Local SEO Optimization Guide

Local SEO Optimization Guide

When it comes to local seo for your small business, you no longer have a choice if your company is going to participate or not.

Today’s business marketplace is becoming increasingly competitive  with more and more businesses going online, more consumers searching for information online before they buy, and Google’s algorithms getting more intuitive.

You’re probably freaking out right now about the possibility of having to hire a professional marketer, or taking out another small business loan to gain funding for this new expenditure, but that won’t be necessary.

As an SEO and content strategist myself, I know what it takes to rank well and get your business visible in the eyes of search engines.

You’re in luck, because i’m going to to pass that knowledge onto you.

This local seo guide will cover getting your business noticed by google, how to make sure your business is consistently mentioned on internet citations, easy on page optimization you can perform yourself, and some other key insights that you can implement yourself.

If you read through the whole thing, you’ll come out a better business, and give your online presence a fighting chance.

Let’s get optimizin’.

Google My Business

First things first, you need to get your business listed on Google My Business.

Google for business is a service that the almighty search engine offers to better understand the current businesses that exist, what they offer, and create a more accurate map and geographical search experience for it’s users.

GMB allows you to:

  • Create (or claim an already existing) a business profile that will show up on it’s maps directory
  • Make a plus page that users will be able to see and interact with
  • Specify your business hours, logo, opening hours, primary services, and phone number
  • Provide a link on your profile that links back to your website (links from authoritative websites like google that get sent back to your site are great for seo)

How to get verified on Google

The first step to getting your business on google is to either create or claim your page. To do this, go over to the Google My Business dashboard. You’ll need to be logged in first to start.

After creating a new account or successfully logging in, you will click “add a single location”  

From there, you will be presented with a form. Fill it out completely with your business information EXACTLY how you want your information to appear online. Then the system will check to see if your business location already exists.

If a location already exists, you will find yourself in 1 of 2 scenarios:

  1. Someone already owns the location. In this case, you’ll have to make an appeal to Google and the owner that this location is actually yours and that you would like to manage it. Do so by going to their support page (https://support.google.com/business/answer/4566671?hl=en ) and following the instruction.

You are essentially going to be sending a request through Google Local Support to the current page owner asking for ownership. The request can either be:

  • Accepted (whoohoo!)
  • Rejected (you’ll have to email your representative about taking further action)
  • Or the owner won’t respond long enough and then the support team will just hand over the listing to you.
  1. The location has been made, but has not been claimed yet,

If your business does not exist, then great, you get to claim it and optimize it yourself. Here’s what you’ll need to do:

Since your business couldn’t be found, you will have the option of “creating a new listing” click on that, and you will have now created a Google + page for your company, and the location will be added to your dashboard.

Next, you’ll be asked about verifying your business. There are three main ways you can do so:

  1. Postcard (this is the most common method) – choosing this option will have a postcard sent to the physical address of your business, or the location you entered in if you’re a service business (most just use their home address or a close by location” where they can receive mail. It will contain a 5 digit pin number that once received, you can enter into your location’s dashboard.
  2. Phone – this is the quickest and by far the most efficient method. You should rejoice and dance around in the streets if you are able to. All this means is that once you select this option, google will give you a quick automated phone call to the business number you searched with, and read a 5 digit pin number to you. Just record this in your dashboard and you’re all set.
  3. Email – This option is only available if you have a business website that is well established and an email address that contains an extension that matches your domain name. Example, [email protected]. Google support will send an email to this email asking if you are the business owner or related to the business and wish to manage the location.

Congratulations, your small business is now verified through Google!

But, in order to ensure that your business location is fully optimized you’ll want to fill out you’re profile until it’s 100% complete, and be sure that the following are checked off:

  • Photos – Include as many as possible of your business. Use views from outside, inside, your staff, and logo. This allows you to build brand awareness and gives users a better sense of how you are.
  • Categories – Google lets you choose which pre-selected category they’ve created, fits closest to your business. You can choose up to 10, but make sure your primary category is designated and that it is what your business IS not just what it DOES. It’s also recommended that you choose no more than 5 categories as that can dilute the other services or products in Google’s eyes.
  • Hours – this gives search engines a better idea of when to return your business to customers who are searching for your services at any given time. But, make sure that you actually have someone or something operating a phone in the given listed times.
  • Area served – For service area business, you have the option to not show your listed physical address (especially if you used your personal address), and define a service area. The center point will be the location you entered and you have the option to choose a circular radius of service. Use whatever works best for your business, but don’t go over 30 miles. That is usually frowned upon.
  • Website & phone number – make sure these are included for two reasons. One, when they aren’t google doesn’t show a way for customers to get in touch with you when they search for your business. Two, you won’t get a link back from google.

Now you’re done. Congrats on claiming, verifying, and building out your new Google My Business listing!

Local Business Schema

Schema.org Markup.

You may not have any clue what that means, but your business needs it. I’ll explain.

Schema is a specific type of structured data (information you add via code to your website that describes your business, products, and company offerings more directly and specifically to Google ).

Schema helps search engines make sense of your text better. As it stands, search engines have a complex algorithm that makes very intelligent guesses as to what your content is about, and how it’s all related. Structured data simply informs them exactly what it’s about.

Rich Snippets

Rich snippets are the “extras” that Google attributes to a site’s search results when certain elements are marked up properly. These are added to your business after the proper markup has been properly implemented or they have discovered enough information about you.

They are anything other than the SEO title, Url, and Meta description that traditional search results show.

There are 3 primary types for you to worry about:

Reviews  –

Review Schema is used to markup a service or product on your website with reviews that you’ve received about that particular offering. This can be helpful in helping users click through more frequently to your web pages.

Local Business –

Local business schema is the most necessary out of all of these. It helps search engines understand that your business is local to a specific area, what services you provide, and which areas you provide services to. This helps Google return your business in local results when someone searches when they are nearby.

Sitelinks –

Inserting sitelink and breadcrumbs markup are great ways for search engines to understand your website’s structure and what your business is about. This can lead to better search visibility and better rankings. It also is visually appealing and can draw attention to your company’s link in search results.

These sitelinks can appear as direct links in search engines results to your main service, product, or brand pages.

There are three primary ways you can implement schema.org markup:

  • Microdata
  • RDF
  • JSON-LD

However, Google prefers JSON-LD format as it is more centralized and easily crawlable. There are a few separate ways to insert the markup into your site.

How To Include Schema On WordPress

  1. Using this great schema creation tool you can create JSON LD for a number of different schema types
  2. Then head over to your WordPress Dashboard and go to plugins > add new > search for “insert header and footer” > install
  3. Copy the code snippet you generated after filling out the necessary information. Then under “settings” area in your dashboard, select “headers and footers” and in the header area paste the code
  4. Select save and you’re all set

Manually Inserting Schema

With this process, you have to be comfortable with going into the backend and code of your website. Including this incorrectly could break your site. So proceed with caution.

  1. Log into your dashboard
  2. In the main menu select appearance > editor
  3. Find the file titled “header.php” and select
  4. Find the space between the <head> and </head> tags and copy the code you generated with the above tool

No matter which method you choose, you’re going to want to check Google’s own structured data testing tool, enter in your website url or the specific page that you inserted the schema, make sure that everything validates, and that there are no errors.

Getting Listed On Local Business Directories

Part of increasing your online search visibility for your small business involves getting your company listed on local business directories. For reference you can think of Yelp, Yellowpages, or even Angie’s list.

Essentially, you want to get on as many high authority citation websites as possible, and you want your listed information to be 100% consistent across each listing. The reason this is beneficial is because Google and other search engines have two primary goals: to return the most revelevant and high quality content as possible.

If your business is mentioned on sites that Google already trusts, and your information is consistent (especially with the information listed on your website), they will trust your business, and show your websites in more results. It’s that simple.

10 Top Citations Sites to Get Listed On

The following are the top sites that you can list your business on. Each will have a different method of creating, claiming, updating, and/or verifying your business’ profile. 

Start with the data aggregates. These are major websites that other, smaller citation sites get their information from. That means if you create and optimize a profile here, it will eventually trickle down to other citations within the local search ecosystem.

When building out these profiles, the best way to build ensure that the information is accurate and consistent is through making a process.

Here is a simple and efficient way to making citation building a breeze:

  • Open up an excel or google sheets table
  • Create columns for your name, address, phone number, business email address, tagline, business description, social media urls, and 5 core products or services
  • Take time to list each of these out in the corresponding rows, and then double and triple check each field for accuracy
  • Whenever you are filling out a profile, directly copy and paste each of these attributes into the form field. This will ensure that you don’t make any mistake and give incorrect information into the internet.

You’re also going to want to create another sheet and keep track of…..

  • Which citations you’ve created
  • If you suggested edits and if those edits have been accepted yet
  • If you own or have verified the listing
  • If the listing is 100% accurate

When building citations it’s also a great idea to use the same login credentials so you don’t forget and get locked out of your account later.

On page Optimization

On page optimization involves manipulating every factor on a given webpage that is going to be visible to users.

This includes things like your images, on page titles, urls, etc.

This aspect of SEO is not only important for ranking and search engines, but it also affects how users interact with your site content and can help turn leads into customers. Let’s take a look at the most important on page seo factors and how to properly optimize each.

Keyword In Title Tag

Every page on every website on the internet has what are known as a meta title and meta description tag. Meta simple means a piece of information that informs or helps complete another entity. These tags are what help inform Google about what to show searches for your web pages in their search results.

If you don’t have these tags Google will do their best to make sense of your website content to generate this pieces of information but it’s quite easy to change that title to be whatever you want. And more importantly, Google pays very close attention to your titles when ranking your site.

Writing a useful and keyword focused SEO title and meta description can also get the attention of users and cause them to click through to your site more frequently.

To update this information you can insert the following code snippets in between the <head> </head> tags on your target web page.

  • <title>Attention grabbing and keyword focused </title>
  • <meta name=”description” content=”Descriptive and compelling content”/>

When creating your own, keep the following in mind:

  • Use your primary keyword for the page or post in the both
  • Add in your company name or local geographic area
  • Make it descriptive and human readable so that people will be enticed to click through
  • Keyword title has a limit of around 60 characters
  • Meta description has a limit of 160 characters

Optimize Your Urls

Next, you’re going to want to make sure your page slug (the back slash and then text that comes afterward at the end of your url) are optimized with your target keyword as well.

Here are some best practices:

  • Typically shorter and concise urls work best
  • Make the url of a page closely related to or the primary  keyword target for the page
  • Keep out any capital letters, odd symbols, or underscores. Each seperate word should have a hyphen ( – ) between them

Not only will these steps help you rank better and get more traffic, but it will make users click on your site in search results because your title will seem more relevant to their needs. As well as feel like they landed in the right spot once they’ve arrived to the page.

Use Headings Tags (H1s/H2s/H3s)

Headings. They break up content and organize similarly themed parts of any post. In this case, “Use Subheadings” is one. They help users navigate your page more efficiently. But usability is not the only thing they are good for.

These headings are created by placing text inside of <h[desired number]></h[desired number]> tags. For example <h1>This is an h1!</h1>. There are 6 heading tags available, but Google only pays attention to the first three.

When it comes to search engines (Google especially)  they make a huge difference. Google’s dream in life is to return the most relevant and quality content to every user. Using subheadings communicates what is truly important about your content.

Ideally, you’re going to want to add 3-5 to every web page for maximum results. Here’s how to make sure that your subheadings are optimized:

  • Atleast one should contain the target keyword
  • Use similarly related words and phrases of your target keywords
  • Keep them short and concise
  • Each should give the reader a specific idea of what that section is going to be about. Readers like to skim and find the information that pertains to them the most
  • Only 1 H1 Per page
  • For main subheadings, use an H2
  • Any headings underneath the H2s, make H3s. Your nesting of these elements should be logical and topically related

Create Useful Service Pages

Content is the primary currency of search engine optimization in this day and age. Google’s main  mission is to provide the most quality and relevant content possible with an incredilbe user experience.

So your service and product pages need to be incredible informative, easy to read, and targeting specific user intent.

When deciding on pages to create for your website, consider every service and sub service you offer. The more granular of information you provide, and the more information you give, the more organic traffic your site is likely to attract.

For example, if you’re a plumber:

  • Residential plumbing
    • Plumbing fixtures
      • Toiltets
      • Sinks
    • Drain cleaning
    • HVAC
      • Installation & Replacement
      • Service & Repair

Etc.

When you’re building out these pages, consider what your target audience goes through in everydaay life. Don’t just create ocntent for search engines to evaluate. Create awesome and helpful content so your users will read and consume the content.

NAP information everywhere on your site

NAP stands for name, address, & phone number, but it refers to your core contact information for your business. Here are some guidelines in regards for best practices. 

Business name – Should be your businesses legal name. Don’t include any extra or erroneous phrases.

Address – Needs to be formatted the exact same way every time. Here is the most widely accepted arrangement. 

4567 NE 24th St
Ste 456
Houston TX, 24567

Phone number – Write it consistently and use <a href=”tel:+1-555-456-3456”></a> format so that phones can click to call.

It’s extremely important that your business is referred to the same way consistently across the web. Google and other search engines use this information to not only understand your business, but to judge it’s legitimacy and authority as well.

The first step to communicating this information to Google is by having permant places where this NAP information lives on your site. Here’s where you need to include it:

  • Footer – Goes on every page and users can easily find it at the bottom.
  • Contact page – Both users and Google expect this section to be on your site to use this information and get in touch with and learn about your business
  • Home page – This can be an excellent place for this information so that it is prominently displayed to your users when they first get to

Be sure to write down your address the proper way the first time, and then copy and paste it in for the other listing areas.

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