Local SEO

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Local SEO - The Ultimate Search Engine Optimization Solution

Do you want to classify your local business among Google, Bing, Apple Maps and other local search engines? You are in the right place.

46% of all Google searches are local.

However, 56% of local retailers did not qualify for their Google My Business listings.

For those of you who are not familiar with, optimizing and claiming your Google My Business listing is the basis of local SEO. If 56% of businesses haven’t even declared their GMB listing, well, I doubt they’ve done much else…

However while claiming your Google My Business listing is a good start, there is MUCH more to local SEO than that.

This actionable guide has 6 parts which decides a lot from beginning to end.

Things to Keep In Mind

What is Local SEO?

Local SEO is the process of “optimizing” your content to attract more business from relevant local searches. These searches occur on Google and other search engines.

That last point is quite important—this isn’t just about Google.

People look for local businesses using different search engines … Google, Bing, Yelp, Apple Maps, and more.
However, Google occupies about 87% of the market (at least in the US). This means that most people use Google to search for local businesses.

For this reason, this guide will be 80% focused on optimizing your local presence on Google.
So let’s talk about Google…

Google’s Local ‘Snack Pack’ VS. Organic Results

Writing a blog post is difficult … I want coffee.

Here are the results for the “Coffee Shop Near Me” …

Keep in mind that there are two different sets of search results:

  • The “snack pack” results”
  • The “regular” organic results

I am pretty sure that most of you are aware of regular ol’ Google search results.

But what a mess are “snack pack” results?

Google Snack Pack is a boxed area that appears on the first results page when a local online search is made through Google’s search engine. The Snack Pack box displays the top 3 local business listings most relevant to the search enquiry. (Source)

Study says that 33% of clicks go to the local results of “snacks”, 40% – to the usual organic results.

Key point is that it results into the ranking of both, which is where local SEO comes in.

Quick reminder: Do not forget that local search in Google is carried out from different devices and applications.

On mobile maps, in the Google Maps application and in the Google Assistant, this is the same “coffee shop near me”

Break it Down

What Are The Different Types Of SEO?

At Syndiket, we believe four types of SEO exist – and we have an acronym to represent those 4 types of SEO. The acronym is T.R.A.P. 

“T” stands for Technical, “R” stands for Relevancy, “A” stands for Authority, and “P” stands for popularity. Search engine optimization has many smaller divisions within the 4 types, but all of them can be placed into one of these 4 buckets.

Generally, technical SEO for local businesses carry the least importance for ranking. Technical SEO has a bare minimum that is required and this usually includes things like site speed, indexation issues, crawlability, and schema. Once the core technical parts are done, minimal upkeep is required.

Relevancy is one of trivium elements of SEO. It has equal importance with popularity signals and authority signals. Relevancy signals are based on algorithmic learning principles. Bots crawl the internet every time a searcher has a search. Each search is given a relevancy score and the URLs that pop up for a query. The higher the relevancy score you attain, the greater your aggregated rating becomes in Google’s eyes. Digital marketing is a strange thing in 2020, and ranking a website requires the website to be relevant on many fronts.

Google’s Co-creator, Larry Page, had a unique idea in 1998 which has led to the modern-day Google Empire. “Page Rank”, named after Larry Page himself, was the algorithm that established Google as a search engine giant. The algorithm ranked websites by authority. 

Every page of a website has authority and the sum of all pages has another authority metric. The authority metric is largely determined by how many people link to them (backlinks). The aggregate score of all pages pointing to a domain creates the domain score, which is what Syndiket calls “Domain Rating”, per Ahrefs metrics. The more a site is referenced, the more authority it has. But, the real improvement to the algorithm came when Google began to classify authority weight. 

If Tony Hawk endorsed Syndiket for skateboarding, it would carry a lot more authority than 5 random high school kids endorsing Syndiket. This differentiation in authority happened in 2012 with the Penguin update. Authority SEO is complicated but VERY important.

Popularity signals are especially strong for GMB or local SEO, but popularity and engagement are used for all rankings. The goal of this signal is for Google to verify its own algorithm. You can check off all the boxes, but if your content is something real people hate, Google has ways to measure that. Syndiket has proprietary methods of controlling CTR (click-through rate) but we also infuse CRO methods into our work to make sure people actually like the content. Social shares and likes are also included in this bucket.

Before We Get Started…

First of all

You have to get the basics right

This means that your site is optimized for mobile visitors, as 61% of mobile users are more likely to contact local businesses if they have a mobile site.

Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool to check this.

You should also make sure that your site does not look like a waste of time.

No matter where you rank, when you have this ugly site, no one is going to contact you. 

Finally, I suggest that making a note of your businesses current and past name(s), address (es), phone number(s), and website(s) in this spreadsheet.

This will come in handy later.

Let’s get started!

Chapter 1: Keyword Research

Suppose you run a local coffee shop – it’s called Déjà Brew.

You will obviously want to pop up for a search like:

  • “coffee shop near me”;
  • “Déjà Brew”;
  • “what time does Déjà Brew close?;
  • “how long will it take to walk to Déjà Brew?”;
  • “Déjà Brew phone number”;
  • “what time does Déjà Brew close?

(Yes, I added “what time does Déjà Brew close?” twice as a little joke. I’m easily amused…)

But these are not traditional questions, since Google displays this information in the form of cards in the search results.

Google collects such information from Google My Business listings.

(More on that in the next section.)

But what about more “traditional” keywords? How do you know what they are and how to optimize your site?

Here are a few tactics:

1.1. Brainstorm Your SiLs (“Service in Locations”)

Local keyword research is not very complicated.

For most of the businesses, the primary keywords to focus on would be quite obvious.

Let’s assume that you’re a plumber in Sheffield— how do you think people will search for your services?

They would likely go to Google and type something like:

  • “plumber in sheffield”;
  • “emergency plumber in sheffield”;
  • “clogged drain cleaning in sheffield”

Did you get the format mostly its service in location (SiL).

It is really simple. Just make a list of all the services you offer and the locations you serve… then combine them together to create a bunch of potential keywords.

Pro tip

To make it more effective just make sure to list out plurals and variations of your services.

E.g., “plumber in sheffield” → “plumbers in sheffield” → “plumbing in sheffield,” etc.

Here’s a cool tool to help with that.

You just need to enter your services and locations after that hit “Generate keywords.” It will show a list like this:

If you used Ahrefs, you can easily copy-paste these into Keywords Explorer to see the search volumes (and other metrics) for each keyword.

PRO TIP

If you are doing local SEO for a business based in a small town? There would not be adequate actual searches for us to display accurate search volumes.

So here’s a quick trick…

Swap out your location modifier (e.g., “Sheffield”) for a larger, nearby city (e.g., London).

You should see search volumes for this location.

Then do the following calculation:

(Population of target town / Population of nearby city) * Search volume for nearby city

FYI, Most of the time you can find population data just by Googling it.

Let’s see if we can change engineer a rough search volume for “coffee shop sheffield” from our knowledge that “coffee shop london” has approximately 900 monthly searches.

(518,090 / 8,136,000) * 900 = 57

Not too far off—the true search volume is 90.

Keep in mind that this will only give an approximation. But if you use the same nearby city in your calculations for any keyword, you will be able to get a sense of the relative search volumes, which is what really matters.

1.2. Look for Keyword Ideas on Craigslist

When it comes to finding local keyword ideas Craigslist’s can be a goldmine. Just go to their services section, select your location and enter a keyword.

Let’s search for “plumber” in New York.

Right away, a bunch of keywords stand out—

  • “reliable plumbing services”;
  • “affordable plumbing services”;
  • “drain cleaning”;
  • “experienced plumber”

Sidenote: Are you in the UK? Try Gumtree instead.

1.3. Google Autocomplete

Next, use Google Autocomplete to create additional search queries.

It’s simple. Just enter your primary keyword on Google and focus on the suggested searches.

Let’s do it for “coffee shop sheffield.”

Here are some interesting suggestions – I did not think about the “city center” and the “train station” during my initial brainstorming of locations.

Note these that seem relevant

You can then rinse and repeat this process for other places or keyword options.

If you are a user of Ahrefs, you can get around this whole process using the report with search suggestions in the keyword explorer. This includes Google’s autocomplete suggestions for the words you entered.

This saves a lot of time since there is no need to do it manually using Google.

1.4. See What Keywords Your Competitors Rank For

Google understands the purpose of the search very well, therefore the average page of the ranking No. 1 will also be in the top 10 of approximately 1000 other relevant keywords (according to our research).

For instance, when I see at the Organic Keywords report in Site Explorer for a local Sheffield plumber’s website, I can find that they rank in the top 10 for a bunch of relevant terms.

By looking at these keywords for your competitors, you can find other relevant search options.

But this is just one competitor. So here’s another trick…

Use Ahrefs Content Gap tool to find extract common keywords for multiple competitors at once.

Just put in a bunch of competitors, leave the “at least one of the targets should rank in the top 10” box checked, and hit “Show keywords.” You should see something like this:

Nice!—some good ideas there!

Pro tip

Do this for identical businesses in other, larger areas (e.g., a big city) to uncover keywords that may also be relevant in your area, which your local competitors may have missed

For instance, when I did a Content Gap analysis for some London-based plumbers, I spotted keywords like “blocked drains london” and “drain clearance london.”

None of these changes come up for local competitors, so there may be some low-hanging fruit in the Sheffield variations of these keywords. I.e., “blocked drains sheffield,” etc.

Chapter 2. Google My Business, Bing Places, and Apple Maps Listings

Validating and optimizing Google My Business listings is perhaps the most important part of local SEO, although Bing Place listings and Apple Maps are also important.

They are not very difficult to set up – you just need to follow the instructions of Google / Bing / Apple.

But especially with GMB, there are a few things that tend to trip business owners up.

That is why I have added a full walkthrough below.

2.1. Google My Business

Google My Business is a free and easy-to-use tool for businesses and organisations to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps. (Source)

According to Moz, GMB is one of the main local rating factors for both snack packs and organic results.

To set it up, go here, then follow these steps.

Step 1. Enter Your Business Name

Firstly you have to ask for your business name

You have two options here:

  1. Create a new business
  2. Claim and existing business

Start typing, and Google will search for your business in their system.

You would see it if they have it. Hit the option to “create a business with this name” if not.

Recommendation

Do not try to throw out keywords here. Just enter your company name only

For example, if you run a New York liquor store called Déjà Brew, enter Déjà Brew as your company name. Do not enter into something like Déjà Brew New York coffee shop – this is against the rules of Google My Business.

Step 2. Enter Your Address

After that, Google will ask for your address.

If you are applying for a business that Google already has in its system, it will be ready. Otherwise, you will have to enter your address.

If you have a brick-and-mortar business with a storefront, this is easy – just enter the address of your store.

But it is possible that you may be confused what to enter here if:

  • You work from home.
  • You have one or more business partners, and both work from home (multiple addresses)
  • Your business is mobile (e.g., food truck).
  • You have one or more offices.
  • You have a virtual office, but no real physical location.
  • You serve customers at a physical location AND remotely (e.g., a takeaway)

Here’s my advice:

  • If you have a real physical office, use that address.
  • If you (and one or more business partners) work from home, Indicate the home address of the person closest to the main location your business serves.
  • If you have only a virtual office, DO NOT use this address—not unless this office is “staffed during business hours.” Doing so is contrary to GMB guidelines. Use your home address instead.

Remember that consistency is important here, so I want to copy and paste the information from the previously created table to make sure that it is correct and matches the information on your website (and any other lists of companies that you made).

Claiming the currents listing? Double-check the information given by Google in your spreadsheet. Please update if necessary.

You will also find a checkbox labeled “I deliver goods and services to my customers.”

Marking it would show that you are a “Service-area business” in Google’s eyes.

In fact, you should check this box if you are actually delivering goods and services to your customers … even if you serve customers in a physical place (for example, in a restaurant with food to your home).

If you do, you will see another checkbox- “Hide my address (this is not a shop)”.

This means that Google will know the location of your company (for verification purposes), but will not show your address to the regular ol’ Googlers. It will be not be listed and will remain private on your GMB page.

I would suggest checking this box if you listed a home address.

Step 3: Enter Your Exact Location

The next screen will display a map showing your location.

You can drag it and specify the exact location.

9 times out of 10, you can trust Google on this.

But if it seems that the pin is placed incorrectly, feel free to move it.

Step 4: Choose a Category

Google allows you to select a category only when setting up your Google My Business profile.

And has a ton of tips on how to choose the right category here.

Here is an excerpt that will suffice for most people:

Select categories that complete the statement: “This business IS a” rather than “this business HAS a .” The goal is to describe your business holistically rather than a list of all the services that it offers, products that it sells or amenities that it features. (Source)

Think about what your business is doing and start writing in the category box.

Google will start offering while you start typing.

Hit the one that seems most suitable and click “Next.”

Recommendation

Not sure which category to choose?

Look at your competitors.

Let’s say that you have a shot blasting business in London. If you enter it in GMB, it will not return the result of the range.

However, search for “shot blasting [location]” in Google Maps. You will see which main category your competitors have chosen.

You can then copy their category.

Step 5: Enter Your Phone Number and Website (Optional)

It is very simple – just enter your phone number and website address.

Here are some tips from Google.

Remember to be consistent. Use the data from your spreadsheet!

Step 6: Verify Your Listing

Before your GMB listing is published, you must verify it.

This is usually done over the phone or on a postcard – just follow the instructions from Google to verify.

Step 7: Optimize Your Listing Further

Congratulations – you have been verified! But don’t stop there. You must further optimize your GMB list:

  • Adding more categories;
  • Uploading some photos (ideally ones taken on your premises or at least nearby, as these will have location metadata attached);
  • Listing your opening hours;
  • Listing any individual services you offer;
  • Adding any additional phone numbers;
  • Adding relevant attributes/amenities;
  • Etc.

Here’s a great guide to fully-optimizing your Google My Business listing. I recommend checking it out.

2.2. Bing Places

Next up—Bing Places.

This is essentially just Bing’s equivalent of Google My Business.

Is it as important as GMB? No, absolutely not. Bing has only 7.81%  of the US market. This means that filling out your GMB profile is about 1/10 important.

But as it only requires a few minutes to set up your profile, it’s still something you should do.

And as you would see in a moment, there has a reason it pays to complete your GMB profile first. 

To get started, go here and hit “Get started.”

STEP 1: Check That You’re Not Already Listed!

First, make sure your business is not yet listed at Bing Places.

(I can’t stress the importance of doing this enough.)

To do this, go to the Bing Map page and start typing your business name in the search bar. If you are already listed, you should see your business the search results.

Let’s try this for Paul’s Meats—a stunning butcher’s shop near my old house.

Looks like he’s already on the list.

If you find that this is your business, look at the whole list, then “Is this your business?” Link at the bottom of the list. (Yes, they cannot do it less!)

Then you will be redirected to a page where you can claim / add your business – it will be partially pre-filled.

Step 2: Select Business Type

Next – select your business type and location

Here are your options for business type:

  1. Small of medium business (1–10 locations)
  2. Chain business (more than 10 locations)
  3. Online business (no physical locations)
  4. I manage business listings on my client’s behalf

Suppose that you are a small business with 1-10 locations.

If you run a network business, Hit Option # 2-Bing will do exactly what you need.

Note: Online businesses (option number 3) are not allowed to participate in Bing Place lists, so if you fall into this category, you are out of luck. But then, if you do not have a local business, then why are you reading this guide

So let’s hit option #1.

Now something magical will happen—there will be an option to import data from Google My Business.

If you are already tested on GMB, do it. This will not only save time, but also reduce the likelihood of errors.

If not, enter your business name and location (I suggest a zip code) as usual.

Bing will look for your business. But since we already did this check in step # 0, it should not be found. Therefore, click “Create a new business.”

Step 3: Enter Your Basic Information

Now you have to enter your business name, address, website, etc.

Note: If you imported your data through Google My Business, then this should be for you.

As with the Google My Business list, you must copy and paste the data from your spreadsheet to ensure that it matches other lists.

There is also the option to hide your address from search results.

If you are working from home or using a virtual office, select this check box.

Step 4: Choose a Business Segment & Category

Firstly, if you are “healthcare professional or doctor,” tick the special box—that’s you done for the “business segment” part.

Or else, click the Browse button and select one of the 11 available business segments. Choose “I don’t know” if you are not sure.

Then select the category / categories that are part of your business.

The Bing list is not as exhaustive as Google’s, but unlike Google, here you can select several categories (up to 10) and then select the “main” category in the process.

I suggest clicking Browse to open a modal window, and then find a suitable business category. It displays categories and subcategories in a more logical way.

Don’t go crazy here. Just because you can select 10 doesn’t mean that you should—just pick the ones that are truly appropriate for your business. This is usually one or two categories, in my experience.

You can then choose a primary category from the categories you selected.

At the end, include a short description for your business—sprinkle your keywords throughout, but don’t overdo it.

Step 5: Add Phone, Website, Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, and TripAdvisor links

Now you would paste in your phone number from your spreadsheet—again, this ensures things stay consistent.

When people search for your business, Bing displays a link to a social profile in the Knowledge Graph panel (or whatever Bing calls it).

Here’s an example for Starbucks:

So if you have them, add them.

If not, you can always add them later.

Step 6: Add Photos

Here are Bing’s guidelines for photos.

You can add up to 10.

2.3. Apple Maps

Apple iPhone occupies 32.9%  of the US market- that is about ⅓ of all smartphone users, or tens of millions of people.

Now, if you are like me, you are probably using Google Maps on Apple Maps.

But there are two things to keep in mind:

But there are two important things to keep in mind:

    1. Millions of iOS users are still using Apple Maps, as this is the default Maps app on the iPhone. Apple is very secretive, so I could not find any relevant statistics on the number of iOS users who use Apple Maps. But, since this is a standard mapping application on the iPhone, I bet that it’s the majority of iOS users, millions of people. 
  1. Apple Maps embedded in Siri and Spotlight Searches. Ask Siri for instructions and the Apple map will open. The same attention is given to search. Recent data shows that Siri is actively used on more than half a billion devices. This is a lot of people!

Bottom line: if you do local SEO, you should submit and optimize your list of Apple Maps.

You can do it here. Then go through this guide to optimize your data.

Chapter 3: Local Citations (NAP)

Citations are online mentions of your company that usually show your business name, address, and phone number – collectively known as NAP (name, address, telephone).

Sidenote: Many SEOs refer to citations that don’t show full NAP information as partial citations. Some also talk about UNAP/NAPU (Name, Address, Phone Number, URL) and NAPW (Name, Address, Phone Number, Website).

Structured and Unstructured are the two main types of citations: 

Here is an example of a structured citation:

In fact, structured quotes are those in which NAP information is presented in a visually structured way. They usually live in business directories, social profiles, etc.

Here’s an unstructured citation:

Unstructured quotes are references to your business in an unstructured format (amazing, true !?). These are usually blog posts, newspaper sites, commercial blogs, etc.

Why Are NAP Citations Important?

There two reasons why accurate and consistent NAP citations are important:

  1. According to Moz, citation signals are one of the main ranking factor at local  level.  This is true for both Google “Snack Pack” results and regular search results. Most likely, this is due to the fact that continuous NAP information on the Internet allows Google to check the data in a file (GMB) for a particular enterprise. Inconsistent NAP information, on the other hand, serves only to confuse both Google and potential customers. This leads to a bad user experience – not that Google is a fan.
  2. Google is not the only place where people are looking for business. They also search on Facebook, directories, etc. Having the exact NAP listed on these sites will allow potential customers to find your business, which will increase the number of customers and revenue.

Therefore, when it comes to local SEO, your work consists of two parts:

  1. Make sure your current citations are correct and consistent.
  2. Build more related citations.

Let’s find how to do that.

3.1. Perform a Citation Audit

Most businesses will have some existing citations.

But most often, at least some of them will be incorrect and / or incomplete.

Some would get the business name right, but the wrong phone number. Others will have the correct name and phone number, but the old address. And some may have partial information, such as company name, address, but not a phone number.

For instance, Europcar Sheffield displays their phone number as +44 (0371) 3845930 on their website.

But their Yelp listing shows 0871 384 5930.

This is a great example of conflicting NAP information on the Internet and needs to be fixed.

I should note that both of these numbers actually work, but for the purposes of citingNAP it is better to choose and stick to the number. This will at least ensure consistency between all structured NAP citations.

Here are some ways to find conflicting, incomplete, and duplicate NAP citations:

Moz Local (Check My Listing)

Go here and search for your business.

Moz will analyze the main data aggregators in your country and find incomplete, inconsistent and duplicate lists.

Here are some inconsistent listings (here, and here) that are open to Europecar Sheffield:

It’s seems like the phone number is the culprit here. They each display the 0871 version rather than the 0371 number listed on their official site.

To fix this, click and request a listing (if you have not already done so) then update.

Check the Big Aggregators/Suppliers

Most small directories receive information about your NAP from aggregators / data providers.

Here are the big ones:

Checking your listings on these sites allows you to potentially update dozens or hundreds of conflicting / incorrect NAP citations in one fell swoop.

Pro tip

Use a paid service like BrightLocal to supply data to many of these data aggregators in one go.

Manual NAP Citation Audit

Fixing any problems with key data aggregators may not result in all links being cleared. You will probably have conflicting, incorrect, or incomplete data.

There is only one way to clean up this data and that is to do a manual citation audit and cleanup.

The main process for this is to search Google for such citations with advanced search operators.

Here are a few you can use:

To find incomplete NAP citations:

  • “Business name” + “partial address” -”correct phone number”
  • “Business name” + “correct phone number” -”partial address”
  • “Correct phone number” + “partial address” -”business name”

For example, I searched for europcar sheffield + corporation street -0371 and got this:

Looking through some other lists on this site (example), I know that the phone number is usually displayed under the address. It is not on this list.

To find incorrect NAP citations:

  • “Business name” + “partial address” +”old/incorrect phone number”
  • “Business name” + “correct phone number” + ”old/incorrect partial address”
  • “Correct phone number” + ”correct partial address” + “old business name”

For example, I searched for europcar sheffield + corporation street + 0871 and got this:

I don’t see this phone number on the Europcar website, so it would likely be better to change this to the 0371 number (if possible).

Casey Meraz, founder of Juris Digital, wrote an excellent post for Moz, which dives deeply into the manual citation audit process. I suggest you check this out.

3.2. Build More Citations

Now that you’ve found and fixed existing citations, it’s time to build even more.

I suggest starting with some key structured  citations.

Here’s a list of 50 to get you started.

Sidenote: Not in the US? Look at a list of the top citation sources for your country here.

You can then shift on to geographically-relevant citations, such as:

  • Local Chamber of Commerce (see here for a list of US Chambers, and here for UK);
  • Other local business associations and directories (e.g., local networking events);
  • Community hubs

Also, there are reated industry-specific citations, such as:

Essentially, just find any online publication relevant to your industry.

Here are some ways to find these:

Using Whitespark’s Citation Finder Tool

Whitespark’s local citation finder tool give you the opportunities based on your location and keyphrase.

Just enter your location and some keywords related to your business (e.g. plumber). The tool will do the hard work for you.

For this particular search, it found 110 potential citation opportunities.

It is a matter of creating lists on any relevant sites. You can also easily transfer this work to VA.

Sidenote: Whitspark is a freemium tool. If you are not a paid member, most of the results will be blurred. But with a free account you can still find good opportunities.

Using the Anchors Report in Ahrefs Site Explorer

Site Explorer > enter a competitor’s domain > Anchors

Look for anchors like:

  • “Visit website”
  • “Website”
  • “Visit site”
  • “Click here”
  • “View website”
  • [Naked URLs]

Generic anchors like these often come from directories.

Not sure who your competitors are?

Site Explorer > enter your website > Competing Domains

You will now find a list of similar sites that compete with you in the SERPs.

Using the Backlinks Report in Ahrefs Site Explorer

You can also use backlink reports and filter only nofollow links – these are also often directories.

Site Explorer > enter a competitor’s domain > Backlinks > nofollow

Using Ahrefs Link Intersect Tool

Firstly you need to go to Google and search for [keyword][location]. E.g., “plumber sheffield.”

Copy and paste some of the most popular websites into our link building tool. Do not link your site in the “(optional)” field.

See who’s linking to multiple websites with Ahrefs Link Intersect Tool

NOTE: You have to be sure that they’re actual business websites, not directories.

Hit “Show link opportunities.”

You will now find which sites link to one or more of your competitors.

In this scenario, ManchesterEveningNews.co.uk is linking to ¾ of the competitors I entered—this is clearly a directory.

Keep in mind that we are aware of each of these sites rank in the top 10 for our target keywords.

Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that any general links / links to these sites help them rank. And if so, it is likely to pay to be listed on these sites.

Using Google Search Operators

     Every SEO should have a master list of search operators to call on for link prospecting. A good search operator contains two things:

    — Root operator (i.e. “suggest a site”);

    — Search modifier / keyword (i.e. Miami)

For local link building, we want the modifier to contain local keywords. Get specific with it – instead of just using your city (i.e. Miami), dig into neighborhoods, counties, towns, etc.

    Ryan Stewart, Partner From the Future

Here’s an example:

Check out section #2 from this guide for more related search operators.

Chapter 4. On-Page SEO

Many “traditional” on-page SEO practices are applicable here, like:

  • Keyword in H1
  • Keyword in title tag
  • Keyword in URL
  • Short and sweet URLs
  • Enticing meta description

Recommended reading: On Page SEO: A (2M Keyword) Data Driven Analysis

But there are several other things when trying to rank locally, such as displaying NAP information and adding related schema markup.

There are also differences in approaches depending on the number of places that you serve.

So, let’s look at both bases …

4.1. Set Up Your Website Structure to Rank Local Landing Pages

If you serve several regions / cities and want to rank in each of these locations, then you need to make a local landing page.

Here’s the structure I would suggest:

  • yourlocalbusiness.com/area-1/
  • yourlocalbusiness.com/area-2/
  • yourlocalbusiness.com/area-3/

Want to find a business doing this really well? Check out Europcar.

They rank well for hundreds of location-based items, such as “car hire [location]” and “car rental [location”. 

Pay attention to the pages that are ranked.

  • www.europcar.co.uk/locations/united-kingdom/london (ranks for “car hire London”)
  • www.europcar.co.uk/locations/united-kingdom/edinburgh (ranks for “car hire Edinburgh”)
  • www.europcar.co.uk/locations/united-kingdom/inverness (ranks for “car hire Inverness”)
  • www.europcar.co.uk/locations/united-kingdom/belfast (ranks for “car hire Belfast”)

 They are all location oriented landing pages.

 So this is definitely the way to go if you want to rank in several locations.

Pro tip

Do not go crazy with location-specific landing pages unless you have a real physical presence (office) in each of these locations.

For example, if you are a Sheffield wedding photographer (meaning your GMB address is in Sheffield), do not create hundreds or thousands of local landing pages for each city / city / county under the sun.

Stick to building landing pages for some of the nearby places that are truly relevant to your business. Like

greatweddingphotography.com/chesterfield

greatweddingphotography.com/derbyshire

greatweddingphotography.com/peak-district

Do not create a local landing page unless you have a specific reason for this (for example, you are in Sheffield but are actually experts in Maltese weddings).

Also, do not create more than one landing page for the same location, but use slightly different words. This will not help you in the ranking.

Want proof? Check out the footer links on this site: sierphotography.com:

Here are the pages these link to:

  • sierphotography.com/wedding-photography-sheffield
  • sierphotography.com/wedding-photographer-sheffield
  • sierphotography.com/sheffield-wedding-photography
  • sierphotography.com/sheffield-wedding-photographer

Let’s find if they rank for their target terms, shall we?

The site appears to be # 2 in all of these posts.

But look at the page that takes up space – this is the home page, not the landing page.

Essentially, Google decided that it was the homepage that should be ranked here, not the individual landing pages. So, no harm, right?

Not enough. The disadvantage of this is that the so-called “link equality” is unnecessarily distributed over several pages. In plain English, this means the homepage can be strong and potentially have a high rating.

Bottomline? This is bad practice and you should avoid it.

4.2. Optimize Your Homepage

Most businesses need to optimize their homepage around their primary location.

For example, a Sheffield wedding photographer should optimize their homepage for terms such as Sheffield Wedding Photographer, etc.

I know what you may be thinking…

“[…] but I do weddings all over the UK/Europe/The World! I don’t want to restrict myself to [location]”

An honest evaluation. So you need to leave out the location references and just optimize for “wedding photographer”, right?  After all, it’s 45 times the monthly searches.

This is a bad idea. Here’s why…

Google “Wedding Photographer” and I guarantee that most of the results will depend on the location.

To demonstrate this, there is one search (wedding photographer) from Sheffield, UK and New York, USA:

Do you see my point?

Although location modifiers are not added to your search, Google still shows localized results. This is because they can evaluate your location using things like GPS (on a mobile phone), your IP, etc. They know where you are, so they effectively add local modifiers for you.

This way you can also customize your homepage for your location.

Here are a few pointers:

  • Show NAP information (add this in the footer, unless you have local landing pages for other physical locations)
  • Embed a Google Map showing your location (optional — but helps customers see/find where you are)
  • Display testimonials/reviews/etc.
  • Add relevant schema markup (keep reading!)

Business with lots of locations? Read this.

If you have hundreds or thousands of real, physical locations, then you are free from the rule of setting up a home page around your primary location.

Take, for example, Europcar – they have more than 3,300 physical locations around the globe.

It does not make sense to optimize your home page around one of them.

In this case, the home page should be optimized for the relevant keywords (car hire, car rental) without  location modifiers.

4.3. Optimize Your Local Landing Pages

 Your local landing pages should be set up around individual locations.

Assume that you are a Sheffield wedding photographer who works in two other locations: Leeds and Manchester. You can have the following local landing pages:

  • greatweddingphotography.com/leeds
  • greatweddingphotography.com/manchester

For some on-page optimization pointers, read our full on-page SEO guide

Here are some additional inclusions specific to local landing pages:

  • Opening hours;
  • Local NAP (if you have a real local presence);
  • Related keywords, sprinkled throughout

4.4. Add Schema Markup to Your Pages

Schema is not very difficult.

This is just an extra code that provides Google additional information about your business / website and helps them better understand the data displayed on your website.

You do not need to be a very technical for its implementation. Google’s structural markup assistant does most of the work for you.

Just check the box “local businesses” insert one of your pages and click “Start tagging”.

Your page will be loaded into the visual editor. Adding Schema.org markup is as easy as right-clicking any corresponding element on the page and selecting the appropriate markup elements from the list.

Let’s start with NAP information. So Business Name…

Sidenote: You also need to add an image to right-click your business logo and select an image.

Address…

Phone Number…

You can also add markup for hours of work and a bunch of other things. If you want to add a cell / mobile phone number, just use the phone markup twice – that’s great.

Just remember that all of this data should match your Google My Business data as much as possible.

When you have completed, hit “create HTML” and select the JSON-LD format.

You will see a code snippet like this:

<!– JSON-LD markup generated by Google Structured Data Markup Helper. –>

<script type=”application/ld+json”>

{

“@context” : “http://schema.org”,

“@type” : “LocalBusiness”,

“name” : “Millhouses Plumbing & Heating Services”,

“image” : “https://www.millhousesplumbing.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/millhouses-plumbing-and-heating-logo2.jpg”,

“telephone” : [ “07887 850588”, “0114 289 1817” ],

“address” : {

“@type” : “PostalAddress”,

“streetAddress” : “Dobcroft Road Millhouses”,

“addressLocality” : “Sheffield”,

“postalCode” : “S7 2LQ”

}

}

</script>

You can then test the code using Google’s Structured Data Testing tool.

Just paste it in and it will highlight any errors.

Correct all errors, then paste the code in the header section of your site.

PRO TIP

SchemaApp is another useful tool for implementing schema markup on your site.

It is integrated with Google Tag Manager (and other existing platforms – Shopify, Drupal, etc.), which means that you can add / edit markup without interfering with the code.

If you have multiple physical locations (different addresses, phone numbers, etc.), then you must follow this process for each local landing page.

Chapter 5: Link Building (for Local Sites)

According to Moz’s 2017 survey, “link signals” are the most vital ranking factor for local organic results.

For local “snack pack,” they are the second most important factor.

When creating local NAP quotes, you should already have created a basic set of links. (Most directories and local list sites allow you to link to your site.)

But unfortunately, many of them will be nofollow.

So, here are some ways to create links for local business sites …

5.1. Create and Promote a Useful Local Resource

Nothing will help you win potential customers and help them more realistically.

Let’s say you are a plumber in Sheffield, UK.

Your target market is people from Sheffield. What resource will be really useful for these people and can attract links?

Here are some of ideas:

  • Plant Care Guide (for Sheffield Foch). Here in England, our water is soft. But did you know that soft water is not suitable for plants? I did not, but now I am wondering if this is the reason why my basil plant always dies. It’s not entirely related to plumbing, but I’m sure that a manual for the care of sheffilders would be both helpful and useful.
  • How to Unblock a Drain with Henderson’s Relish and Baking Soda—Now this one is a bit silly. I got this video via Content Explorer, which tells about unblocking a drain using vinegar and baking soda. With Henderson’s Relish being produced in Sheffield—and the taste is just similar to vinegar, according to my taste buds—I’m wondering if this might have the same effect. If so, this could (maybe) make a great piece of linkbait.

I’m not saying that these ideas are great (they’re right above my head), but I hope you understand the idea.

If you don’t feel so creative, here are a few more ideas that work well:

  • Local “best of” guides—Make a list of the best restaurants, bars, breweries, attractions, things to do, etc. in the area.
  • Local calendars—Make a local calendar, containing the most notable events across numerous categories occuring in the next few months.

Once created, it is a matter of progress.

Facebook groups like this are a great place to begin.

Just be sure to clear it with the admins first!

5.2. Guest Blogging

The guest blog is still a great way to create high-quality links.

 Don’t do it solely for the links, just do it for the exposure for your business.

In 2018, we are talking about quality, not quantity – you should write for blogs that can direct targeted referral traffic to your site.

For a local business, this will usually be:

  • Local blogs and publications;
  • Industry-specific blogs

Finding a local blog is as easy as searching on Google:

  • [location] intitle:”write for us”;
  • [location] intitle:”write for me”;
  • [location] ”write for us”;
  • [location] ”guest post”

Here’s what it might look like for a Miami based business:

You can also do this to search for industry publications – just replace the location with keywords (for example, “plumbing” instead of “miami”).

Recommended reading: An In-Depth Look at Today’s Guest Blogging (Case Studies, Data & Tips)

5.3. Improve Popular Content (a.k.a. “Skyscraper Technique”)

Here is the page I found on how to stop freezing pipes through the content explorer.

It is 482 words long and contains 116 link domains.

TIP

Use the referrer domain filter in Content Explorer to filter out pages with too many backlinks.

After appearing close to the backlinks in Site Explorer, there are some good links as well.

Here’s a DR90 link from mass.gov—the official blog of the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation:

Creating the best guide to prevent pipe freezing and steal links from this page would be very simple.

5.4. Steal More of Your Competitors Links With Link Intersect

Link Intersect is helpful for more than just building citations.

You can also use it to find common links among your competitors.

Link Intersect > enter competing domains > see common links

It’s better to do this with top-ranking sites for their target conditions (for example, a Sheffield plumber), as this should highlight needle links.

Nine times out of 10, this will highlight a lot of directory links.

This is a good way to find more NAP citation and nofollow link opportunities.

But it would also highlight forum links, guest posts, and other special types of links.

Case in point, this DR78, dofollow link from an NHS discount site:

Links like these are easy to replicate.

5.5. Even MORE Link Building Tactics!

This article will not be able to cover all link building techniques.

So, here are some of the best resources for creating links from our blog and others:

Further reading

Chapter 6. Reviews (and Other Ongoing Activities)

A set-and-forget mentality is the worst thing you do for SEO.

Local SEO is no different.

Therefore, some ongoing activities you should remember.

6.1. Keep Active on Google My Business 

Here are the three most vital ongoing tasks with GMB:

  1. Respond to customer/client reviews;
  2. Look out for incorrect edits;
  3. Use Google Posts to keep your customers informed

Number 1 is very clear – just track and respond to reviews (positive and negative) in a timely manner through Google My Business.

Sidenote: You must do the same for any other review sites that are important to your business (e.g. TripAdvisor, restaurants)

But you also need to keep track of incorrect changes to your record.

Primarily, anyone can offer to edit any Google entry using the “Suggest an edit” button

Google introduces many of the proposed changes without informing the business owner or verifying the information. Therefore, it is worth making sure that every two weeks everything is correct.

Now let’s talk about Google Posts…

Google Posts is the micro-blogging platform on Google My Business. All updates are visible in the knowledge panel and on your list.

Here’s an example:

This not only increases your SERP real estate, but also gives you the opportunity to attract more attention and increase conversion.

Some studies (here, and here) also show a correlation between the “snack pack” and Google Post activity.

You can create Google posts in Google My Business.

There are several options to choose from:

  • Upload an image;
  • Write text (up to 300 words)

You can also select the call to action button (“Learn more”, “Sign up”, “Get offers, etc.”) to include in your message.

I suggest that all local businesses play with this feature and stay active with Google Post. It does not take much time or effort, so the probability of a return on investment will be higher.

6.2. Publish New Content Regularly

Blogging regularly does two things:

  1. Tells Google (and visitors) that your site is actively maintained;
  2. Attracts links

But do not blog just for the sake of it—go for quality over quantity.

Publishing a new message every month or two will be enough for most small businesses.

Now I will not go into details, because we already have a ton of resources related to blogging on Ahrefs blog. I have included some more reading links below.

Final Thoughts

I know there is something special about this, but seriously, follow the tips above and I guarantee that you will give a ranking 99% better than your competitors.

Just remember that you also need to track conversions as much as possible (call tracking, contact conversion tracking, etc.). Otherwise, you will not have a clue if your local SEO efforts actually lead to an increase in revenue via potential customers, and ultimately, more revenue for your business. 

Am I missing something in this guide? Let me know in the comments.

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