Improve Your Search Rankings With This Local SEO Checklist

Improve Your Search Rankings With This Local SEO Checklist

Key takeaways

  • Local SEO helps you capture location-specific audiences that are more likely to become customers
  • Local SEO tactics are similar to regular SEO practices, but they have a more strategic approach that aims to get location-specific results
  • Creating profiles on local business directories like Yelp is one of the most important search ranking factors for small local businesses

As a small business owner, you might already be familiar with the concept of search engine optimization (SEO), or enhancing your website so search engines display it to more people. But what if you want to attract a location-specific target audience—namely, customers who live nearby and can visit your business over and over?

Local SEO can help small businesses target people searching for products or services in their geographical area, which 97% of search engine users do. Not only that, but optimizing for your target audience will ultimately help you boost sales, as 70% of consumers visit a store after finding information about it online, such as from a Yelp review or a social media account.

To start capturing these leads, simplify the process with a local SEO checklist to reach potential customers and make your small business more visible on the internet.

What is local SEO?

Local SEO checklist: Woman using her smartphone

Local SEO is the process of adjusting online content to be more visible when customers search for local products and services. It’s a powerful digital marketing tactic that can improve your ranking on search engines and grow your brick-and-mortar business in the process.

Local SEO strategies are similar to those of national SEO, but they narrow the focus to a target audience in your local area. For example, SEO uses keywords in your web content to draw potential customers to your site. Local SEO targets a local audience by including location-specific keywords, such as your region, city, or state.

Local SEO checklist: 7 steps for your business

Local SEO checklist: Happy couple online

You don’t have to be a digital marketing whiz to improve your ranking on search engines and harness the power of a target audience. Use this local SEO checklist to increase your small business’s visibility online and capture local search traffic.

1. Optimize your metadata

Metadata is the information you provide search engines to describe your business website. It tells search engines and searchers what your website is all about. Consider these four pieces of data when boosting your local SEO:

  • Meta title: A meta title, or title tag, is the name for each page on your website, which appears on browser tabs and search engines. Keep meta titles under 55 characters, make them location-specific, and avoid keyword stuffing (using too many keywords irrelevant to your business in an attempt to trick search engines to improve your SEO ranking). 

For example: “Chicago Yoga Studio – Class Schedule | Windy CityYoga”

  • Meta description: The meta description appears below the meta title on search engine results pages (SERPs). It should describe your business, mention a city or region, and include a call to action for searchers in just 50-300 characters.

For example: “Looking to sign up for a class at Windy City Yoga’s Chicago studio? Visit our website to find our schedule of classes and register online.”

  • Alt text: Alt text, often called alt tags, are short descriptions of images on your site, which help search engines understand the content. Include relevant context and local keywords when possible.

For example: Windy City Yoga’s Power Yoga class in downtown Chicago

Pro Tip: How do you identify the best keywords to use in your metadata? Start by conducting keyword research. Use a free keyword research tool to measure the search volume of each term. The higher the search volume, the more traffic it will draw to your site. 

2. Get listed on local business directories

Local business directories, such as Yelp or Bing, are one of the first places customers go to make local search queries. These platforms help you communicate to a high-intent target audience and direct search traffic to your website. Ranking high in search results is critical, as nearly 40% of users click on the first result for all searches, and 17.8% click the first result when searching for local businesses. 

To maximize your exposure on local directories, add or claim your profile or business listing and include relevant information, like your business name, description, and contact information. For example, once you claim your Yelp Business Page, you can provide a business description, share contact details, and add photos of your business.

Make sure that you also use consistent business information in your business listing. A complete local citation—any mention of business details online—includes your business category, name, address, and phone number. If a search engine recognizes that a local citation is not consistent across the web, it could have a negative impact on your local SEO.

Your business information should also align with what’s on your website. Make sure you have your business location and phone number clearly visible on your website footer.

3. Monitor and respond to reviews

One of the main factors search engines use to determine a local business’s SEO ranking is the quantity, frequency, and diversity of its customer reviews. Responding to reviews shows search engines—and the 96% of review readers who pay attention to businesses’ responses—that your business is active and credible. 

Potential customers will use sites like your Yelp Business Page to research your company and decide if you fit their needs better than your competitors. Through your Yelp for Business account specifically, you can respond to local customers, whether they left positive reviews complimenting your service or provided feedback based on their experience. The key is responding to both positive and critical reviews to show off the full scope of your customer service.

When responding, try to make your message as personal as possible. If you receive negative feedback, thank the customer, address any concerns, and communicate your solutions for the future. Your goal is to put your excellent customer service on display for both search engines and potential customers.

4. Generate backlinks to your site

Backlinks—links that point to your website from other sites—show search engines you are an authority in your industry. Just like customers, search engines value quality over quantity. Aim to generate backlinks on reputable sites, such as established businesses, community organizations, or local publications.

To start generating backlinks to your website, you first need content worth linking to—known as content marketing. Consider creating blog posts, videos, or other forms of content related to your industry, such as infographics with home renovation tips or behind-the-scenes anecdotes from your latest product launch. 

Share your content on social media or in an email newsletter to get noticed by authoritative sites. You can also join forces with other businesses that reach your target audience to write and cross-promote guest posts. 

5. Develop a social media strategy

Developing a robust social media presence will help you engage customers in meaningful ways: asking for feedback, answering questions, connecting with other businesses, and more. In turn, social media engagement can make your brand more visible, recognizable, and trustworthy, driving more traffic to your website.

Establish a social media presence on the channels that align with your business and target audience, rather than creating profiles on every social media site. Consider the demographics of your audience and customize your messaging for each platform.

For example, a tax prep business might benefit from posting informational content on a platform like LinkedIn, which focuses on professional connections. On the other hand, a homemade jewelry business might fare better on a photo-driven site like Pinterest, where the owner can share how-tos and show off their handiwork. 

Next, develop a social media strategy that outlines what type of content you post and how you plan to grow your following and your business. Focus on engagement with your local audience and building relationships with your followers.

6. Remove duplicate content

Search engines penalize websites that reuse the same content on multiple sites or copy external sources word for word. Search engine algorithms—the set of rules that govern search engine rankings—can spot when your site has duplicate content, which could negatively impact your search rankings.

Copying and pasting between your sites is quick and easy, but it’s not the best approach if you want to increase your search engine rankings. For example, if you create multiple landing pages for your products or services, make sure to write unique descriptions for each. 

Keep these guidelines in mind:

  • Avoid copying and pasting text from one webpage to the next
  • Write high-quality content that’s original and valuable to readers specific to that platform
  • Keep your content up to date and well organized 
  • Never republish content from third-party websites—citing a reference is acceptable, but never use someone else’s content verbatim

7. Fix broken links

You’ve likely visited a website with the error message “Error 404: Page Not Found.” That’s a broken link—and they’re important to fix. Not only do broken links lead users to dead ends, but they can also adversely impact your local search rankings

Broken links occur for a variety of reasons, such as moving a web page address and forgetting to change your internal links or linking to content that has been deleted. If a site visitor encounters a broken link, the poor user experience might increase your bounce rate, which measures how many visitors on your site leave without viewing other pages. 

To ensure your website provides a good user experience, update broken links as part of your local SEO checklist. You can identify broken links with a free SEO tool like Screaming Frog and then redirect the traffic to other pages on your site. 

Make local SEO a marketing priority

This local SEO checklist will help your small business become more visible on search engines and ultimately generate more traffic—first to your website and then to your door. Start by optimizing your metadata, claiming profiles on social media and business directories, and creating high-quality content that’s valuable to your readers and other authoritative sites. 

Once you’ve implemented these local SEO strategies, consider performing a local SEO audit to make the most of your online presence.

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