Local SEO Checklist 2021

Greg Lee
December 23, 2020
Digital Marketing

"How do I rank at the top of Google?"

If you are a digital marketing professional, you get asked this daily. If you're a small business owner, the thought has no doubt crossed your mind a few dozen times. 

Ranking for generic terms in Google is becoming increasingly difficult every year. Still, there is another approach that can be an excellent tool for small and local businesses.

Are you interested in ranking for local searches and organically growing your brand close to home? In that case, you're in the right place. 

We're going to focus on one of the more effective approaches you can take as a small business. We'll go over best practices and how they can help you optimize your online presence.

Local Business Marketing Opening

Introduction to local SEO

Local SEO or local search engine optimization is a branch of search engine optimization that focuses on getting a website ranked in local search results. Think of times when you might type "near me" or your city's name in your search.

Optimizing for local rankings also covers more than google search.

You want to show up in areas like:

  • GPS searches
  • Local directories

Local search engine optimization requires a strategic and targeted approach. Businesses who want to beat their competitors need to ensure that their sites are optimized, consistent, and correctly set up to win local traffic.

Differences between Local and National SEO

We typically use Local SEO when considering:

  • Towns
  • Cities
  • Provinces
  • States

Keep in mind the more expansive your range, the more competitive the landscape, and the harder it becomes to rank in the top 10.

The goal is to prioritize appearing on search engine's for a specific location(or multiple locations for multiple different brick and mortar locations). 

This strategy relies on marketing your brand, products, and services to local leads and customers. There is more trust and, therefore, a higher chance of a conversion.

Advantages of Local SEO

Local SEO strategies will usually focus on long-tail keywords and questions that relate to your business.

These long-tail keywords help your website compete for rankings against the larger national brands that focus on more generic keywords. Generic keywords like "electrician" or "buy shoes" have a higher search volume, but they also have a lower conversion rate.

By being hyper-specific and focusing on local-SEO keywords, terms, and optimizations, you can take your piece of the search results.

All right, let's dive into how you can set up your business for success.

Create a Google My Business Account

Optimizing your Google listing, also known as your Business Profile, is one of the most effective ways to rank high on Google Maps and gain visibility in Google Search local results.

Google My Business Listing

First, go to Google M yBusiness and find your business online if it exists. If it doesn't, follow the steps to create a new business and move on to the verification process.

If you aren't sure how to verify your business, you can check Google's support page.)

Once you've provided all of the requirements in your Google My Business account dashboard, congratulations, you've created your initial Business Profile. 

You can now appear in your Google Search local results, the Google Search Knowledge Panel, and Google Maps.

Here are a few steps to improve your account.

  • Make sure the information is accurate and up to date.
  • Include images and web assets that speak to your business.
  • Encourage your customers to review your listing on Google.
  • Publish posts or articles announcing products, events, and special offers to your Business Profile.

Near Me SEO Strategy

‍We touched on this briefly before but let's go a little further.


In addition to optimizing for keywords related to your service areas, take a broader approach to a near me query.

You want to hone in and optimize your content for these searches in your particular service area or location.

Take a look at your:

  • Social profiles
  • Website address and information
  • Maps integrations on your web pages
  • Photos of your business

Put yourself in the shoes of someone performing a local search. Is it clear when looking at your content that your business responds well to that search?

Google puts a big emphasis on proximity for these searches, so ensuring your content is listed correctly will go a long way!


Optimize For Voice Search

Voice search is quickly becoming one of the most common methods of searching online. Not optimizing your business for voice search means you're missing out on opportunities.

For local SEO, it's essential to optimize your business for how people search and ask questions organically, meaning how they speak into devices instead of how they type out their searches.

Someone using a voice assistant

Most customers use long-tail keywords when using voice search compared to regular searches.

You'll have to adjust the SEO of your content to fit with a more conversational tone (try reading it out loud. How does it sound?). Remember, it's crucial to account for the traditional question starters like who, what, when, where, why, and how.

Consider the user's intent when optimizing for voice. Often, users perform these searches when they need a particular piece of information. For example, if they're baking and ask Alexa to convert tablespoons to cups, they're expecting a quick and useful answer.

When a potential customer uses a voice search to ask what your business's hours are, this information should be just as accessible.

Create Content For Local Customers

You've probably heard content is king.

When it comes to optimizing local SEO, there's nothing quite like creating content that talks about a local issue to grab your customers' attention.

Some of our favorite strategies include:

  • Writing blog posts and articles. Make sure your writing is sincere and helpful to your visitors. Try to use topics sourced with local implications, activities, and events.
  • Creating videos about local charities or causes that your business supports either now or planned for the future.
  • Try to Set up location-specific webpages on your website. These need to have high-quality local content you can serve to your service areas. 

Get High-Quality Backlinks

According to research done by Moz in 2017, quality backlinks are the most crucial factor when dealing with local organic search results.

Just remember, while it is essential to get backlinks, their quality is even more critical. Using black-hat techniques or sources that violate Google's terms of service will most likely hurt you in the long run.

A few tips on getting high-quality backlinks:

  • Start with great content. After reading your post, people should want to share it and link back to your site. For this to happen, you need to bring value to your visitors.
  • Reach out to other blog sites and ask if you can guest post. Try to target websites with high domain authority. These backlinks will provide you with a lot more value in Google's eyes.
  • Create a social media ecosystem that you can use to promote your new content and create an engaged following over time that shares your interests.


Local Keyword Tracking

Proper keyword research is still a cornerstone of SEO, and there are tons of free tools to help you structure your keywords.

With a tool like Google's Keyword Planner you can filter keyword searches based on location so you can get an idea of the search terms popular for a given region. 

Person searching for keywords.

Use the keyword planner to create a list of locally relevant keywords that you can target. Once you have them, they should appear in your site's Meta content, headings, copy, and URLs.

Also, include mentions of region-specific landmarks and hotspots in your content. For instance, if your local restaurant serves dinner in downtown Montreal, include references to "dining by the Olympic Stadium" or "just steps from the Old Forum" on your site.

Join Local Networks

Get involved in discussions that people are having about your niche by finding groups on social networks.

The thing to keep in mind here is you aren't there to promote your product or brand but to deliver value to your potential customers.

Help answer questions or give advice, and in time people will build trust and loyalty with your brand.

Here are a few tips to make this worthwhile:

  • Find communities that engage often and spark discussions
  • Concentrate on helping and bringing value. Don't come off as condescending
  • Make sure it's a community you are interested in and be genuine

Optimize Your Website for Mobile

You've probably heard that the web is changing and moving more and more to mobile. In truth, that change has come and gone.

Without mobile optimization, you are losing out on traffic and potential customers. This loss isn't only because of a poor user experience but because Google's algorithm favors mobile-optimized websites.

Website optimized for mobile.

Here are some quick tips:

  • Make sure your fonts read well on a mobile phone.
  • Ensure your images are optimized, and the aspect ratios work on a mobile screen.
  • Ensure that your website is responsive for all screen sizes.
  • Think of the user experience and create interactions that look great on a smaller screen.


Local Business Website SEO

‍Suppose you are a brick and mortar business with either one location or multiple stores. In that case, your website needs to be optimized to support that.

46% of all Google searches are looking for local information.

You should be referencing your location in your website content. Most people will do this in the paragraph sections of their website. Still, there are a few additional areas that can improve your results.

Here are a few of them:

  • Meta Description
  • Headings
  • Picture Names
  • Alt Text
  • Page Titles

The goal is still to prioritize an excellent user experience. Remember to make this flow naturally, and don't just stuff your city name into every sentence!

Get Reviews From Your Customers

If you're going above and beyond to deliver excellent customer service, make sure you get recognized for it.

Reviews for your business are priceless. They don't just optimize your Google My Business presence but also encourage more local customers to trust your brand.

Try these ideas to encourage customers to leave reviews:

  • Ask. You've given excellent service, now make sure you get recognized for it. Explain how it benefits your business and why you are asking. 
  • Send a post-purchase message, either through email or text, depending on the service, asking customers to write a review. Be sure to provide a link to your Google My Business to make it as easy for them as possible.
  • Respond to existing reviews.  You can do this by thanking reviewers and addressing complaints in less favorable reviews.

Online Business Directories

Online business directories are websites like Yelp, Foursquare, MapQuest, and Yellow Pages.

Using an online business directory.

Getting your business name, address, and phone number into these directories will help with visibility and boost your local SEO.

Company listings usually include the following:

  • Correct business name, address, and phone number consistent with all the other directories.
  • A backlink to your website.
  • A thorough description of your business.


So where do you start?

Local SEO improvements take time.  While it may seem like a lot, making sure you start yourself on the right path will pay dividends in the long run as you start growing organically.

Work away at a few of these every week, and over time you will start to see the results. If doing these things yourself doesn't sound like something up your alley, work with a local SEO agency to get you set up for success.

An improved online presence.

We help people and businesses create an online presence with a results-driven approach.

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Local SEO Checklist 2021

Dec 23, 2020
Greg Lee
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