It’s been about five years since we wrote this beginners guide to local SEO optimization, and oh my how times have changed.
So we went ahead and updated the whole article to bring everyone up to date with 2019.
It’s mind blowing how spot on we were with our predictions from 2014. Mobile did take over the whole game just like we suspected.
What is local business SEO optimization?
Local SEO optimization is the process of building authority for your local business listing on Google.
It helps rank your business in the Google Local 3 pack, which is located above the rest of the search results.
Landing in the 3 pack can bring in huge gains for your business.
What factors does Google take into account for local SEO?
There’s a ton of factors that come into play when Google is deciding where you rank.
Those factors include signals from your Google My Business Page, the amount and authority of links to your website, reviews, and more.
For detailed information regarding ranking factors, check out the 2018 Local Search ranking factors study by Moz.
How To Get Started Optimizing Your Local Business
Before you start, it’s important to know what your keyword is going to be. That will be the word you specifically optimize for so your business comes up when people search that word on Google.
Finding this word is pretty easy. Put yourself in your customers shoes looking for your service online.
If your a plumber in Los Angeles, the customer might search for something like “plumbing company in Los Angeles”. That’s going to be your keyword.
1. Create Your Google My Business Profile
First things first, you need to sign up for Google My Business. It’s free and lists your business on Google for your local customers to find.
Your Google My Business profile is the most important ranking factor for Google so make sure you focus on making your profile perfect.
Head over to Google My Business and sign up for a profile. Fill out all of the fields it asks for. Try to use some of your keywords in your descriptions and even your business name. Make sure you choose the correct categories, and don’t only choose one.
Whatever you do, don’t copy and paste the description from your website. Google my business, your website, Yelp, and all of the other sites I mention in this article all need to have unique descriptions for optimal optimization.
Don’t forget to add some photos and videos as well. We need to literally fill out every field available in our Google My Business profile to optimize. The more complete your profile, the better you’ll do.
After you complete signing up, Google will mail you a postcard with a code to verify your address.
The postcard usually arrives within a couple weeks so be on the lookout for that. Once it arrives, login and enter the code from the postcard to activate your listing.
Bonus Tip: Google My Business now allows you to post on your business profile. Post as much as you can (we recommend at least a couple times a week).
2. Get Some Links
Links are by far one of the most important aspects for any kind of SEO.
Links help Google decide what your web pages are about and measure how much people really value the content on your website.
When you think of a link, you automatically picture the classic blue text with the underline. Google analyzes the text of the links (aka anchor text) to determine what pages are about.
In this example when I talk about Local SEO Company in Los Angeles and link out to our Local SEO page, it tells Google what the page is about. See what I did there 😉
So you need links with the correct anchor text to tell Google what your business does.
Not all links are created equal. The authority of the website the link is on makes the biggest difference. A link from the Los Angeles Times obviously carries more weight than a link from Bobs Building Blog.
Link relevancy is important. A link to your plumbing website from a car blog is not going to be like a link from the plumbing association or a plumbing publication. Relevant links also reinforce what you do with Google.
In conclusion, get relevant links from authoritative websites. Some people may already owe you a link. Links from irrelevant and spammy websites will hurt your link profile.
If you’re a member of the local Chamber of Commerce, you can always call them and ask for a link. It is also relevant as the chamber of commerce website is about the city you serve.
3. Generate Reviews
Reviews are the third most important ranking factor when it comes to local SEO optimization.
Not just your Google My Business reviews. Even third party reviews like Yelp, Yellowpages, etc.
The quantity and diversity of your reviews goes into account when your ranking is determined.
If you have an established business with customers, it should be pretty easy to get some reviews rolling.
Contact your customers directly asking them for feedback on your product or service. You can do so by calling them or simply shooting them an email.
Try to spread your reviews onto multiple platforms including Google, Yelp, and Facebook.
If you’re sending an email, copy your Google Review link and include it in your email to make it easy for your customers to add their review.
You can get the link by Googling your business and pressing “Write a review” button. When the review dialog opens, copy the link from your browser, and share it with your clients. See below
That way when they click the link, they will go straight to the dialog screen to add their review.
4. Fine Tune Your Website
Let me start off by saying, you need a website to unlock the full potential of Local SEO.
If you don’t already have one, contact a web design company immediately to create you a nice website to represent your business online.
On your website, you need to optimize your title tag to include your keyword (example: emergency plumber), as well as the meta description and heading tags. Your keyword should also be used throughout the text on your website.
Make sure your website is fast and follows Googles guidelines for speed. You can test it using Google’s Pagespeed Insights.
Your name, address, phone number needs to be in a prominent location on every page of your website. Also make sure its consistent with what you have everywhere else (Yelp, Google, …). Check out the example below
Embed a Google map onto your website. You can do so by finding your business on Google, clicking share, then clicking embed to get the embed code. Then copy that code onto your web page to display the map. Adding a link to get driving directions is helpful too.
If your website isn’t mobile friendly, your living in the dark ages. Please bring your website up to date with a mobile version. Over half the searches are on mobile anyway.
Utilize schema markup to help search engines understand what your website is about. Schema is a markup Google uses to distinguish what it is the web page is about. This is a bit more advanced so you may need to enlist the help of a web designer to get this done.
5. Create Your Yelp Profile
Now we’re going to move over to yelp. Head over to biz.yelp.com and claim your business profile. If your business isn’t on Yelp already, you’re going to have to make the profile from scratch.
Yelp uses phone verification in my experience so when you go to claim your business profile, they’re going to give you a call to verify your authority in relation to the business.
Just like we did the Google My Business listing, we’re going to be filling out all of the fields in yelp too. Fill out the description, owner info, specialties, and everything else.
IMPORTANT: Make sure all of the info like your name, address, phone, and hours is consistent with the info you have on Google, your website, and everywhere else across the web. When I say consistent I mean word for word, letter by letter. If your Yelp listing includes a unit number and your Google (or any other) listing doesn’t, you’re doing it wrong.
Bonus Tip: A Yelp employee once told me over the phone that the specialties section carries the most weight for search engines. So if you have any keywords you want to include, insert them there.
However, NEVER STUFF KEYWORDS into the descriptions, or any of the copy you produce. Make sure your keywords always flow naturally with the surrounding text.
Citations are pretty much listings in authoritative directories around the web. These directories include the Yellow Pages, White Pages, Yahoo, Bing, and hundreds more.
These citations reinforce your business information including your name, address, phone (commonly referred to as NAP) with Google.
Theres really 2 ways of getting citations.
The free way: You can go and manually sign up for all of these websites and create your free profile. However, most of the directories out there are not free anymore.
The paid way: You can sign up with a service to get your business information and spread it across the web to over a hundred authoritative directories consistently. Luckily for you, we offer this service at Molex Media, contact us for more details.
7. Create Your Social Profiles
Time to create your social profiles. If you haven’t done so already, create social profiles for your business at all of the major social networks.
Make a Facebook page for your business and fill out all of the profile fields including descriptions, address, hours, website, contact info etc. Add some pictures and post a couple industry relevant articles from industry sources so your page doesn’t look too empty.
Sign up for Twitter and Instagram, add a small description, logo and your website link. Make sure you sign up for an Instagram Business Account.
You can also sign up with Youtube and Linkedin. Just like always, make sure you have unique descriptions and fill out all of the profile fields.
Most importantly, if you really want to unlock the full potential of local SEO optimization benefits from social media, you need to constantly post on your profiles and always keep them active.
Now that you know what you need to get started with local SEO, it’s time to spring into action.
In short, the optimization process includes creating your Google My Business profile, getting relevant links from authoritative websites, generating reviews, optimizing your website, gaining citations, and utilizing social media.
Most importantly, don’t forget to keep your details (name, address, phone, hours, website, etc) consistent across the web.
Make sure your descriptions are unique across the different sites on the web, and your profiles filled out completely.
Once you complete everything on this list, you can move onto more advanced local SEO optimization tactics to boost your business online.