The Ultimate Local SEO Checklist For Small Businesses
Published on 24th January 2019
So, you’ve got a website for your small business…now what? Well, if you really want to grow your business online, then you’re going to need to focus on optimising your website for search engines like Google in order to reach new customers and beat your competition in the search results.
Fortunately, as a local business, there’s a lot of search engine optimisation work that you can do yourself to help you achieve better Google rankings.
To help you get started, we’ve put together this nifty local SEO checklist to make it easy for you to start winning more business online.
Getting started with local SEO:
1. Set up Google Analytics
To know if your SEO efforts are paying off, you’ll need to be able to track and measure the effect that all your hard work is having on your website.
Google Analytics is the tool to do this with. It’s free to set up an account, and after applying the tracking code to your website, you’ll be able to see how many people are visiting your website, which pages they’re viewing, how long they’re viewing these pages for, and much more.
If you have an it’seeze website, we can set this up for you – just drop our team a message about it here.
2. Set up Google Search Console
Another free tool from Google, setting up Google Search Console is essential if you want to be able to regularly check your website for any errors that could be affecting where it ranks in Google search results.
You can also use Search Console to keep track of where your website is ranking for key search terms.
3. Get listed on Google My Business
Google My Business is one of the most important tools available for local businesses. It’s free, easy to update, and can make a big difference to where you rank in local search results.
All you need to do is claim your listing, fill out your business details, and then optimise your profile with a keyword-rich description, images of your business, and even a Q&A section if you like.
4. Make sure your website is responsive
Just having a website isn’t enough – it needs to be fast, professionally designed, and perhaps most importantly, mobile-friendly.
If your website isn’t responsive, it won’t be designed to work properly on mobile phones and tablets – this is a problem, not just because it will be difficult for mobile customers to use, but because Google now punishes non-mobile-friendly websites with lower rankings.
You can test if your website is responsive using Google's free tool.
5. Research your keywords
Before you can really begin optimising your website, you need to know exactly which keywords you want to rank well for in local searches.
Ideally, you’ll be able to choose at least 5 longtail keywords to target throughout your site, and these will be relevant to your business, but not too broad.
You can find out more about choosing the right keywords for your website in our handy keyword guide.
Optimising your website:
6. Create unique metadata for every page
It won’t matter where your website ranks in search results if the information that’s displayed about your website doesn’t encourage people to visit it. This is why it’s crucial that you give every page on your site a relevant, keyword-optimised page title and meta description, as this is what will be shown in Google’s search results.
As a rule, your page title should be no more than 65 characters in length, and your meta description should be around 155 characters long.
Check out our guide to metadata to learn more about creating great page titles and meta descriptions for your website.
7. Add headings throughout your website
Search engine optimisation isn’t just about making your site easy for search engines to rank, it’s also about creating a great user experience for your visitors.
Headings are an integral part of this, as not only will they help Google see what each page on your website is about, but they’ll also make your page more appealing and accessible for users by breaking up your content.
Every page should have one H1 heading that introduces the topic of that page, and this should include your target keyword. Read our guide to find out more about the different heading levels and where to use them on your website.
8. Write high-quality content
Every page on your website needs to include at least 300-500 words of relevant, well-written text. This should be useful for any potential customers, and easy for search engines to understand so that they can identify what your website is about.
It should contain your keywords, but these need to appear naturally – don’t overdo it, or your content will appear spammy, and you may be penalised with lower rankings as a result. You should also avoid duplicating any content – make sure every page contains unique information.
You can learn more about creating great copy for your website in our article full of copywriting tips.
9. Double-check your spelling and grammar
Believe it or not, but even something as small as a misspelling or grammatical error could be having an indirect effect on your position in the search results.
This is because visitors will often leave a website fairly quickly if it contains poorly written content, and the search engines will see this as evidence of a bad user experience. So, don’t forget to run your copy through a spellchecker before you put it on your website!
10. Include your contact details
If you want to rank well in local searches, it’s imperative that search engines and visitors to your website can see that your business is based in the area you’re targeting search terms for.
It’s also a good idea to make it easy for potential customers to get in touch with you. To this end, you should be featuring your contact details – including your business address and phone number – on every page of your website. Your footer is an ideal place to put this information.
11. Test for broken links
In order to provide a brilliant user experience, you need to make sure that your website is performing to the best of its ability.
One thing you certainly don’t want to be doing is sending your site visitors to internet dead-ends, so make sure you test your website for broken links using Google Search Console or a free tool such as the Screaming Frog SEO Spider. You can then work on turning any 404 errors into redirects that take users to the correct page on your website.
12. Connect your pages with internal links
Another easy way to boost your site’s chances of ranking well in Google is to connect the pages on your website through internal links.
By adding a link from one page on your website to another, you’re making it easier for visitors – and search engines - to navigate your site and find relevant content. Just make sure you’re using succinct, specific anchor text to link up your pages.
13. Get creative with URLs
Whenever you’re creating a new page on your site, take a minute to think about the URL – that’s the web address for that page. The URL is a great place to include a keyword, as it immediately shows search engines like Google what your page is about – e.g. www.yourwebsite.co.uk/your-keyword.
A word of warning though – don’t go changing all the URLs of your existing pages just because they’re not keyword-optimised, as there can be serious consequences to changing an already established URL!
14. Optimise your images
Did you know that even the images on your website can be optimised for SEO? Well, they can be, and the way to do this is through the image’s alt text.
This acts as a description of the image so that search engines (and screen readers for the visually impaired) can understand it. Make sure the alt text you use for your images is descriptive and includes keywords where relevant.
15. Speed up your site
Page speed is an important ranking factor, not only because a slow-loading website will provide visitors with a poor user experience and cause them to leave your site in frustration, but because it also makes it more difficult for Google to index effectively.
There are a couple of easy ways to improve your page speed, the key area to focus on being your images. Any photos should be uploaded as optimised JPEGs rather than PNGs to avoid the file size being too large, and you should take care not to put any images on your website than are much bigger than they need to be – for example, something that will only appear as a thumbnail does not need to be 3000 pixels wide.
You should also avoid adding too many widgets to your website, as an excess of add-ons can cause your site to load slowly.
Increasing your website’s visibility:
16. Get listed in directories
The more eyeballs you can get on your website, the more business you are likely to generate. Therefore, it makes sense to have your website appear in as many places online as possible so that you can reach a greater number of potential customers.
This is one of the key principles of off-page SEO, and it’s why listing your business in online directories is so important.
You should submit your website to a diverse array of reputable directories – industry-specific directories and local business directories are great places to start.
17. Keep your details consistent
When it comes to local SEO, consistency is key. Wherever your business information is listed – be it local directories, Google My Business, or your website – it needs to be the same everywhere to ensure that Google doesn’t get confused.
Go back through your online citations and make sure that your NAP (that’s your business name, address, and phone number) is listed correctly wherever it’s mentioned.
18. Build those backlinks
It’s impossible to talk about SEO without talking about backlinks.
Essentially SEO gold dust, a quality backlink – that’s a link back to your website from a highly trusted website – can do wonders for your ranking in search results, as Google sees each of these links as a vote of trust in your website.
Generating these links can be a time-consuming process, but the good news is that as a local business, you have a lot more options available to you. Rather than trying to obtain a link from the likes of The Guardian, you can boost your reputation by sourcing links from other local sites.
Your local chamber of commerce, newspaper, networking groups, charities that your company sponsors, and any complementary businesses are just a few ideas to get you started.
19. Encourage your customers to leave reviews
If you want to improve your ranking in search results, you’ve got to position your business as a credible brand that people can trust.
You can try and put this message out there yourself in a myriad of ways, but nothing will be as effective as people hearing this directly from your existing customers. This is why it’s so vital that you ask happy customers to leave feedback where people can see it.
One of the best places to collect reviews is on your Google My Business listing, as this will have a direct influence on your position in local search results.
20. Respond to all reviews
Getting Google reviews is just the beginning – to make the most of them, you should be posting a response to each one too.
This isn’t just about engaging with customers and showing them that you appreciate their feedback – although this is important! – it’s also a great opportunity to further boost your presence in search results by including your keywords in your reply.
Furthermore, you should always respond to negative reviews as quickly, and professionally, as possible. This shows potential customers that you care and can, in some cases, lead to issues being resolved and the negative review being removed. This will boost your Google rating and thus help your ranking in search results as a result.
Maintaining and marketing your website:
21. Start a blog
It’s no good optimising your website and then just leaving it to stagnate.
Google favours websites that regularly publish fresh, relevant content, so if you want to achieve a good search results position and keep it, then you need to be actively updating your site.
One of the simplest ways to consistently add new and exciting pages to your website is to start blogging. Here’s our guide to starting a blog on your business website to help you get going.
22. Add pages for every location
Another ideal way to fill your website with quality content and make your way up the rankings for all your target keywords is to gradually create separate landing pages for each location that your business covers.
Like every other page on your website, these locational pages should include at least 300 words of relevant, optimised copy. This should be unique to each page, with content that’s specific to the location in question, including your contact details, information about your products and services, and testimonials from clients in that target area.
23. Improve your existing content
Regularly adding new content to your website is a great way to keep it ranking well, but it’s not the only method for increasing your position in the search results over time. In fact, sometimes it’s better to work with what you already have.
Using Google Analytics, you can analyse which of your pages could be performing better – look out for shorter than average user sessions and high bounce rates – and then focus on tidying these up.
This might mean adding more content, restructuring the page, rewriting key areas of text, or improving the design – whatever it takes to get the page working for you.
24. Get on social media
Having an active presence on social media can also be advantageous for SEO.
Although it won’t directly affect your position in local search results, by sharing links to your website on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, you can encourage more people to visit your site, which can only be a good thing.
Social media is also the ideal place to share new website content, such as blog posts, and ensure that it’s reaching your target audience.
To really maximise the benefits of social media, make sure you include links to your social accounts on your website to help grow your following, and also add social share buttons to make it easy for website visitors to spread your website far and wide across the various networks.
As you can see, there are many ways to improve your position in local search results when you’re a small business.
No one thing will skyrocket your website up the rankings, but used together, these search engine optimisation tactics will each have an incremental effect that helps get your website where it needs to go.
This also means that you can pick and choose what you focus on, so don’t worry too much if some of these points don’t apply to your business.
To make it easier for you, we’ve put everything into a handy step-by-step checklist, which you can download below to help you keep track of what you’ve already done, and what you’ve still got left to do:
Let us know in the comments below how you get on with optimising your small business website!
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