The Local SEO subset of SEO has been around a long time. It continues to grow in prominence. The importance of following a local seo checklist while setting up on-page and off-page seo stems from search engine algorithm changes.
So what is an algorithm? (pronounced AL-go-rith-um) it’s a a procedure or formula for solving a problem. Google, Yahoo, and Bing make changes all year long. Google is said to make over 500 algorithm changes per year. Of course just of fraction of those changes is related to local search. Nobody knows the best “Local SEO” formula from Google to get a business found online. All we can do is test, test, test, and then make recommendations to clients as to what is working. That’s why clients are willing to invest in monthly SEO services as that’s the only way to stay on top of what’s working this month.
Businesses continue to use methods that worked last year or the year before. Many are told erroneous ideas and methods that will not work at all in 2015. I can typically cite examples of car dealers or aircraft service providers who have existed in a particular market for decades, but yet there is no page #1 Google listing for that businesses products or services. How is this possible when they have been around so long? They reason they can’t be found is because the search engines cannot understand the data, or lack thereof both on the businesses website and also in respective local listings.
A Local SEO Checklist properly implemented ensures search engines recognize your business location and make it visible for any user selected keywords or keyword phrases.
Google “My Business” was Google Places. It’s imperative that your local business has this setup correctly. It helps get your business get found across all of Google. Don’t make the mistake of blowing this off, especially if you lease or own a physical location. If your a online e-commerce store, then it’s not as critical, but still important. Physical locations are tied to Google Maps and really come into play when someone is using a smartphone.
So why is important if you show-up? Because 50% of searches with local intent, will arrive at your location within 24-hours!
Does it seem my blog posts are focused on Local SEO? Do I harp about getting found online, being visible in local searches, making sure the search engines can find you? The answer is yes, I have been focusing efforts on Local SEO because a very large percentage of business owners still don’t have this figured out. Either they are not paying attention, don’t want to pay attention, have not hired anyone to take care of it, hired someone who screwed it up, or just don’t think it’s important.
I am not sure why someone who’s in business in 2015 (and hopes to stay open for years to come) would not want people to find them on top of page #1 Google.
Local SEO Checklist
Setup a Google GMAIL account or use your existing account. Note: Google may have a G+ page assigned.
Claim your Google “My Business” (formerly Google Local) if you have not done so already.
Verify business information is correct (NAP) Name, Address, and Phone number must match across the web exactly!
Follow verification process if not completed already. Google will send a postcard with special “code” via snail mail.
Setup your Google “My Business“ page once you get postcard returned and verification completed.
On-Page Optimization (hire an expert to complete this task) and No, it’s not OK to ask your website designer. Hire a qualified Local SEO who has proof of ranking web pages locally. They must prove page #1 Google. Success depends on your market and competition.
Off-Page Optimization (once again, best accomplished by experts, but certainly something anyone can do.)
– complete citations as specified in #9
– optimize social profiles (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, etc.) Make sure NAP (name, address, and phone are exactly as you entered across all profiles.
– make sure your using the SAME phone number across all properties. Car Dealers tend to use tracking #’s that are great for marketing, but very bad for Local SEO. Google, Yahoo, and Bing don’t recognize those phone numbers and you won’t show-up in local searches.
Register with Google Webmaster Tools (there is a ton you can do in here, find someone who knows how to use it)
Create business Citations (pertinent business information) across most appropriate websites.
The best sites for Citations depends on where you live.
Here are the suggested sites for Portland, Oregon according to MOZ.
Local SEO Portland, OR Top Citation Sources in Portland, OR
- Yelp (http://www.yelp.com/)
- Citysearch (http://portland.citysearch.com/)
- OregonLive (http://businessfinder.oregonlive.com/)
- Superpages (http://www.superpages.com/)
- Yellow Pages (http://www.yellowpages.com/)
- Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/)
- Yahoo Local (http://local.yahoo.com/)
- Dex Knows (http://www.dexknows.com/)
- Angie’s List (http://www.angieslist.com/)
- YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/)
Add a detailed Google Plus Business Page to your Google profile. Spend a couple hours buffing it up with great descriptions of your products and services, add photo with alt tags, add video, and social media links, and use keywords for your prospects.
Claim your Yelp Business page, go through verification, and set it up. Add content, make it nice, spend some time, and use keywords.
REVIEWS: Improve your search engine results and rankings by diversifying reviews. Google My Business Analytic’s will allow you to see all reviews across the web. That’s why you need to get that account done. Get your happy customers talking about your business by leaving reviews out on Google. Send them links to Google+ profile. Google Reviews are indexed by Google and will make you rise to the top. Review Sites focused on specific niches (Automotive, Air Charter, Aircraft Maintenance, HVAC Contractors, Lawyers, etc.) are certainly ok, but may not have the search “juice” of a real Google posted Review. Do some searches in your local market to identify the Review Sites that dominate in your niche. This could change tomorrow, but at least you’ll have a place to start.
In addition to Google, use whatever ranks well in your niche.
If you own a restaurant, use UrbanSpoon.com, if you own a Car Dealership, use DealerRater.com and so on.
Go to Schema.org and follow instructions. Hire a professional Local SEO or follow DIY procedures to a add mark-up microdata to all of your web pages. Google, Yahoo, and Bing all collaborated in the Schema.org project, so you’ll know this works for all search engines. This process allows the search engines to “interpret” the information on a page. Search engines don’t see a webpage like a reader does, it has to be marked up for it to show in the search results. Once your website is “crawlable” search spiders can differentiate between such things as events, reviews, organizations, places, people, and much more. Most importantly, it will help your site stand out from the competition. It’s highly unlikely they have taken the time to implement this sorely missed strategy.
Use Google Webmaster Tools to access the Structured Data Verification Tool. Make sure it all works.
A tried and true Local SEO strategy elevates your business from the masses. One recent study suggested 99.7% of all website domains without Schema integration. The obvious benefits include, visibility in local search, boost to your local brand awareness, and the peace-of-mind that comes from finally showing up locally. (where the bulk of your business comes from)