. Search engines use directory listing information to determine services that your business offers. NAP directories tell search engines what city your business resides in.

Due to this, it is a great idea to make all your listings the same. Google My Business is the most important NAP service. Google uses this information to create special listings for mobile users. Bing Places is another NAP service that you should add your business to.

5. Use structured data markup.

 Using rich snippets is one of the ways that Google displays reviews to users on the web.

This is an example of a rich snippet:

rich snippets

Search engines use structured data to focus on certain parts of your page. Structured data defines how special information should show for search engine users. Read more about using structured data. Some examples of structured data are the website, local business, and rating markups. Website markup increases the visibility of your brand. Local business markup increases the visibility of your site to local users. Rating markups show the Google My Business rating in the meta description.  

6. Start a blog.

If you want to gain new users after your initial optimization is complete, create new content. A blog can generate fresh content, which can help you rank higher on search engines. A blog can attract users seeking information on your area of expertise. Place appropriate keywords in your blog titles and body.

Avoid keyword stuffing. Keyword stuffing is placing several instances of the keywords in the text. In natural writing, it is not proper to place many instances of the same word. As a result, this reduces the authority of your blog to search engines.

7. Mobile optimization.

More users are preferring mobile over desktop search.  It is important to make sure that your sites are mobile friendly. Responsive design is growing in popularity. Responsive design guarantees that your website functions the same across mediums. Usability is part of SEO. Users should find your website easy to navigate and free of errors. Make sure there are no intrusive pop-up ads or page elements also. Read more information about intrusive pop-ups from the Google Webmasters Central blog. 

8. Social media optimization.

social media optimization

Some businesses might find social media helpful for SEO. Many users, especially ones in the 20-40 range, use social media. They use social media to determine what purchases to make and read reviews.

Set up popular social media profiles. Popular social media sites include Facebook, Yelp, and Twitter. You can use social media to communicate with new and regular customers. Promote your blog posts on social media and increase new leads on your website.

9. Monitor customer reviews.

Small businesses depend on word of mouth to gain new customers. Word of mouth usually begins on the web. Many users consult online reviews before purchasing a product or calling a company. The image presented of your business should reflect trust, excellence, and dependability. Popular review sites include Yellow Pages, Yelp, and Google My Business. Claim your profile on these sites. Don’t stop with claiming. Fill out your profile with high-quality photos, descriptions, hours, and contact numbers.

10. Link building.

The most important ranking factor is the number of links pointing to your site. Each site functions as a “vote” to search engines. The kind of sites that link to yours can increase your search engine visibility. On the other hand, the types of links can decrease visibility if the site is in a bad neighborhood. Links help tell search engines what your site is about and what it offers users.

One way of using links to tell search engines what your site is about is to optimize anchor text. Anchor text is the text that you click on a link.  Use relevant anchor text when internal linking. Search engines analyze links within your website. They use the internal links to determine the importance of website topics.

Posting linkable assets in your blog or on social media can help you gain backlinks. A linkable asset is media that is entertaining and/or helpful. A helpful infographic might trend on social media or another site, giving you more links. Add your website to relevant directories, such as  “Manufacturers Association of California.” Relevant directories can help you accumulate links. They increase your brand’s association with a topic.

11. Analyze data on a regular basis. 

Regular reporting and analysis are necessary to determine how effective your SEO is. There are many SEO tools available that can help you track metrics. For example Moz, Google Analytics, and SEMRush. These tools can generate reports at regular intervals for you.

The list above is not exhaustive. SEO is a long process that requires patience. For this reason, many small businesses consult SEO or digital marketing agencies.

After you have completed this 2017 Local SEO Checklist, you will be on your way to increased rankings.

Want to save this SEO checklist? Download the 2017 Local SEO Checklist.

Contact Momentum to develop an SEO campaign.