The good news: Showing up in Google’s search engine can be extremely beneficial to your local business.
The bad news: Google doesn’t care if you rank high or low. It cares only that there are quality results that answer the query to the total satisfaction of the searcher.
So the pressing question is, how do you rank higher on Google Maps and Google local search results? This list of local ranking factors is not exhaustive nor in priority order, but grouped into general categories which you can jump to as follows:
2. Domain nameexact match domain (EMD) penalty. On the other hand, including a keyword as part of your domain (e.g., www.FirstStreetDental.com) can help you as a local business if it’s tied into your brand name. Search algorithms are getting better and better at weeding out low-quality results, so make sure your domain doesn’t look like spam.
4. Content management system (CMS)WordPress is king, consistently the top CMS used on the web. Consider how you can improve your system’s functionality with plugins — WordPress.org lists 1,864 plugins for “local” alone. And, don’t forget about a WordPress SEO plugin, too.
Keywords and Content Signals
7. Keyword and content gap analysiskeyword research to find additional phrases that can serve your personas/community, and examine your competition online for their keywords. Wherever you find a gap in your own content compared to the top-ranking sites, expand accordingly.
8. Detailed competitive reviewleast imperfect with your local SEO.
9. Content creationsiloing your web content based on the themes your business is about. Set up your navigation and internal links carefully to create a hierarchical structure for the content on your site. Doing so will strengthen your site’s relevance and expertise around those topics.
10. Content variety
11. Content creation strategiesExcellent content can become a strategy for attracting search traffic and also local expert links.
12. Local videos
13. Long-tail rankings
14. Local relevance
15. Landing pages
Local businesses need schema in particular to call out their name, address, phone and website URL, also known as NAP+W, as well as hours of operation and much more. As an example, here’s what schema for our NAP+W would look like in the page code:
Local business schema markup example (in Google’s preferred format, JSON-LD)
Google is planning to expand its use of schema, so be sure to take advantage of all the structured data that applies to your content. Check out Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to confirm you’re implementing schema correctly.
17. Information in the Local Pack
Keep your NAP+W data consistent across all sources. This is a local SEO priority, as it improves the search engines’ confidence in your business listing’s accuracy.
Be sure to include your business address on your own website. You can do this in the footer so it appears on every page, or at least show it on your contact page.
18. Google Map embedded
Embed a Google Map to add an interactive element to your site.
19. TestimonialsSEO-approved ways to get local reviews) and then add them, localized and with the author identified whenever possible. Testimonials, especially on a local level, can have a big impact. Seventy-three percent of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more.
20. Hawk updateHawk update Google tightened its proximity filtering for organic ranking. The filtering radius for a same category business has been reduced from 500 feet to 200 feet. Same category businesses at the same address, however, are still filtered. The more exact restrictions may benefit businesses that previously had a higher ranked competitor just down the street, as both businesses may now be able to show up in local results. (Edited, h/t Mike Blumenthal)
21. Technical on-page SEOalways-up-to-date SEO checklist for a list), a locally targeted page should have:
- City in the title tag
- Schema markup (as appropriate to the page contents)
- Do not stuff keywords
- Do not simply find-and-replace city names
- Appropriate reading level and complexity (compare top-ranking pages to find your sweet spot)
22. Local keyword optimization
23. Local link buildinglink building guidelines.)
24. Local directoriesinterview with local expert Darren Shaw gives helpful information on local listings, including a directory list.)
25. Social and web mentionslinkless mentions (and also “nofollow” links) help your business by attracting new customers and reinforcing your brand’s reputation, which can even influence local search rankings. Use a tool like GeoRanker to identify local citations and social media tools to keep tabs on the conversation.
26. External links
27. Competitor backlinks
Local Pack Signals
28. NAP+W consistency
NAP inconsistencies identified should be fixed (via Yext)
To see if your NAP+W is consistent, try Yext’s free test.
29. Google My Business (GMB) optimizationGoogle My Business listing is critical for businesses with service areas and physical businesses. It’s a free business listing to start building your visibility in Google Maps and Google Search.
In addition to ensuring NAP+W information is accurate, here are some optimization tips for your Google listing:
- Add a unique description about your business. Make it long (400+ words), formatted correctly, and include links to your website.
- Add your open business hours.
- Select the best categories for your business (use Blumenthal’s Google Places for Business Category Tool).
- Include a high-resolution profile cover image, plus as many additional photos as possible.
- Use a local phone number (not a toll-free number).
- Encourage reviews from your customers.
- Use Google Posts to enhance your brand’s Knowledge Panel with upcoming events or special news. Your post displays only temporarily (usually for seven days), but will remain visible to anyone looking up your brand using Google mobile search, so make each post unique.
Secondly, create and optimize your business listing on Bing Places for Business.
30. Check your site on Google Mapsadd or edit your site in Google Maps.
31. Local business listings
32. Better Business Bureau (BBB)
33. Citation building and reviews
- Review sites to monitor include: Facebook, Google, Yelp, Bing, local chamber websites and more.
- Sites where citations and mentions may occur include: Reddit, Quora, news media sites like WSJ, etc.
- Consider adding a page to your website with instructions on how to provide reviews and feedback.
34. Location pagestips for dealing with thin content on your site.)
35. Press releases
36. Social profiles
37. Touch your followers
38. Become the local expert
39. Local discounts
Success Signals for Local SEO
40. Online and offline conversion tracking/analyticsset up Google Analytics for free.) Pay particular attention to rising or falling click-through rates and bounce rates, which will show you how many searchers clicked through to your site and whether they liked what they found.
Enable mobile users to simply click to call your phone number wherever it appears, and track those interactions. Appointments and sales made online may also be important metrics for success. Remember, not counting progress is a failure.
41. Monitor rankingsAuthorityLabs to track local rankings.
While there’s a lot of work that goes into boosting your local search rankings, it will be well worth your time and effort as a local business. It may even mean your survival. The points on this local SEO checklist give you lots of ways to attract more customers with your online strategy.
I want to hear from you. Would you add anything to this list? Share your local checklist to-dos in the comments below. Then share this article with a friend.
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