Local search is one of the biggest digital marketing channels available for small businesses. The very fact that you’re reading this publication means you understand that.

But with so many variables to watch out for, getting to the top of Google for your local search term can be daunting. So, how do you ensure your website is optimized to generate more local search traffic?

Here, I’ll share a complete checklist to run through when optimizing your website. You’ll learn the technical aspects, as well as what your content must include to grab Google’s attention.

1. Technical On-Page SEO

Before we talk about optimizing your content for on-page SEO, you need to get your “technical house” in order.

This means making sure the technology, design and structure of your site is optimized. Not only will this increase your chances of ranking for your target keyword, but will also improve the experience you provide to your customers.

  • Ensure your site loads quickly. Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to measure performance. A score above 80 is a good score. You can increase speed by compressing images, enabling HTTP compression and using a minimum amount of JavaScript.

  • Optimize your page for mobile devices. Use Google’s mobile-friendly checker to see if your website fits the bill. Ensure your website utilized responsive design to appear seamless on mobile devices.
  • Adopt AMP (accelerated mobile pages). This is an open-source project designed to optimize faster mobile pages. Check out the AMP Project for more information.
  • Use SSL certification. This shows Google and your customers that your website is trustworthy.
  • Specify a preferred domain in Google Search Console and WordPress.
  • Improve your website structure. In other words, users shouldn’t be more than two to three clicks away from any page on your website. The deeper you have to go, the harder it is for Google to crawl your website.
  • Optimize URL structure
  • Optimize robots.txt
  • Submit an XML Sitemap to Google and Bing

2. Optimize On-Page Content

With the technical side of your website optimized to perfection, it’s time to get your content in top shape. There are various elements that you must include within your site’s content. These signal to Google what your site is about, which will in turn increase the chance of ranking for your target keyword.

  • Create linkable content. As you’ll soon learn, generating links from other websites is key for ranking for your target keyword. Give other webmasters something worth linking to.
  • Optimize your title tag. This will appear on the search engine results page (SERP) for your chosen keyword, and shows users that you’re relevant to their search query.
  • Use H1 and H2 tags. These act as headings that show Google what your content is all about. If your target keyword is found in a H1 tag, it shows Google that your page is about that primary keyword.
  • Use friendly URLs. Use short, sweet URLs e.g. “www.mysite.com/laptop-repair.” Avoid long URLs like “www.mysite.com/category/2018/03/product/laptop-repear.”
  • Include plenty of outbound links. Linking to relevant sites shows Google that you’re a trustworthy resource.
  • And internal links. Ensure each page includes plenty of links to other, relevant pages on your website.

3. External Factors (Off-Page SEO)

On-page SEO includes factors you have the most control over. While off-page SEO involves things that you can’t always control, there are ways to ensure you increase success. These include:

  • Generate backlinks from high-quality, relevant websites. Each backlink acts as a “vote of confidence,” which shows that other websites trust yours. Check out this guide from Backlinko for more details. However, note that getting links from sites with a high spam score could negatively impact your SEO.
  • Sign up for Google My Business. You’re not going to appear on Google’s local listing if you’re not registered as a local business.
  • Register for citations on local business directories. These include Yelp!, TripAdvisor and Yahoo! Local. Check out HubSpot’s full list for more.
  • Ensure your NAP is consistent across all directories. NAP stands for Name, Address and Phone Number. This must be consistent for Google (and other search engines) to ensure you’re the correct business to attribute each listing to.

4. Optimizing for User Behavior

In recent times, the way users behave on your website has become a huge ranking factor. For example, if someone visits your site from Google and “bounces” to check out another website… that then sends a signal to Google that your website isn’t as relevant as that second page.

There are three core areas your must optimize for user experience:

  • Optimize click-through-rates (CTR) on the SERPs. The more people that click on your website for a keyword, the more Google thinks you’re relevant for that term. You can boost your CTR by testing new meta titles to attract searchers to your site.
  • Reduce bounce rate. Bounce rate is the percentage of people that leave your website after visiting only one page. The lower the bounce rate, the more engaging your site is. You can reduce bounce rate by encouraging visitors to check out other areas of your website with suggested content and calls-to-action.
  • Increase dwell time. Dwell time is the amount of a time a user spends on a website after clicking through on the SERPs. Boost dwell time by removing unnecessary ads, optimizing loading speed, enabling site search, using internal linking between pages of a website and including related content.

5. Generate Online Reviews

According to a survey by BrightLocal, 68% of consumers said that reviews influence their decisions to make a purchase.

Here are a few important steps to make reviews work for you:

  • Directly ask customers to leave a review when they purchase from you in-store or in-person.
  • Send an email or SMS asking for reviews after their purchase. This is often more effective than in-person, as you can include a link to your Google Business listing directly within the message.
  • Try to respond to every piece of positive feedback shared on social media, forums, communities and other online platforms.
  • Implement a reputation management process. Resolve any negative feedback as soon as it arises. It’s common that bad reviews come from a misunderstanding.

6. Optimize Your Social Presence

If you’re new to social media marketing, then I suggest you start with an in-depth guide covering social media.

In short, you need a strategy that focuses on the right platforms where your audience can be found. Don’t waste time and resources on platforms that don’t move the needle for you.

While it’s debatable that social signals contribute to SEO, it’s still good practice to get some fundamental elements down:

  • Add social media plugins to your website. Make it easy for users to share your content.
  • Create infographic images and small videos that send out a message about the business brand. A consistent promotion of branded content helps grow followers organically.
  • Choose targeted keywords and phrases across social media channels, to describe company’s mission, products & services. This helps in optimizing the content/posts for searches. Use hashtags, as necessary
  • Create accounts in Reddit, StumbleUpon, Digg, HackerNews, and other forums. Get involved with the conversation, engage with each community and share content that their audiences will find valuable.
  • Make sure your NAP is accurate across all your social media profiles.

Local Search Perfection

If you’re not seeing the results you’d like from local search, it’s likely that some (or many) of these elements aren’t optimized. Follow this checklist and see what you’re missing. Start with the technical elements of your website and then work to provide the best experience possible. Not only will you attract more search traffic, but turn that traffic into buying customers.

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